We’ve seen it for two years now. Number 58 shoots past the opposing tackle, like a track start exploding out his stance.
A savvy arm extension, a body contortion that approaches the ground SO CLOSE you can’t imagine he isn’t going to fall. Your friend yells, “look at Junior Galette killing it!!” and then you smack him on the back of head. Clearly he isn’t fully up to date with Redskins roster like you are. So you kindly explain that’s Cassanova McKinzy, and you better recognize.
But who is this relative unknown? He has been a popular topic to the Redskins faithful, and is viewed as a potential breakout star at outside linebacker. I wanted to delve further and get a true grasp of our standout from Auburn. You’ll find that his journey to the ‘Skins is a rather complex one, and he’s not exactly who you think.
Journey to the NFL
Mckinzy played football for Woodlawn High in Birmingham, Alabama and was viewed as one of the premier players in the state. He was viewed nationally as the 10th best middle linebacker by Rivals.Com. He was a four star recruit and received offers from Alabama, Clemson, Arkansas, Arkansas State and Auburn.
He committed to Auburn, and ultimately became a three-year starter after his freshman season.
While there, he compiled 258 tackles, including 28.5 for loss, and 8.5 sacks. Five of those sacks occurred during his Senior season.
Cassanova primarily lined up as a stand-up linebacker, varying among the weak, strong and middle positions. Surprisingly he was rarely used as an edge rusher.
He played in some big time games in the SEC conference, in addition to the BCS Championship game in 2014.
You can see Mckinzy here as number eight, playing against his HS buddy Jameis Winston.
Coming out of college, his prospects of making an impact at the NFL level was slim, for he was deemed as limited athletically. According to NFL.com, an AFC East Scout said “I like his toughness but unless you are going to use him as a pass rusher I don’t see any third-down value and his entire game revolves around the box. Just too limited.”
This translated to his workout metrics, which were underwhelming.
As noted above, McKinzy ran a 4.88 40-yard dash, which was only in the 10th percentile relative to his draft class. He also ran a pedestrian 7.44 3-cone-shuffle which is average to below-average for a linebacker.
Due to these combined factors, Mckinzy was undrafted in 2016 and was picked up as free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Welcome to Washington
After being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then later by the Los Angeles Rams, Mckinzy found his way to Ashburn in 2018. But it has been anything but “smooth sailing”.
McKinzy has been on the transaction report on 11 occasions, including being waived by the team four times.
However, someone must have a keen eye on the Redskins, because like the AFC East scout, they saw potential in Mckinzy as pass rusher and he has been entrenched there ever since.
Last year he was activated to the 53-man roster in November, playing in three games before suffering a torn pectoral muscle against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He was later placed on injured-reserve.
He has shown the propensity to disengage blockers and has shown surprising short-area quickness.
But he has been buried on the depth chart behind stalwarts Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, as well as Ryan Anderson who was drafted in the second round in 2017. This year, Montez Sweat enters the conversation to replace the departed Smith. As a projected top-ten pick, Sweat almost assuredly is a day-one starter.
Mckinzy simply wants to make the team.
He is making a case for himself, including a two-sack performance last night.
He appears to have a path to a roster spot as the fourth outside linebacker.
Let’s hope that this is the year that Cassanova can put it altogether. As the saying goes… “you can’t have too many pass rushers”.
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