Unfortunately Brandon Graham has that knee injury so I can’t put him here, however I would like to point out that if he was healthy I would bet on a double digit sack season from him. As a rookie he had the highest Pass Rush Productivity rating of all rookie defensive ends according to ProFootballFocus. According to Football Outsiders, Brandon Graham had 3 sacks, 6 QB hits and 17 QB hurries. As a part time player, Brandon Graham had a successful season, especially considering that he was a rookie and missed 3 games.
So instead, I look to the guy that will be getting most of Graham’s snaps: Darryl Tapp.
Daryl Tapp was originally drafted by the Seahawks back in 2006 with the 63rd pick in the draft. He was very productive at Virginia Tech, in his last two seasons he notched 18.5 sacks and over the course of his career he had 40 stops and 78 quarterback pressures. He blocked two kicks, intercepted one pass and deflected four others. He also caused five fumbles and recovered two others. He lasted as late as he did because he put up less than ideal numbers at the combine. As a Seahawk he was a middling defensive end with mediocre pass rushing skills and good run stuffing ability.
How did he become an Eagle? Well, after the Eagles were mauled by the Cowboys two weeks in a row last season the Eagles overhauled their defensive ends. The Dallas Cowboys ran all over the Eagles defense and they seemingly quit on the team. Poor play in the trenches cost the Eagles the division title and a playoff run that year. The Eagles tried to cut the fat that offseason, they let Darren Howard and Jason Babin walk while trading Chris Clemons and a 4th round pick to the Seahawks for Darryl Tapp. The Eagles acquired Tapp for his team first mentality, his off the field presence and his run defending ability.
Last season was not the season many envisioned for Darryl Tapp when the Eagles traded for him, he wasn’t active for 2 games and he only ended up with 3 sacks. Meanwhile Chris Clemons (the guy the Eagles traded for Tapp) put up 11 sacks. But don’t fret, Darryl Tapp’s play down the stretch opened some eyes (or mine at least). In his last 5 games (including the playoff game) he had 2 sacks, 4 hurries, 1 FF and 2 passes defended.
So why is Darryl Tapp primed for a breakout? Well the answer is simple, Jim Washburn and his “whoop ass” style (that’s a quote folks). So the technical name isn’t “Whoop ass” but instead, it’s the one gap, wide 9 scheme. Yes, it is as simple as it sounds. In a two gap system you’re responsible for two gaps. In a one gap system you’re responsible for one. Lets say that you’re sitting at home and you’re doing two things at once, that’s going to take a while in comparison to when you’re doing one thing at a time. That’s basically what this scheme is, now instead of checking for the run first and plugging the middle before going up-field to rush the passer, you play one gap and you charge up-field and maul whoever gets in your way.
But Jim Washburn’s scheme isn’t just an ordinary 1 gap scheme, it’s the ‘wide 9’ scheme. I very briefly illustrate what that is below:
Notice how wide the splits are here.Jason Babin the LE is actually playing the 9 technique he is split out so wide, playing the 9 technique means that you’re playing outside the tight end and he is split way outside of TE on the strong side.
Jovan Haye is playing, the UT (#75) is playing the 4 technique which isn’t as common as one would think. He is playing the B gap with an inside shade on the right tackle, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see a defensive end in this spot.
The NT (who looks like Senderrick Marks, can’t tell though) is lined up as a 1 technique as he appears to be lined up in the A gap and shifted over towards the center.
The RE Dave Ball is split out wide as well playing the 9 technique where he has an outside shade on the left tackle.
This is nearly the same as the one above the only difference is that Jason Jones is playing the 3 technique instead of the 4.
In this look both tackles are lined up as three techniques, Dave Ball is playing the 6 technique and Jason Babin at LE (you can tell by the 4 point stance) is playing 5 technique.
Those are three clear examples of Jim Washburn’s system, he uses wide splits, he is very aggressive, he gets creative with stunts and he sells out to get to the QB. The Titans had the most aggressive defensive line in the league the past few years.
A guy like Darryl Tapp with his quickness off of the edge, strength and tenacity will have success in the wide 9 scheme. Because so much of the scheme is designed to get up-field and outside the tackles we’ve typecast the ideal wide 9 defensive end as the tall, quick gazelle type defensive ends ala Jevon Kearse a few years back. But what people are forgetting is that guys that Kyle Vanden Bosch and Dave Ball had the best years of their careers under Jim Washburn. Schematically, Tapp is primed for a breakout year.
The only thing that is standing in the way of Tapp breaking out is his supporting cast. With Trent Cole and Jason Babin as the starters and Brandon Graham likely returning 6 weeks into the season, Tapp might have trouble finding snaps. But, if Tapp gets significant playing time on a line that has Cole, Babin, Jenkins, Laws, Graham and company he isn’t likely to see anything other than one on one blocking.
If Darryl Tapp gets playing time expect him to have a big season, he is in a scheme that is very player friendly and he has a great supporting cast. Darryl Tapp is on the precipice and he is ready to fly like an Eagle (pun very much intended).