A common phrase you will hear thrown around during NFL Draft coverage is a player needing "the right fit". It sounds as cliché as cliché draft buzzwords come, but finding "the right fit" for players is as crucial to NFL success as anything else is.
Whether that fit is -- a scheme fit, a culture fit, a talent fit, -- it is important that you are not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. How a player's career arc is played out can change dramatically depending on if they are being placed in the round hole or stuffed into a square one.
Some examples include guys like Dion Jordan or Jamie Collins. Both were square pegs who needed the perfect situation. As you know, Jordan ended up in a round hole fit with the Miami Dolphins and his career has gone in a tail spin since. Collins landed in the utopia of square holes with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots utilized him in the perfect fashion. Had Jordan ad Collins landed with teams that used them differently, their careers may not resemble anything to what they are now.
I am of the opinion that there are some players who aren't dependent on fit. They are transcendent talents and can fit anywhere they land. Von Miller, Cam Newton, Tom Brady... they'll succeed wherever they are regardless of the fit because they are simply that good.
But there is one player in the 2016 draft class that is the opposite. A peg that is more rigid than all the other square pegs put together. A peg that in a world of a thousand holes has only one that fits his peg perfectly.
That player is Duke safety Jeremy Cash.
Dominating production vs. the run
If there is one square hole that fits the square peg that is Jeremy cash, it is a fit that asks him to do what he does best, which is play the run. Throughout his career at both Ohio State and Duke, Cash had incredible production against the run. In 44 career games, Cash accumulated 335 total tackles, 38 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, and nine Forced Fumbles.
Some of this production can be explained by the role Cash played at Duke. He was a defensive back in name and stature alone. His true role was as an in-the-box enforcer -- a hybrid linebacker who was used to blitz, set the edge and play the underneath pass.
If Jackson is going to find a square hole for him to fit in, he will find it with a team that uses him in a similar in the box, enforcing fashion.
Why is his fit so difficult?
There are a few things Cash does that can translate to the NFL regardless of fit. From his mental acumen and quick instincts to his physical hitting style, Cash will likely be a defensive coaches favorite pet student from Day 1.
But the list of things that Cash struggles with is longer than the list of things he can bring to a team, with most fits. Cash was used to perfection with Duke because he was able to use his ability to quickly diagnose plays and be a physical presence near the line of scrimmage, but also because Duke didn't ask him to do many things that he couldn't do.
These things include making plays in space, playing deep coverage, or matching up with many tight ends and wide receivers in one-on-one situations.
This makes Cash a 6'0", 212 lb defensive back that... can't really play much defensive back. Duke used him to perfection, but it was almost out of the necessity of his skill set.
One player and fit that a lot of people will point to in their evaluation of Cash is Arizona Cardinals defender Deonne Bucannon. Buccannon is a similarly sized played at 6'1" 211 lbs, and he is used with the Cardinals in the same fashion that Cash will need to be used in the NFL -- as a safety playing linebacker, essentially.
But outside of similar ideal fit, the comparison to Bucannon ends there. Buccannon was a much more established pass defender coming out of Washington State than Cash is now. Cash only had one season where he had more than four pass breakups while Bucannon had three. Bucannon also had six more interceptions than Cash and was allowed to play deep coverage and match up with offensive players one on one more than Cash was at Duke.
Bucannon was also a much more explosive and fluid athlete on tape. He didn't struggle to make plays in space or matching up with offensive players athletically.
It boils down to you are asking a player with already a very limited fit to play the same role as a player who is more explosive and a better pass defender than he is.
Bucannon is already an outlier as a player. There is a reason you don't see many defensive backs able to play an in-the-box enforcer role on every play. Bucannon is a rare breed, a breed that Cash does not truly compare to. Both are square pegs, but they fit in different holes.
When it comes to a fit with the Jacksonville aguars, it's murky. Where the Jaguars struggled last year was against the pass, not the run. One could argue that, regardless of how you feel about Johnathan Cyprien, that Cash is unlikely to be an a massive upgrade over him in a run defending role while not truly bringing more to the table as a pass defender. The Jaguars need more playmakers and athletes on the back end of their defense. They don't really need any more in-the-box enforcers who are not playing on the defensive line.
Cash is a square peg and there's a team where he is "the right fit" but it's highly unlike that the square hole is Jacksonville.