Knee problems (left kneecap dislocation requiring November surgery) limited Christian Covington to seven games this year and all indications are he will not be able to perform for teams leading up to draft day. Many thought that the injury would lead to him returning to school in 2015, but he surprised everyone by announcing he had entered the draft instead.
Covington not only had to deal with grueling rehabilitation from surgery after dislocating his kneecap vs. Florida International, but he had previously dealt with a left knee MCL sprain on the first series of the Week Two clash vs. Texas A&M that sidelined him the following week vs. Old Dominion. He would close out the 2014 campaign with 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 stops-for-loss.
The first sophomore to ever earn All-Conference first-team honors in school history, Covington plays with reckless abandon and really impressed opponents when he performed with a heavy cast on his right hand (thumb) for the last five games of 2013, but still posted 11.5 stops-for-loss that included four sacks. Twenty-three of his 122 career tackles have come from behind the line of scrimmage.
Covington has great bloodlines, as his father, Grover, is a CFL Hall of Famer. The British Columbia native has very good quickness to gain penetration. He shows agility, balance and acceleration into the backfield, along with the body control and change of direction agility to make plays down the line. Even though there are times that he does not utilize his strength, he gets good position and body lean to stack and control when he stays at a good pad level.
Covington is undersized and might be better suited for a scheme that utilizes the under-tackle position, but he is similar to Timmy Jernigan (Patriots), as he has solid muscle tone in his lower body, a good bubble and wide hips. He shows good feet, adequate change of direction agility and good body control in space. He plays with a high motor and is quite quick shooting his hands. He lacks great playing strength (335-pound bench press) or explosiveness and is just an adequate overall athlete, but he shows good balance on the move.
In the short area, he has the burst to close, but it does not translate to the field in long pursuit (has hip stiffness). His change of direction and flexibility are better when he stays low in his pads, as he can better gain leverage. For a player with his timed speed (5.09 in the 40-yard dash) you would expect Covington to explode off the line of scrimmage, but while he can burst through the hole, he loses leverage when he plays too high in his stance. though and shows proper body control and positioning to collapse the pocket.
Covington has much better straight-line quickness than when having to move down the line. He can gain advantage getting to the gaps and is quick with his feet to get a good push into the blocker, but needs to do a better job protecting his legs. When working down the line, he shows just adequate movement skills, but when going straight forward, he has the body control and positioning to collapse the pocket.
Covington shows good hand usage vs. tight ends and lead blockers, but he is not really a stuff-&-separate type vs. the bigger and stronger blockers. What he does to compensate is adjust to movement and react well with counter moves. The thing you notice on film is that when he stays down in his pads, and while he might not have the brute strength needed to neutralize, he does this better in one-on-one situations than vs. double teams.
Covington has very quick hands and the functional strength to deliver a punishing jolt. He could be even better if he can sink his pads and get leverage. He shows good production getting into the blocker’s body, but needs to use his hands better to defeat the low blocks (can get knocked down vs. the chop block). He shows quick hand technique and an effective arm cross over move in pass rush attempts. He also generates good punch to control and disengage.
Covington is a hard drag-down tackler, but when he takes a side, the bigger ball carriers have success bouncing off his hits. He gets into this rhythm where he feels he needs to get tall in his stance and this makes him easily wiped out by low cut blockers. When he attacks a ball carrier, he makes a conscious effort to take out the opponent’s outside leg. When he stays low in his pads, he extends his arms and is very effective to wrap up. He also shows urgency getting to the ball in the short area.
Covington is more of a bull rusher than one that can take the edge and give long chase. He is effective when trying to press through a combo pass block, but has to be alert to low shots at his legs. He does a nice job of getting his hands up in attempts to deflect low throws and can simply destroy fullbacks that are the last line of pocket protection.
He has a decent initial step to get advantage and shows effective swim-and-rip ability. He just lacks suddenness off the ball. He is more of a move-oriented type than one who would park at the line to wait for action to come to him. Because of poor pad level, especially vs. double teams, unless this is corrected, he will spend too much time on the ground by being chop blocked. It is his quick burst and urgency in his play that allows him to gain penetration.
Christian Covington NFL Scouting Combine measurables
33 1/4-inch arm length
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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