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Eagles All-22 Film Review: Kevin Byard is a clever player

Deep dive on Philadelphia’s new safety.

Syndication: The Tennessean Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

I never usually get the time to do a bonus film room... but I had a little bit of time off this week so I had to watch Kevin Byard! What else would I do with my free time?! I watched three games and I’ll go through some of the things I saw to give you an idea of what to expect from Byard in the Eagles green this year. Let’s do it!

Kevin Byard

Before we get into the thread, just a heads up that Byard is wearing number 31 and often is wearing red shoes or sleeves. Also, he played the majority of his time as the deep middle safety or as the left safety in split-safety coverage.

I don’t really know how to explain this (not ideal for a written film room...) but the overriding thing I thought when watching Byard was just how clever he was. He’s such a clever veteran who seems to make sensible decisions nearly all of the time. He just looks comfortable in coverage whatever he is asked to do. Here he basically takes away both of Carr’s reads by maintaining good depth to help get in the way of the throwing lane to the receiver before shutting down the tight end in man coverage.

I didn’t see him flying around like you see Blankenship and making plays in the backfield. He’s not that kind of player. He’s much more of a deep safety who is primarily concerned about giving up anything deep. He takes really good angles in the run game and is a very sound tackler.

I saw a lot of clips I really liked of Byard playing in zone coverage in the redzone. This may not look like anything fancy, but a lot of less experienced defensive backs will stay on the goal line and face the quarterback, and not feel the receiver behind them. Byard recognizes that there is a free receiver behind him and he does enough to prevent Carr from throwing the football. This is what I mean when I call him a clever veteran.

Due to the offenses that I watched Byard play against, he had to face a lot of play-action. I did not see him bite on it once. He was very disciplined in coverage and didn’t seem phased by action in the backfield or play-action. I imagine he will be an excellent player for the Eagles’ young safeties to learn from and will bring a calm head to the safety position.

I know he doesn’t actually do anything here, but I just think he moves really well. Whenever you trade for a 30-year-old defensive back, you can’t help but be concerned about the way they move. I am not saying Byard runs around like he is 21, but I don’t think he needs to. He understands the game so well. However, despite this, you absolutely still need to have a level of athleticism to play at this level. From what I saw, I think Byard absolutely has the athleticism to continue to play at a high level this season.

I think he’s better in zone coverage, but I saw quite a few really good reps of man coverage too. The Titans were not afraid to have Byard covering Mark Andrews in man coverage and he did a really good job whenever he was asked to do so.

As I said earlier, you won’t see Byard come flying downhill regularly and making huge tackles in the backfield. I just didn’t see that kind of player in the games I watched (please keep in mind I only watched 3 games from this season!). However, I did see a very good tackler who takes excellent angles and will do a great cleaning up if the opposing offense does break through the Eagles' second level. Based on what we saw from the Eagles’ defensive line this Sunday, the Eagles don’t need a safety to come flying downhill into the box anyway so. I would much rather this defense have an excellent coverage defender at the safety position with the way this defensive line is playing right now.

I thought he was outstanding in coverage against the Browns and had some excellent reps. When I say he is very clever in coverage, this is the kind of play I am talking about. He understands when to pass off routes and when not to. He just looks so comfortable in coverage and I think his experience shows up constantly on film.

Speaking of his experience, you can see it very clearly here too. I’ve mentioned throughout that he doesn’t bite on play-action, and look how disciplined he is on this rep. It’s easy for inexperienced players to get caught out by motion and backfield action, but Byard stays disciplined and takes away the tight end perfectly.

This is my favorite clip out of all of them. I love this play. Being a deep safety in zone coverage and having Amari Cooper running directly at you, with space to go inside or outside, is an extremely difficult cover. In fact, it’s nearly impossible if you stand square on to Amari Cooper. However, this is where being experienced matters. Byard recognizes this due to the Browns' route distribution, he has help on the outside from the outside cornerback. Therefore, as Cooper gets closer to him, he takes up inside leverage which enables him to make this look easy. This is not easy for an easy play for a safety!

Let’s end with this one. It’s just another example of what I have been speaking about throughout this article. Byard just clearly gets it. You don’t see many mistakes on film and it doesn’t take very long to realize that he is a very experienced safety who is going to make the Eagles better in coverage. I expect him to play a lot of snaps quickly and I think he should be able to get up to speed with this defense very soon. I’m excited to watch him play!

Overall

I have said all season that I think the Eagles needed to add another safety if they were serious about competing for the Super Bowl this season. I hate to pick on individuals, but I have repeatedly said how disappointed I have been with Terrell Edmunds. So obviously, I absolutely love this trade. Byard gives the Eagles a top coverage safety and he is immediately going to make a difference with his coverage skills. I think Byard and Blankenship is an excellent starting duo, and Justin Evans and Sydney Brown are good backups too. All of a sudden, the safety room looks a lot better than it did previously. Never ever doubt Howie Roseman!

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