All-22 from the scouting combine: Defensive backs detail their favorite plays
INDIANAPOLIS — What’s your one defining moment?
Every prospect at the scouting combine has that one play which defines them to a degree — the highlight shot they think about over and over when it’s time to think about their collegiate careers.
As the defensive backs took the podiums in Indianapolis on Thursday, I thought it would be interesting to ask them which plays they thought best defined them as players. So, here’s Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez, Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III, Texas A&M cornerback Jaylon Jones, and Florida State safety Jammie Robinson on that very subject.
Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
(Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)
“There was a play against Stanford — I had done a lot of film study, and I knew that when [receiver Michael Wilson] put certain feet up, [he] would run a certain route. I noticed that he kind of flipped mid-route, and I went up and made the play.”
This play came with 3:59 left in the second quarter of Oregon’s 45-27 win over Stanford last October 1. The Cardinal made a game of it after a 31-3 halftime deficit, but Gonzalez [No. 0] gave them no help on this play. Pre-snap, you can see Wilson switching from leading with his left foot to his right. That may have given Gonzalez the understanding that Wilson was going to fake him inside, and then run the fade outside. Which Gonzalez broke up using his sticky movement skills through the route.
Why anyone would throw a boundary fade in Gonzalez’s direction is a mystery, but some people need practical advice.
Hmmm. I see that you have decided to throw deep to the boundary against Christian Gonzalez.
Let me tell you why that is going to be a problem. pic.twitter.com/hIfudIUUFA
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) February 11, 2023
Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
(Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)
When I asked Phillips to detail a play or two, he responded with more overall game insights, specifying his three-interception game in 2022 against Oregon State, but really discussing his performance against USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, which Utah won, 47-24.
“I feel like I put a lot of good stuff on film — it wasn’t a game where I blew the stat sheet out of the room, but it was a game where I was consistent. We played a myriad of coverages, from zone to man, and blitzes. It really fluctuated and really played to our strengths, and that’s something I was super, super grateful for.”
Phillips had to deal with Trojans receiver Jordan Addison, and he did a lot to make Addison’s life difficult on this play with 12:14 left in the first half. USC had third-and-goal from the Utah three-yard line, and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams tried to hit Addison outside to the left. Phillips was having none of that.
Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State
(Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Robinson was all about this question, and he had more than one play in mind.
“There was a play my first year at Florida State — I got beaten against Wake Forest. The receiver beat me with inside leverage, and he was running away from me, but I took the ball away; I stripped the ball out. That was a play where I didn’t have the best technique, but I gave the ball back to our offense.”
Robinson also pointed to a play against Miami in Week 10 of the 2022 season.
“It was a goal-line stop. I was blitzing from the edge, and I was going after the quarterback, but it was a zone read, but I knew that the quarterback was reading off of me, and our defensive end was locked on the quarterback. So, I bit down like I was running to the running back, the quarterback kept it. and I was right there on him.
The quarterback in question was Jacurri Brown, trying to fool Florida State’s defense in conjunction with running back Thaddius Franklin Jr. As Robinson said, he faked his read to the back, and blew this play up for a five-yard loss, pushing the ball from the Florida State one-yard line to the six-yard line. Bonus points for the ju-jitsu flip at the end of the play.
Jaylon Jones, CB, Texas A&M
(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
“My sophomore year  against Auburn, I saw this play they liked to do against a certain coverage. In the game, I knew they were going to do it, so I got an interception off a play I basically knew was coming.”
This happened with 2:48 left in the game. The Aggies flipped to a two-deep coverage, and Auburn quarterback Bo Nix tried to target tight end Tyler Fromm, perhaps reading an opening to that area based on linebacker Aaron Hansford breaking late to the curl/flat zone. Jones first broke outside, but recovered so quickly to take the ball away, it did indeed appear that he knew was was coming.