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‘I can’t press an elephant.’ NFL DB prospects on which animal would be hardest to cover

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Let’s talk Xs and Os with a rising crop of defensive backs.

Original football image: USA TODAY Sports

At NFL Combine media sessions, players spend 10 or 15 minutes answering questions about which teams they’ve met with, whether those meetings were formal or informal, and whether they’d be open to playing for the Bills if they had to.

Everyone dances around the big question: without safety help, in single coverage, which animal would be hardest to cover?

I set out for the hard truth and asked a bunch of defensive backs. Here’s how the class of 2019 answered.

A squirrel

Hamp Cheevers, Boston College cornerback:

I’m a Florida guy, and I do a lot of hunting, things like that. Me and my cousin used to go hunting for squirrels with our BB guns back in the day. A squirrel is really quick. You’ll never get guys trying to run down a squirrel, or seeing animals chase down squirrels. I just feel like it has a two-way go. It’s kind of like a slot receiver to me.

Would DBs be afraid of squirrel bites?

If you’re not a country guy like me, I think you probably would.

A cheetah

Trayvon Mullen, Clemson cornerback:


Marshall safety Malik Gant:

Straightforward speed, because speed kills at the end of the day. You can try to slow that cheetah down. As soon as it starts going a little bit, touches the ground, it’s gone.

A reporter who covers the Chiefs then informed Gant there’s actually a cheetah who plays in the NFL, referring to Tyreek Hill. Covering a cheetah or person by that name would be challenging, Gant said.

Rutgers safety Saquan Hampton:

Just straight-ahead cheetah speed, it’s just gonna take off.

Mississippi State safety Mark McLaurin:

A cheetah would be fast. That’s what he does. He runs.

Quick interjection: an elephant, but possibly a cheetah

Sean Bunting, Central Michigan cornerback:

I’m gonna have to play off. I can’t press an elephant. I know I’m a dog, but an elephant trump over anything.

Maybe even a monkey might be hard ... because they’ve got bunnies. They can jump. They fast. They strong.

A cheetah? That’s too many animals. A lot of animals.

Interjection over: just a cheetah

Jamal Peters, Mississippi State cornerback:

They too fast. They fast. Real fast.

Mike Jackson, Miami cornerback:

The fastest animal on the planet.

Kentucky safety Darius West:

It can jump real high. It’s just real fast.

Texas A&M safety Donovan Wilson

Because of the speed. It’s one of the fastest animals.

Xavier Crawford, Central Michigan cornerback:

I mean, the takeoff. They’re gonna be ready to run right off the gate.

All animals except for cheetahs

Mississippi State safety John Abram:

All of them. Especially all the predators. They’re all aggressive. That’s not a trait that many receivers have: aggressiveness. Most of ‘em are elusive.

People think a cheetah would probably be the hardest, but, I mean, they’d probably be the easiest, because they’re just gonna run around you.

Some of, like, jaguars, lions, and tigers, they’re gonna pretty much try to come at you. They gonna hit you back.

Cheetahs, but actually, birds

Davante Davis, Texas cornerback:

They’re super fast, yeah. Do birds count? [Yes.] You can’t cover a bird, because it’s in the air. Eagles, birds.

A gazelle, unless a cheetah

Michigan cornerback David Long:

They’re light. They got good start-and-stop ability. They can run. Probably something like that. I feel like a big animal would be hard to cover. So, something like that. A cheetah or something, something fast.

A giraffe

LSU safety John Battle:

The height advantage is crazy. There’s no way I can jump 200 feet in the air and grab the ball. Not that high.

A leopard

Indiana safety Jonathan Crawford:

A mixture of speed, strength. They can jump, too, so take that into account.

An eagle

Boston College safety Will Harris:

They can fly over you. Can’t do nothing about it.

Some kind of bird

Maryland safety Darnell Savage:

They’re higher than you. If the ball’s too high, there’s nothing I can do.

Literally any kind of bird

Alabama cornerback Saivion Smith:

They can fly. I mean, I don’t think they can catch.

Arkansas State v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

A gazelle or an impala

Ole Miss safety Zedrick Woods:

Just ‘cause how quick they are. I watch a lot of Animal Planet, so I just watch ‘em running from lions and stuff. It’s hard to catch ‘em.

A rabbit

Marvell Tell, USC safety:

I’ve never got that question before ... What made you come up with it? Maybe a rabbit? A rabbit’s quick. Little, too.

Juan Thornhill, Virginia safety:

It’s so small and real quick and twitchy, so that’s probably the hardest guys to guard. Maybe if you get ‘em in a straight line, you can outrun ‘em, but a rabbit changing direction is, like, unbelievable.

Kris Boyd, Texas cornerback:

Because they so shifty. You can’t determine where it going. It’ll get you going off the line going anywhere, I don’t know. Some people can’t even catch rabbits.

A dolphin

Iman Lewis-Marshall, USC cornerback:

I heard a lot of people been doing land animals, so I’m going water. Go deep in the water, like a shark. Jellyfish can’t catch, but like a shark, something like that. Matter of fact, I’ll say dolphin, because dolphins really know how to deal with the ball.

Would a dolphin have a hard time on grass, though?

We’re going water. You said animal — we’re talking land animal? I’d have to go, like, an eagle.

Fair enough.

Your thoughts?

Let the world know in the comments.