Can The \”Lake Effect\” Work On New Steelers CB DeMarcus Van Dyke?

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed cornerback and former third round pick DeMarcus Van Dyke on Thursday and immediately everyone has questions about the signing.

The Oakland Raiders gave up on the University of Miami product after he played in 14 games as a rookie. He started 4 of those games and recorded 13 tackles, 1 interception and 4 passes defensed in 329 snaps on defense. While he did allow 2 touchdowns on 30 targets, he only allowed 13 receptions in total.

Back at the 2011 NFL combine Van Dyke was timed at a blazing 4.28 in the 40-yard dash and he also had good 20 yard shuttle and 3 cone times in addition. During his weigh in he measured in at 6006 and weighed a very waify like 176 pounds. Just to be clear, he now reportedly weighs 185 pounds.

During his individual drills in Indianapolis, Van Dyke was very sloppy, and as I posted on Twitter immediately after the news broke of his signing, he was very out of control after flipping his hips at time and didn\’t look fluid. When you watch the game tape of Van Dyke you see in press coverage that he allows his man to get into his route too easily as he lacks physicality. He also does not time his leaps well on contested balls.

Tackling wise, there is nothing to positive to really say as he often times tries to tackle by just lowering his shoulder and fails to wrap up. Remember how Deion Sanders used to try to tackle? That\’s him.

In a nutshell, Van Dyke was thrown right into the fire and looks like a kid that has had two different secondary coaches and only one offseason in which to develop in. Remember he was drafted in 2011 and the lockout forced him to show up at training camp as green as green can be. Five weeks into the season, he was starting.

Now I mentioned the hips of Van Dyke during his combine workout and while he did flip them, it was coming out of the flip that looked sloppy and out of control. A bad workout, perhaps? Maybe, but some of his game film shows him out of control when he flips and runs as well.

Former Steeler great Rod Woodson, who was the Raiders defensive backs coach when the Raiders drafted Van Dyke, was asked about the hips of his young student back in early August of last year, just after training camp started.

“He has great hips,” said Woodson. “He reminds me of a player that I played with in Baltimore, Duane Starks. When he got drafted coming out of The U (Miami), and we were in Baltimore, he had great hips, great feet. DVD reminds me of him. He\’s a little bit taller. His range, I don\’t think too many receivers are outrunning him. So, he has to learn to break down, move his body weight and transition when he\’s playing in space. If he does that, he can be a pretty good player.”

Woodson also had some other encouraging things to say about Van Dyke in the interview.

“He\’s going to be good,” said Woodson. “It\’s the little things that he has to work on. He has to learn how to finish. He\’s still learning the little things about playing corner in this league — playing the different coverages, when to do certain things, when not to do certain things. But if he keeps progressing in the positive manner like he has in the first week or so, he\’ll be a decent player.”

The Raiders cleaned house after the 2011 season and Woodson of course was part of that cleaning. Still, Van Dyke looked all but guaranteed to make the Raiders roster again this year. The second year Van Dyke was reportedly having a good training camp leading up to the preseason games, but that\’s when his wheels came off.

Van Dyke was beaten a few times in the first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys and gave up a 31-yard completion to DeMarco Sampson and a 30-yarder to Stephen Williams late in the game the following week versus the Arizona Cardinals. He also took a bad angle on running back William Powell that went for a touchdown just one play after he allowed the reception to Sampson. It was not a good game for him to say the least.

After that game Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was asked about Van Dyke. “We just have to keep working with him and getting him better,” Allen said. “Don\’t let him get his confidence down. Keep competing. He is still a young player so every day is a learning experience for him. We have to keep going with him and getting him better.”

Now the Steelers certainly seemed to be in in the market for another defensive back as they worked out free agents Terrence Johnson, Dominique Franks and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah over the course of the week. Perhaps Woodson had something to do with the Steelers taking a look at Van Dyke. We likely may never know that answer, but for now he is the newest project for Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake.

Can the “Lake Effect” do for Van Dyke what it appears to have done for Keenan Lewis, a corner who was teetering on the edge following the 2010 season? While the jury is still out, and will be for a while, on Lewis, there have been signs of improvement. We will know real quick a few games into the upcoming season as to what his long-term prospects really are as he is the starter opposite Ike Taylor heading into the opener Sunday night.

In the case of Van Dyke, he very well could be gone as quick as he arrived, but if he stays, initially he will have to prove his worth on special teams. With running back Baron Batch likely to be down Sunday night because of a groin injury, and both Curtis Brown and Robert Golden coming off of knee and hamstring injuries respectively, Van Dyke very well could put that speed to use in Denver as a gunner on the punt coverage team and play on the kickoff coverage unit in addition. The Raiders also reportedly flirted with working him in practice as a punt returner, but with rookie Chris Rainey seemingly having that job nailed down, Van Dyke better learn how to tackle quick.

Following the Denver game, Golden very well could be released with the intentions of signing him back to the practice squad as the Steelers likely don\’t want to carry five safeties. That is just speculation on my part, but we will won\’t have long to find out that answer as Monday or Tuesday is when a roster move like that would be made.

For now, Van Dyke is just a body, albeit a fast one, but he likely will stick around long enough for Lake to be able to get a good evaluation of him. You can\’t teach speed, and Van Dyke certainly possesses that. Is he still raw enough for Lake to be able to fix all of his other problems? Time will tell, but Lake will cut bait with him very quickly should he deem him not being worth the time.

For now Van Dyke is the newest Steeler and how long he stays in Pittsburgh is totally up to him.

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