At the present time, SB Nation does not have a Buffalo Bills blog (although I believe that will be changing soon). After Michael Lewis and Ashley Lelie, I wanted to get together a scouting report on Nate Clements since he was such a high-priced signing. So after some searching around, I came across the Bills site at the "Most Valuable Network." Dan Goldman got back to me and put together a brief scouting report on our new cornerback:
Strengths: In his six years with the Buffalo Bills Clements proved to be a true playmaker. In his first year with the team, he took over the starting job in week five and finished the season with three interceptions. Over those years, Clements has recorded 61 pass breakups and 23 interceptions, five of which he took to the house.
Despite having a nose for the big play, he is also a great cover corner. At 6-0, 209 lbs., Clements possesses above average size at the position, allowing him to match up better with bigger wide outs. He also seems to excel when he is allowed to jam a receiver at the line. In this year's match up with the Colts, Clements jammed Marvin Harrison at the line every play, several times forcing him out of bounds where he became an illegible receiver. Harrison finished the game with only two catches for 21 yards.
The size also seems to help him in defending go routes. I haven't seen many defensive backs breakup a deep ball better than Clements. One of his most underrated assets is what he can provide a team in run support. Clements is a ferocious tackler and is lightning quick in getting to the line of scrimmage. In 2005 due to a weak Buffalo run defense, Clements racked up 99 tackles. Originally paired with fellow Ohio State alumni Antoine Winfield, the two doled out some big hits on running backs. He's totaled up 13 forced fumbles over the years. That doesn't even factor in plays when he hits a receiver right as they catch the ball and knocks it free.
Lastly, Clements is a great punt return man. With a 9.5 yards-per-return average, he is a threat to break one every time.
Weaknesses: Clements struggles with some receivers that simply shouldn't be able to beat him. A prime example is Chris Chambers of the Miami Dolphins. In week 13 of the 2005 season, Chambers caught 15 balls for 238 yards against him. In the final play on which Chambers caught a game-winning touchdown, Clements was not lined up with him. There was question if Clements wanted nothing to do with him or if the coaching staff made the decision. You can't credit a good quarterback either, Sage Rosenfels was in the game.
Additionally, he has been prone to fumbles when returning punts in trying to make the big play. He has eight career fumbles.
Character: Clements became a fan favorite over the years in Buffalo. Up until last year, there were no incidents with him off the field. Heading into March 2006, Clements looked ready to cash in on the free agent market. New Buffalo GM Marv Levy wisely slapped the cornerback with the team's franchise tag, holding him to a one-year deal. Clements originally refused to report to the team's mini camps, but Levy worked out a clause in the contract where the team could not use the tag again. I don't see a problem for San Francisco now that he signed a huge deal.
Thanks again to Dan at the Bills MVN site. I think the fumble issue shouldn't be a big deal because Mike Nolan already emphasized in his introductory press conference that Clements will NOT be returning punts, which is probably a good thing considering the amount of money invested in him.
I know there were some initial concerns when Nate Clements stated that he wanted to be the highest paid corner in the game. However, I think that's just a confidence that is necessary in the NFL. While there have been plenty of mistakes made in free agency, I'd like to think Nate Clements will not be one of them. Only time tell.
*In an unrelated note, the NFL Network reported the 49ers hosted Tully Banta-Cain on Monday and Matt Maiocco is supposedly reporting Banta-Cain is still in town with his agent. I think snagging a solid linebacker like Banta-Cain would definitely strengthen the defense.