This is basically a re-post of something I put together at my home site, Big Blue View. I figured that it is relevant to what we do here at Mocking the Draft. Also, its a nice little break from our wall of mock drafts in the fanpost section. I basically describe what I look for when evaluating players, and then break down film of two guys.
Also, this is Giants-centric, but the breakdowns are relatively universal
Chandler Jones, 4-3 DE Syracuse
At pre-snap, what I look for in a pass rusher, of course, when evaluating as a DE is whether or not he's got his hand in the dirt. That's pretty obvious. Next, I look to see how far off the player is from the opposing offensive linemen. The infamous Wide-9 is classic for leaving defenders at least 3 feet lateral to the opposing tackle. The Giants will play their ends no more than 1 or 2 feet on a regular down, but will move to that wide-9 position on obvious passing situations.
I also look for the bend in the knees pre-snap. If the player's arse is too far up, he might not have that explosive first step that we all love. If he's bent over too much, he loses leverage. Ideally, you want that balance where the player is like that "coiled spring" ready to explode.
INITIAL BURST to FIRST CONTACT
The first step is crucial. It's the key to the rest of the play. What it essentially means is the timing and explosion off the snap to get to a certain spot and beat the offensive tackle to that spot. This sets you up in a ton of ways. For one, you can decide whether to go outside or inside and have the OT guess, and two, if you are fast enough, you can avoid the offensive tackle's punch entirely and get a clear lane to the QB. A great example is our very own Osi Umenyiora, who has the fastest first step in the game today. He's made his living on basically this first step where he times the snap so well, that he looks like he's offside a lot of the time. This allows him to bend around the OT and get that strip sack.
When (if) the offensive lineman hits you with that punch, I look for any bounce backwards. That lets me know what sort of base and power the defensive end has. Obviously, minimal knockback is preferred.
FIRST CONTACT to the END OF THE PLAY
First thing first, I look to see if the player has his head up and recognizes whether its a run play or a pass play. They'll often start out pass rushing, or sit back in run defense/pass coverage, but that's just based on the play call. I want to see if they can adjust on the fly and close in on the running back.
If they are going to continue pass rushing, I'd like to see if they are a natural RDE or LDE. An RDE in our system is the prototype speed guy that goes up against the left tackle. By this point in the play, its all about gaining leverage. Speed rushers need to be flexible because they usually (Jason Pierre-Paul aside) aren't strong enough to push through the tackle's block. One thing I look for when they are on the tackle's outside shoulder is the angle made between their legs and the ground. The lower the angle, the better, because that means they can take a sharper cut to the QB, and the lower they are, the more difficult it is for the tackle to get their hands on the player. That bend will give the rusher the upperhand, and if he can do that consistently, it bodes quite well for the player in the future.
If you've got an LDE, you've got your power rusher. They gain leverage by physically manhandling the tackle. They make ample use of the bullrush and then try and transition that into a swim or rip move. They willfully engage in block, and they twist and push the tackle to get by them. I look for their waste and hips. If they can twist the hips fluidly while not getting pushed back, it bodes quite well for the player in the future.
For both types, another aspect to look at is hand movement. When they get engaged with the offensive line, you want to see active hands. By that, I mean, look to see if they are fighting off the engaged blocker. Power rushers will try and take on the hands, get into the shoulder pads, push forward while driving the legs, and either rip inside or outside. Speed rushers can use the hands to get enough traction to pull of a spin move, or to simply fight off any wandering hands as they try and bend around the tackle. This is precisely why arm length matters.
Finally, what I look to see is motor plays. By that, I mean, do they continue to try and navigate the wash to get to the QB if their initial foray fails? If the running back gets by them, do they hustle up field to try and get to the play? Basically, just want to see hustle and work, and see it on a consistent basis. That's what separates guys like Trent Cole or Justin Tuck from guys like Albert Haynesworth.
So, that's basically what I look for in a Giants pass rusher on film. Not too hard! I wanted to use this information to look at a passrusher that could be a potential target for the Giants. I want to look at Chandler Jones. Here are his measurables:
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 267 40: 4.85 Bench: 22 Broad: 10-0 Vert: 35 Arm: 35.5
Chandler Jones vs West Virginia (via MetaDraft)
0:00 - Good stance, like that coiled spring we talked about. Good jump off the snap, goes unblocked. Nice reaction to running the ball and adjustment to turn his hips and leap to make the tackle for minimal gain off the LOS.
0:11 - Playing inside. The entire line gets off at the same time and collapses on each other towards the middle. He gets lost inside, and I can't really see too much. Someone was able to get pressure on the QB though.
0:25 - A tad slow coming off the snap, tries to beat the tackle off the edge, but the tackle gets to the spot before him. Gets driven past the QB.
0:33 - Good burst off the snap. Once again, shows great recognition and change of direction to get back into run defense. What I didn't like is that he let up as soon as the RB got past him and started jogging. Would've liked him to keep up the speed on the off chance he could jar the ball loose once the RB slowed down.
0:47 - Sets up in a pure pass-rushing stance, facing inwards from a wide position. Tries a power move to gain leverage, almost exactly like we talked about. Tries to twist the offensive tackle, who stays in an open stance to "receive" the blow by Jones, and is able to push him backwards and effectively help collapse the pocket. Shows nice power.
1:00 - Jones is certainly showing up to be a nice run defender. Goes unblocked by the offensive line, but tries to get blocked by the FB down low. Is able to hurdle that and shows good pursuit and is able to barely trip up the running back. Once again, shows nice speed and change of direction.
1:12 - Tries stunting inside, gets great penetration. Doesn't realize its a screen early, though. Also looks like he gets held by the facemask at the end of the rush. Shows nice ability to navigate the wash up front. Not worried about him getting upright here because he went essentially unblocked. And once again, he shows great athleticism by recovering, turning his hips around, and having that high motor to run and tackle the pass catcher before he can get a 1st down. Excellent play.
1:26 - Tries another power move, and is able to push back the tackle towards the QB. Don't think that qualifies as a pressure because the QB got rid of it without really getting hurried.Good, active, hands though, and is able to fight the tackle's punch.
1:36 - Good explosion off the snap this time, but the tackle is too fast, and gets his body in front of Jones before he can speed by. Jones has a bit of trouble disengaging from the offensive tackle, but does it quickly enough. Gets turned around, but doesn't quit on the play. QB is going down because of pressure from teammate, but fast recovery for Jones turns into a cheap sack for him.
1:47 - GREAT play here by Jones. Gets an adequate jump (could've gotten a bit more, his pre-snap bend is a little inconsistent...was too high here) and throws his body into the offensive lineman's punch. This is where the arm length plays a factor. He is able to stay engaged with the OL, but he can transition inwardly without getting pushed back because of those long arms. He didn't allow himself to get too upright where the tackle can lean and push with more force. This lets him disengage when he wants to: when he arrives at the QB for the sack. Prime example of how to use a bullrush to gain leverage.
2:07 - Tries to go inside, gets stonewalled by the guard. Keeps fighting, but he got too upright and therefore, shortened his arms and couldn't get traction and power from his lower body. However, he did manage to bat the ball out of the air, so that works just fine.
2:19 - Great first step here when Jones stunts inside. Can't fully beat the guard, who gets turned around. Gets enough of a hold on Jones to prevent him to get there, but the QB does get hurried. Other crap is happening too, which Jones gets caught up on in the end.
2:29 - They have Jones dropping back into coverage in some sort zone blitz. He's out of the play for a lot, so can't tell much, but he does a good job closing from sideline to sideline to get in on the play. High motor play.
2:42 - One of the weirdest formations I've seen. Gets stood up and stone walled for bad technique again. Allows himself to get too upright and then gets shoved back. Had trouble disengaging because the OL didn't allow him to extend his arms away.
3:00 - Again, gets too upright out of his stance. Wasn't allowed to make a move because he couldn't disengage again. Two bad plays in a row for Jones.
3:12 - You can tell that he's a bit lower in his stance, more bend. No surprise that he gets a faster jump. Almost able to beat the tackle this time on the outside as he bends in. The QB moves up to avoid the sack, but still gets hurried. Nice play.
3:26 - Was playing run all the way. Tried transitioning back and in to get to the running back, but was effectively blocked out of the way by the tackle. Was confused as to where to go, and therefore, didn't get enough momentum to fight back.
3:34 - Gets great penetration, and is awfully quick to get upfield. Stays low, but doesn't get blocked anyway. Problem was that he lost contain on that side, which left a void for the RB to get a solid amount of yards.
3:46 - Great recognition and hustle play by Jones. You don't often see a man that big able to change direction and accelerate that fast to get to a RB/WR on a quick screen. Wonderful play by Jones.
4:02 - Gets double teamed initially, and is too much to handle for the Guard once the tackle drops off. Helped collapse the pocket along with a bunch of his teammates. Looked very much like a Giant-type play.
4:25 - We cannot see the play start here, but we do see a glimpse of Jones disengaging and getting a free release towards to the QB, who flips it to a receiver. Jones disappears from the screen, but we see him pop up to help make the tackle. Can't tell much except he was not only able to get pressure, but he got up, got to the other side, and made the tackle on the other end of the field. Great hustle.
4:42 - Another power rush. Again gets a bit too upright, but is able to disengage effectively. The QB moves up towards Jones, who looks like he's about to get another sack until the QB throws it up for grabs for an INT.
4:59 - Another play where Jones doesn't go full speed after the QB, but he once again is able to run fast enough to catch up to a receiver and tackle him from behind. Another example of great hustle.
5:12 - Beautiful rush by Chandler Jones. Good first step, stays low enough, gets leverage to the point where the OL can do nothing except grab his neck to slow him down. The QB gets the ball out quickly enough, but that was a great rush.
5:22 - A power rush, the QB avoid the first missile-like leap by a blitzer, only to fumble. Good presence of mind by Jones, who gains inside leverage on the OL, to try and jump on the ball.
5:40 - Tries a straight up bull rush. Gets double teamed, but still manages to drive back both because he's churning his legs. Nice play.
Conclusion: Jones has a nice blend of power with great short area quickness. He's a strong run defender, with a high motor that has great closing speed. He is inconsistent with his technique and sometimes gets a bit upright. He has long arms, which allows him to disengage from blocks a bit easier, though at times he'll get stonewalled. This was obviously a good tape of him, and shows a nice bull rush. However, he doesn't really show a second pass rush move to help him disengage. A good rip move after his bullrush could be devastating with the athleticism and arm length that he has.
His first step is also inconsistent. Sometimes he's timed the snap well, but on others, he's a bit sluggish. That needs to be worked on, but he clearly has the tools to succeed. He's a high 2nd rounder in my eyes because of the inconsistencies in his pre-snap knee bend, his first step, and the fact that he's unpolished with his pass rushing moves. He showcases great athleticism on some of the plays where he runs down running backs, as well as good power in some of his moves.
Lavonte David, 4-3 OLB Nebraska
First thing I look for is where the guy lines up. Is he outside or inside? Many college players play both ILB and OLB, so that doesn't really concern me too much either way. Secondly, I look to see how far off the LOS the 'backer sets up. A definite positive is when a LB can set up shop all over place, whether it be ten yards back, or right in an offensive lineman's face. It adds a bit of gamesmanship to the equation and that type of versatility really opens up the playbook.
POST-SNAP: RUN DEFENSE
A big part of the evaluation process (and indeed, the most important) are "instincts." But nobody ever really defines what that means. Every year, you hear people saying, "Oh, this guy is much more instinctual than that guy." I see a player's instincts as the time it takes to not only read and diagnose a play, but start reacting to it. You can physically compare the read and react abilities between different linebackers from the time the ball is snapped (in this case, handoff for a run play) to when they start their first movement towards the ball. An "instinctual" LB may even be able to diagnose the play as a run just from the set up of the offensive line. Those extra one or two steps are absolutely critical because it allows the LB to anticipate and plug up the seam that the line would create.
One such phrase that I use is "navigating the 'wash.'" What is the "wash" exactly? Basically just all the crap that goes on at the LOS. It's the LB's duty to disengage from any blocks that might emerge from there, avoid any other blocks, go through the battles raging between DLs and OLs and locate the ball carrier. If he has the vision and movement to do that fluidly and consistently, its a big plus.
After the LB reads and reacts, the next thing to look for when defending the run is "closing speed." That is essentially from the time they make their first step to towards the ball carrier, to impact. On tape, this is probably the easiest to see. When you talk about the LBs being missiles, its cause of their closing speed. Its the reason why everyone was so infatuated with Vontaze Burfict, he's got great closing speed and its one of the most visible aspects of the game.
Finally, you look for tackling technique. Can you drive the runner back? How do you tackle? Do you drive through the player and wrap up? Or do you lean in with the shoulder and go for the big hit? Tackling is technically coachable, but after playing a certain way forever, its difficult to change. Therefore, tackling technique is a priority.
POST SNAP - PASS COVERAGE
When the player goes back into coverage, if its zone, what I'm looking for the most is zone discipline. Does he have the sideline-to-sideline range? What that means is he can transition laterally smooth enough to cover his area. I'm looking for him to take away a spot for the QB to throw. Its not being unaggressive, its playing smart, and to be a Giants LB, that's a must.
In man coverage, its all about speed and hip fluidity. When covering someone, like a TE, for example, I'm looking for how and when the LB turns around and flips his hips. If he's too early turning around, he'll get beat when the receiver makes his break because the LB has his back to him. If he waits too long, he give the receiver the option when to get into his break and gives him extra time to get free. A well timed switch allows the LB to keep the receiver within sight as well as minimizing the distance to help break up a potential pass.
Finally, look for the basic things in coverage. Does he keep his hands up? Does he have ball skills and good body control? These last two aren't absolutely necessary, but they certainly don't hurt.
POST SNAP - PASS RUSH
Finally, the big thing with rushing the passer is the ability to detect and back off the passer if you sense a screen or run play. Don't like guys vacating their area to rush the passer willynilly. Have to be cognizant of the situation. Apart from that, apply the same ideas about closing speed and tackling technique.
The player I am going to evaluate is Lavonte David, LB Nebraska. Here are his measurables:
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 230 40: 4.55 Bench: 19 Broad: 9-11 Vert: 36.5 Arm: 32
Lavonte David vs Michigan (2011) (via UploadingAMV)
0:00 - Right off the bat, we see David on the outside, about five yards away from the LOS in coverage. He maintains his zone, reads the QB quite quickly. As soon as the short pass is completed, we see him bend around to evade the oncoming fullback and leap to make a shoestring tackle. Nice work. Angle could've been a bit better, but he had to come from the top almost straight down because of the blocker.
0:16 - Starts the play out by going inside. Misjudges the cut by the runner and allows him to get past. Mistake. Nice recovery speed to grab the butt of the runner and bring him down.
0:27 - Nice play by David, recognizing instantly that its a run. Takes two steps, then evades the same blocker from the first play, hits the seam hard and stones the runner. Prototype play from what we discussed above.
0:38 - Playing inside linebacker on this snap. He takes one step in case its a run, sees that its a pass and stays in his zone. Discipline. I love it. Took away that entire area for the Michigan QB. Once the QB got past the LOS, there was no hesitation on David's part and he took off from the other end to make the tackle. The QB got significant yardage, but we're talking about Denard Robinson here. David was the only one to make up all that ground. Great play.
0:55 - David seems a bit unsure as to what to do. Keeps shuffling until he can find a crease. Nothing opens up until its too late. He grabs the running back, but only after he gains some yardage. Shows solid tackling technique.
1:03 - Lurches forward for just a split second, but that was the difference. Decides to go for a pass rush, but that millisecond of hesitancy costs him a sack when he goes unblocked.
1:11 - Once again vacates his zone to go for a blitz. Able to navigate through the wash quite effectively, and is able to remain unblocked by angling his route to the QB. Is helped by a teammate, who has the QB by the feet, and he simply cleans up. Not a bad play, but more or less an empty stat here.
1:46 - David gets caught up in the wash. He's undecided on what to do, and once he realizes its a run play away from his area, he tries to unsuccessfully get in on the play. He's fortunate to have the runner run right into him.
1:59 - Sniffs out the play quickly. Closing speed is excellent. Started out about 3 yards or so behind the LOS and was able to simply move up, plug up the hole, and stand up the running back. Nice play.
2:11 - Once again, David does mostly everything right. Obviously I can't tell if this is the case or not, but he seems to have diagnosed the play from the beginning, and is signaling to one of his colleagues. He immediately starts to flow forwards where he is met by an oncoming blocker. He is able to disengage somewhat easily from him and meet the runner and stone him while he gets help from friends to make the tackle.
2:23 - First time in this video I've seen David miss a tackle. He sniffs out the sneak, and while getting engaged by the blocker, he leaps, but overruns the target, and ends up getting turned around and whiffing.
2:34 - I really just feel like a broken record right now. Another impressive play by Lavonte David. He diagnoses run as soon as the ball is snapped, and finds the side the runner goes towards. He realizes the B-gap is plugged up, so he transfers over to the C position and makes the tackle. Great play recognition.
2:43 - David goes out in coverage to cover the running back in the flat. Does a good job of keeping the receiver in front of him and taking him away. Robinson, the QB, is forced to run. David is a bit slow in closing, but he does anyway, again showing that slippery way of eluding would-be blockers. Again shows good fundamentals when tackling.
3:00 - Starts out about 5 yards behind the LOS. Initially starts out in coverage, but soon recognizes that Denard will run. Follows him step for step, shows excellent closing speed, and flashes great sideline-to-sideline range by taking Robinson down from across the field.
3:10 - Obvious running situation. Incredible how he pierces through the offensive line and gets a great hit on the RB in the backfield. Simple run straight through, seemingly avoiding getting blocked.
3:28 - Closes in quickly for a run play. Runner goes opposite side to David's area, so he is able to turn quickly, get back and make the tackle. Shows great speed, but made the initial mistake of going straight upfield instead of waiting an extra second to figure out what crease the runner is going to choose.
3:38 - Given his size, I didn't expect David to be so stout against the run. But there it is. Is able to disengage from a block and completely stonewall the running back again in the backfield.
3:47 - Starts about 4 yards off the LOS. Once again comes in to play run defense. Unlike the play in 3:28, he waits that extra second and is able to anticipate the hole that the runner will choose, thereby limiting him to minimal gain.
4:00 - Bang-Bang play. Happened so fast that I'm not sure whether he guessed where the hole was going to emerge, or could tell based on the two schemes. Either way, he closes in on the running back ridiculously fast and makes yet another stop.
4:14 - For the final play, he starts off inside and pushes inwards towards the QB pocket in an attempt to tackle the running back. Simply put, he succeeds. Yet again.
Conclusion: It's really a shame that David is as small as he is. He's got everything else you look for in a prototype linebacker. As we saw in this video, he moved at a different speed than the rest of the linebackers on Nebraska's squad. He was the definition of "instinctual" and his read and react abilities were superb. He had great closing speed. One problem I saw, and its quite obvious, is that he needs to have perfect tackling form in order to just make the tackle. If he overruns the prospect by just a bit, he has neither the arm length, nor the strength, to take him down.
Won't seem to be much of a problem though, because its rarely been a problem for him. While he probably isn't on the Giants' radar due to testing out mediocre as well as being undersized, I've got him as a fringe 1st rounder because based on the ideals of a prototype LB that I detailed above, he checks out in spades.
He's aggressive and decisive, two skills that are highly translatable. A complete prospect that could've possibly challenged Luke Kuechly for the top LB spot had he been bigger and kept his speed, David projects as a starting WILL for a team or a Tampa-2 MIKE.