Leslie Frazier knows a good cornerback when he sees one.
The Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator played the position for the NFL and has been around players like Troy Vincent, Antoine Winfield and plenty more during his 19 years as a coach.
At no point in that time, however, has Frazier seen a player put more on his plate as a rookie than what the Bills are currently feeding Tre’Davious White.
“I can’t recall a rookie being asked to do some of the things we’ve asked him to do this season,” Frazier said Monday, a day after White sealed the Bills’ 16-10 win over Kansas City with an interception of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in the dying minutes. “We’ve had to match him up on some top receivers during the course of the season and you don’t usually ask a rookie to do that. Toward the end of the year, maybe, but we were doing this early in the season and he’s responded quite well.
“He’s had a terrific rookie year, although there’s a lot more football to be played, but I can’t recall a rookie coming in and having this type of impact at corner when he’s been put in the fire as quickly as he was. It’s different than when you’re just a left corner or just a right corner and you just line up in your spot and you learn your responsibilities. We’ve asked him to match up on some big time guys and he’s held his own.”
White has 14 passes defensed this season, which leads all rookies and ranks third in the NFL. He also has two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. He’s started all 11 games, playing a team-high 744 defensive snaps (99 percent of the team’s 750) and made 41 tackles.
“I think he's playing at a high level, I really do,” coach Sean McDermott said. “He's a young man that continues to develop both on and off the field. He works very hard at his craft. That said, he still has a lot of work to do and a big hill to climb.
“As a corner in this league, it's one play at a time, like it is for most positions, but in particular the cornerback position. So I'm anxious to see him in here this week and prepare the way that we're going to need to prepare as a football team when we go up against the defending world champions.”
White didn’t see the ball come his way too much Sunday. According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, White was thrown at just three times, allowing just one catch for 6 yards. Of course, a cornerback not being thrown at generally means the receiver he’s on isn’t open. When the ball did come his way, though, White made the play, stepping in front of Tyreek Hill to easily pick off Smith.
“It was just route recognition,” White said after the game. Defensive backs coach Gill Byrd “put us in great positions to make plays. We’ve been watching film and formations all week. I saw that formation three or four times and he ran that route, but he didn’t throw it. I knew at crunch time No. 10 was his guy. I knew he was going to go to him, so I just jumped it.”
After the game, White tweeted at Deion Sanders, the Hall of Fame cornerback who works as an analyst for NFL Network, saying he needed “the call” that Sanders makes to players.
A short time later, that call came. Sanders told White how he loved his aggressiveness in going after the ball.
“Somebody’s got to do it, Deion, right? Like I said, I want to put that (Hall of Fame) gold jacket on,” White said. “You can’t be scared to make big-time plays for your team. … I just want to put myself in great positions to make plays. I’ve been doing that, and seeing that ball, my whole life.”