Where was Blake Cashman in 2020?
You are forgiven if you were not aware that Blake Cashman took the field for the New York Jets in four games last season. It was easy to miss him. Cashman started for the Jets in Week 1 and played only three snaps until a groin injury knocked him out. He would later return to play three more games but only appeared on special teams.
Heading into his third season, Cashman is preparing to compete against rookie safety-to-linebacker converts Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen for the third linebacker spot in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich‘s 4-3 defense.
Who exactly is this guy, again?
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Let’s refresh our minds on what Blake Cashman did and did not do well in his first year.
Pass rushing upside
Cashman’s production as a pass rusher was not great, as he collected nine pressures on 73 pass-rush snaps for a pressure rate of 12.3% (for comparison, the 2020 league average for linebackers was 14.3%).
However, Cashman showed intriguing potential in this facet through his versatility. He recorded impressive reps in a variety of different ways and even made some noise off the edge.
Rushing off the edge against top-notch right tackle Marcus Cannon, Cashman is able to get to Tom Brady for a hit, forcing an incompletion. Cashman is patient getting into the rush and uses an inside shoulder/head fake to get Cannon to brace for a bull rush, which prompts him to open his hips outside. Once Cannon is opened up, Cashman attacks and defeats the outside hand, getting the angle on Brady.
This is a very smart play by Cashman. He eliminates a potential third-down conversion and creates a sack without getting any statistical credit. Cashman sniffs out the WR screen and halts his rush to get in the passing lane. Baker Mayfield is forced to hold the ball and is eventually sacked.
Cashman blitzes the A-gap and is passed off by the left guard into the center, who is preoccupied with Leonard Williams. Cashman rides the momentum into the center and knocks him down, staying afoot in the process so he can bear down on Mayfield and deflect the pass.
If Cashman can continue building upon his ability to contribute as a pass rusher both from an inside linebacker alignment and off the edge, it will certainly aid him in his quest to earn sub-package snaps in the Jets’ defense. Multidimensionality is crucial for rotational players – the more interchangeable a team’s substitutes are, the more unpredictable the coaching staff can be they craft their game plan.