Thursday, 11 June 2015

Lookin at the Dline

Today's #ProPerspective look is at the Defensive Line. Have a great day folks

Things could get ugly in a hurry around the CFL if this group manages to harness its potential.  UGLY. Real Ugly...


It was an ambitious move for Coach Chamblin to grab Greg Quick and overhaul an already impressive defence in order to make it “more aggressive”.


So far in training camp, the ideas that have been installed follow right along with that train of thought.  There are some blitz packages and coverage concepts going in that are definitely going to be forceful and hostile.  


The funny thing about all of this though is   that the team could probably get away with sitting back in coverage, playing it safe and letting the defensive line do all the work!  They could be that strong.


T. George and John Chick will lead the charge into week 1 with a few athletic friends in tow.  We already talked last week about some of the Canadian Dlinemen in the #ProPerspective post titled Another Morning Mailbag for Thursday.  However, for the sake of those who may not have read that “mailbag” edition, I will copy and paste that content after we take a look at some of the “national” players that are here vying for a roster spot.  I’ll also amend a thing or two, if something about that player has changed since we posted it (Good or bad).


Combined with the impressive development of the Canadian Defensive Linemen, the depth of this group is eye-opening.  Corey Chamblin made sure to give 3-time Pro Bowler Mike Sinclair (Defensive Line Coach) plenty of “teach periods” during the first 10 days of camp, and the carry-over has been impressive.  


Here’s a look at some of the guys that will be rushing the passer on Saturday in Fort Mac...



Alex Hall (#0)


• Getting Hall back into the fold was huge for the Riders after the departure of Ricky Foley.  At 6’6 and 250 lbs, Hall has the frame of a basketball player and the athleticism to go along with it.  One has to have a great first step in order to get-off the ball quickly and close the 1yd gap between the End and Offensive Tackle in the CFL.  Agent #0 has exactly that.  His first step forces the OT to hurry his kick-step because Hall will be within an arms-reach of the outside shoulder in an instant.  What might be more impressive though is his balance and centre of gravity.  When Hall gets to an OT and starts to bend the edge on the way to the QB, it looks as if he’s on a 45 degree angle to the turf at times.  For a guy who is 6’6 to be able to get that low and turn the corner makes things so hard for a pass blocker, especially if that blocker is tall himself (which Tackles usually are).  The one thing that Coach Sinclair does better than any other coach in this league is ensure that his pass rushers have a menu of things that they can hit a guy with.  Adding a couple additional moves to Halls lightening quick first step is going to put Tackles at even more of a disadvantage.  Add John Chick to the other side, and you’ve got the potential for an all-star year in Hall.



Derek Walker (#70)


• I became a big fan of #70 after I watched him for a couple of games during his rookie year in 2014.  Walker is a complete threat.  He can play the run well because he’s explosive off the ball and plays with his pads low and his hands inside.  He’s also a terrific pass rusher who has the ability to beat you with quickness and deliberate pass rush moves, or he can just run right through you.  His all-around game is a nightmare for Offensive Guards because they don’t know what he’ll come with next, and that keeps them on their heels.  Walker also has a motor that doesn’t allow him to get his feet “stuck in the mud” during pass rush.  He goes from one move to another without hesitation, and his relentlessness collapses pockets quickly.  Walker has begun to apply what Mike Sinclair is teaching, and his hand activity from Day 1 to now has improved drastically.  One way to get those hoggies paws off of you while in the trenches is to continuing to lift guys’ hands and arms away from you as you press them back.  Once #70 has all of his tools in front of him, he’s going to light up the stat sheet.  I don’t know what the Coaching Staff is going to do with the Dline in terms of playing a Canadian, but I do know that Walker is doing everything he can to earn his piece of the pie in some way, shape, or form.  Whether it be starting, coming in on different packages, or spelling guys, Walker has looked as though he is ready for whatever role this staff gives him.


Markus White (#98)


• White is another incredible athlete that jumps out at you when you watch him play.  He has the strength and aggressive nature that it takes to be a Defensive Tackle, and the quickness and patience that it takes to play End in the CFL.  He went relatively unnoticed during the first few days of camp, and that may have been because of the new playbook they installed, but as of late, because of a few bumps and bruises with others, #98 has displayed the ability to play on any part of the defensive line here in Saskatchewan.  Like Alex Hall, Markus White plays with an impressive centre of gravity.  He’s got such long arms, and he uses them to create separation between him and the Olinemen he’s up against.  If a Dlinemen is able to control his opponent with extended arms, then he’s already won 3/4 the battle.  His strength and arms also come in handy when he uses them as weapons to knock a linemans hands down and strip him of the ability to recover.  #98 is entering his 2nd year here in SK so he knows the lay of the land.  The list of unknowns, in terms of roster, probably aren’t ideal for White or anyone else for that matter, but his strong play as of late definitely should catch some eyes.  There’s no telling which position he’ll be lining up at on Saturday, or how many reps he’ll get in, but he’s a high energy guy and his ability to play all four spots should help him a bit.


Cameron Sheffield


• The term “Natural Pass Rusher” comes to mind when one thinks of the athletic former Edmonton Eskimo.  Sheffield has a great get-off and utilizes his quick feet and hands well.  He was dynamite in the Mock Game last Saturday playing the run well and taking on blockers as well as getting a couple of would-be sacks.  He’s actually been absent on the field as of late and for the sake of competition, I hope that all is well with him.  Either way, if he plays on Saturday he’s got the ability to make some plays.  Like Alex Hall, the way he leans into Offensive Tackles when trying to get around the edge is striking.


That just about rounds out the group of nationals, other than T, George and John Chick.  There’s a fierce competition here.  All of the guys we just talked about can play, and do so from multiple positions.

I’ve been on many teams, and I can’t remember being on a team that was made up of this many solid pass rushers.  Unfortunately Chamblin can’t keep everyone, and when you throw in that Canadian talent that Rory Connop is part of, you see the dilemma. 


Now for all those who didn’t see our breakdown of the Canadian guys in the “Another Morning Mailbag for Thursday” Post, I will re-post it below, and make some changes if necessary, it has been 6 days since that was done up…


Here you go, with any new observations included…



Rory Connop (#95)


• Into week 2 Rory Connop is still rotating in with the first group, depending on defensive packaging, and is still progressing.  The coaches have also began playing with the ratio balances and that has affected the way he rotates as well.  Connop is a grinder who doesn’t shy away from the physical contact, but also has the foundations of a decent pass rushing nose tackle.  If you watch him from his college film, he overpowered a lot of his competition by using his big frame and continuous foot drive.  In the pros, he’s not going to be able to get away with just out muscling opponents or throwing a rip into a guy and running him to the QB or ball carrier.  He’s learning though, and needs to keep his pads low consistently.  

Now that they’ve added a few Dline stunts and games into the mix, #95s athleticism will be pushed.  The key to successful stunts and games is that one cannot move laterally, looping and twisting still have to be done going north and south.  Not only will Connop need to be fast getting to certain spots, he’ll also have to work on influencing Guards or Tackles in order to make the games work.  At times, he’s been caught going lateral and its cost him.  

The physical tenacity is there, and a great coach like Mike Sinclair will install the extras.  He’s continued to improve into the 2nd week of camp but still has a ways to go.  The fact that he’s been inserted into that spot and handled so well up to this point is no small feat.  Lots of people, including myself, have been impressed with his efforts thus far. 


Tyler Langlais (#99)


• Tyler Langlais had some bright moments.  He was down for a while at the beginning of the 2nd week however made his return and looks no worse for wear.  

Like all young guys, the adjustment for Tyler is the speed of the pro game and absorbing the playbook that gets installed during camp.  On Saturday, it will be all about Alignment, Assignment, and Execution for Langlais.  If he is confident going into the snap with what he can do then it will help him focus on his physical attributes more.  He’s a strong kid.  Coaches will surely want to evaluate the way he plays the run, and he has the base in his trunk to be a consistent run stopper.  I think he’ll benefit himself against the pass if he doesn’t try and get to fancy.  If he focuses on going North and continually grabbing and lifting wrists and arms off, he should be able to create some individual pocket push


 Dylan Ainsworth (#90)


• Dylan Ainsworth has been flying around all camp.  He’s definitely grown from year 1 to year 2 and he looks poised to make the next step.  Expectations are also high for Ainsworth as he'll be leaned on to contribute heavily in the special teams phase of the game.  Right now depending on how many Dlinemen the team chooses to travel with, he may be in line for 12-15 reps a game (down from the 15-20 I predicted earlier) at the beginning of the year.  Ainsworth has learned to play the edge on first down, he sees little things this year, like OT indicators of run or pass, where the eyes of the Olinemen are going, and maybe more importantly, he sees FB motion and intent.  He’s got to keep working the hand and footwork that Mike Sinclair preaches, they go perfectly with his athletic ability because he’s got long arms and uses them well at times already.  Dylan has the un-coachable qualities as well.  Great work ethic and a motor that doesn’t stop until the whistle blows.  He’s got a real opportunity this year, he needs to continue to work away at the details during the last phases of training camp.


Tim Agbaje (#92)


• Agbaje has been slowed a bit by injury after week 1 of camp, and missed a fair amount of time.  Now that #92 is back, he’s got some reps to catch up on.  In our first look at Agbaje I stated that it was his ability to get off the ball that is evident.  He’s very athletic and has put some good pass rush moves on film in the 1 on 1 drills.  The Dline is starting to get more active in terms of what they do on passing situations at camp, and #92 will catch some eyes if he uses his athletic gifts to his advantage.  In order to do that however, he’s going to have to get into that playbook.  Especially for Saturday in Fort Mac.  He may not have the height of others, but that works in his advantage when it comes to leveraging against offensive guards etc.  Agbage needs to hold up against the run and know his gap responsibilities if he's going to move forward with the Roughriders.  If all else fails, and I am not projecting that it will, Agbaje also has another year of school left so he may end up back at the U of S.  It wouldn’t be a bad thing to apply what one learns in a pro camp, and come back the next year even better.


Ryan Wellman (#52)


• Wellman has looked considerably better in this 2nd week of camp.  I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve been focusing more on him, but he’s catching on.  He carries the weight that he added well, and he holds up against the run admirably.  I think one of the biggest things for Wellman is to continue to work on building his football IQ.  Now that we’re into exhibition season, his awareness of his surroundings is going to have to heighten.  He’s going to need to identify run and pass keys, as well as FB motion, and Receivers coming into the box in order to seal the edge.  His strength will be an asset on during pass rush but for that to happen he’s going to have to drop his 6’6 frame and get his pads low.  He’s quite the intriguing player actually.  With time, he may be another guy that can play every spot on the defensive line.  For a national, that ability is money!

We're 1 step closer to Saturdays clash in Fort Mac. I’m excited to see some of these guys go at it.  As I said at the top, the prospects for this Dline are scary.  BT, JO, and the rest of the scouting department have assembled a great group here.

As a staff, you want the players you brought into camp to make the final decisions excruciatingly hard.  These guys are doing just that, but for Coach Chamblin and Mike Sinclair, the harder the decisions are, the better the product on the filed will be!


Let’s take a look at the Oline tomorrow folks!


Talk soon



1 comment:

  1. Great read again, as always Luc.
    Going into camp we heard a lot about Keenan MacDougall possibly being a starter, but haven't heard a lot lately, i assume that means that he is doing well?
    Now that we are starting to see roster cuts, how tough is it for the guys that get cut to deal with the disappointment, while at the same time trying to get picked up by another team?