Rashaad Coward may have the best name I've ever heard for a 6'6" 322-pound defensive tackle. Honestly, I'm rooting for him to make the team half because I want to own a navy and orange Coward jersey. I may have considered ordering an extra large with the intention of fashioning it into a form-flattering dress. On that note, if anyone knows a good place to find a belt or sash in Bears’ orange, feel free to post in the comments section. The other half of my rooting interest lies in his impressive size and athletic potential—Coward posted a weight-defying 5.03 second 40 time with a 1.7 second 10 yard split.
Coward played nose tackle for four years at Old Dominion, a school transitioning into the FBS starting his Junior season. His production improved over his college career, culminating in a 13 start, 50 tackle season, with 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery touchdown. He was a captain and integral leader for the Monarchs and he earned second team All-Conference USA honors in his final season. Old Dominion was his only scholarship opportunity after coming from a small Brooklyn high school with a tiny roster that required everyone to play both sides of the ball (Coward took reps on the O Line and as a Tight End). He re-payed the Monarchs for their early belief in him with loyalty, turning down offers from other schools as his profile rose during his college career.
On the field, Coward shows fast hands and the ability to extend his arms and gain leverage. He’s a sure tackler who can anchor against double teams. At times he shows good awareness and demonstrates a quick reaction to make a play, but he can also get caught up with a blocker and removed from the action. His pass rush production has been limited, but if he wins early, he can push a blocker back into the QB. In his Junior year, he had a respectable game against Joe Thuney, now a Super Bowl winning Guard in the NFL.
In interviews, Coward talks about earning everything he’s achieved through hard work. He talks about becoming a leader on his high school and college teams, and being driven by the goal of team wins. His NFL role-model is Damon Harrison. If hard work and a selfless team-centered mentality are traits he can demonstrate to the Bears this off-season, they will certainly help his chances of making a roster.
Age: 22 years old
Weight: 322 pounds
Contract and salary cap:
Like the other undrafted free agents, Coward is currently under a three-year, $1,665,000 contract, with no money guaranteed. His base salary this season will be $465,000 with no dead cap.
Reason for improvement in 2017:
2017 will be Coward’s first season in the NFL. The jump in competition for Coward will also come with an equally substantial jump in quality of coaching and resources available to him. With his impressive size and speed, the Bears coaches may be able to tap into some of the potential his college mentors left on the bone.
Reason for regression in 2017:
The strength, technique, and savvy of NFL offensive lineman will present an immediate challenge to Coward that he hasn’t faced before. He may struggle taking on the new role and learning the 3 technique defense end position. His top-heavy frame may make it difficult to anchor as a nose against NFL competition.
Final roster odds:
To make the final roster, Coward will have to show he can act as a backup for both nose and defensive end positions on the line and be a capable contributor on special teams. If he is a versatile backup, the bears may prefer him over one of the veterans like John Jenkins or Kapron Lewis-Moore if they believe he has more potential to develop. He’s still a long shot, and I would place his chances of making the final roster at about 20%.