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A look at one of the big-name defenders in the upcoming draft, as well as the game everyone will be watching today
There have been concerns about the New York Giants pass rush for some time now. The team had hoped that the development of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, as well as the addition of Markus Golden would give them a low-cost platoon of pass rushers to send after opposing quarterbacks.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t really worked out that way.
The Giants’ defense struggled to apply consistent pressure and create consistent disruption in opposing backfields early in the season, and now both Ximines (shoulder) and Carter (Achilles) are on the injured reserve. The Giants have had the opportunity to draft high-upside pass rushers early in recent drafts but have consistently looked elsewhere.
Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau burst onto the scene in 2019 with an impressive 15.5 sack season. That, however, will be the only tape of him we have to evaluate as he opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19. So we’re taking the opportunity to take a first look at a player who could be one of the top pass rushing prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft, and we could see linked to the Giants.
Prospect: Gregory Rousseau
Games watched: vs. Florida, vs. Louisville, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Florida State
Height: 6070 (6-foot-7)
Weight: 265 pounds
Games Played (starts): 13
Tackles For a loss: 19.5
Forced Fumbles: 2
Best: Length, play strength, long speed, motor
Worst: Pass rush technique
Projection: Pass rush technique
Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau has a rare combination of length and athleticism for the position at the NFL level. Rousseau is built more along the lines of an NBA player than a classic NFL defensive end. He is very long-limbed and, while not small, appears almost lanky despite his 265-pound listed weight.
Rousseau does a good job of settling into his stance and playing with solid leverage despite his considerable height and leg length. He occasionally pops up off the snap and plays with high pad level, but generally does a good job of keeping his hips and pads low for such a high-cut player. Rousseau shows a good ability to time the snap and is rarely (if ever) tardy off the line. He does a good job of using his length to his advantage, routinely getting his hands on blockers first and extending his arms to prevent offensive linemen from latching on. He’s generally accurate with his hands and works to gain the blockers’ chest plate for inside leverage. Rousseau shows good competitive toughness, routinely working through and making plays off blockers, as well as pursuing plays through the whistle.
Rousseau still needs development in the technical side of his game. He relies heavily on using his length to beat blockers as a power rusher, and lacks a dependable countermove. He could also stand to further fill out his lanky frame, allowing him to play with more explosiveness and violence.
Rousseau projects as a starting EDGE or defensive end at the NFL level. He has rare length and a deceptive athleticism which allows him to be a consistent threat off the edge. Rousseau was used in a variety of roles by the Miami defense, lining up on both the left and right sides as well as on the interior. He is frequently lined up as a nose tackle when Miami uses a dime package with three down linemen.
Rousseau has a merely average first step, but long strides give him impressive acceleration on his second and third steps. Despite his lanky build, Rousseau is almost exclusively a power player, relying on his length to keep blockers from engaging. Rousseau would do well to develop a counter-move, such as a club-rip or a long-arm rush. That could allow him to be more consistently productive.
Rousseau generally plays with surprisingly good leverage and pad level for such a tall, long player. While he can occasionally have his hips and pads rise off the snap, he usually does a good job of keeping his pads down and routinely looks to gain inside leverage to control blockers. He can occasionally lose track of the ball when the offense is using a high degree of misdirection but processes and reacts to information quickly on a down-to-down basis. He also plays with good competitive toughness, frequently fighting through — and making plays off of — blockers, as well as pursuing plays across the field.
All told, Rousseau is still something of a raw player at just 20 years old. He has enough potential to be drafted highly, but the team that selects him will need a clear plan of development and patience. He should be reasonably productive early in his career, but won’t reach that potential without further physical and technique development.
Game To Watch
Georgia (3) at Alabama (2)
CBS – 8p.m.
We’ve already brought up both of these teams a few times, but this will be a “must watch” game for scouts this year. Any time you can get top prospects playing other NFL-caliber players, you have happy scouts. Adding a layer of intrigue to the game is Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s positive COVID-19 test.
As far as prospects to watch, the easy answer is “all of them”. These two teams are just replete with future NFL players and there will be plenty of time to go back and parse individual performances. My suggestion is to just watch the game and see who jumps off the tape.
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