It is a fun moment when you can see a player visibly turn that switch on after stretches of time where they appear to be complacent with just being another cog in the machine. You can actually see the player take on the mindset that they will be the playmaker on a given play, despite a much larger sample size that would typically suggest otherwise.
This is ultimately what you are getting with Michigan State defensive Shilique Calhoun.
We get the idea driven into our head that every player should be dominant on every play, or they simply are not good. To many it would seem like they would prefer a player to be outright not very good than to see any trace of inconsistency (i.e. Jadeveon Clowney's entire final year of college).
This is because we think that if a player ever shows any ability to be a great player then they should carry over that ability to every snap of the game. If they don't do this we typically begin to wonder why they aren't. For Clowney, many pointed to the effort excuse. This is the normal conclusion in these cases. And football fans truly do seem to loathe nothing less than a player who has effort issues.
But what if, and hear me out, some players are just okay? They aren't great. Or maybe even very good. But they aren't bad. And the inconsistencies are just them being able to get the most out of the abilities that they actually do possess but there are those few occasions that they can take said abilities to the next level. The football version of flashes of brilliance in an otherwise mundane factory worker. This is what Shilique Calhoun is. And that is OK.
What role fits him?
Calhoun's role at Michigan State was clear. He was an every down defensive end for three years, starting 41 games in his career. During these starts, he rarely ever got a breather. You could tell he would wear down in games and it appeared at times that he conserved his energy for more pivotal moments in games, which is understandable.
But what if Calhoun doesn't have to play almost every play for 41 games? What if he is implemented into an actual functioning rotation? It isn't a stretch to believe that many of the inconsistencies in his game would disappear when he has less on his plate.
The only defensive end that should stay on the field for every play are the dominant ones who you truly can't afford to not have on it -- the Watts, the Von Millers, etc... Calhoun isn't this type of player. In the NFL he should be more of a teams reinforcement pass rusher, not its primary one.
And this is why he is such a logical fit for Jacksonville. They have their No. 1 defensive end going into 2016 in Dante Fowler. It is presumed that they will add to this position group in Free Agency. So if Calhoun did end up as a Jaguar it'd most likely be in more of a rotational role or as a situational pass rusher, which is an ideal situation for him.
Value in reinforcements
The Jaguars defensive end situation in 2015 is a great microcosm of the value in reinforcement pass rushers. Even if Dante Fowler had never gotten hurt, the Jaguars pass rush would have still been awful. If Fowler was the most dominant rookie in the NFL, it still would have been a one man show. Pass rushing is about pinning your ears back and getting to the quarterback from all directions. You can't do that without the proper reinforcements. You need more than one player.
And this is why, pending he lands with the right team that lets him be a reinforcement, Calhoun will bring a lot of value to the NFL. When he is "on" he is a very gifted edge rusher. This is amplified if he has the chance to work in a rotation and bring full energy on every pass rush snap he is in on.
Calhoun's game against Oregon in 2015 paints a good picture for the kind of player he is. He finished the game with only two solo tackles and was relatively quiet for a good majority of the game. But there were still a handful of plays that you could pick out that showed the talent he possesses.
This is his most impressive play of the game. He starts off with a mush rush as he is playing contain. But then his natural ability takes over. He shows extremely quick feet and good instincts to beat the offensive tackle inside and close in on the quarterback for the sack.
In typical Calhoun fashion, he doesn't make an impact for a long stretch after this play. He is playing every snap against an offense that runs a ton of plays.
But he isn't done yet. He flips the switch one more time and comes back with another big pass rush in an big situation.
These two plays might not show the whole toolbox that is Calhoun's skill set, but they are good examples of him being able to still make impact plays after not influencing the game for awhile.
If you want to see what Calhoun can bring as a pass rusher when he is at the top of his game though, look no further than him against Central Michigan.
He is quick enough and smart enough to set up offensive tackles for inside spin moves and counters. Something that will serve him well in a situational pass rusher role.
He can also win as a true edge rusher. He is a big bodied type of defensive end, but he shows the explosion off the snap and the flexibility to beat offensive tackles around the edge and get to the quarterback.
"It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you've forgotten about."
-- Lester Burnham, American Beauty
No one other quote greater exemplifies the Michigan State defensive end as a football player. You see him make a rare play after stretches of just being another guy on the field. And then you see him surprise himself. You see him look like the best player on the field, even if it is just for a few plays at a time. You see him wonder if he can do it again. But then he doesn't. He is an okay football player who sometimes plays like a great one. And that is okay.
The Jaguars could use a lot more okay pass rushers who sometimes play like great ones.