A quick glance at the curly, black mane cascading over Cody Prewitt's shoulders draws the rather lazy comparison to another soft-spoken but hard-hitting safety: Troy Polamalu. But the similarities between the heart and soul of Ole Miss' aggressive defense and the recently-retired Steelers legend don't end there. Both are physical defenders who like to play close to the line of scrimmage and both rely on sixth sense-like instincts to perpetually disrupt offensive game plans and fill up the defensive stat sheet.
No, I'm not suggesting that Prewitt is the next Polamalu -- Prewitt lacks the pure athleticism that allowed Polamalu to play with the reckless abandon that defined his 12 pro seasons. But Prewitt's combination of size, tackling prowess and football IQ could certainly make him a productive NFL starter. At the very least, it should make him a second or third-round pick in this weekend's draft.
|Year||Int.||TD||Passes defensed||Solo tackles||Total tackles||TFL||Forced fumbles|
(comparison with other safeties at the combine is in parentheses)
40-yard dash: 4.60 sec. (13/18)
Bench press: 11 reps (13/13)
Vertical jump: 35 in. (9/16)
Broad jump: 125.0 in. (3/17)
3-cone drill: 7.12 sec. (13/16)
20-yd shuttle: 4.23 sec. (9/15)
60-yd shuttle: 11.44 sec. (4/12)
I have no idea how it originated, but there's a ridiculous myth out there that Prewitt isn't a physical defender. NFL.com's official draft profile reads "Loiters around piles and doesn't stick his nose in. He will tackle, but he isn't going to send any messages with his hits." My only guess is that the scout who wrote that only watched Prewitt's tape from late in the 2014 season, when he was battling a significant shoulder injury (which also helps explain his poor bench press at the combine).
How are these for messages?
Instincts and awareness
Prewitt just has a nose for the ball. You wouldn't accuse him of being an elite pass defender, yet he hauled in nine interceptions in his final two seasons (and would have had a lot more if it weren't for a bad case of the drops). He excels in zone coverage, when he can read and react to the quarterback's eyes.
But it's in the run game that he really shows out, consistently flowing downhill and taking good pursuit angles to the ball. He has a nice burst, which allows him to shoot gaps or hunt down ballcarriers on weak-side blitzes.
We've got your Troy Polamalu replacement right here, Head & Shoulders.
Nobody should have really been surprised by Prewitt's poor showing at the combine. Never known for his athleticism, he's just not the kind of guy who's going to post great measurables (though he did bump that bad 4.60 40 up to a 4.47 at his pro day). Prewitt relies on his instincts to overcome his average mobility, which means he preforms much better on an actual football field than in drill formats. Still, he can be a liability in pass coverage at times -- his aggressive play and lack of straight-line speed means he'll occasionally let receivers get behind him downfield.