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Five Players to Watch: Jordan Babineaux

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Brian Russell gets the bulk of abuse around here for several reasons: He's a starter, he was signed as a free agent and he never tackled Tony Romo with his helmet thus saving the season. But Russell is merely a poor coverage safety and an awful run stopper, Jordan Babineaux is a consistent liability. Since Josh Wilson can't stay healthy, Babs has inherited the role of nickelback. Pick your stat to describe his ineffectiveness: 45 tackles, a 22nd ranking against "Other Receivers" or the 123 yards allowed to Jerheme Urban.

Babs is a safety. As a safety he has some skill. He's shown good awareness in zones and is a mean tackler. 3 forced fumbles in very limited action is nothing to sniff at. Babs is not a corner. He's hopeless in man coverage, seems committed to staring into the backfield and allowing his receiver to run free, botches his assignments with alarming frequency and allows receptions winding up for the "big hit". That's not how a good nickel corner plays.

Ideally, Babs' play as a nickel corner would be immaterial. After all, the Hawks spent their first pick on a nickel corner, one with elite quickness, good cover skills and dangerous pick-6 potential. If Wilson could play his assigned role, it would free Babs to be a fearsome Dime blitzer and force in the special teams. Unfortunately, Wilson has shown a worrying predilection for injuries. Whenever he finally takes hold the nickel corner responsibilities, he's felled and shuffled to the back of the depth chart. Babineaux is only recently 25, so it's reasonable to think he can improve, but, frankly, I don't expect it. A better bet is that the Hawks coaching staff will increasingly play Babineaux to his strengths. As is, if the Hawks make it that far, it will be heartbreaking to watch Babs set ablaze by Jason Witten. So watch Babs on Sunday and see if Jim Mora Jr. and John Marshall employ Babs in zone coverage. Or just look for the wide open receiver where man coverage is supposed to be.