So you drafted Michael Brockers.

You cannot escape Michael Brockers' 86 inch wingspan.

By drafting Michael Brockers you just drafted a dominant run stopper from one of the biggest and most prestigious college football programs in the entire country. Brockers showed that (at least in my opinion), the worst he is going to be is a guy who will help a run defense in a very big way. There is loads of potential in this young and still raw defensive tackle but he isn’t a lock to be an impact defender.

After the jump I’ll show you what I like about Brockers and what concerns me. But first, I’ll tell you exactly why we need a guy like Brockers.

Last year the Eagles run defense was strikingly mediocre, especially up the gut. They finished 16th in rushing yards allowed, they allowed 4.4 yards per carry (19th in the NFL), the defense allowed 11 rushing touchdowns which was 16th in the NFL and they were 15th in the NFL at defending runs up the gut, allowing 4.12 yards per carry up the middle. Mediocre. And according to Football Outsiders the Eagles allowed 1.35 second level yards per carry which was 29th in the NFL. That stat would suggest that blockers were getting down field onto our linebackers. Which brings me back to the point I made in the Dontari Poe post:  the Eagles need a 1 technique that can control the point in the run game and keep the linebackers clean.

“…Because what the wide nine does; look how much space, Adam, it creates between the defensive end and the tackle.”

Now, in this instance Greg is talking about the space between Trent Cole and the offensive tackle but I want to focus on the space between Trent Cole and Derek Landri. That is a lot of space, I’d estimate there is about 5 yards between the two. In the video Greg Cossel and Adam Caplan talk about how this affects the pass rush but they don’t note that this creates natural running lanes and that unless the guy playing the 1 technique (between the center and guard) demands a double team, either the guard or center can move to the second level and block a linebacker, creating further running room.

This is a 1 technique

How do you stop that? Tennessee found a solution and it’s name was Albert Haynesworth. Big Al has gotten some really bad press lately (and deservedly so) but lets not forget that three, four years ago he was the most dominant interior force in the NFL. If you tried to block him with one man he would eat him up and make the stop. You absolutely had to double-team him.

But getting a big, plodding run stuffer just isn’t Jim Washburn’s style. He’s not going to waste snaps on someone who isn’t going to get to the pass rusher. He wants his defensive tackles to be “guard killers”. As much as he wants his ends flying up field and around the corner, he wants those defensive tackles attacking the guards and collapsing the pocket.

Finding a guy who can do both things is rare. Finding a guy who can consistently demand double teams (and hold double teams) while also being able to create pressure on passing downs is a tough gig because they’re hard to find. Look around the NFL, how many of these guys do you see? Haloti Ngata, Justin Smith, Kevin Williams and JJ Watt? That’s about it.

Michael Brockers isn’t that guy yet but he might have the potential to become one and in draft season, potential sells. At 6’6” and 320 pounds with 35” arms and a powerful lower body you can see why he was able to control the line of scrimmage at LSU. It’s easy to see even for the most amateur of football fans; Brockers is a huge and powerful man. The debate amongst scouts doesn’t include his ability to defend the run, the debate is about his potential as a pass rusher. Some believe he has it, others don’t. But if Jim Washburn sees it, he could just be the pick on Thursday.

At the absolute highest level of college football, in the SEC on LSU with the toughest schedule in the country, Brockers performed well. In 2011 (the only season he saw significant time) Brockers had 54 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 2 passes knocked down and 1 blocked kick. And Brockers played a big role in anchoring the second ranked defense in the country. That’s pretty good considering this was his first year starting and he’s only 3 years removed from being a strongside linebacker in high school.

Think about that for a second: Only 3 years ago this guy was a high school linebacker. A LINEBACKER. He put on 60 pounds in 3 years at LSU. He’s still growing into his frame and learning. He’s definitely a guy you could safely say is on the upswing.

Workout Drill Brockers’ Pro-Day
Height 6’6”
Weight 322
Arm Length 35”
Ten Yard Split 1.73
40 Yard Dash 5.18
Vertical Jump 30”
Bench Press Reps 21
20 Yard Shuttle 4.78
3 Cone Drill 7.48

The athleticism, frame and talent are all clearly there but it doesn’t always manifest itself on the field. He’s not a finished product and if you’re spending a first round pick on Brockers then you’re forecasting a fairly large amount of growth in his game. You don’t spend first round picks on guys who only stop the run, you also want them to become impact pass rushers too. You can find good run defenders later in the draft; first round guys should be difference makers.

The freaky stuff:

  • -According to Sports Science of ESPN, Brockers is “almost” 25 pounds heavier than the average defensive lineman in the NFL.
  • -He has a wingspan of 86”… 86 INCHES! That is a 7’2” wingspan. Everyone drools over Jason Pierre-Paul’s wingspan but his is only 6’9”.
  • -For ESPN’s Sports Science, Brockers pushed a semi truck that was 53 times his own body weight seven yards (that’s about 21 feet).

And this…

He annihilates that poor blocking sled. Imagine if that was a person… Oh wait, he did that. He did this to the host of ESPN’s sports science and he tossed him 10 feet backwards. YIKES!

 

So without further adieu, I present Michael Brockers:

The Run Stuffer:

He’s got incredible functional strength. He’s got a very powerful lower body with thick legs and a thick butt. He does a good job keeping blockers off of his frame and disengaging to make a play on the ball carrier thanks to his incredible length. And you can see that he still has linebacker instincts, he’s a guy who understands when to shed block and he does a good job of working down the line and flowing to the ball. His instincts in the run game are very far along for a defensive tackle coming out of college.

Here is what Michael Brockers brings to the table as a run defender. Fires off the ball low, extends into contact with his long arms, disengages, locates the ball carrier, flows to the ball and makes the stop;

This play clearly highlights the benefits of having long arms; he’s able to create separation between himself and his blocker, which allows him to locate the ball more easily. And you can clearly see the instincts I was talking about on this play, he sees where the ball carrier is going and he takes a good angle to get outside and make the stop.

Brockers stays low, extends into contact, drops his anchor, drives his legs and he doesn’t get knocked off the line of scrimmage by a double team from the Georgia offensive line (a line that had a legitimate stake to the best OL in the country title). Brockers didn’t light up the bench press event at the combine but you’re not able to do this if you aren’t strong. Great functional strength and great lower body strength in this play.

Here you see Brockers defeat a single blocker in run defense. He keeps his shoulders square and he keeps his head up. This might seem simple but its something that Dontari Poe doesn’t do. By keeping his shoulders square he is in a better position to take on blockers, find the ball and get to the ball carrier.

And once again you see him use his length to create separation from his blocker. Its tough for offensive guards and centers to get their hands on Brockers when he uses his hands well and extends his arms simply because he’s longer. He’s got the benefit an extra two to three inches in arm length on most guards, he is able to make first contact before the guard even gets his hands on him.

Uh… Yeah. This is what Jim Washburn wants in run defense. Takes on and splits the double team  and he makes the stop in the backfield.

Keeps his shoulders square. Pumps his legs. Locates the ball. Stuffs Trent Richardson.

You see it again and again with Brockers, he just stops the run. His combination of fundamentals and physical ability when playing the run make him quite enticing.

He doesn’t get knocked off the ball by the double team and he holds up three blockers total on the play and makes it so that Alabama can’t get to the second level and block the linebackers or execute blocks the way it was drawn up. And because Brockers clogged the gaps, Eddie Lacey is forced to string the run wide where Mingo and Brockers make the stop. Again you see Brockers use those long arms to just get enough of a runner to trip him up or wrap him up at the ankles.

He lowers his head but he recovers nicely to disengage from his blocker and get in on the stop. Its plays like this where I see the potential for Michael Brockers to be a dominant 1 technique, he flashes the ability to just overpower single blockers. He’s not as strong as Poe but he plays stronger and much more physical on the field.

Between The Ears:

Here are those instincts I was talking about, Brockers sniffs out and blows up the screen play.

Again, he extends his arms into the blocker, presses into his blockers chest and then creates space. He disengages and he makes the stop on the draw play (instincts) and something you’ll notice with Brockers is that his length allows him to make more of those shoe string tackles than most simply because he has a greater reach.

Recognizes the screen play, gets outside and forces Trent Richardson to redirect which affords other defenders extra time to get to Trent Richardson before he breaks off a big gain.

Right here you see no change of pace in Brockers’ pursuit and you very rarely do. He is always in pursuit of the ball.

Movement Ability:

Spin move? Check. It isn’t the same as Dontari Poe’s but its still good for such a big guy.

And check that jerk move that Brockers puts on his blocker when he sees Murray running. The blocker is already off balance because he became off balance when Brockers spun and Brockers uses this to his advantage when he throws his blocker aside as he changes directions. But look at his feet when Brockers changes directions, do you see how quick they are? He changes directions really easily for a big 320+ pounder. And then check out the effort in pursuit downfield.

Here you see Brockers execute a stunt with one of LSU’s defensive ends. Notice how much turf he eats up when moving upfield, very lengthy gait.

Rushing The Passer:

Again, the questions all deal with his pass rushing. He plays too high and he loses the leverage battle pretty easily. He doesn’t really know how to use his hands or length when rushing the passer. He just needs to keep learning and practicing rushing the passer because he has all the tools. I love the way that he pumps his legs, he never gives up and he just drives through contact. Brockers has the length, suddenness and power that you look for, he just needs to learn how to use it.

I want you to watch five straight plays on this one.

5:07 – Brockers plays high but he drives the guard into Aaron Murray’s face and doesn’t give him room to step into the throw. And because Brockers has his arms up to deflect the pass, Murray has to adjust the trajectory of the ball. A throw that could’ve been a huge gain for Georgia is turned into an interception because of pressure up the gut from Brockers. Aaron Murray wasn’t able to step into his throw and thus the ball didn’t have as much velocity as it could’ve and he had to throw the ball on more of an arc to get it over Brockers’ hand which gave Simon time to recover and get into position to snag the jump ball.

5:16 – Similarly to the last play, Brockers just decides he’s going to go through his man and he bull rushes him but Murray is trying to get rid of the ball quickly on this play. He sees Murray going into his throwing motion and Brockers frees up his left arm and throws it up into the air to bat the pass right back to where it came from.

5:35 – For the third straight play, Brockers just abuses that poor right guard for Georgia. He uses what appears to be a rip move and just flies right past him.

5:41 – He starts with a bull rush but then he finishes with an arm over move that forces Aaron Murray off his spot and the pressure causes him to dump the ball off to the RB.

5:45 – And now you see what Brockers needs to improve. He pops up off the snap, which negates his bull rush and then he doesn’t use his hands very well, which exposes his chest and allows the blocker to just control him and put him on roller skates.

He doesn’t really do anything special here. He narrows his base which allows the blocker to knock him to the turf but notice that he was triple teamed before the RG peeled off to pick up a blitzer. Triple teamed.

This is what happens when Michael Brockers wins off the snap. He just beat #79 off the snap, drove through contact and made the sack. He’s got the ability to beat players off the snap, his ten yard split of 1.73 at his pro-day rivals that of Dontari Poe.

Even Bobby April gets in on the fun!:

I think a guy like Brockers who is 6’6”, has 35” arms, 9.1” hands and a vertical jump of 30” could block some kicks, how about you?

Lets put it this way: NBA star Rudy gay is only 8 tenths of an inch taller than Michael Brockers and his wingspan is 7’3” (Brockers’ is 7’2”). Gay’s standing reach (without even jumping) is 8’11” so you have to figure that Brockers’ standing reach is somewhere around 8’9” and 8’10”. Add in that 30” vertical jump and Brockers could theoretically get his hand about 12’3” or 12’4” up into the air.

 

One BIG thing that concerns me is the recent track record of defensive linemen from LSU. The list of players includes: Drake Nevis, Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois, Glen Dorsey, Claude Wroten, Marcus Spears, Marquise Hill and Jarvis Green. They don’t transition well to the NFL for whatever reason. The only defensive linemen worth a damn from LSU is Kyle Williams.

 

Brockers shows the potential to become the dominating 1 technique that Jim Washburn wants. And I think he projects to the pros much better than Dontari Poe does. I’d be happy with Poe but I’d be happier with Brockers. Brockers is more physical, more fundamentally sound, more under control, plays with a non-stop motor, has better awareness and he seems to play with more of a nasty streak. He isn’t the incredible athlete that Poe is but Brockers is no slouch and he’s still getting used to his massive frame; Brockers has put on about 60 pounds the past three years and he’s only 21 years old. Brockers is as pro-ready as they get as a run stuffer and with Jim Washburn teaching him how to rush the passer, Brockers could develop into a force.

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