NFL draft: Three defensive linemen who could be fits for the Redskins

In the lead up to the May 8-10 NFL draft, The Insider is looking at Washington’s positions of need, spotlighting players who might fit what Jay Gruden and staff are looking for. On Wednesdays and Fridays, Mark Bullock checks in with screengrab-based examinations of players who could be available early, middle and late in the draft. On Mondays and Thursdays, Mike Jones will report on players at the positions the Redskins need most, and provide top 10s. On Monday, Mike previewed tackles.

Here’s Mark’s third installment, following his looks at safeties and interior offensive linemen:

High round: Stephon Tuitt

Tuitt is a scout’s nightmare. He’s the word every scout and coach hates in a prospect, “inconsistent.” When you watch him against USC this past season, he looks like the next J.J. Watt and a top-10 talent. But then, if you watch some of his other games, he looks ordinary at best. Some coaches will pass on him because he’s too inconsistent, while others will see his talent and believe they can help improve his consistency. When he’s playing well, he’s a force on defense who can play both the run and the pass effectively.

run d 1a

Here, Tuitt lines up over the left tackle as a 5-technique defensive end. USC is running the ball right at him.

run d 1b

Tuitt attacks the inside shoulder of the left tackle, keeping his pad level low. This gives him control of the block as the tackle struggles to stop Tuitt from knocking him off balance.

run d 1c

Once Tuitt gains control of the block, he gets his eyes on the runner.

run d 1e

The back attempts to cut behind Tuitt, but Tuitt is able to peel off his block and easily make the play, a tackle for a loss.

Tuitt is also capable of taking on tandem blocks.

double team 1a

USC is again running the ball at Tuitt. This time, the left guard will attempt to help the left tackle with the initial block.

double team 1b

Just like before, Tuitt attacks the inside shoulder of the left tackle and keeps his pad level low. He gains leverage over the left tackle despite the guard’s efforts to help.

double team 1c

The guard is forced to peel off and block a linebacker, leaving Tuitt one-on-one with the tackle again. Tuitt gets his eyes in the backfield again and locates the runner. He positions himself in such a way that gives him two ways to go, where he can make the play on the back regardless of the cut the back takes.

double team 1d

The running back continues on his path to the outside and Tuitt is able to work to the outside of the tackle. He sticks an arm out as the runner passes and is able to latch on, eventually bringing the back to the ground for a minimal gain.

Tuitt is more than just a run defender though. He’s very capable at rushing the passer.

sack 1a

On this play, Tuitt takes more of an inside shade than we saw in the two plays above. He displays his versatility here, moving from a 5-technique inside to a 3-technique on this play.

sack 1b

Tuitt uses his hands extremely well on this play. He fights initially to stop the left guard from getting his hands on to Tuitt’s chest.

sack 1c

Tuitt then drops his hands low, dragging those of the left guard down. That forces the guard to lean too far forward and allows Tuitt to pull him past his center of gravity.

sack 1d

Tuitt disengages and slips past the guard effortlessly …

sack 1e

… before delivering a big hit to the quarterback. The play happened much too quickly for the quarterback to react and throw a check-down pass.

That’s a sample of what Tuitt is capable of, and what makes him such a tempting prospect. However, a lot of his games aren’t played with the same intensity or quality that he displayed in this USC game. It’ll be interesting to see just how high he’s picked and how consistent he can be in the NFL.

Projection: Late first/early second

Middle round: Justin Ellis

Ellis is a player that immediately reminded me of current Redskin Chris Baker. He’s a big-bodied (6 feet 2, 334 pounds), penetrating defensive lineman. Like Baker, he can line up at nose tackle, shift outside to defensive end, or play 3-technique in nickel sub packages. He has incredible strength that almost forces offenses to double team him.

run d 1a

Here Ellis lines up a shade outside the left shoulder of the center in a four-man front. The offense is running to the left side of the offensive line.

run d 1b

Ellis explodes off the line and drives the blocker three yards back from the line of scrimmage.

run d 1c

The running back attempts to cut back inside to the hole created by Ellis, but Ellis is able to reach back and cover that lane, so the back tries desperately to bounce back outside.

run d 1d

But Ellis is able to grab onto the running back and bring him down behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.

Ellis was just too strong and powerful to be blocked by one man. This proved true on passing plays too. Ellis found himself taking on double teams to allow his edge rushers one-on-one matchups. Despite being double teamed, he was still able to generate pressure.

pass rush 1a

This time, Ellis lines up directly over the center.

pass rush 1b

The center is pushed back immediately by Ellis, forcing the right guard to come across to help.

pass rush 1c

But Ellis is still able to generate some push, driving both blockers back towards the quarterback. The quarterback has little room to properly step into his throw and is forced to throw earlier than he would have liked thanks to the pressure up the middle from Ellis.

Ellis struggles with things that Baker struggles with. He needs to work on maintaining his gap rather than looking to blow up every play. He pulls off flashy plays like the tackle for loss we saw above, but he also opens running lanes behind him when he concentrates on just penetrating. If he misses the tackle or the back is able to cut back more effectively, he could cost the defense a big play.

Projection: Third/fourth round

Late round: Daniel McCullers

McCullers might be one of the biggest players in this draft. He measures in at a massive 6-7, 352. That size and weight makes him a solid player against the run, but limits him somewhat as a pass rusher. McCullers will make his money on first and second down as he enters the NFL.

run d 1a

This play is a great example of McCullers’s effectiveness against the run. He lines up outside the left guard. Georgia is running the ball away from him, to the right side of the offensive line.

run d 1b

Georgia wants its left guard to get off McCullers and work to the second level to pick up the linebacker.

run d 1c

But McCullers manages to occupy not only the left guard, but the left tackle as well. That allows the linebacker to read the play and roam freely. Thanks to McCullers occupying the extra blocker, the linebacker is able to bounce outside and make the tackle for a minimal gain.

Keeping linebackers clean is essential, especially in the 3-4 defense that the Redskins run. That ability to occupy blockers will make him an attractive option, but his lack of ability at pass rushing will cause teams to think twice about him.

limited rush 1a

Here against Alabama, McCullers is matched up one-on-one with the left guard.

limited rush 1b

Because of his height, he struggles to keep his pad level lower than that of his blocker. Against the run, his size stops him from getting pushed back, but when he needs to rush the passer, his height works against him. The high pad level makes it easier for the smaller guards to get under him, set and anchor.

limited rush 1c

He lacks any real pass rush move and doesn’t use his hands well. The guard here was able to get his hands on McCullers’s chest, get underneath him and set and anchor. McCullers had no response and was stonewalled.

Without developing his ability to rush the passer, McCullers is purely a two-down player as he enters the NFL.

Projection: Fifth round

Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions of the Redskins without the benefit of access to the team.

More Redskins and NFL from The Post:

Jenkins: Moving draft carnival to May means more time for blather

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The Early Lead: Thirty prospects will attend the draft | More NFL news

Redskins’ picks | Draft order | Insider draft posts | Bog | Fancy Stats

Redskins’ schedule: Out tonight at 8 | List of opponents, poll | Prime time history

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