For some Denver Broncos who saw the field in Week 17, they were simply looking to get through the game without injury and head into the offseason on the heels of a tumultuous season racked by COVID-19.
For others, the Week 17 action was a way to try and prove yourself to front office staff and coaches.
One guy who fell into the latter was undrafted rookie cornerback Parnell Motley, who had an up-and-down game in Week 17 against the Las Vegas Raiders, flashing some strong coverage skills at times before having a brain cramp late.
All that said, what I saw from the Oklahoma rookie showed me that he deserves a shot in 2021 to claim a role on the Broncos’ roster.
A Wayward Path to Denver
Coming out of Oklahoma, Motley was a severely-underrated corner who was very aggressive, had good ball skills, and could get sticky in coverage. However, he lacked strength and went undrafted.
Tampa Bay originally signed Motley as a college free agent, giving him his first crack at the NFL. He performed well in an abbreviated training camp to crack the 53-man roster where he lasted just two games with Tampa Bay, playing mostly on special teams, before being waived and landing in San Francisco.
From there, Motley lasted two weeks with the Niners before landing with the Broncos, where he played in Weeks 16 and 17. In Week 17 against the Raiders at home, Motley played 97% of the snaps, showing some promise in coverage and against the run.
Motley drew some tough matchups with Raiders' standout Nelson Agholor and rookie burner Henry Ruggs IIi.
Against Agholor, Motley flashed early, showing some physicality in coverage to break up a third-down throw on the first drive of the game, forcing a Raiders’ punt.
In press coverage here on third down, Motley does a great job flipping his hips and staying stride-for-stride with Agholor. Motley stays in-phase and does a great job getting his head around on the stop route, getting his hand in the throwing window to force the incomplete pass.
I really like the way Motley uses his inside arm to sling himself back into the play on the stop route. It’s a subtle move by the young cornerback to stay connected on the route, leading to the ability to force the incomplete pass.
In the second half, Motley gets introduced to Agholor’s route running ability, losing badly on the double move. That said, the rookie corner shows off his speed and athleticism, recovering quickly to get back in-phase.
With his recovery, Motley is able to get himself into a position to break up the sure touchdown, flipping his head around late to make a play on the football, avoiding the pass interference penalty. All that said, this was an underthrown ball by Derek Carr. A better throw burns Motley, but you can only make the plays that are in front of you, and that’s what Motley did.
Knowing he’s tasked with covering Ruggs III, Motley does a great job flipping his hips to get vertical with the burner. You can see Motley has the speed to stick with a guy like Ruggs vertically, running in-stride with him down the field.
The problem is, Motley isn’t able to come to a stop quickly enough to get back in-phase with Ruggs on the stop route, which goes for 18 yards. This is a tough play overall for cornerbacks, but I loved the ability to run stride for stride with a guy who runs a 4.3.
For all the good Motley flashed in coverage in Week 17, he had an absolute brain cramp on the Raiders’ final drive of the game with the Broncos holding a 31-24 lead.
Las Vegas dialed an out-and-up for Zay Jones on first down and caught Motley lax in his coverage in Cover 4. Motley is clearly counting on safety help over the top, but he doesn’t get deep enough in his drop and gets caught with his eyes in the backfield, allowing Jones to slip down the sideline for the long gain.
In this situation, you cannot get beat deep. That’s the No. 1 rule, which Motley breaks on the first snap of the final drive.
Right away on Sunday, Motley flashed in run support, showing more on one rep against the run than he did in his time in college at Oklahoma.
Motley does a great job flashing some want-to coming downhill against the run.
Josh Jacobs is a tough back to come downhill against, but Motley shows no fear.
He takes a great angle to the second-year back, but Motley doesn’t wrap up at all, bouncing off of Jacobs’ legs, allowing him to get back to the line of scrimmage.
If Motley wraps up here, that’s an incredible play by the rookie cornerback. Instead, it goes down as a mistake. That said, you can’t teach want-to, and Motley flashed it immediately. I’ll take these types of reps overall from young corners, especially those coming from the Big 12.
Motley Moving Forward
Is There Enough There?
Watching the tape of Motley’s performance, I saw a guy who is well worth keeping on the 80-man offseason roster as a developmental piece.
Motley was terrific in coverage at Oklahoma and showed some flashes of tight coverage in Week 17. He’s not going to be an elite corner in the NFL by any stretch of the imagination, but he could really develop into a strong No. 3 or 4 cornerback who can excel on special teams and step in due to injury when called upon.