Earlier this season, the Raiders signed former Rams LCB Ron Bartell to a one year $3 million contract. The reviews of Bartell were favorable on his time in St Louis but I wanted to get an idea for him myself.
I watched all the defensive snaps for two games, both in 2010 because he only played part of one game in 2011 before sustaining a fracture to one of the vertebrae in his neck.
The first game I watched was the Raiders/Rams game in week 2 of 2010. I chose this game because I know the Raiders players and know their strengths and weaknesses and can better gauge an opponent with that common frame of reference.
Bartell was not much targeted in this game. I counted 4 passes thrown his way all game.
He plays almost exclusively left CB and I expect he'll do the same for the Raiders. He matched up against a number of the Raiders wide receivers – DHB, Louis Muphy, Jacoby Ford and Johnnie Lee Higgins all faced off against him.
Of the 4 passes thrown his way, two were completed against him both to Heyward-Bey. On the first, Heyward-Bey does a quick in route, makes a catch about 4-5 yards from the line of scrimmage and tries to reverse field and break Bartell's tackle towards the sideline but Bartell gets him down with an ankle tackle that allowed him to fall forward for another yard or so.
For that type of reception there isn't much that the corner can do. Sometimes routes and passes will be such that even tight coverage will not completely defend the ball. At least he was able to make the tackle.
On the second, he played way to far off Heyward-Bey and when DHB ran a curl, Bartell wasn't close enough to get him down and DHB had enough time to turn and start forward so he pushed through Bartell's arm tackle and moved up the field for a 33 yard gain. That was Bartell's fault but it was probably the only time I saw a really questionable decision.
In general, Bartell actually lines up very close across from his man. He's big guy at 6'1" and he uses that bigger body to redirect receivers nicely. He especially was able to do this against some of the Raiders undersized but fast receivers like Ford and Higgins.
He made solid adjustments quickly in determining who his man was when a formation suddenly shifted and he in general lined up within 3-4 yards across from his man and moved to jam him at the line unless there was a slot receiver or TE split out on his side in which case the slot receiver was closer to the line and he was deeper to prevent his receiver from coming over the top.
I'm not sure how good he is at disengaging his blocks on running plays. Against the Raiders he did not look great at it, he looked much better in the second game I viewed. There was one particular time when Jacoby Ford held up well against him allowing a good run by McFadden. He didn't seem to be particularly fighting to get free from Ford at that point.
He looked fantastic at tracking his man and looked very fluid in his change of direction. I never saw his man more than 1-2 yards from him in coverage and he could change direction suddenly with his receiver even when working in a backpedal or side step, to his credit.
He doesn't seem to play the backfield but the man, which is a positive to me. That means he's less interested in reading the QB's eyes and more interested in covering whoever he's assigned to guard. That will likely explain why he's able to cover number one WR's but doesn't have many interceptions.
One site described him as the anti-Deangelo Hall and I agree with that. Hall was constantly peering into the backfield to read the QB and sometimes that allows you to gamble and get an INT but it also sometimes allows your man to lose you. I didn't see his man lose him at any time.
There was one play in the end zone against the Raiders in which he was so reactive it looked like he was running the route that Heyward-Bey was supposed to be. The ball hit his hands but he couldn't capitalize. He may not have great hands.
The second game I watched was Rams vs Chiefs, week 15 of the 2010 season. I chose this game for a few reasons. One, it was one of his most active in terms of the stat line. Two, I'm familiar with the Chiefs personnel more than many other teams by merit of seeing them twice a year, at least.
In the Chiefs game he had 8 tackles, many of which came on running plays. He looked much better at disengaging and coming to the ball. He had a couple of plays where the ball was run to his side and not only was he able to hold the edge, he was able to hold it, disengage his blocker and make a tackle.
He also had good recognition on plays. There was an end around in which he was able to chase down Dexter McCluster, who is not a slow RB, for a backside pursuit tackle on an end around.
He gave up a big 28 yard completion to Dwayne Bowe but I'm not sure how much more he could have done. He was step for step with Bowe on the inside but Cassel threw a beautiful pass to the outside shoulder that Bowe caught, got both feet down and fell out of bounds. Sometimes there will be passes completed. At least he was right there if the ball had been underthrown.
There were two receptions that then rookie Toni Moeaki caught against him but again coverage was tight and it was more a case of the throw being in a tight window and the receiver making a good catch than anything he did wrong.
With the exception of the earlier mentioned Heyward-Bey reception, he was good about being right on his man so that if the ball was caught he was there and able to stop the receiver from gaining any additional yards.
He also made a good play on a long run by Jamaal Charles where Charles ran for 80 yards and looked likely to get a TD but Bartell stayed with him even though he was coming across the field from the LCB spot and he made a diving tackle to down Charles at St. Louis' 2 yard line. It was an impressive individual effort.
He reminds me a lot of Nnamdi in the earlier years before he worked on his hands to the point that he was able to get the interceptions. Good coverage but may not get the turnover you're hoping for.
I only saw one penalty against him and it was a personal foul due to some extra carricular pushing and shoving between him and Louis Murphy.
My opinion is that this is a solid signing. If he is fully recovered from his cervical fracture he may be interested in signing a longer term contract with the team. If not, the team hasn't invested much in him. He's not going to be a ball hawk but he will be a strong contributor in the passing game and at least a solid one in the run defense.
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