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Can some team turn Taven Bryan into a pass rushing monster in the NFL?

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Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White sees a raw pass rusher with some questions about where he fits on a defensive line.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Taven Bryan is big (6’4, 291 pounds), strong (30 bench reps of 225 pounds at the combine), and pretty damn fast for a defensive lineman (4.98 40 at the combine), and you see all of that at various times on his tape. For me the biggest question I have about him is will a team be able to help him harness all of his potential and help turn him into a monster in the NFL.

Florida used Bryan almost exclusively as a three-technique in the four games I watched, and it wasn’t hard to find him on most plays. He was usually one of the first guys out of his stance after the ball was snapped, and most of the time he was shooting upfield through his B gap trying to wreak havoc.

As a run defender there were plenty of flashes of Bryan jacking up guards, tossing them to the side and making plays at or just beyond the line of scrimmage.

As a pass rusher there were a lot of flashes of Bryan screaming past guards with a simple rip move and putting heat on the quarterback as well.

The problem is just hauling ass up the field isn’t always the way to go, either as a run defender or a pass rusher.

I do think that some of the issues I had with Bryan’s tape goes back to his coaches. In particular against Missouri, for instance, it appeared that the Florida game plan to combat Missouri’s RPOs was to have Bryan get up the field and look to pressure the quarterback when he got those looks, leaving others to play the run.

That might sound good in theory, but Bryan flying up the field so much left some huge running lanes inside.

He also wasn’t guaranteed to get pressure even if he was supposed to pass rush most of the time.

So you end up with this picture of a guy looking like the proverbial blind dog in a meat house just running around without paying attention to his keys, when it may have been (probably was) that he was coached to play that way as part of the game plan.

I won’t try to discern who to blame, but I will say if the coaches did tell Bryan to disregard the blocking schemes and just haul ass up field, they didn’t do him a lot of favors.

Still, Bryan’s talent and ability are undeniable on tape.

He leaned heavily on his athleticism to play the run and the pass, but he could also win with power.

Because he was so quick off the ball he often had offensive linemen on their heels before they were barely out of their stances.

He was also able to shed blockers with relative ease against the run.

Bryan also had a rip move that gave offensive guards fits.

He showed up a lot in the four games I watched, and there was a lot to like about his film.

There were also some things that I saw that I feel like he needs to work on if he wants to be a truly dominant interior defensive lineman in the NFL.

One criticism I have is the fact that Bryan didn’t use more pass rush moves. For a guy who was as quick off the ball as Bryan is, a rip move isn’t always going to be the most effective way to go. I’m all for using moves until they stop them, but to be an elite pass rusher you have to have plans B, C, and D ready, too.

I would have liked to see Bryan work his hands more on his finesse rushes so he could get more clean wins instead of getting pushed upfield by the quarterback.

While Bryan showed good explosion and power with his bull rushes at times, I also thought he could have done a better job of disengaging off those blocks and trying to sack the quarterback.

And I’m not sure I saw Bryan work a counter move even once. The only inside moves I saw were simple inside rip moves, but they looked more like run stunts than anything else.

Any pass rusher who wins a lot with speed needs a viable counter move so that the offensive linemen can’t just bail out and push them on past the depth of the quarterback.

None of this is necessarily a negative for Bryan’s draft stock. The truth is because he can be even better with improved technique, that makes his ceiling that much higher in the pros.

If he gets drafted by a team with a good defensive line coach who can sharpen up Bryan’s technique and expand his tool box, his best days as a player are probably ahead of him.

But pass rushing isn’t the only area that Bryan needs to work on.

He had an especially hard time playing cut blocks in the run game without going to the ground.

I believe a lot of it had to do with him shooting upfield so hard he couldn’t react quick enough once he recognized the offensive lineman was trying to cut him.

If an opposing team knows they can cut the three technique on the backside of zone plays, they will have their running back cut back into that his gap so many times it will make your head spin.

So he will have to get that sorted out as well.

One of the other concerns I have about Bryan is how scheme versatile he is.

Oh, I am sure he can be a good interior pass rusher no matter who takes him, but I’m not sure where you play him on early downs in a base 3-4.

Bryan wasn’t asked to do much, if any, two gapping in the four games that I saw and he is at his best when he is getting off the ball and attacking. When he did have to try to anchor down against a double team, it didn’t always turn out so well.

Hell, it didn’t always work out so well when he was single blocked, either.

As an undertackle in a base 4-3 defense Bryan is a no brainer. His game actually reminds me a little of Gerald McCoy and being in a role similar to McCoy is probably the best possible outcome for Bryan could hope for.

I’m inclined to believe Taven Bryan will make great strides after he makes it to the league, but I’d still be a little nervous taking him in the first round. As I said before he is going to need to improve his technique and expand his pass rush arsenal to really maximize his potential. If he doesn’t Bryan could end up being Just-Another-Guy in the league.

If he can make those improvements, however, Bryan is going to be one hell of an interior pass rusher in the NFL, and I’m willing to bet there are enough teams in need of one that he will hear his name called on the first night of the draft.


This time Draft Breakdown didn’t have any of Taven Bryan’s games from last season on their website, so I had to use Google to find all four of them. And between you and me the aTm tape sucks, but oh well. For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Bryan play against Kentucky, Texas A&M, Missouri, and Florida State. Those represented the fourth, seventh, ninth, and 12th games on Florida’s schedule last season, respectively.