The bottom fell out for Shaw prior to the start of fall camp, as he was caught in an off-field incident that would lead to a lot of embarrassment explaining the situation by the defensive back. He then served a 10-game suspension before he was allowed to rejoin the team for the final three contests. After back-to-back games with just one tackle in each, he ended his trying senior season with nine tackles in the Holiday Bowl.
Shaw has drawn comparisons to the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman, as he has the broad shoulders and strength to be quite effective as a run stopper and he could easily add another 10 pounds to his frame with no drop-off in quickness. He looks very natural and decisive anticipating and jumping the play, as he makes solid moves to close on the ball, especially vs. plays in front of him.
His success as a shutdown cornerback is his ability to make quick and proper reads, reacting in an instant to get to the ball, whether via the pass or run. Shaw is a physical boundary cornerback, having rerouted/jammed intended targets away from 43.79 percent of the passes thrown into his area (74 of 169) his first two seasons as a Trojan. He is very quick to react to the ball in flight and is not the type that quarterbacks can get him turned some on play-action or misdirection plays.
Shaw’s tremendous power has scouts also likening him to the Baltimore Ravens’ Jimmy Smith. That strength was highlighted during the weight room tests at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, where the Trojan put up the bar 26 times, three more than any of the other 54 defensive backs participating in the event. He also “blazed the track” with a scorching 4.44-second performance in the 40-yard dash.
Shaw has very good field awareness, as it is very rare to see him caught peeking in the backfield. He is very quick with his anticipation and route recognition of underneath routes and with all that raw power, you will never see him back down in press coverage. He’s the type of player who does a nice job of maintaining initial leverage at the line of scrimmage and is a “Cool Hand Luke” type that is never going to have any mental anguish carry over after making a mistake.
Shaw plays with a great air of confidence in his ability to match up to the big, physical receivers in man coverage. He’s been very aggressive when using his hands near the line in press coverage and is quick to recover with no panic in his game when he’s caught out of position. His instincts and recognition skills are equally effective, whether playing cornerback in man-to-man coverage or lining up at safety to handle zone assignments, where he takes pride in his ability to maintain strong positioning.
Shaw does a nice job of mid-pointing high/low routes to the sideline, as he has the eyes and quick-twitch moves to be in position to get under the thrown ball. Despite his timed speed and range, he is a bit high-cut. While he has just minimal tightness in his hips, he is better served as a safety rather than taking on the challenge in deep routes.
Shaw does demonstrate effective quick-twitch explosiveness, and when he stays at a proper pad level he has no problems when having to make sudden change–of-direction moves laterally. He shows better balance than anticipated for a big defender and can turn and run with most receivers downfield. His closing burst is above average and he seems to possess the extra gear needed to recover when caught in trail position.
If utilized on the outside at the next level, Shaw might be a better fit as a press corner, where he can use his length and above-average balance to his advantage. He also shows excellent fluidity for his size, as he can open up his hips and run, doing a nice job of using long arms to jam receivers and disrupt their release.
Shaw gets very good success when using his closing burst to make up ground when the ball is in the air. He possesses good overall range and flashes the ability to recover, but is more often running step-for-step with most receivers on vertical routes.
Now, Shaw will never be confused for being Bobby Layne or Larry Wilson as a ball-hawk. He might have six interceptions as a collegian, but there are times where he has problems getting his head turned around and following the football. He really does not have natural hands skills, but compensates by using his length well when in position. He definitely has the ability to elevate and high-point the football (37-inch vertical jump), but I doubt that his hands will ever develop to the point where he can become an elite playmaker.
Shaw will do a good job of timing his leaps and getting his hands on the ball when he’s able to locate it, but most of those easy interceptions end up being pass deflections instead. He can also be a split-second late turning his head to find the ball at times.
Another reason for Shaw to possibly return to safety at the next level is his tackling ability vs. the ground game. He possesses the size, strength and toughness to step up and deliver the big hit. He has a strong concept for taking proper angles and has had good success when asked to break down in the open field, as he often attacks ball carriers at their legs when tackling.
Not too many defensive backs are as active and willing in run support as Shaw. Despite being 201 pounds, he is such an impact hitter that teams could use him as a Cover-2 linebacker in certain situations. He does a very good job of keeping outside leverage and is disciplined in run support, along with being a strong wrap-up tackler when in position.
Josh Shaw Scouting Combine measurables
6-1/201 (4.44 forty)
30 3/4-inch arm length
26-reps bench 37 1/2-inch vertical jump
10-foot-10 broad jump
7.01 3-cone drill (right calf strain)
4.12 20-yard shuttle
11.65 60-yard shuttle
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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