Today’s NFL requires more effort than ever from its defensive backs, which makes versatile prospects a hot commodity in the draft. If your favorite team is looking for that kind of playmaker for the back end of its defense in this year’s class, former Virginia safety Joey Blount believes he is the man for the job. Blount recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his monstrous 2021 campaign that included 86 tackles and several takeaways, his experience at this year’s Hula Bowl, his excellent abilities in coverage, and why an NFL franchise should use one of their draft selections on him. JM: You enjoyed an excellent 2021 season. You recorded 86 tackles and matched a career-high with three interceptions. You recorded several tackles for loss as well. How do you reflect on your senior season? JB: I’m proud of what I accomplished. I came back for my fifth year, my last year, and I wanted to go out with a bang. I believe I did that. I accomplished several personal goals that I set out to achieve. I wanted to get 80-plus tackles, three or more interceptions, three or more sacks, and a forced fumble. I reached all of those individual goals. Team-wise, we didn’t achieve what I had in mind. I wanted more. I really wanted to win an ACC Championship, but it wasn’t in the cards. We fell short of our goals. As I look forward now and depart Virginia, I can look back with a smile on my face. I’m proud of what I achieved. JM: It was a big year for you. When I turn the tape on, I see an extremely physical defender that can both play in the box and cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game. How do you describe the way you prefer to play the game? JB: I prefer to live around the football (laughs). I think some of my best traits are my instincts and football IQ. I’m able to read a lot of plays before they happen. It’s a trait that you can’t teach. I have a background of playing the quarterback position when I was younger. I understand the position and general offensive play really well. As a quarterback, you have to understand where the weaknesses are on defense. I understand that. Now that I’m playing safety, I’m on the back end of it all. I get to see what the quarterback sees. I get to see when a running back identifies an open hole. I know what I would do on every play if I was playing those positions. It helps me rely on my instincts. Like you said, I can cover tight ends and running backs as well. I can drop in the box and I love to tackle. I can play Cover 2 and rolling coverages. I can play anywhere on the field. My talents can be utilized and enhanced all over the field. JM: We saw that on film. You give off some hybrid safety/linebacker vibes on tape. You have to be able to cover in today’s game. NFL defenses love those types of defenders. JB: Today’s game is all about the passing downs. A lot of these receivers and quarterbacks are showcasing strong chemistry. A lot of tight ends are more like additional wide receivers nowadays. There are a lot of 12-personnel looks that use a tight end as an extra receiver. That’s a newer wrinkle to the game. I think it’s a strong suit of my game. I can cover tight ends and running backs. I can play in the slot. I feel like I can do it all. Even playing single-high, I know a ton of NFL defenses are transitioning to running more two-high looks with their safeties in Cover 2. That sort of defense is making a comeback. We ran a ton of Cover 2 at Virginia. I’m well-versed in those looks. I understand zone defense at a high level. I’m ready for the next level (laughs). JM: We can tell you understand the game at an extremely high level. You recently competed in the Hula Bowl. What was that experience like? JB: That experience was amazing. It gave me an opportunity to perform against a lot of talented players from all over the country. We had talented players from every conference in attendance. I feel like I went out there and put my best foot forward. I felt comfortable communicating with new teammates I had never played with before. I was taking initiative as I tried to be a leader on the back end. I was trying to encourage my teammates. When it comes down to it, I wanted to make plays on the field. I think I handled myself well on one-vs-one reps. I was covering the post and playing sideline-to-sideline. With that being said, I made the game-sealing interception in the actual game. All in all, I think the week went very well for me. JM: We love that. Did you meet with many scouts out there? Did you feel like you made any great connections? JB: I met with several teams. I met with the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and Baltimore Ravens, among others. I learned a lot about who I am as a person through those experiences. It was great to discuss my on-field history with various scouts and coaches. We discussed some of the injuries I’ve obtained. I came back from every single one of my injuries even stronger. I’m not afraid to play through stuff. I had a lot of fun out there. I enjoyed answering their questions about durability and whatnot. That’s how I play the game. I play with my heart on my sleeve. I play aggressively and I throw my body around. In this day and age of football, I like to say they try to pull the dog back a little bit and they don’t want the dog to bark too loudly (laughs). You rather have a dog that knows how to bite rather than having to teach a dog how to bite. I have that aggressiveness and competitiveness. I have the experience. The experience with the scouts was very intriguing. I enjoyed asking my own questions as well, regarding the type of players they look for and how they’d envision using me in their scheme. I asked about areas of improvement and what I need to work on. I wanted to learn how to become a better player. I thought I connected really well with the Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos, Eagles, and Lions. Those teams come to mind. JM: You’re a popular guy for many teams. How did you answer their questions regarding durability? JB: I answered those questions at the moment. I’m 100% healthy right now. Of any injury I’ve ever had, there was only one injury that forced me to miss time during the season. Any other injury I’ve experienced, I was able to play through and address them in the offseason. I came back from those offseason situations and played the entire season each time. I told teams that I was comfortable with how everything was handled. The offseason is the perfect time to heal, rest, and recover while improving your skill set. Injuries are just out of your control sometimes. I’m always working on getting my body right. Nobody wants to get hurt. That’s how the dice rolls sometimes. I’m healthy and ready to compete throughout this process. I’m not being held back by anything right now. I’m full-go. JM: That’s what we were hoping to hear. You’re such a smart, instinctual player. If you could pick the brain of any defensive back in the NFL, who would you choose and why? JB: I would love to pick the brain of Tyrann Mathieu or Justin Simmons. I love Mathieu’s game because he’s all over the field. He plays inside the box and can cover just about any position on the field. I would love to discuss his instincts and how he views the game. You can’t pigeonhole Mathieu into a certain position. He’s just on the field making plays. I would love to discuss how he comfortably grew into that role and where his confidence comes from. His pre-snap alignments and the manner in which he reads the game are worth marveling at. He does his job within his job, if that makes sense. He knows he always has to be at a certain spot and he does a wonderful job disguising that. He makes plays for himself on over routes and under routes, and he disguises things brilliantly. Simmons is a bigger safety that plays all over the field. He covers tight ends and slot receivers. He has range in the post. I feel like we have similar body types. We’re both bigger, lengthier guys. We can both cover the field well. I would love to pick his brain about the journey he’s been on. JM: Those are two terrific players. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, why should a team use one of their draft picks on Joey Blount? JB: A team should use one of their draft picks on Joey Blount because I’m going to come in and earn my keep. I’m going to help us win football games. I’m a competitor at heart. I’m going to give you everything I have. Football is my love and my passion. It’s what I plan to do with my life. You won’t regret the day you drafted me. I’m going to make a team very happy. I’m the right choice for your team.
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