Recently, reports came out of Miami Dolphins OTAs that the team is cross-training defensive back Walt Aikens, allowing him to play at both safety and cornerback.
Aikens, 25, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft, but as soon as he went from college to the NFL, former head coach Joe Philbin saw it fit to shift Aikens from his college position of cornerback to safety, presumably because the Liberty standout's skills were better suited for that position.
While he did turn into a specials teams ace, his contribution on the defensive unit has been limited as a safety, so now Adam Gase is looking to see what Aikens can offer with some time at his old college position. So we decided to look back at his old college game tape and see what he could do at corner.
Here against the Monmouth Hawks, Aikens shows his ability to break on the ball and make a pass deflection, he accelerates and makes it to the path of the ball before the catch can be made.
Aikens lines up nearly ten yards off the line of scrimmage here, and as much as Dolphins fans have despised this method over the years, it is a commonly used strategy by teams all over.
Here, Aikens backpedals and smoothly accelerates forward once he sees the pass heading towards the intended receiver, showing no hesitation in making the open-field tackle.
Here, Aikens goes in to protect the inside route, but he unfortunately makes contact too early and draws a pass interference flag.
Here, Aikens lines up for press coverage, and he gets beat by the wide receiver almost immediately, who gets inside on him and keeps him from making a play on the ball. Aikens being late to make contact causes this.
Aikens goes back into zone coverage on this play, and once again he shows his willingness to make tackles, that skill has shown itself with the Dolphins on special teams, but the ability to tackle as a cornerback is incredibly underrated.
Aikens again shows an ability to anticipate and accelerate out of a backpedal and into a full sprint forward, jumping the route and making the interception.
Here against the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers, Aikens is in zone coverage once again. While he gives up the inside route, he's able to quickly get to the intended receiver and get physical with him, breaking up the pass and forcing the incompletion.
Here Aikens takes advantage of a fatal mistake by the Kentucky Wesleyan QB. He tracks a bad overthrow in the air and intercepts it.
Against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, Aikens shows a vulnerability getting beat deep, particularly while in press coverage. His speed isn't the best, so while at cornerback, he needs to find ways to compensate when facing against more physical or speedier receivers.
He commits pass interference on this play in order to prevent the receiver from getting an instant touchdown catch, but that won't cut it in the NFL if Aikens shifts back to corner.
Tackling again shows itself as a strength of Aikens' here, as he weaves through traffic and helps bring down the running back.
Here again, Aikens meets the running back and wraps him up around the waist, pushing him back and knocking him to the ground.
Zone coverage, and Aikens again shows an excellent ability to click and close. He transitions smoothly from a backpedal and drags the receiver out of bounds with no hesitation on his part.
Another quick read and reaction by Aikens at the cornerback position. He moves off the receiver he's initially lined up against as soon as he sees the ball is thrown and rams into the receiver, forcing a minimal gain.
Another good click and close by Aikens, although his tackle is not quite as impressive here, only managing to get around the ankles of the receiver. Thankfully, the receiver goes down anyway.
Aikens get beat deep again, but this time in zone coverage. If Gase is intending to cross-train Aikens back to cornerback, then he must instruct secondary coach Lou Anarumo to work him hard against deep ball throws.
This is one of the few instances in the film review where Aikens does well in press coverage. Though the receiver did manage to get slightly behind him on the lob pass, Aikens is able to turn his head and make a play on the ball, preventing a large gain.
In conclusion, Aikens has good traits to be developed at cornerback, but after spending years at safety in the NFL, it will take some time to work on his weaknesses deep and in press coverage. But his reading and reacting ability along with his tackling prowess makes him worth the venture in cross-training.
This film review was done by Matthew Knowles. Follow him on Twitter: @M_PorterKnowles
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