Rookie weak side linebacker Jerome Baker earned more snaps Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders (46) than his previous 2 contests combined (45).
Pro Football Focus credited him with 9 tackles (0 missed tackles), 1 TFL, and gave up 6 of 7 coverage targets for 32 yards.
Here’s the 1st big play to Jordy Nelson, and I’ve seen a plethora of explanations for this play. One of which concluded that Jerome Baker was the heel of this play, but I don’t see it. I read analysts declaring this a zone look or a zone blitz, but I don’t see it. Bobby McCain tells you everything in this play: watch how he plays Amari Cooper. You don’t play a trail technique there if you believe you’re playing the front part of a Cover 2 or 3 look. If anything, perhaps the Miami Dolphins expected run here, and this is a failed run stunt on the left side, and TJ McDonald is caught in no man’s land (and will explain the first step by Raekwon McMillan in just a moment).
What this looks like to me is a miscommunication between Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain about who is taking who out of the stack. McMillan is late to get to the flats to cover Marshawn Lynch: McMillan’s momentum suggests to me he expected a run, saw differently, and reacted to the flats late. If Derek Carr waits for McCain to turn his head and dumps it to Lynch, he has a huge play.
Back to Jerome Baker. Sorry for the long-winded first response, but I want to try and delve into detail (and slo-mo) for at least one play of the film.
After all the pre-snap shuffling and motion by the Raiders, I believe Jerome Baker keys in on the fullback who motions to his side. You can see him point him out pre-snap. The fullback, of course, doesn’t go out for a route; Baker sits back into a “spy” role accordingly. It might be the only reason he had enough depth to turn around and sprint Jordy Nelson down before scoring.
At any rate, I put this play on a miscommunication between X and McCain at the bottom of the screen, and a shallow angle by Minkah Fitzpatrick. I don’t see Jerome Baker having anything to do with this play.
Able to easily miss the first block attempt, but then runs into the Raiders left tackle and that’s tough for a Will when you get locked up with a LT. Jared Cook would get brought down just short of the goal line.
Here Baker (bottom-most LB) finds himself in a similar position to the previous GIF: out in space, in need of getting through a block. This time, he fights through the block with ease. Sure makes a difference when a WR is blocking you instead of a LT. Baker would have been in position to make a play had Nelson held onto the ball.
Same position (bottom-most LB) and has a fluent trade-off with Xavien Howard on the boundary, as they released the route to each other. Perfectly covered on the near side.
Jared Cook is able to slow Baker’s momentum ever-so-much. Baker was right to keep an outside leverage, but thought he could’ve taken a more driving angle since Cook wasn’t THAT much resistance. Instead of continuing his trajectory, he decided to absorb the block and that cost him momentum.
Fairly nondescript play: Baker kept his B gap integrity.
Almost gets his hands on the pass, then has the wherewithal to not give up on the play and tracks down Amari Cooper on the boundary to push him short of a 1st down.
At first glance, it looks like Baker is slightly late in reacting in an attempt to point something out to Raekwon. Baker certainly shows his speed and tackling ability in pursuit.
Analogous to the play we saw Minkah Fitzpatrick make Week 1 vs. Tennessee Titans on 4th down. Baker fights through a pick and wrestles Jared Cook short of the goal line (play reversed, initially ruled a TD on the field).
Baker sheds the center getting to the 2nd level and makes the tackle across traffic.
The Ohio State product shared plenty of snaps with Chase Allen, and you might see that trend into the depths of the regular season.
However, you see the athleticism flash and sound football IQ: the overall competency and communication skills pop on the tape. Continuous growth seems likely at this point in time, as more leadership and understanding unfolds.