I'll admit it, I was wrong.
When Sharrif Floyd came out of Florida in 2013, I was certain he would not be a good three technique in the NFL. I just didn't think he had enough moves as a pass rusher or enough wiggle to him to perform well at that position in a fast flow 4-3 defense. Maybe he could get by if he played in the type of 4-3 where the defensive tackles were supposed to hold up blockers rather than make plays. Otherwise, I just figured nose tackle was a much better fit for him. But the Minnesota Vikings drafted him in the first round to be a three technique in a fast-flow 4-3 defense, and to my surprise, he is actually getting pretty good at it.
Floyd did have somewhat of a slow start to his career. He started just one game as a rookie, notching only 2.5 sacks. That's below average for a three technique in that kind of scheme. Don't misunderstand my acknowledgement of being wrong about my projection to be a total rejection of my initial assessment of Floyd. Initially, he was stiff in the hips and he didn't have any pass rush moves. However, he's big, strong and fast. Sometimes, that can be enough until you figure out the other shit.
By the end of last year, he started figuring out the other shit.
I saw Floyd starting to use his hips to get past offensive lineman -- an underrated skill that's vital to most pass rushers -- and his hands a lot better as the 2014 season progressed. Instead of hanging on to blocks, he started escaping off them and making plays after pushing the blocker or blockers into the backfield. The most telling thing I saw from Floyd as the season went on was that he started to celebrate after he made plays.
I know some of you lame jackasses have something against celebrating, but I can't understand that mentality. We, as players, put so much into being able to go out and make plays for our teammates, coaches and fans every week. That shit is hard! There have literally been thousands of "good" college players who never got a shot in the NFL or got there and simply couldn't make plays against that level of competition. So when a guy scores a touchdown, gets a sack, an interception, makes a big run on third-and-1 or makes any other kind of play, why in the fuck wouldn't he be emotional about it?!
Hell, that's what the game is all about in my opinion! You don't dominate people just to turn around and walk back to the huddle. You dominate them so the world can see that you are one serious badass and better than the other guy, at least for that one play.
But here's the thing about most young players: they're usually so focused on being perfect and doing everything exactly like the coaches tell them to that even when they make plays, they don't end up celebrating. That isn't out of some old-school mentality; it's mostly because between concentrating so hard trying to make sure they don't fuck up and actually making a play, they simply forget to celebrate afterward. Once you actually get comfortable with what you're supposed to be doing and how you're supposed to be doing it, that's when the emotions come out and maybe you do a lil' dance or something to let 'em know after the play.
The more plays Floyd made last year, the more he celebrated. To me, that was a signal that he was no longer playing like a robot and playing like someone who finally knew he was a badass. By the end of the season, we saw that little dance of his quite a bit.
Floyd was credited with 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year, definitely a good season for him, but he is ready to make a huge leap forward now. He possesses an incredible motor for a man his size, and made a lot of plays just from extra effort running down the field to get to the ball. If you think that's normal for a 310-pound-plus defensive lineman, I would suggest you watch more film. Now that his technique has come around to match his physical ability and motor, Floyd is ready to really show out this season.
It doesn't hurt that he has a lot of talent around him with guys like Brian Robinson and Everson Griffen at defensive end and the occasional cameo from Anthony Barr as an edge rusher. All those guys chasing the quarterback up into the pocket should make it even easier for Sharrif Floyd's sack numbers to shoot up this season.