Amani Hooker, Darnell Savage, Sheldrick Redwine, and Mike Edwards are the most popular names in this year’s safety class that have been linked to the Bears. However, there is another name worth bringing into the discussion, and that is Utah’s Marquise Blair.
I did a full film assessment on him, and boy, is he fun! But is he a good fit for the Bears’ defense? Let’s find out.
Possesses sideline to sideline range. Wasn’t given many opportunities in single high coverage, but flashes some tantalizing reps of range when he was. Covers ground in a hurry and is quick to come downhill as well. Needs to work on taking better angles, though. Sometimes he fails to get to his landmarks in coverage because he doesn’t take the optimal path to the ball. Ballhawking production suffered from this issue.
Marquise Blair killed a guy…
AND WASNT SATISIFIED. pic.twitter.com/alc5jLm06h
— Steve Bartle (@SBartle247) September 3, 2018
Physicality and competitive toughness jump off the tape. Loves to lay the wood any chance he gets. Plays with his hair on fire on every snap and regularly chirps at his opponents. Hard not to fall in love with the physical mentality he brings to the table.
Marquise Blair gets downhill from his single-high position and makes an aggressive tackle behind the LOS. There's a lot of open space in front of Salvon Ahmed if Blair misses. pic.twitter.com/NQWq5en3wU
— Fed Scivittaro (@MeshPointScout) December 1, 2018
Very instinctive against the run. Extremely sudden when filling run lanes to make the tackle. Love his eagerness to get into the mix. Illustrated multiple instances of tackling the ballcarrier at or behind the LOS because he gets through the scrum in such a hurry. Definitely struggles when having to engage with blockers, but does an excellent job of slipping around blocking attempts. Also occasionally gets fooled by misdirection plays because of over zealousness to over pursue.
Confirmed the athleticism he displayed on tape at the combine. Besides an average vertical jump, Blair performed exceptionally in the 40-yard dash and broad jump tests. He didn’t participate in the agility drills, which is a little concerning. However, fluidity didn’t look like too big of an issue on tape.
Instincts in coverage are hard to gauge. Never made any egregious mistakes in deep coverage (from the games that I saw), but didn’t make many positive plays either. Wish there was more of a sample size of reps at a single-high position to truly judge how he fares in coverage.
Ball skills are a huge question mark. Pro Football Focus accounted for Blair only being targeted 7 times in coverage in 2018. That’s it! So when I say his ball skills are a question mark, I am not saying he doesn’t have any, I just seriously don’t know. From the tape that I have seen, there weren’t any moments where his ball skills stood out. But again, he wasn’t given many opportunities to make plays on the ball either.
Needs to improve as a tackler. Big hitter mentality walks the line of over zealousness and causes him to over pursue. Also must get better at gauging angles and his speed to the ball. Pro Football Focus recorded him missing 20 tackles in 2 seasons as a starter, which isn’t great. However, did improve in this area in his 2nd season.
Doesn’t offer much in man coverage. Wasn’t tasked with many man coverage duties but the results weren’t great when he was. Lack of change of direction quickness doesn’t translate well when having to cover twitchier slot receivers. If anything, skillset fares more favorably against tight ends. Blair is ultimately most effective in roam roles than specific coverage assignments.
Best Trait: Competitive Toughness
Worst Trait: Man Coverage
Marquise Blair mostly played near the LOS at Utah, but he has the traits to be developed into a single high free safety. Yes, the ball skills aren’t as evident as I would like them to be, but his range is enticing enough to try him there.
That said, many might think that pairing him with Eddie Jackson would be an odd fit because that’s the role at which Jackson excels.
However, Blair has also shown that he can already be effective in the box, which would allow the Bears to be more interchangeable with their safeties. In an ideal world, I would love Jackson primarily as the deep safety and Blair as the robber.
Blair would thrive roaming the middle of the field and attacking routes that cross his face. He might not be as mistake free as Adrian Amos in terms of tackling and taking the correct angles to the ball, but Blair has the potential to make more of an impact in coverage. This is why I love him as a long-term fit for the Bears.
Follow Thomas on Twitter @tomkavanaugh44