Sometimes, you can go home.
This week, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney looked back to a Dave Gettleman draft pick to help solidify a perpetually tenuous free safety situation.
Sixth-year veteran Tre Boston has agreed to a one-year deal with Carolina, with the full intent of stealing a starting deep safety spot away from Rashaan Gaulden and/or Ross Cockrell.
Fitting. After all, he did play quite the criminal role in a late 2014/all of 2015 string of theft on the notorious Thieves Avenue.
Boston isn’t shy. He loves to talk. He also loves to take chances. Sometimes that can lead to bad angles and an occasional missed tackle or assignment.
But it’s exactly that mindset that works in harmony with his sneaky-elite skill set.
Timing. Vision. Acceleration.
Let’s take a look back at a couple examples from Boston’s first stint in Carolina.
OnePanther Rewind – 2015 NFC Title Game: there are a lot of questions today about Boston’s production in his first stint with the Panthers. In today’s OPRW, here’s Boston in action against Arizona in the 2015 NFCCG. This INT officially put the Cards out of their misery.
Observation: tremendous pressure from the LDE. Palmer is already shaken up, eyeballing receivers, staring them down. Boston does a great job anticipating the in cut, positioning himself nicely on the route and showing his signature burst on the break.
Boston has a knack for making big plays in huge moments in the passing game. In the de facto 2014 NFC South Title Game (week 17), 33 fielded this Matt Ryan pick and ran it back for a lengthy score. The play illustrates superb timing, speed and acceleration—-great assets for any deep safety.
Another wider look at the play reveals savvy work by RCB Josh Norman, big nickel Colin Jones, and Boston. Norman actually hands off his assignment to Boston mid-route, baiting Ryan into a risky pass with less arc: a scenario and spot Boston clearly anticipated. It takes a great deal of acceleration and timing to pull this off. Boston is one of the quicker safeties in the league.
At the time, this play was the longest Carolina interception return in more than a decade (2004, Julius Peppers near the goal line at Denver—-one hell of a play). It also ranks as the fifth longest return in team history.
Tre Boston is a gambler. He’s the type of free safety you want on a team that presumably will build big leads. In such situations, you can have a lot of fun as a defensive coordinator with this piece patrolling the deep end of the DB pool.
Against the run, sure: he can use some work. His technique hasn’t always been sound. There have been some well-chronicled bad downfield angles and sloppy run fits. But if he can improve that part of his game marginally, and maintain his prowess as a borderline-elite pass patrolman, I would expect good things for Boston—and the Panthers—in 2019.
Thieves Avenue might just be one step closer to reopening for business.