When the Vikings axed the final year from Kevin Williams’ contract, the writing was on the wall.  The success of our defense revolves around the front four, that’s been obvious for quite some time.  Williams will turn 33 before the regular season starts, and his play has gradually declined over the last few seasons.  If the Vikings were to draft a defensive tackle, a nose tackle like Jesse Williams would have made a bigger immediate impact immediately.  Having a three technique of the future in place is probably more important though.  The Vikings have long relied on Kevin Williams’ ability to create pressure from the inside as well as make plays in the running game, both in the backfield and down the line.

So where does that leave Sharrif Floyd in the short term?  He likely projects as both a rotational three technique with Williams and a pass rush specialist in fitting situations.  He brings versatility to the packages Alan Williams can use in his front four.  Keeping defensive linemen fresh by rotating them in and out is a big plus when you have the depth to pull it off.  Let’s dig into the kind of things Floyd can bring to the table as well as some of the things that need to be developed.

As a run defender, Floyd exhibits an exceptional ability to free himself from blocks with his hands and has the feet to redirect and chase the football quickly.  Here’s an example of that against Vanderbilt:

Floyd1.1

Vanderbilt is running a simple power play out of a direct snap formation to running back Zac Stacy.  Floyd gets a guard pull and a center whose job it is to wall him off.  The right tackle is stepping down, but he has to fan out to the defensive end, which means Floyd has a 1 v. 1 situation.

Floyd1.2One of the marquee traits of Sharrif Floyd is a quick first step.  He uses that to his advantage here, shooting the backside gap the pulling guard leaves for him.  His first step is much quicker than the center’s, who is forced to lunge at Floyd at the expense of his balance.

Floyd1.3Floyd uses his hands to keep those of the center off his frame while fighting through what contact the right tackle is making with him.  He bends around the attempted block of the center and then does something few defensive tackles can do, and it’s what makes this play possible.  He puts his outside foot into the ground and redirects down the line on a dime.  Most defensive tackles needs two if not three steps to redirect their momentum.  Floyd’s lower body coordination is such that he can change directions in a way that few others can.

Floyd1.4Then of course Floyd uses that 4.87 speed to chase down the line and make the tackle for a limited gain.  Jumping the backside gap of the center and redirecting to make that play from the backside is rare and requires exceptional athleticism and body control.

The next play I’ll break down is an example of Floyd’s ability to get his hands into the chest of a run blocker, shed the block after reading the intentions of the back, and putting his foot into the ground to pursue.

Floyd2.1Georgia is trying to catch the Florida defense overpursuing by starting everything to the right before the fullback bends back to the left and Todd Gurley cuts back to follow his lead blocker behind the down blocks of his left tackle and left guard.  While the center and right guard double on Dominique Easley down to a linebacker, Floyd is facing a 1 v. 1 with the left guard.  The guard wants Floyd to read the initial direction of Gurley and the fullback.  He wants Floyd to drive on that first read in order to wall him off from the play once Gurley cuts back.

Floyd2.2

The guard actually gets Floyd right where he wants him on initial contact, except for one crucial point.  He’s given up his chest to the hands of Floyd.  You can see Floyd’s left hand on the chestplate of the guard.  His right hand is in great position too.  So while the guard has directional leverage on Floyd, it’s not going to be enough.

Floyd2.3Floyd picks up the cutback of Gurley and can throw the guard to the inside because of how he hand his hands are placed.  He has now freed himself to plant and drive on the football.

Floyd2.4We’ve seen this story before.  Floyd has the nimble feet to redirect his momentum.  In this occasion, he’s closed down the hole for Todd Gurley and ends up getting a piece of him before he’s brought down for a minimal gain.  This play is actually something Floyd doesn’t do that often, but it’s important to see him flash the ability to do it.  He has a bad habit of wanting to jump behind a block and then using his athleticism to try and chase, instead of stacking the block at the line and fighting back against the direction the blocker wants to take him.  It’s something he needs to work on, considering the speed of the NFL and it’s ball carriers will make it more difficult to simply  shoot behind blockers to try and chase.  He has the skillset to be a stack and shed defensive tackle at the point of attack though, as this play shows.

This next play is an example of a technical deficiency in Floyd’s game at the moment and it’s something that plagues him in the running game as well as the passing game.  It’s pad level.

Floyd3.1

Louisville has called a simple inside zone running play.  The objective of the play is for each lineman to get lateral movement off the snap.  In this case it’s a step to the left.  The blockers up front will simply engage the Florida front four and let the running back cut based on how he reads the run fits of the linebackers and where the hole opens up based on how the Florida defensive lineman play their gaps.  In this instance, Sharrif Floyd ends up in a 1 v. 1 situation with the right guard.

Floyd3.2Notice how the inside linebacker is aggressively filling the weakside A gap.  The back is reading that and will cut back towards Floyd’s outside gap.  Floyd has put himself behind the eight ball on first contact here though.  Notice how he has popped straight up and has now lost the leverage battle up front with the right guard.  This will make it more difficult if not impossible to control the blocker and shed once the back cuts his way.

Floyd3.3Because he gave up his chest to the run blocker, shedding the block requires extra time and effort, and in this case requires him to spin away from it completely.  It’s too late though.  The guard has gotten Floyd moved a yard off the ball and has him turned around completely.  He’s unable to control his outside gap and the back is sprung into the open field for a big gain as a result.  So while Floyd has quick feet, active hands, and an explosive first step, when he’s asked to stack a blocker at the line and keep his shoulders square to the play the results are mixed at best.  If he can be taught to shoot into contact instead of popping up on the snap, it will allow do wonders for his pad level and allow him to make better use of his functional strength at the point of attack.

Let’s get into Sharrif Floyd’s ability as a pass rusher.  He is actually a bit disappointing when it comes to his rushing production.  He has some correctable faults.  Even so, he has all the natural ability to be an extremely disruptive presence as an interior rusher.

Floyd4.1

Will Muschamp knows the Missouri offense is in a passing situation here.  He’s only going to bring three guys, but disguises it and is able to catch the Missouri front hesitating as a result.  The outside linebacker will blitz on the edge while Dominique Easley will drop into coverage.  Floyd will shoot to the inside gap of the left guard hoping to create havoc in James Franklin’s pocket from the inside.  This is a situation that Floyd thrives in as a pass rusher.

Floyd4.2Floyd utilizes his explosive first step beat the left guard to his inside, while the center hesitates off the snap because he has a nose tackle who drops into coverage.  Floyd is able to clear himself of both blockers with his upper body strength and chases Franklin off his spot as a result.

Floyd4.3Franklin is forced to step up to avoid Floyd and does so into the path of a late-arriving linebacker for a sack.  This play shows Floyd’s ability to muddy pockets when given an alley to do so.  He’s too quick off the snap for a pass blocker to take a false step and recover.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen as often as it should for Floyd.  This is due to a couple of reasons.  He has a tendency to pop up off the snap and doesn’t get into contact quick enough as a pass rusher.  As a whole, he’s also too finesse a rusher.  Too many times he is trying to win with hands and motor alone.  This could be due, in part, to him being asked to play as a 4-3 defensive end as a sophomore and in situations as a junior.  He doesn’t set up moves by driving into the chest of pass blockers to compromise their anchor.  When you watch Floyd operate as a rusher, you often see interior pass blockers playing on their toes and simply mirroring his lateral movements.  This finesse style and high pad level also limits his ability to push the pocket from the middle.  When he faces double teams as a rusher, he’s entirely neutralized.  If he would sink his hips and drop his pads to get pass blockers knocked back onto their heals on initial contact more often, he’d be a far more productive pass rusher.

Evaluating Sharrif Floyd, I believe he’s more raw than most would lead you to believe.  That shouldn’t curb the enthusiasm of Vikings fans though.  He’s landed in a ideal situation.  He can learn from one of the most technically sound three techniques in the league in Kevin Williams and won’t be overwhelmed by the prospects of being a day one starter with a full platter.  Floyd can become a dynamic, playmaking defensive tackle with the ability to affect a game in a high number of ways if he’s able to improve the pad level he plays with.  He can still make a big impact as a rookie, with exceptional burst, hand usage, and motor.

Thanks to the folks at draftbreakdown.com for the video that was used.  If you’d like to watch for yourself, check out these Sharrif Floyd videos: Missouri, Texas A&M, Louisville, Georgia, Florida State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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