Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NDT Scouting Prospect Spotlight: Iowa NT Carl Davis

Carl Davis, Nose Tackle
Iowa Hawkeyes
Height: 6050 - Listed
Weight: 315 - Listed

Games watched: vs Ohio State (2013), vs Michigan (2013)

Strengths: Davis, despite playing at a listed 6'5, plays with outstanding leverage from an interior line position.  Frequently the attention of multiple blockers on the inside, Davis is a handful to generate movement against at the point of attack.  Davis is a prototypical 3-4/4-3 NT in the way he plays the game but don't confuse him for strictly a space eater.  Davis has an outstanding motor and consistently gives full effort not just in holding the point but even going so far as to flash near the numbers on bubble screens if the receiver makes enough moves getting up field:

This is house money for the Hawkeyes, no one is asking Davis to be out 2/3rd of the way to the sideline chasing after screens; but there were a number of times Davis actually helped clean up tackles out this far towards the boundary.  

Again, for a NT?  This is an outstanding motor and high effort player.  Davis certainly isn't going to be confused with an EDGE player out on space but the ability to get down the line and make plays like this really adds extra depth into Davis' traditional NT skill set.

As to be expected, Davis carries quite a bit of power behind his hands and once he gets a little bit of forward momentum going; he can easily walk back an offensive lineman on roller skates.

You can clearly see Davis get up underneath the Center's pads off the snap and as he extends his hands forward (plus note for hand technique) he simply drives his blocker a good 2-3 yards right back.  It's a good thing that was a moving pocket, otherwise Devin Gardner would have had the Center in his lap very quickly.  This kind of raw power was put on display early vs. Michigan and shortly afterwards the Wolverines consistently dedicated 2 lineman to blocking Davis in an effort to control his power.  Of course NT value isn't measured by their pass rushing penetration and Davis frequently spent the better part of the game without getting into the backfield; but rather occupying blockers.  When he can still impact those downs with batted passes at the line, it is again, just another plus in versatility department within his specific 1 TECH role:

At 6'5; Davis has the ability to knock down balls, close throwing lanes and alter arm angles...effectively impacting passing plays without ever being a threat to register sacks.  This adds value for teams and incentive to not necessarily consider him a passing down liability.  He can also eat blocks to open blitz lanes, so there's merit to keeping him on the field in those situations as well. 

But of course, as a NT his interior run defense is going to be the premium skill to look for.  Davis (provided he's asked to do what he does well) doesn't disappoint.  Against Ohio State; Davis does a great job "following his Guard" and quite nearly pulling down Carlos Hyde for a 2 yard loss.

Davis doesn't quite have the burst to finish this play, but you can't ask for anything else out of your Nose Tackle than to execute a textbook swim move over top of the down block by the Center to get depth into the backfield and then slide laterally along the line to at least disrupt the play.  He's coming all the way from the opposite A gap to influence off tackle.  It's an impressive display of understanding and reading the blocks, plus execution to put himself in a position to make a play if the original hole is sealed.  

A little later in the 3rd quarter against Ohio State; Davis displays the kind of short yardage penetration ability that will make scouts' mouths water.  

Don't be misled by the fact that Miller pulls this ball and keeps it off the right edge for a new set of downs.  Focus on Davis a full yard into the backfield (and deeper than any of his teammates for that matter) and bottling up essentially both A gaps in the backfield.  This is a great job of "resetting the line of scrimmage" and if Miller does give this ball to Carlos Hyde, Hyde runs into the back of his own lineman 2 yards behind the original line of scrimmage.  It's a great effort to shut down the inside run against a power run team.  

A final thought on Davis; I'll leave you with this following thought from Twitter.  Here's the play in question

Weaknesses: As you may expect with a NT prospect; Davis isn't necessarily very explosive outside of his handwork.  He doesn't move particularly well laterally.  These aren't negatives about him; it comes with the territory and they just need to be mentioned to understand who he is as a player.  Davis is very much a linear player; once he gets moving in a direction odds are he isn't going to be able to readjust

Davis here has finally gotten his weight going forward; but there's no action left in the back field.  In a perfect world, Davis is able to read this block and cross the face of the RG to get some width down the line of scrimmage. But again, it comes with the territory.  Davis occasionally struggles with leverage as well; playing the interior at 6'5 leaves some vulnerability for blockers to get under his pads.

However, the silver lining with Davis is he has the functional strength to play tough and hold his ground; even if he's been outgunned with leverage.  But it is something to pause for, interior line play will only get better at the next level so he's going to need to get more consistent with where he is height wise when initiating contact.

Recap: Carl Davis isn't a versatile chess piece to be moved around to attack offenses, but he IS a linchpin of 1 Tech NT play that can be used in either a 3-4 or 4-3 base defensive alignment and in that role, he can truly help dictate how offenses call their blocking schemes.  Davis has too much power be be contained with a Center on a regular basis.  He's also a great effort player, willing to venture outside of the trenches towards the boundary when he's not being eaten up by multiple blockers and when he can find the ball.  He may not consistently get there, but you can't ask him for anything other than what he gives.  Davis has good size and offers just enough ability in the passing game that he could be a 3 down player from the NT position and still impact throws despite a lack of explosiveness with his lower half to win pass rushing situations.

Monday, September 22, 2014

NDT Scouting Prospect Spotlight: UCLA OBLB Eric Kendricks

Eric Kendricks, Off Ball Linebacker
UCLA Bruins
Height: 6000 - Listed
Weight: 230 - Listed

Games watched: vs Virginia (2014), vs Texas (2014), vs Stanford (2012)

Strengths: Kendricks, one of a plethora of talented prospects on the UCLA roster this season, is a tackling machine.  Team leader in tackles for 2 straight seasons (including his 2012 campaign where he also led the conference).  Despite a short frame, Kendricks' instincts allow him to see/feel the flow of the run game through traffic; as seen here vs. Virginia to open the season

This is a a strong effort to recognize the lane for RB Kevin Parks and burst through it once the backfield penetration forces Parks to cut and break to his left.  You can see just how well Kendricks closes on the line of scrimmage once he gets down hill; he's swift and authoritative pressing the line of scrimmage and forcing a loss on the play.  This play also highlights another one of Kendricks' best traits; his patience forcing the play in the run game.  Note how Kendricks takes his run read step and doesn't shoot the first gap he sees; he has the closing speed to pause and force the offense's hand

With the zone read such a popular staple of offenses right now; it's great to see a prospect that keeps his integrity to play either before being assertive and skilled enough to still greet the ball carrier in the hole and keep runs to a minimum.  Kendricks is great in this area and it puts him consistently in position to finish plays in the run game.  

By and large, Kendricks is a heady player with the instincts to feel where the ball is going not just on the ground but also in the passing game.  This screen pass vs. Texas (2014) is a great example

Kendricks diagnoses pass thanks to the offensive line's kick slide steps out of their stance and Kendricks quickly gets width AND depth into a hook/curl zone before his eyes pick up on the slot receiver's screen.  Kendricks quickly sticks his nose back inside and eats up BOTH lead blockers on the play...Kendricks doesn't make the tackle but his diagnosis and ability to get back inside and occupy forces a cut from the slot receiver in space and guarantees this play isn't sprung for a huge gain.  Kendricks makes strong diagnosis of plays on the move regularly on the move after the snap; here's another example of this against Texas.  

First and foremost; it's important to note that Kendricks again picks up backfield motion through traffic in seeing the TE come across the set away from the play action into the flat.  If he isn't quick to close here, this ball goes into the flat quickly and likely picks up a new set of downs.  Instead; Kendricks takes a strong angle, getting width but also coming slightly to the LOS to further diminish the throwing window.  Once the QB decides he's going to run and tucks the ball; Kendricks immediately foregoes the flat receiver and makes a form tackle to limit the play to no gain.  Note his head on the ball and how well Kendricks wraps up in the open field.  He literally clings onto the runner as he tries to spin; a great form tackle on the whole.  As you might expect from the 2012 PAC 12 tackle leader; Kendricks is pretty damn good at this portion of his craft

A great hand by Kendricks pokes this ball out for a touchdown in what was ultimately the deciding factor in the game; taking Virginia from being in field goal range to a UCLA touchdown in a game they won 28-20.  Because of his build; Kendricks is compact and packs some solid pop on his pads.  He displays proper form in open field tackles but is also (as seen here) aware of where the ball is even when he isn't putting his helmet on it.  

If I had to pick one play to sum up Kendricks as an off ball LB and his strengths from the 3 game sample I watched this morning, it would be this one vs. Texas the other week.

Kendricks reads pass immediately, is quick to get into a pass drop and then proceeds to display textbook chop block defense and has the athleticism to get up from on his knees to make a picture perfect form tackle against the back in space.  Charles Davis was calling this game and called it a "big league play"; he's absolutely right.  This is an outstanding individual effort and showcased just about every desirable trait you could think up, a total package play.  

Weaknesses: While Kendricks atones for limited ability to see backfield action with great instincts; his height will certainly limit his potential at the next level.  Kendricks struggles with engagement at the point of attack; despite strong efforts to engage with offensive linemen and scrape off blocks.  Kendricks is a player that will have to be kept clean by scheme because once he's gotten into contact he struggles to get off of it

Texas runs this ball right off Kendricks' right shoulder; but despite a strong play to stonewall the TE coming after him on the 2nd level; he can't get himself clean enough.  Realistically, Kendricks struggles with contact at the point of attack and as an off the ball Linebacker it's a significant limitation.  He executes exactly how you'd like to see a LB take on a block but he doesn't have the reach to separate and he certainly won't have the anchor to hold off Guards like that either.  

Coincidentally, the other major miss on Kendricks' cuts from this morning was a short yardage gaffe that led to an easy touchdown for the Longhorns.  

This certainly appears to be a bust on the part of Kendricks in a man coverage situation.  The other OBLB shoots into the flat to pick up the fullback in the flat and the backside receiver is locked up in man to man coverage as well.  Kendricks looks a little too anxious and geared up to get downhill and the TE on this play doesn't really sell a run block all too convincingly; yet Kendricks' eyes miss him as he's peeking into the backfield.  Kendricks isn't a player I'm sure would see regular snaps on the goal line due to his size/power ability to begin with, but plays like this don't give me any more confidence to leave him on the field. 

Recap: Eric Kendricks is a player that is going to have to fight the narrative about his size throughout the draft and evaluation process.  Ultimately; it will in all likelihood drop his stock and it will limit the way teams are comfortable using him.  But this is a player who displays outstanding fundamentals and wonderful instincts in all areas of the position.  Kendricks is quick to break on the ball and even quicker to find it.  He moves really well in space; he isn't limited in this area much like fellow OBLB Denzel Perryman.  It should give teams more confidence that he's a 3 down player in more situations as he can effectively drop into zones quickly and doesn't labor opening his hips to turn and run.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NDT Scouting Prospect Spotlight: Miami RB Duke Johnson

Duke Johnson, Running Back
Miami Hurricanes
Height: 5090 - Listed
Weight: 206 - Listed

Games watched: vs Virginia (2012), vs FAU (2013), vs Georgia Tech (2013)

Strengths: Johnson, a Junior, has the kind of frame you really like to see out of a back; as he's compact and his height gives him natural leverage and pad level when running the football.  His girth is solid; he's carrying some solid weight on his frame that should help him endure regular hits and grind out yardage between the tackles.  Duke Johnson burst onto the scene in 2012 as a true freshman; rushing for a Hurricanes record 947 yards as a freshman and 10 touchdowns to go along with it.  I really liked that Johnson added 8-10 pounds between his freshman and sophomore seasons and seemed to retain most of his explosiveness.  Johnson, for not being a power back, manages to collect quite a bit of yardage after contact thanks to the previously mentioned low pad level/center of gravity and some really persistent leg drive.  Also displays the kind of vision (both in the open field and behind the line of scrimmage) that allows him to brace, adjust and diminish hits coming at him.  And that vision carries over to zone running schemes as well

At the snap of the football, the offensive line shifts to the right; simply engaging in the first defender to show their face.  Johnson is very patient in the backfield, stringing out this stretch run before he eyes a lane to shoot through.  Johnson effectively sticks his foot in the ground, shifts upfield and bursts onto the second level.  You can see at the end of the run exactly what I had previously mentioned regarding his leg drive and producing yards after contact.  This is an all around good play and shows his versatility as a runner.  But Johnson isn't necessarily a grind it out type of back; he's actually more prone for home run than he is 6-7 yards a pop. 

Another stretch play and again Johnson picks his spot attacking the LOS.  From the back end angle of this run; he's got a sizable hole to run through until he hits the second level; where a defender is on the ground and scrambling to his feet.  Johnson shows off the natural play making ability that has made him so popular for the Hurricanes; effortlessly leaping over the top and from there you see the burst to outrun the angle the Safety has coming from the middle of the field for a long touchdown run vs. FAU.

Johnson hasn't shown a ton of efficiency as an all around back since the start of 2013; he's had just 7 receptions out of the backfield (although he did have 27 as a freshman in 2012) but Johnson does show a willingness to contribute and play physically as a pass protector.  

Here he comes across the set to help pick up a block on current San Diego Charger Jeremiah Attaochu and actually jolts him really well as Attaochu tries to shoot inside of the RT.  Johnson contributed in this facet a number of times against Georgia Tech and notably getting a piece of Attaochu.  It's certainly not his biggest strength coming into 2014 but the effort level is there and the physicality appears to be as well.

Weaknesses: Johnson comes into 2014 with the obvious questions about his health; having had his 2013 season ended prematurely with a nasty ankle break against Florida State.  Fortunately he appears to be back to 100% with a solid start to this season; logging at least 90 yards in all 3 of Miami's contests.  But questions can also be asked about his ability to carry a workload; Johnson has yet to eclipse 145 carries or 160 touches from scrimmage.  While the day and age of bell cow backs logging 400+ carries appear to be behind us for the time being; Johnson's ability to project as a feature back and handle that load will greatly affect his stock.  

In regard to his on the field resume; as previously mentioned Johnson hasn't been particularly active in the passing game recently, just 7 of his last 195 touches (back to the beginning of 2013) have been receptions.   

And it's also worth noting that despite how well Johnson does coming down hill attacking tacklers, he's frustratingly prone to getting tripped up by the smallest contact down around his feet.  

This had the potential to be a touchdown for the Hurricanes; as Johnson sees and shifts to the boundary there's virtually no one in his way of getting the corner.  However a Georgia Tech defender comes through the initial hole and throws himself down at Johnson's feet; forcing him to stumble and eventually drop for no gain.  There were several plays like this were traffic around his feet tripped him up.  

Johnson also appears to have some shaky ball security; he put the ball on the turf several times in watching him as well.  That's a weakness that is easily fixed; but not one that coaches will stand for very long if it continues.  

Recap: Overall, Duke Johnson is a very talented runner.  He has great vision, a solid build, an assertive (yet patient) attitude carrying the ball and has the kind of explosion to pop a run off for a large gain.  What I'd like to see is Johnson stay healthy for 2014 and begin to blossom a bit more as an overall player at the position (as well as take care of the football).  Johnson's running abilities are obvious; but I need to see him get back to being involved in all facets and prove he's the kind of talent that should be given consideration to being a centerpiece of a NFL ground attack. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

NDT Scouting Prospect Spotlight: West Virginia WR Kevin White

Kevin White, Wide Receiver
West Virginia Mountaineers
Height: 6030 - Listed
Weight: 210 - Listed

Games watched: vs Baylor (2013), vs Alabama (2014)

Summary: The available cut ups to review on Kevin White is limited currently; but with his dominating start to the season (most notably going head to head with Amari Cooper in Alabama's 33-23 win in Week 1 of the season) White is a player I couldn't bring myself to keep on the back burner any longer.  With only 5 highlighted plays from that Alabama contest, I'll be looking strictly at White as a summary instead of breaking up these notes into strengths and weaknesses.  

White, a JUCO transfer to West Virginia before last season, is a large target at a listed 6'3 and he certainly plays like it.  White doesn't have the bulk or extreme height of a Kelvin Benjamin (former Florida State receiver and current Carolina Panther) but he high pointed contested catches against Alabama just like Benjamin.

The "win the catch point" phrase that dominated the talk of prospects like Benjamin and Mike Evans last season is going to continue to trend within evaluation circles as more teams attempt to establish a "power forward" passing attack (ie: Chicago with Jeffery/Marshall, Tampa Bay with Jackson/Seferian-Jenkins/Evans, etc) and while White doesn't have the overall massive girth of some of those players, you can see he clearly tracks the football just as well.  The overall body control to get high enough to win catches like this one and still contort to face up the ball dropping in overhead is extremely impressive...and not something he only flashed once. A quarter after this first fabulous touchdown catch, White again shows ball skills, strong hands, body control and an even better effort to get over the top of Alabama's Cornerback than the touchdown

Alabama is going with the same coverage (Cover 1 man) as the touchdown play and White gets off the line clean with an outside release; away from the safety help.  That release means Alabama's safety now has to get over an extra 4-5 yards to make a play on the ball and it proves to be the difference as QB Clint Trickett drops a dime over the top and White makes the play.  The subtle bend and bow of his track to the ball between the 35 and 30 yard lines should be appreciated; it's a fabulous adjustment to the ball and gets his body into position to go straight up to make a play instead of twisting around to look over his other shoulder.  Outstanding ball skills on display, but what I liked even more about both plays with his hands.  He attacks balls in the air; as he has shown to be a habit

Here, White comes back a full yard to yard and a half to come get the football.  On 2nd and 10; he's not working the sticks with off coverage and a short stem, so may as well come get it.  And he catches balls away from his body with his hands, he showed very nice extension to make sure he doesn't muff bulls into his chest.  

Now this catch does showcase a weakness of White in that he's not necessarily an explosive player.  He doesn't burst up field or beat any angles here.  He gets what he can but he doesn't pull away or explode up the sideline.  White can be an effective threat down the field but it won't be on account of his speed, more likely White will be a red zone target with his size and can be a killer working intermediate routes and using his frame/reach to make plays in traffic.  If White wants to win down the field, he'll have to win in other areas in route running and again, winning on ball adjustments.  Luckily for him; he's shown to be a fluid athlete and can get really nice knee bend when throttling in and out of breaks

This is a really nice job sitting down into his stem.  You can see he's 13 yards down field before he closes down the cushion of the off coverage (looks to be a mixed coverage with a Cover 2 man look at the top of the screen and a zone at the bottom to counter the trips formation), which is another illustration of how he doesn't explode of the line or show top end acceleration.  But by sitting down so deep into the break, he can quickly get his head back around and snap back to work to the sideline while the Cornerback's hips are flipped up field towards the goal posts.  A lot of the big bodied "power forward frame" WRs aren't able to bend this well and it bodes very well to White's ability to get in and out of breaks with success.  

Of course as a "possession" type receiver, there's a certain standard of expectations for supplementary contributions to the offense, namely in being an effective blocker on the boundary.  And White passed that test against Alabama with flying colors.

White gets into his defender and gets great body position, squaring himself against the CB and getting his hands inside of the chest.  Too many receivers will simply get in the way but White actually visibly works here to mirror and keep both inside and outside lanes open out in space.  The flow by #19 forces the ball carrier to break to the sideline and because White doesn't quit on the block, he's able to spring for extra yardage.

All in all, White has been one of the best surprises of the 2014 season thus far.  3 games in and White has posted 32 receptions for 460 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He's toe to toe with Amari Cooper for tops in FBS and the production is very well earned with consistently dominating performances in each of the first 3 weeks.  White came into the season with very little national fanfare but he's generating a ton of buzz and as long as he stays healthy he's going to be a very hot name in the winter.  He fits the possession receiver mold perfectly and he's a good enough athlete to be a very effective route runner.  His high point skills and ability to catch with his hands make him an instant threat in the passing game and he shows solid polish as a receiver working short, intermediate and deep against defenders.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

NDT Scouting Prospect Spotlight: Clemson EDGE Vic Beasley

Vic Beasley, EDGE Defender
Clemson Tigers
Height: 6030 - Listed
Weight: 235 - Listed

Games watched: vs. Georgia (2013), vs. South Carolina (2013), vs. Ohio State (2013), vs. Florida State (2013), vs. Georgia (2014)

Strengths: Clemson's Vic Beasley is widely regarded as the best EDGE defender of the 2014 class; thanks in part to his disruptive nature, explosive first step and penetration skills.  The carry over into the pass happy NFL is obvious; Beasley stands to make an impact based on physical gifts that simply cannot be taught.  Beasley came into 2014 with a total of 31 tackles for loss, 21 sacks and an additional 20 QB pressures; a testament to just how explosive he is off the snap

Beasley just destroys any chance of the TE blocking him down and holding the C-gap because of how quickly he gets penetration on his slant.  Because of how quick he is; you can see just how wide his "sphere of influence" of the action in the backfield is.  And Beasley not only gets off the ball quickly; he gets down the line of scrimmage to help wrap up the run going away from him.  No matter what negatives are observed with Beasley (more on that later); you can't question his effort.  And the benefits of that natural first step give him an ability to impact both pass plays and run plays with penetration. 

This play from Georgia (2013) is very similar to the previously highlighted one from 2014; as Beasley wins off the snap and gets down inside the TE almost immediately.  

But Beasley coming into 2014 was a player that flashed a ton but was someone who I thought had a ton of room to grow.  Beasley flashed the ability to use his hands effectively to separate and keep himself clean from blockers; but it was hardly a consistent trait that he showed both against the pass and the run.

This was one of the few times Beasley showed the traditional stack with his hands against a blocker to play edge contain. Seeing that he indeed DOES have the capability to use his hands to keep his chest clean and keep leverage outside of a boundary run by stringing along the line of scrimmage only made me want to see him make the strides to make himself a more well rounded player in 2014.  I personally thought that Beasley's technique on the edge was notably better in his first showing vs. Georgia in 2014.  Let's compare his edge rush from the beginning of 2013 to 2014:

There's some notations here about leverage.  Beasley uses his hands really well to force a whiff on the punch by Georgia's OT.  But he doesn't utilize a rip or any kind of follow up move to press the issue and squeeze this angle down to make a play on QB Aaron Murray; instead he simply runs up field and out of the play.  Now compare that to a sample edge rush from 2014: 2014 RUSH

Look at Beasley's left arm as he hits the 16 yard line.  He follows through with his hands by ripping and lifting that left up up, clearing the hands of Georgia's LT and as a result his edge track is significantly tighter around the outside.  Now even as the QB slides to avoid; Beasley's put himself in a much more successful position and he's going to get a hit (even though the ball is out quickly and Beasley doesn't register a sack).  The development of these types of plays and getting them to become second nature is essential for Beasley to take the next step as a prospect and he's off to a promising start from a pass rush department in 2014.  

Beasley even showed good habits that you'd like to see against receivers off the line of scrimmage in space vs. Georgia a few weeks ago; something that's quickly becoming a second thought.  Here he does a nice job getting his hands on the TE on his release off the line

It doesn't take a lot; but preventing clean releases off the line of scrimmage is a good way to take away the timing of an offense's patterns and buy the LBs a little extra time to diagnose the play and get into their drops (that doesn't happen here).  Clemson's noted LB in the screen cap should have gotten some width; he drops straight back as the RB goes away and the wing releases into the flat.  Beasley's hands force extra width into the TE's stem before sitting down in the hole.  That's a missed play for the Clemson defense but Beasley appropriately executed the fundamentals called for given alignment and down/distance.  

Weaknesses: While Beasley has flashed some very solid improvement with his hands and separation skills; he still relies a bit too frequently on his quickness and gets bottled up chest to chest with blockers.  But Beasley's biggest issue is the second side of the coin in regard to his explosiveness: he's quick because he's light.  But because he's light; he doesn't hold up very well at all against blockers at the point of attack.  Some of this again plays into the fact that he doesn't use his hands and therefore can't shed blockers and doesn't play with leverage chest to chest; but give he's listed at 235 pounds Beasley's "anchor" and ability to hold the POA is still very much in question and will affect his contributions as a 3 down player.  

Beasley HAS to be more physical in scenarios like this one.  He's one on one in space with the LT; he needs to be able to not get washed 6 yards towards the far sideline if/when he decides to make a play on the ball carrier.  One way he can do this is to squeeze the LT down; but at 235 there's almost no chance he's going to physically be able to do that against any offensive linemen.  So do you take Beasley off the field in short yardage situations?  Do you feel comfortable moving him off the ball and asking him to flow over the top?  Personally; if it's 4th and 1 with the game on the line; I'm not keeping Beasley on the field...and that's fine!  Josh Norris of Rotoworld likes to talk about knowing "where a player can win".  Beasley has a number of ways to win; but this isn't one of them.  It just means he's not a complete prospect.

While his functional strength is an area I'm not sure Beasley can ever appease the concerns of, there is another area that Beasley can polish up to help him be an more efficient player: his tackling.  Far too many times I see Beasley lunging/leaning into tackle attempts and missing a chance to finish the play.

This is a wonderful play in terms of penetration; but what good does penetration do if you don't finish what you started?  Beasley missed a handful of tackles against Georgia this year as well; so it's something that needs to continue to be monitored.  Stay disciplined and break down on opportunities as compared to flying in out of control.

Recap: Vic Beasley has a large amount of fanfare as an EDGE defender.  For the most part; it's well deserved.  But folks need to temper their expectations about him being an otherworldly talent; he's not.  He's going to be largely a designated pass rusher and thanks to his first step a good one.  Whether or not Beasley can add strength and bulk while keeping his natural gifts remains to be seen; but what he is right now is by and large a niche player.  Because of the trends in the NFL today; I still expect Beasley to be a player in high demand come the 2015 draft; especially if he continues to show progression in secondary pass rush moves and his hand technique as an edge defender.

Monday, September 8, 2014

NDT Scouting Prospect Spotlight: Washington NT Danny Shelton

Danny Shelton, Nose Tackle
Washington Huskies
Height: 6020 - Listed
Weight: 339 - Listed

Games watched: vs Oregon (2013), vs Stanford (2013), vs Hawaii (2014)

Findings: In a typical prospect spotlight summary; I'll separate play cuts via strengths and weaknesses.  However, Shelton is such a mixed bag (you see positive and negative traits frequently in the same plays) that instead I'm simply going to share the findings from the Hawaii (2014) cut and the Stanford (2013) cut.  I took no caps from the Oregon (2013) cut but saw many of the same things I noted in the first two mentioned games.  With that said; Shelton is clearly a Nose Tackle prospect in every sense of the position.  He's got a thick, compact build and physically is a presence in the middle of the line.  Shelton, who leads the FBS through the first 2 weeks of the season with 6 sacks, isn't necessarily a pass rushing dynamo; it's not his play style.  Shelton does have awesome power behind his hands and upper body; if offensive linemen don't have their anchor set Shelton is going to be a problem

Two things here: first of all, that might be the heaviest punch I've seen out of any lineman prospect so far in 2014.  That's an outstanding amount of power.  Second, while it's a bit deliberate, Shelton follows through with a nice pull/shallow swim to clear himself and yank the OG out of his way.  This was a plus play for hand technique, pass rush and effort; you won't see a whole lot of NT prospects flash a more effective pass rush move than this one.  Having gone against the interior line of Hawaii and Eastern Washington; it's no wonder Shelton has been devastating on the interior so far in 2014.  

Shelton even flashed some good balance to play off a cut block vs. Hawaii. 

Again, his hand technique is perfect playing off the block; sprawling his base and pressing the blocker into the ground to keep the feet.  Again, great hand technique.  But you can also see the limitations about asking Shelton to play laterally, he really labors to slide down the line of scrimmage and really doesn't get any sort of flow going at all.  I don't really see any way a team can ask Shelton to play any role other than a space eater in the middle of a 3-4 front.  The problem with that is; Shelton really struggles at times with his pad level

This is Daniel McCullers level bad on the pad level front.  And this isn't just a one time occurrence.  Shelton is listed at 6'2 and at 339 pounds; that's a very compact frame.  But Shelton regularly ends up playing taller than the offense and as a result he regularly concedes ground on the line of scrimmage

There are zero scenarios in which 6'2, 339 pounds should be driven 3.5 to 4 yards off the ball, but Stanford handles Shelton like a blocking dummy here.  The Stanford game was particularly problematic to watch, Shelton was neutralized in pass situations with a single blocker; he struggled to collapse the pocket against the C or the RG.  Stanford is generally considered the barometer for gauging a defender's toughness and Shelton came up short in 2013.  

The question with Shelton becomes this: Is the guy manhandling interior offensive lines early in 2014 simply doing so as a result of level of competition?

Shelton literally tosses this lineman a good 2 yards upon contact and catches the back in the hole.  These plays are an awesome display of power, inside technique and ability to read blocks; but I'm not particularly confidence that Shelton will look the same when Washington gets to the meat of their schedule.

Recap: Shelton has traits that make him an attractive prospect to particular teams.  If I'm running a 4 man front; Shelton likely doesn't interest me all that much.  But as a 3-4 Nose Tackle; Shelton has the build and the power in his hands.  The problem is he hasn't shown he can hold the point of attack against double teams or against opponents equal to him in stature and level of competition.  If Shelton continues to dominate once the Huskies hit PAC-12 play; we'll need to revisit him and see just what has changed from his conference tape in 2013.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

NDT Scouting Prospect Spotlight: Northwestern OBLB Chi Chi Ariguzo

Ikechi "Chi Chi" Ariguzo, Off Ball Linebacker
Northwestern Wildcats
Height: 6030 - Listed
Weight: 235 - Listed

Games watched: vs. Ohio State (2013), vs. California (2014)

Strengths: Chi Chi Ariguzo may not have the name recognition of a Denzel Perryman or play for a big name program like Ramik Wilson or Jake Ryan; but it only took about 4 or 5 plays of watching Ariguzo to see this is a 3 down LB at the next level.  I was extremely impressed by how well Ariguzo moves in space; whether he's stringing plays laterally, attacking down hill or getting into a pass drop

It isn't the interception that needs to be noted here; it's how smoothly Ariguzo's hips flip 180 degrees as he transitions from his run read step back into a pass drop.  As he drops he's maintaining nice knee bend and weight isn't back on his heels; he's athletic and light on his feet.  A lot of OBLBs will struggle with these types of drops, they'll have too much weight back on their heels and their shoulders will start creeping up; but not Ariguzo.  Northwestern frequently bumps Ariguzo out into the slot for zone coverage and he's frequently shown the ability to eye the Quarterback while feeling routes being run; he's got outstanding instincts in the passing game and maintaining his integrity in zone. 

His fluidity in space is also on display here when he turns up field to pursue the pass; but let's focus on his closing of this passing window.  Ariguzo does a great job off the snap of reading the backfield motion before mirroring the bubble and taking away the first read.  His eyes never leave the Quarterback but Ariguzo goes from run read to pass defense and closing a window, very impressive.  

Ariguzo's ability to transition from run/pass keys were tested by Ohio State frequently and he showed he was consistently up to task.  What I really liked was seeing him show the same ability this year against Cal.

At the snap of the ball, Ariguzo isn't on a pass blitz; he's collapsing on the line of scrimmage against the run read.  But you can see him snap into a change of direction at the 21 yard line and make a run at the Quarterback.  I really like that he doesn't get tunnel vision and lock in on his primary; he's a heady player that processes plays on the move and is a plus athlete to make plays after doing so on the fly.  Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that Ariguzo isn't capable of making plays off his first read.

First and foremost, look how quickly Ariguzo gets width off the snap.  His first step is lateral, following both the LG (down block) and the RB (zone read).  So when the RB takes the ball and looks for a seam; it's not surprising when Ariguzo hits him through the first break in the line.  Great closing speed down hill to the line of scrimmage but awesome instincts and play diagnosis immediately off the snap.

One thing you can't do, however, it make the assumption that Ariguzo is essentially a 3rd Safety on the field; he's listed at 235 (I would guess he's no lighter than 230) and any time you get in on a tackle like this against a back like Carlos Hyde, it's going to leave an impression.

Ariguzo does get a little bit of "help" on this tackle, the ILB gets to Hyde around the same time; but it's Ariguzo's body in between Hyde and the goal line that stops Hyde dead in his tracks.  Go back and watch Hyde's 2013 game cuts and you can probably count on one hand the number of times he's ending a play flat on his back.  Another thing I like about Ariguzo on this play (and many others) is how disciplined he is with his fundamentals; he executes a perfect flat footed read here to diagnose the play and because of that; he's in position to come into the box and make a play.  A lesser technician would likely drift on this play and end up having extra ground to cover in order to help make the tackle.  And those fundamentals carry over to a number of responsibilities, such as playing off a cut block:

Weaknesses: But while Ariguzo's execution of stringing out the contain is great; it also showcases his greatest flaw.  Ariguzo really struggles with traffic in front of him.  He currently isn't the kind of player that you can play inside and ask him to filter through traffic and still make plays.  Ariguzo plays so well in space and it's a good thing...because he NEEDS space to have an impact.  Otherwise by the time he diagnoses the play, he's being washed out and isn't physical enough against blockers to disengage.

With his eyes in the backfield to read the play, Ariguzo doesn't see or brace for the OL coming off the double team to pick him up and prevent him from scraping.  On impact, Ariguzo's pad level gets entirely too high and he's getting rolled back off the line of scrimmage.

This is going to be a problem for him at the next level, but it can be schemed around if a team is willing to put him at the WILL position in a 4-3 front and allow him to use his movement skills in pursuit and as the coverage LB.  It isn't a "kiss of death" but it does limit him as far as what role he will be playing for a team on Sundays.

Aside of his issues with traffic; Ariguzo just needs to clean up the little things.  Sometimes he's a little to eager closing on a tackle and ends up reaching instead of breaking down and wrapping up the ball carrier.  He's fairly reliable as a tackler in general, but I did count a handful of missed tackles through two games.

Recap: Everyone knows how good Denzel Perryman is for the Miami Hurricanes.  But if I were to compare Ariguzo and Perryman, I would say Ariguzo is a better fit for today's NFL and I would expect Ariguzo to be very successful in what teams ask him to do.  He can run, he can tackle, he's smooth in coverage and quick to close, he's got good instincts.  As teams continue to spread out defenses; players like Ariguzo will hold value because they aren't considered a "liability" in coverage.  Hopefully Ariguzo puts together another solid season in 2014; because I think he could be a name that builds a lot of momentum through the draft process once people look at him closely.