Detroit Lions Free Agent Profile: DeShawn Shead

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DeShawn Shead

Cornerback, undrafted out of Portland State.

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 216 lbs

NFL Experience: Six seasons with the Seattle Seahawks

Career Stats: 54 games played (22 starts), 150 tackles, 2 interceptions, 42 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles

Postseason Stats: 10 games played (3 starts), 16 tackles, 4 passes defended

Strengths

Size and Versatility 

Shead has above average size for a cornerback, which makes him an extremely physical player. He can play press man coverage very well because of his physicality, and it also makes him a good tackler. He can contribute in both pass and run defense. His size allows him to do thing smaller cornerbacks simply cannot do.

Shead can also line up at many different positions because of this. In Seattle, he has played either of the outside cornerback spots, strong safety, and even lined up at linebacker. DeShawn Shead is as physical of a cornerback as you will find. Here are some examples of this.

On this play, MVP quarterback Matt Ryan tries to throw the ball to receiver Taylor Gabriel over the middle of the field. The Seahawks defensive was playing zone coverage, and Gabriel was in between Shead and Earl Thomas. Thomas and Shead each made a great player here, both closing in on Gabriel to sandwich him and cause an completion.

Later in that same game, Matt Ryan tried to hit receiver Mohammed Sanu on a hitch route. Shead was in man coverage with Sanu, and did a great job of reading the route and jumping in front of it to knock the pass away. This is a good play that results both from Shead’s prototypical size and good football instics and IQ.

Here, two-time Superbowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tested Shead on a deep pass to star wide out Martavis Bryant. Bryant stands a full two inches taller than Shead, but Shead was able to not only elevate, but get get two hands on the football and knock it out of Bryant’s grasp as they were going to the ground. Again, this play shows both great physicality and awareness from Shead.

Experience 

In 2015 and 2016, Shead played in 31 games (starting 21) for the Seattle Seahawks. This means that not only does he have significantly more playing experience than current Lions corners Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew, but he started alongside the best defensive back group in the NFL’s recent history, consisting of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.

When Shead played for the Seahawks, obviously he was nowhere near as good as those three. However, he was able to hold his own, despite being consistently picked on by opposing offenses. Playing with the Legion Of Boom doesn’t necessarily mean their talent rubbed off on Shead, but it certainly doesn’t hurt for him to have played with one of the best secondaries of all time.

Weaknesses

Lack of Athleticism 

Although Shead is not unathletic, he isn’t always on the same level as the receivers he’s covering. Because of this, there are times where he’s a step slower than the receivers he’s covering, and easy catches are allowed. Here are a few examples of this.

Back to the Atlanta game from 2016, Shead is lined up in man coverage against backup receiver Justin Hardy here. Hardy showed off nice quickness on this play, beating Shead to the inside. Shead was never quite able to recover, and it allowed for an easy first down completion for the Atlanta offense.

It’s hard to put a ton of blame on Shead here, as he was beaten badly by All-Pro receiver Julio Jones. Shead is one-on-one against Jones, who ran an out route to the sideline. Jones was simply too big and fast for Shead, and Shead appeared to trip over his own feet a little bit as he tried to stick with Jones out of his break. Again, this resulted in an easy first down for the Falcons.

Injury 

DeShawn Shead had a major injury in the 2016 playoffs when he tore his ACL against the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round. Shead was not able to return for the start of the 2017 season, and was kept on the physically unable to perform list all the way until the last two games of the season. Although Shead did appear in weeks 16 and 17, he did not record any statistics.

Although NFL players seem to recover from ACL injuries much better nowadays than they have in the past, it is still worrisome anytime a player has an injury that forces them to sit out for almost an entire year. There is a good chance that Shead comes back to play at his pre-injury level, but there is also a chance that he is unable to now.

Expectations For 2018

In the 2018 season, Shead will be fighting for the second cornerback spot in training camp. His competition will be returning Lions Nevin Lawson and Teez Tabor. If Shead does not win that spot in training camp, he will serve as great depth in case of injury to those two or Darius Slay.

Shead could also potentially push for the starting strong safety spot if he is unable to win the outside cornerback job. His competition there would be third year Lion Tavon Wilson.

Overall, it should be safe to expect some contribution from Shead in 2018, whether it be as a starter or as depth.

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