Dwayne Gratz: 3 questions for 2015

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Dwayne Gratz is an interesting cog in the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. Expected to take a step forward in 2014, Gratz never managed to put it together and found himself losing time to a fellow 2013 draftee, Demetrius McCray. If Alan Ball hadn’t missed a number of games due to injury, Gratz may not have had as much time on the field as he did. McCray has played better overall and now with the free agent addition of Davon House, Gratz will have to fight for every rep.

Gratz is competing for a starting spot or the third cornerback spot. Aaron Colvin is expected to man the nickel corner role, so Gratz is either going to end up behind McCray and House or find himself in the starting rotation. So far, it doesn’t sound like he’s going to make it as a starter to begin the year. There are a number of holes in Gratz’s game, so we’ll cover some of them as we ask three questions for 2015.

Sep 14, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Ryan Grant (14) attempts to catch the ball as Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz (27) defends at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

1) Can Dwayne Gratz limit catches in his coverage?

Gratz allowed 61.8% of balls thrown into his coverage to be caught per Pro Football Focus. While not a terrible number among every cornerback in the league (it lands him in the middle of the pack), it is worse than McCray’s 57.9% and significantly worse than House’s (then with the Green Bay Packers) 46.8%. House had the fourth best percentage of passes allowed among cornerbacks with at least 25% of defensive snaps in 2014.

Gratz will have to prove that he can be better than that if he wishes to compete with McCray and House. They are both near the top for the league while Gratz isn’t becoming a leader in limiting catches. Alan Ball, who was with the Jaguars last season, only allowed 51.2% of passes in his coverage to be caught (8th best in the league), further putting pressure on Gratz. With Ball’s departure he may have thought his playing time would increase, but instead the Jaguars somehow found an upgrade in House.

Based on the numbers, I don’t expect Gratz to get the nod over McCray or House during the offseason. If one of them slips up or if Gratz performs well in packages requiring more defensive backs, then he may be bale to work himself back into the starting lineup. Based on the numbers from last year, though, this is a part of his game that he simply must improve on.

Next: Can he limit receivers when they do have the ball?