The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted defensive tackle Tyson Alualu with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, sending shock waves through the NFL with a surprising pick. At the time, the Jaguars were crushed for the pick, as most draft experts explained it was a reach, as Alualu was not listed as a first-rounder by many draftniks and experts.
"I've gotten a lot of questions about him at number 10 and I completely understand it. The more work we did, the better we felt about him," Jaguars general manager Gene Smith told reporters following the 2010 NFL Draft. "They're both explosive. They're both three-technique types," Smith said, referring to both Alualu and then third-round pick D'Anthony Smith.
For a bit of background, a "three-technique" defensive tackle will typically line up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard. Typically a three-technique defensive lineman is quick off the football, around the 300-pound mark, and is charged with disrupting the pocket by penetrating the gaps between the offensive lineman or looping around on stunts. They should also be strong enough at the point of attack to hold a single gap.
In Alualu's first season, he looked like he might be that player. He had a nice opening game against the Denver Broncos, including stuffing then rookie Tim Tebow on some "wild Bronco" formation plays, spoiling the prodigal son's return to his hometown of Jacksonville, in some people's minds validating the pick of Alualu and the passing over of Tebow.
Unfortunately in year three, Alualu looks just like an average defensive tackle who doesn't seem to garner much pass rush up the middle of the pocket and at times can struggle to hold his gap. He's supposed to be a three-technique and it's clear that's what he is, he just doesn't seem to do any of it at a high level outside of constantly being active. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Alualu has played in 111 snaps on the season and has zero quarterback pressures, zero quarterback hits, and just one sack. The sack however came from the Week 1 match up against the Minnesota Vikings when quarterback Christian Ponder slid behind the line of scrimmage and Alualu was the closest defender next to him.
Here are a couple of plays from the game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday to illustrate part of what I'm talking about.
This is on the Bengals first drive, and I'm hoping the design of the play is for Alualu to stunt inside, because if he doesn't it's just a flat out bad play on his part. Alualu is engaged by the right guard, trying to hand fight before he gets in but the guard gets his hands inside and just washes Alualu out. If Alualu rips to the other side, Andre Branch's wide rush actually opens up the gap which would of disrupted the entire play as both backs leak out the gap that's created by Branch's rush. The disappointing part of the play isn't really all that, because it may have been designed for Alualu to cut inside like that, but the fact that he's completely locked up by Kevin Zeitler.
The next play is another that I'm not quite sure what Alualu's responsibility was, but he's a complete non-factor in the play because he just gets blocked.
Alualu once again tries to go inside on Zeitler but manages to get completely blocked out of the play again. Zeitler just slides where Alualu tries to get to and washes him into the Bengals center and keeps himself in front of him until Andy Dalton scrambles to the left to pick up the first down.
The next play is another passing play, but Alualu is lined up on the other side once again playing a three-technique.
The Bengals play-action what looks like a stretch play, but Dalton rolls to his right after the play fake. Right off the snap, Alualu once again engages the left guard and tries to break free, but just can't seem to shed the block and tries to hand fight with Clint Boling, to no avail. Basically Alualu lets himself get run out of the play and t then is just kind of there... hand fighting.
This isn't to totally poo-poo Alualu as a bad football player, because he's not. He's a solid starter and decent enough against the run and can penetrate at times on stunts, with the versatility to play the left defensive end position if necessary, but he simply just doesn't look like an elite talent, which is what you want when you draft a defensive lineman in the Top 10 of the NFL draft.
Alualu is active and goes all out on seemingly every play, but that only gets you so far.
Yes, I know Alualu hurt his knee the first day he got into training camp doing the Oklahoma Drill, but he looked like an ascending player during his rookie season. After that however, he hasn't seem to have gotten much better. Alualu's play needs to become more consistent and improve a lot through the course of the 2012 season, else it could be another nail in Gene Smith's coffin.