I’m not an expert on with breaking down defensive lineman but I decided to look at one player in particular because of the constant questions — Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dawuane Smoot.
In 2017, Smoot was a rookie behind All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell. Dawuane right off the bat showed high football IQ coming out of college and leaving Illinois, second in the Big 10 in pressures. To me, a pressure is just as important as a sack when you’re on a team with depth. Now, don’t get me wrong, obviously you want the sack but there are times when you don’t even need it in order to force the run.
Teams will continue to leave their quarterback in the back of the pocket and this, my friends, is the “quicksand” Keanu Reeves was referring to in The Replacements. So lets just get to the numbers... I’m being optimistic when I say pressure’s are just as important, although its true the real fact is he ended the season with zero sacks.
Moving forward, were going to see his contribution in other ways and figure out why this is most certainly going to be one of the most important offseason’s of his career. Dawuane has a high ceiling and everyone knows how hard it is for a rookie to come in and be 100 percent competitive (unless you’re Leonard Fournette). What I’m saying is, he didn’t blow anyone away by any means but its important to remember that he’s also behind the best defensive line in the NFL.
I love Dawuane’s hip flexibility and his closing speed. With an impressive 4.77 forty-time he can catch any ball carrier. You can clearly see his speed on the field but only after you wait for him to get off the line of scrimmage. Those technical shortcomings usually dissipate over time with reps, strength, conditioning — and with Calais in his corner I believe he’s going to gain more than enough knowledge to keep this defense competing at the highest level.
As mentioned above, Dawuane has come so close to making great plays and since you’re in the Big Cat Country Film Room, were going to show the good plays and... well... the bad ones.
Dawuane must improve his reaction time off the line of scrimmage and 1-on-1 match ups, it’s that simple if he wants those sacks.
I think more work with Yannick Ngakoue and with Taven Bryan (who is great at anticipating the snap) Dawuane will start to improve off the line and fortunately for him, he has more upside than downside and nothing but time to work on his craft.
First thing we notice is that he’s a little slower getting off his feet and also at times he hesitates when in pass rush; it’s usually when his intended mark goes out for a pass; as if he doesn’t believe there is a free lane and that’s when he needs to be a rocket off the line. His first offseason should be all fundamentals, core and basically living in the gym to build strength.
This year, in his sophomore season, we’re going to look for improvements in a few key areas of his game, man to man battles, rip techniques, staying low and driving his feet.
Week 16 against San Francisco, Smoot is at the top of your screen and the 49ers run a stretch run play to the left. We will see this time and time again with Smoot; anytime the play is run to the opposite side of the field, he will still get a piece of the tackle.
Hes patient on runs to the weak side, stays home in case of a reverse but knows when he can pursue; his closing speed is impeccable!— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) June 29, 2018
vs PIT the best thing you can do is motion the TE (giving a SS DL the weak side is a GIFT!) As you can see v the pass hes SO CLOSE! pic.twitter.com/2GiBZGYCKh
His hips as a defensive end are some of the most flexible i’ve seen, so when running in a lateral direction where turning your torso should hinder your speed, it seems like he doesn’t miss a step. Using this ability makes him a great rusher once he gains momentum; he can run faster than any lineman, run blockers and go toe-for-toe with backs rushing up field. His Football IQ and shiftiness paired with his speed is a triple threat and its going to be fun watching him chase down Marcus Mariota for the next couple years.
In Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns, he slips through the offensive line from the backside to make the tackle for no gain.
Everyone has been asking about Dawuane Smoot! #DUVAL— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) June 29, 2018
Honestly, its hard to sit here & evaluate a guy who has a pro bowl line in front of him. Hes a Rookie strong side rusher from Illinois who runs an impressive 4.77. Great through traffic but needs work v pass rush@KlipDraw pic.twitter.com/af2TDiwCbv
The very next week against the Arizona Cardinals, he doesn’t make the play here but this shows us a lot about the type of player could become. He does make his way to the running back at a great angle with a lot of speed behind him. That’s the closing speed I was referring to.
And in Week 14 against the Seattle Seahawks he chases the back 10 yards down the field and literally dives over him to miss the tackle.
Overall I think it’s a little too early to tell how good of a player Dawuane will actually be. He’s fast and even faster in open space, sticks with plays, shows patience, knows his role so he doesn’t cheat, and his hips are oiled with WD40! He does lack some strength and footwork ability, which he will improve within first NFL offseason.
In the long run I see the Jaguars having Yannick on one side as a strip-sack master and Dawuane on the opposite side as the ultimate run stopper.