Army's double eagle flex system is built around pressure. The Black Knight defense only produced 15 sacks this past year. That demanded a lot from an inexperienced secondary which allowed nineteen touchdown passes, 63.8 percent of the passes thrown against it to be completed and was ranked 118th in the country in pass efficiency defense.
Senior Josh Jackson split time between field cornerback and SAM safety this year. Jackson made 24 tackles and knocked down two passes in the opener. He was limited by a groin injury that caused him to miss the Wake Forest game. The next week against Stoney Brook he aggravated it making a touchdown saving tackle in the first half. He returned three games later and split time between SAM safety and field cornerback the rest of the season. Jackson had solid speed and always competed. In the nine games he played like just like he had in past seasons. He missed a few tackles against San Diego State that made you shake your head, was outrun a few times in coverage but in the end he never backed down. He was a willing hitter and ended his career as a solid player.
Freshman Chris Carnegie was thrown in the deep end of the pool after the upperclassmen who started the season at cornerback had miserable performances. In the first two games Army allowed five touchdown passes. Carnegie was moved into the starting lineup against Wake Forest and started the last ten games at boundary cornerback. He finished the year with 49 tackles and three passes defensed. Against Wake Forest, in his first start, Carnegie looked to have made an interception but was overruled by the replay official who ruled that he dropped the ball before he hit the ground. It was costly mistake as the Demon Deacons scored later on that drive. Carnegie has quick feet and solid coverage technique which should improve with experience. Chris is smooth in and out of his back pedal. He's run a person best 10.86 in the 100 meters but lacked the ability to run down backs and receivers in the open field this fall.
Carnegie, who needs to improve his tackling, is a wrap-up type of tackler who too often took poor angles and tried to tackle too high. Boston College's running back Andre Williams had a 99-yard touchdown run because Carnegie hit him high and he just bounced off the 220 pound Williams. Carnegie is a hard worker and he played with more confidence as the season progressed. He should develop into a solid cornerback.
Sophomore Marques Avery appeared in seven games and started five games at field cornerback before suffering another shoulder injury attempting to break up a touchdown pass against Rutgers. Avery didn't start the first two games but was pressed into action against Wake Forest due to injuries. After missing his entire freshman season and most of spring practice, he was rusty and missed some tackles in the open field and looked tentative in coverage. Avery played one of his best games in his first start against Boston College matched up against the Eagles playmaker Alex Amidon. Against Eastern Michigan he broke up four passes including knocking down a potential touchdown pass. Against Ball State he a rough game when he gave up inside leverage on the opening drive to allow a six yard slant pass for a touchdown by Jamill Smith.
Avery is tall cornerback and at times looked awkward and seemed a little flatfooted in coverage. He is still very raw and probably the most inexperienced cornerback to start an FBS game this year. Marques has started just seven games at cornerback in his life. In high school he was more of a track athlete and played wide receiver as a senior. He was switched to cornerback at USMAPS and play part of two games before suffering a season ending shoulder injury. He's now injured his shoulders three times which raises durability questions. More importantly, the injury will cause him to miss most of the offseason program. Missing spring practice for the second year in a row will deny him the valuable reps he needs to improve. On the season he made 12 tackles and led the team with six passes defensed. If he can stay healthy, a big if, and improves his technique he still has an excellent upside with his size and speed.
Tyler Dickson opened the season as starting boundary cornerback and to be honest I'm not sure what the staff was thinking with that move. As a free safety the year before he failed to diagnose plays quickly enough. He often arrived a step too late to make a play. In moving him to cornerback I wrote last spring it was unclear if Tyler has the ability to turn his hips and if his feet are quick enough to handle man-on-man coverage against top notch receivers. We found out quickly he didn't and he lost his job after the opener. He replaced a struggling Waverly Washington in the second half against Northern Illinois. Dickson tried hard and actually picked off a pass but he lacked the foot speed to run deep with the Huskies top flight receivers. NIU's Martel Moore beat him for two touchdowns and he allowed four completions over 27 yards to the Huskies receivers. He was relegated to special teams the rest of the way as he appeared in nine games (6 tackles, 1 INT, 2 pass def.). It's too bad that Dickson ended up in the doghouse. He's not a bad athlete but it's obvious he's not a cornerback. If I were on the staff I would try him at Rover or SAM since he will hit and is a solid tackler.
At least senior Waverly Washington (5 tackles) was consistent. He was a solid practice player who was exposed almost every time he started or played from scrimmage the past two years. After missing the opener he replaced Dickson at boundary cornerback against Northern Illinois. He experienced a meltdown for the second year in a row against the Huskies and was benched in the second half. The play where he was outrun and missed the tackle on quarterback Jordan Lynch allowing an 88-yard touchdown run was embarrassing. Washington played in four games and started two. In the two games he started the Black Knights defense gave up an average of 45 points per game.
Senior Justin Allen (6 tackles, 2 pass def.) played in all twelve games but saw time mostly on special teams. He opened the season against San Diego State in the cornerback rotation. Allen broke up two sure touchdown passes in that game after being beat in coverage each time on the play. He stripped San Diego's wide receiver Ezell Ruffin of the ball in the end zone and later when the quarterback Ryan Katz was late throwing a skinny post throw he undercut the route and almost intercepted the pass. While he made those two plays, the San Diego game showed Allen wasn't fluid out of his backpedal and lacked the man coverage skills a FBS cornerback needs. He was quickly bypassed by the younger cornerbacks like Carnegie and Avery in the rotation.
2012 Army Report Card: Cornerbacks
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