Cre’von LeBlanc graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 57th best cornerback as a rookie in 2016. He played in 13 games and made nine starts for a Chicago Bears secondary that was torched often because of a distinct lack of playmakers.
But, for at least one game, LeBlanc showed flashes of greatness:
8 targets, 3 receptions, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups.
One of the best games by a cornerback in 2016. pic.twitter.com/gPOykngalf
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 20, 2017
PFF is highlighting the site’s highest-graded games of the 2016 season, and it comes as a bit of a surprise to see LeBlanc make the list. But after revisiting this particular game, there is no question that LeBlanc earned that 92.0 grade, despite the Bears’ 20-17 Week 14 loss against the Detroit Lion.
LeBlanc played 72 snaps that day, and made the most out of his second biggest workload in 2016. He also had the pleasure of doing it against Matthew Stafford, who entered the game having thrown for 3,224 yards and 21 touchdowns, to go along with a 67.2 percent completion rate and a 100.5 quarterback rating. And yet, LeBlanc held his own against Stafford during one of the best runs of his career as he was targeted eight times, broke up three passes, allowed just three receptions, and picked off a Stafford pass, returning it for a touchdown.
It’s the kind of performance that was too few and far between for Vic Fangio’s defense last year, and one the Bears would like to see repeated in 2017.
Only Tracy Porter played more coverage snaps than LeBlanc’s 445 in 2016. But with Prince Amukamara (539 coverage snaps with the Jacksonville Jaguars) and Marcus Cooper (519 coverage snaps with the Arizona Cardinals) sliding into starting roles, it’s worth questioning where LeBlanc will get an increased look as a potential up-and-coming talent.
Over at Scout.com’s Bear Report, Zack Pearson writes about the potential training camp battle brewing over at the nickelback position, where LeBlanc and Bryce Callahan (who was Sports Illustrated’s seventh-best slot corner entering the 2016 season) are set to be position’s primary weapons. Callahan played in 11 games, made 10 starts, and was in on 312 coverage snaps in 2016. And while Callahan played well, LeBlanc was an ace out of the slot for the Bears in 2016 by PFF’s standards, so it would make sense for that to be the role where he gets to show how well he can play over the course of a 16-game schedule.