BGA Special: Scouting Andrew Sendejo

With all the waiver claims over the past few days, the Jets have acquired several players who are not exactly household names. I have therefore been looking at game footage to get a feel for what these guys bring to the table.

Andrew Sendejo is a safety with decent-to-great size – depending on which source you believe, his weight is somewhere between 209 and 225 pounds. He was a four-year starter at Rice, playing the “Spur” position, which is something of a hybrid LB/safety role. He was a very productive tackler and had nine career interceptions, also averaging just under 11 yards per return on 14 punts, including a 47-yarder.

His chances of getting drafted in 2010 were hurt when his Senior season at Rice ended prematurely after he suffered a high ankle sprain, but he posted some great numbers at his Pro Day (4.04 short shuttle, 6.87 three cone, 34-inch vertical, 10-foot-1 broad jump) and impressed enough to land himself on the Cowboys practice squad and then active roster in November.

Although he didn’t see any defensive snaps, Sendejo saw special teams action in two games, recording one tackle. He returned to the Cowboys this year and reportedly “turned some heads” at player-led workouts during the lockout. However, he was the victim of a numbers game after the Cowboys decided to keep just eight DBs.

In this article, there are several quotes about how smart and dedicated he is:

“He’s done great,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “He’s a smart, tough, athletic guy. That’s what you want to be in the NFL. He’s a guy who if I want to talk assignments with, that’s the guy who I will go to … He knows the playbook, and he works hard. And he’s also very athletic and tough. He’ll put his nose on anybody.”

Coach Jason Garrett said he’s noticed Sendejo has turned a corner. “He’s playing with more confidence and more decisiveness,” Garrett said … Sendejo is obsessed with improving, Garrett said. “He’s one of those same kind of guys,” Garrett said. “He’s a smart player. It’s really important to him. He’s trying to get better in all that he’s given the opportunity to do defensively and in the kicking game. And he’s getting better.”

However, the fact he is so smart has a lot of people skeptical about the Jets’ motives for picking him up. Rob Ryan has reportedly made several changes to the defensive scheme in practice this week. (To fly off at a random tangent, this makes you think about how vanilla some teams were in preseason and that rather than hiding stuff from being on film, maybe they were hiding stuff from guys who might actually be on other teams once the season begins. Perhaps there’s a “Narnia” section at the back of the playbook, that doesn’t get unlocked until you make it through the cuts, so that there are a bunch of plays anyone that leaves will never get to see or work on).

Despite these changes, Garrett was diplomatic:

“I think he’s a really good player. And he’s a guy who did a lot of really good things for us. And it didn’t surprise us at all that somebody would claim him. He’s a smart football player. And he’s very good in practice, took advantage of his opportunities in games. And I think he’s just a guy that they liked. Cause we liked him too. I think a lot of teams around the league liked him.”

So, let’s find out about some of those “really good things” he did for the Cowboys in preseason.

Game One – Denver

Sendejo played the whole second half at safety. On passing downs, he was often deep, but on running downs he sometimes came into the box, almost operating like an extra linebacker (something Eric Smith does in the Jets system).

- On his first series, Sendejo assisted on an outside run. He took a disciplined approach with his pursuit angles, hustling to the outside first to ensure the edge was contained and then assisting on the run as it went to his inside. Many safeties would have made a beeline for the ball carrier, who would then have been able to get to the outside if he broke the tackle. That probably comes naturally following the linebacking responsibilities he had in his old role.
– On third down, an errant pass went over everyone’s head and Sendejo, playing deep center field, made a diving attempt at an interception, but it was just out of his reach.
– On the next drive, they threw at him on third down and the receiver caught the ball just beyond the marker and was tackled by Sendejo. However, the receiver clearly pushed off, so Sendejo drew an offensive interference call.
– He dropped into zone coverage on the left side of the field, but all the receivers went to the right side or down the middle. He looked a bit like he wasn’t sure what to do, although after a pass was completed down the middle, he raced back to make a TD saving tackle inside the five. As it happens, the runner was ruled down as he broke a tackle at the 12, but it showed good speed and hustle.
– The running back went through a big hole on the right side and in for a 13 yard TD. Sendejo had diagnosed the play from across the field and made a desperation attempt to make a diving tackle at about the five so he gets credited with a missed tackle leading to a score, but it wasn’t really a bad play, he just made a last-ditch attempt to save the day, but in vain.
– On 2nd and 4, he read a play well and filled the hole in the defense line. In doing so, he forced the runner to bounce it outside and he came up two yards short of the marker.
– Attacked the line of scrimmage and made a strong, unassisted open field tackle on the edge for a one yard gain.
– Got credit for a tackle downfield on a 10-yard run up the middle.
– May have been partially responsible for a play where the Cowboys only had ten men on the field. It wasn’t clear, but it looked like he left the game and nobody replaced him.
– On third and eight, he blitzed, but was cut down easily.
– Having lined up as a linebacker, he came up and stuffed a runner in the hole for no gain.
– Assisted on a downfield tackle with two seconds left, as Denver were unable to get in range for the winning field goal.

Sendejo’s performance was solid to say the least. He made several plays against the run, showing a willingness to come up in run support and get his hands dirty. He also looked pretty good getting downfield on special teams coverage units.

Game Two – San Diego

Sendejo got a lot less playing time this week, although he did get some reps in the fourth quarter.

- Beaten for a first down on 3rd and four, although it had to be a well thrown ball to get six on an out pattern with Sendejo making the stop.
– Attacked the line of scrimmage and assisted on a tackle for a short gain.
– Showed good cross-field pursuit to negotiate traffic and pushed the runner out of bounds for a three-yard gain.

In a much smaller sample size, Sendejo again made some good plays against the run. Although he gave up a first down in coverage, it wasn’t horrible coverage.

Game Three – Minnesota

Once again, Sendejo saw most of his reps in the fourth quarter.

- Made a downfield tackle after a dumpoff pass on 3rd and 27, well short of the first down.
Credited with a sack, although this was more an indication of his pursuit abilities and hustle than his pass rush. A bad snap sailed over the QB’s head and he evaded three or four tackles before Sendejo, who ran from a deep safety position, managed to trip him up.
– Playing deep safety, he pushed a receiver out of bounds after a pass was completed over the cornerback’s head.
– He was also credited with a QB hit and a tackle for a loss, although either I somehow missed these or the official scorer made some kind of mistake.

While this game doesn’t tell us too much about Sendejo’s abilities, at least he didn’t make any mistakes.

Game Four – Miami

With many starters rested, Sendejo got a bit more playing time in this one.

- Miami ran to the outside, by pulling a lineman and a fullback out to the edge (they do/did this a lot). Sendejo smartly took out the lineman which prevented the runner from getting to the outside and the run was stuffed.
– Came up in run support from a deep position. Took out the fullback on the edge, which forced the run back inside, where it was stuffed again.
– Was used as a punt gunner and got downfield well to force a fair catch.
– Took on a blocker and assisted on a tackle for a short gain.
– The Slot corner was beaten on 4th and five and Sendejo made a saving tackle downfield.
– Hustled over and finished off a runner after he was held up for a short gain, but tried to fight for more yardage.
– Met a runner in the hole and stuffed a run for a two yard gain on 3rd and goal at the five.
– Helped force the runner back inside on fourth and goal at the five, along with a cornerback. The runner cut back inside and was stopped.

This was another very solid performance against the run, with his instincts and technique helping him blow up several plays.

Conclusions

Although you must put it into the appropriate context due to the fact that he was facing second and third-stringers, Sendejo was very impressive against the run – especially in a run-blitzing role like the one Jame Ihedigbo used to be adept at – and shows the ability to perhaps contribute on special teams. He didn’t get a chance to show much in the way of pass rushing or coverage, but didn’t do badly when asked to do either.

Although this move was initially met with derision by some folks who felt it was obviously just to glean information about the Cowboys’ playbook in advance of the opening day matchup, this is a guy that has some obvious potential, so even if he doesn’t stick around, there could be benefits to getting him “in the system”.

Being claimed on waivers after cutdown day is no more of a guarantee that you’ll be on the active roster than managing to avoid being cut on cutdown day itself. Last year, the Jets claimed three players. One (Marcus Dixon) remained on the active roster all season, got into a few games and is on the team this year, with the chance of a bigger role. Another (Patrick Brown) was on the opening day roster, but was cut after week one and just about scraped onto the Vikings current 53-man roster. The third (Patrick Turner) didn’t even last until opening day and has had an on-off relationship with the active roster ever since. Whether Sendejo is here for days, weeks, months or years is up to him and what he can show over the course of this week, but any of those are possible. Even being active on gamedays is not out of the question with the number of DBs the Jets typically carry.

By the way, his name is pronounced Sin-DAY-ho. You may or may not need to know that…but how many of us bothered to learn how to pronounce “Ihedigbo” when he first made the team?

I’ll be looking at Mardy Gilyard later on today.