Archive for the ‘Defensive Tackle’ Category

By Jeff Vinton, blogger/editor On the Clock

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, above, had a horrible showing at the NFL Combine Monday that include a 4.82 second 40-yard dash, .17 seconds more than his pre-Combine time.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, above, had a horrible showing at the NFL Combine Monday that include a 4.82 second 40-yard dash, .17 seconds more than his pre-Combine time. Source: BleacherReport.com

The third day of the combine kicked off with linebackers and defensive linemen going through drills at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and all eyes focused mainly on one player. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

By now everyone knows Te’o’s story. Heisman trophy candidate (finished 2nd), winner of the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski and Butkus awards, had to play the Michigan State game the week when his “girlfriend” (who later turned out to be fake, made up by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as part of a “catfish” scam) and grandmother died within hours of each other. He was on top of the college football world. Notre Dame was undefeated, #1 in the nation for the first time since 1993, and then, January hit.

Alabama throttled Notre Dame in the National Championship game 42-14. Deadspin.com published the story about the catfish scam. Te’o began to drop down draft boards, and his life began to unravel.

What happened today is not going to help his cause. Today, Te’o posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.82 seconds. That is .17 seconds slower than his CBSSports.com Draft Profile had recorded for him on Sunday. And when one is in the middle of a field trying to catch a running back or keep up with a wide receiver, that .17 seconds can be an eternity.

Thanks to what Te’o is referring to as “the incident,” he was already a fringe first round pick, down from a top 10 selection in December. Now that he has posted that 40 time, it is unlikely that he will even be selected in the first round. John Harbaugh, coach of the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, the team best suited to draft Te’o (and the team I chose as my pick to draft him in my preview Saturday) at the beginning of the day due to the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, looked disappointed and disinterested in Te’o during coverage of the combine on NFL.com.

After today’s performance, it is likely that some of the lesser known linebackers will have a golden opportunity to jump up and take Te’o’s position in the first round. Te’o may drop to the second half of the second round, and maybe even the third round if he cannot improve on today’s performance at Notre Dame’s pro day on March 26.

Outside of Te’o’s debacle, there were great performances put on today. Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden put in the top 40 time for the day with a time of 4.47 seconds. The top defensive lineman in the 40 was Trevardo Williams of Connecticut with a time of 4.57. Top draft pick Barkevious Mingo of LSU put up a time of 4.58 and Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah ran a time of 4.63.

Three defensive linemen led the pack in the bench press with Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern State and Margus Hunt of SMU benching 225 pounds 38 times and Akeem Spence of Illinois benching it 37 times. Bjoern Werner (whose preview can be found in the Florida State, Linebacker, or Player Preview categories) benched 25 times and Ansah benched 21 times.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (right) was not impressed with the showing of Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, running the 40-yard dash (left) at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Monday. Source: thebiglead.com

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (right) was not impressed with the showing of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, running the 40-yard dash (left) at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Monday.
Source: thebiglead.com

Conversely, three linebackers had the highest verticals today. Jamie Collins of Southern Miss jumped 41.5 inches, while Cornelius Washington of Georgia jumped 39 inches and Sio Moore of UConn jumped 38 inches. Mingo jumped 37 inches in the air and Te’o jumped 33.

A mix of linemen and linebackers led the group in the broad jump. Collins leaped 139 inches (11’ 7”), which was a Combine record, Gooden leaped 131 inches (10’ 11”), South Carolina defensive lineman Devin Taylor, Washington and Mingo all flew 128 inches (10’ 8”). Ansah and Florida linebacker Jon Bostic leaped 118 inches (9’ 10”).

Another story coming in to the day was that Utah defensive lineman and potential top five draft pick Star Loutlelei was pulled out of participating in drills due to a heart condition. That condition has yet to be specified and coverage on that and all other things NFL Draft will continue through April 27 on On the Clock: Your NFL Draft Destination.

Tomorrow, the defensive backs will take the field in Indianapolis for drills to close out the combine. On the Clock’s Bill Slane will have the coverage.

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“One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” –Benjamin Disraeli

Sharrif Floyd is being given a golden opportunity, and the defensive tackle out of Florida needs to really step up in his drills and in his pro day to prove he can play. The big news late today was Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei will not be participating in drills at the combine due to a heart condition that was discovered in Indianapolis. Star was on top of most people draft boards in terms of defensive tackles, with Floyd trailing close behind him. With this news that Lotulelei could drop due to medical concerns, Floyd could shoot up to the top spot if he proves himself.

On film Floyd looks pretty impressive. The first thing I always look for in defensive lineman is their ability to push the line of scrimmage, and Floyd does that very well. He seems to have a good combination of strength and speed that makes it hard for some offensive lineman to block. While I saw him struggle with some double teams, he does occasionally split double teams with some great technique and he gets off blocks well.

Like with many young players, a problem Floyd needs to work on is his consistency. On the film that I watched, it seemed like he would disappear for some plays. Of course in those same games he would burst through the line and make a tackle in the backfield, but I would still feel better about him if he showed a consistent effort.

While I am slightly concerned about Floyd’s ability, you cannot doubt his heart. In Florida’s game against Texas A&M, Floyd was hurt early on in the game and returned later to make some big plays en route to a 20-17 Gator victory against the Aggies. NFL scouts have to like seeing a player come back and help their team win a big game like that against an SEC opponent on the road.

I think that part of Floyd’s inconsistency problems have to do with his conditioning. I noticed that the later the game wore on, the less of a presence Floyd was in the game. Of course, getting with a strength and conditioning coach at the NFL will help him learn to both pace himself, and train so that he doesn’t get worn down later in games.

Floyd also impressed by his versatility on the defensive line. Floyd played on the inside as well as the outside of the defensive line. This has to be something that NFL scouts will love as they will be comfortable putting him high on their boards despite of the style of defense their team runs. Floyd could probably play both defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or a defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

Floyd was going to be a first rounder even before the situation with Star Lotulelei. What is going to be very interesting is to see how Floyd responds tomorrow. Whether or not he sinks or swims is going to be a very good sign of how Floyd will respond to the pressures of the NFL. Athletes who are invited to the NFL combine already have enough pressure on them, the added spotlight on Floyd just adds more pressure to the young man from Florida, I can’t wait to see how he takes it.

If Floyd impresses enough tomorrow, and if the medical problems with Lotulelei is enough of a problem that he drops, he could go in the top 10 to a team looking to add a very solid defensive lineman who can make some big plays for your football team.

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Highlights: 

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (34) reaches for Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly (10) in their game Sept. 15, 2012 at Farout Field. The Tigers held off a 4th quarter comeback to beat the Sun Devils 24-20.

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (34) reaches for Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly (10) in their game Sept. 15, 2012 at Farout Field. The Tigers held off a 4th quarter comeback to beat the Sun Devils 24-20.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (6′ 4″, 295 lbs.) is not one of the flashier names that will show up on the board of the 2013 NFL Draft. Richardson, originally from St. Louis, went to College of the Sequoias, and junior college in Visalia, California, after graduating from Gateway Tech High School. Richardson was a dominant defensive lineman and tight end at Gateway Tech. He was the #4 overall player (any position) in the nation according to Rivals.com, and he was the #1 defensive tackle prospect in the country. He was also the #1 overall player in Missouri, and he originally signed with Mizzou as part of the 2009 signing class, before going the junior college route (due to academic issues). Richardson was named as a 2008 EA Sports First Team All-American after a senior season at Gateway Tech which included 88 tackles and 19 sacks, while adding seven fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles and one interception. He scored six defensive touchdowns his senior season, and added 27 receptions for 541 yards and eight touchdowns at TE. At College of the Sequoias, he put up 65 tackles, 17 0f which were for loss during his second season with the Giants.

Here are his stats with the Missouri Tigers: 112 total tackles, 6 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 4 passes defended in two years (24 games)

Now, I will evaluate him on these criteria: Agility, Bull Rush, Speed Rush, Run Defense, Speed/Burst, Strength, Pass Deflect, Tackle, Read and React, and Health.

AGILITY: 

Sheldon Richardson is blessed with a very quick first step that helps him penetrate his gap faster than just about anyone in this year’s draft. He wins many of his get-off battles because of that first step. He is also very quick when he slants. This can best be seen in the Alabama video at the 5:00 mark. In this play, Richardson uses his agility and extremely fast first step to get inside of the offensive tackle that is trying to block him. The tackle stands no chance and Richardson quickly gets by and sacks Alabama QB AJ McCarron before he even has a chance to read the coverage. 9.5/10.0

BULL RUSH: 

Richardson is very strong and has quick feet, and this helps make his bull rush pretty dang good. Richardson possesses the power to push whatever lineman he is going up against all the way back into the quarterback, which, trust me, is not something a QB wants. This causes the play to break down, the QB to scramble, and hopefully (in Richardson’s eyes, at least) a sack. This also helps him in his run defense. He can push the lineman back and make the running back juke to whatever hole suits Richardson and his defense best. Sometime his bull rush can hurt him, but I’ll get into that later. All things considered, he has a great bull rush. 9.0/10.0

SPEED RUSH:

As a defensive tackle, Richardson does not get use a speed rush very often. There are times when he would get the chance, as when Missouri would run what I call an “exit” stunt. (Basically: A defensive end slants inside and the defensive tackle slants outside to replace him). He rarely used that chance, however. So, this grade is based on not much tape, but it is also a very rarely used move for defensive tackles, so I understand why there is very little tape. 7.0/10.0

RUN DEFENSE: 

The main thing that I noticed when it comes to Richardson’s run defense is that it takes him a long time to read the play and realize where the running back is going most of the time. There were times when he would diagnose it in his head right away, but most of the time he would use that first step, lock on to the lineman, lockout his arms, and drive the lineman back, which is good, but he would be trying to read the play while doing that, and sometimes he would completely miss the play. Others, he would diagnose the play right away, but he needs to work on reading runs. He also has a tendency to get turned by linemen and allow them to create a hole and take him wide, which is a cardinal sin, and something that he needs to work on preventing going forward. He also can over pursue at times. 8.0/10.0

SPEED/BURST: 

As I have said multiple times, Richardson’s burst is amazing! His first step is as quick as they get and he can beat just about any lineman off the line. His speed (4.89 sec. 40 yard dash) is pretty good and it allows him to catch up to quarterbacks who have scrambled out of the pocket on passes and running backs who are scrambling around in the backfield when he gets penetration. I like his speed a lot and I think it will help him going forward. 9.0/10.o

STRENGTH: 

Sheldon Richardson is a strong man. He pushes 300+ offensive lineman back 5+ yards until they run into their own quarterback. And let me tell you, when those guys are trying to drive you down the field, it takes a ton of force and strength to move them at all, and to be able to overpower them and move them back at least 5 yards? That’s amazing. Definitely something I love about him and NFL teams will love it too. 9.5/10.0

PASS DEFLECT: 

He only knocked down four passes in two years at Missouri, so this is definitely not his strongest area. His future coaches will need to work with him on getting his hands up when he can’t get to the quarterback and knocking more passes d0wn. There is nothing better than a DT that loves to knock passes down. It’s a drive killer and a great quality. If he can get better at this, than he can become a great DT (or NT) in the NFL. 7.0/10.0

TACKLE: 

There were times in his tape that Richardson would look like he had a chance to take down a running back in the backfield only to miss the tackle and allow the RB to get a first down. Sometimes this had to do with the running back (there was one play, and I can’t remember where it is in the video, where Richardson had his hands on Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, only to have Lacy break the tackle and get a first down), and sometimes it had to do with Richardson’s form. Richardson is usually a good tackler, but no one likes to see missed tackles in the backfield. 8.5/10.0

READ AND REACT:

I mentioned this in the “Run Defense” section, and I’m basically reiterating it here. There are times when it takes Richardson too long to diagnose a play. Other times it would be fast, but he does need to improve on this in the run game. In the pass game, he reads and reacts very quickly, which makes me wonder why he is so slow on runs. 8.0/10.0

HEALTH: 

The only question that lingers about Richardson’s health is the shoulder surgery that he had before the 2012 season. It didn’t look like it really hampered him during the fall but it will be something that NFL teams monitor throughout this process. 9.0/10.0

OVERALL: 

Overall, Richardson receives a 8.45/10.00 from me. If I can see some improvement in that reading and reacting in the run game, then that number will go way up. I really like Sheldon Richardson. I can see now why he was such a huge prospect coming out of high school and I can’t wait to see him playing on Sundays. I really do believe that he will fix the issues he has and become a perennial Pro Bowl level defensive tackle. Now as to who I think will draft him? The mock drafts I have seen have him going anywhere from #10-#18 overall, and for me the teams with the best chances of picking him are the Dolphins, Steelers, or Cowboys. And, I really think the Cowboys have this one. Both the Dolphins and the Steelers are in need of defensive linemen, but I think the Steelers will focus more on a defensive end, and the Dolphins have so many needs that I just don’t see them picking Richardson, or any other defensive lineman, in the first round. Look for Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys to pick up Sheldon Richardson in the first round on April 25.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52

Next, I’ll be previewing Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert!