Don’t overlook Georgia’s safety
The Georgia Bulldogs fielded a truly special defense in the 2021 season. They had impact players at every position and every level of the defense. Their defense was so thoroughly talented that it was difficult for any one of their prospects to stand out, and some have seemingly fallen through the cracks.
It’s somewhat understandable that safety Lewis Cine hasn’t gotten talked about much. The safety position generally isn’t all that glamorous. They’re usually away from the action and their coverage drops frequently take them off the TV screen. But Cine has reminded people that he was just as much a part of that championship defense as anyone else, and he’s an exceptional athlete in his own right.
Cine played a variety of different roles for Georgia’s defense, from coverage to rushing the passer. His athleticism and versatility could put him on the New York Giants radar as they look to upgrade their roster in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Prospect: Lewis Cine (16)
Games Watched: vs. Clemson (2021), vs. Arkansas (2021), vs. Auburn (2021), vs. Alabama (2022 – College Football National Championship Game)
Games Played: 31
Tackles For a loss: 3.5
Passes Defensed: 14
Games Played: 15
Tackles For a loss: 2.0
Passes Defensed: 9
Best: Length, athleticism, range, physicality, mental processing
Worst: Weight, play strength
Projection: A starting safety with scheme and positional versatility.
Lewis Cine is a long, athletic, and smart safety prospect from the University of Georgia.
Cine sports a fantastic length for the position at 6-foot-2, with 32 ½ inch arms. Likewise, he is fast and explosive, with a 4.37 second 40-yard dash and an 11-foot-1 broad jump.
Cine played a variety of roles in Georgia’s complex, and multiple, defense. He most commonly aligned in a deep half of a Cover 2 shell, but routinely rotated to a variety of other positions at, or after, the snap. In reality, Cine played a single-high safety, covered the middle intermediate area of the field as a “robber”, close to the line of scrimmage as a box safety, and covered slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs in man coverage.
It speaks to Cine’s football IQ that he was able to execute that multitude of roles without missing an assignment. Likewise, Cine shows good play recognition, understanding of offensive concepts, and mental processing. He is seldom fooled by misdirection and reacts quickly to underneath passes or runs.
Cine is exceptionally fast and his speed gives him good range in his coverage zones. He also has good quickness and agility for such a long, high-cut safety. Cine has a good closing burst and uses his length well to attack receivers at the catch point, as well as to close down on plays in the short area of the field. He is also capable of staying with tight ends and running backs in man coverage.
Cine is generally a good run defender, particularly when he is able to play downhill and not worry about defeating blockers. He does a good job of diagnosing plays and shooting gaps to disrupt around the line of scrimmage. He is also a very willing and physical hitter, able to transfer his speed downhill into punishing tackles.
That burst and physicality show up in Cine’s pass rush as well. He was frequently used as a blitzer in Georgia’s defense and he has the ability to be disruptive. Cine was used from both around the line of scrimmage and from the second level. His speed and football IQ allow him to disguise his rushes well, and he was often able to gain free rushes into the backfield when blockers disregarded him and were unable to pick him up in time.
While Cine is a very long safety, he is also a lanky one. At 199 pounds he is slightly built and play strength can be a problem for him. Cine can struggle to take on blocks from tight ends (and certainly offensive tackles), and can be pushed backwards if he needs to stack and shed in short-yardage situations. Likewise, Cine is a good form tackler, but he can also have a bit of a tendency to be a drag-down tackler in space. That’s, in part, due to his slender frame and less-than-ideal play strength, but Cine can also take over-aggressive angles to the ball. There are instances when Cines speed takes him out of position to make a good tackle.
Overall Grade: 7.4
Lewis Cine projects as a starting safety with scheme diversity at the NFL level.
He might begin his career as a nickel defender, but he will likely be pushing for a starting job sooner rather than later. Cine has a broad and diverse skill set, and shows the capacity to handle a wide variety of roles in a complex defense. He should be a good fit in a similarly aggressive and “multiple” defense at the NFL level.
Cine’s length and range should allow him to match up with tight ends and running backs in coverage, and he can be an impact player in run defense or rushing the passer.
Teams will likely want to try and improve Cine’s play strength as a rookie. He has a relatively slender frame, but improving his play strength could be key to his success at the NFL level. Cine enjoyed a legitimately dominant defensive front at Georgia and rarely had to take on blockers directly. He’s unlikely to play behind a front seven that comes anywhere close to outclassing opposing offenses by as much as Georgia’s front did.
Teams will just need to be careful to not ask Cine to add so much weight that it compromises his athleticism.
His speed and range are simply uncommon, and Cine’s ability to affect the play from well off his starting point is a definite advantage.