Every summer, film study is interesting for the NFL Draft. For this summer and the 2021 NFL Draft process, it’s no different. This week I’ve spent a great deal of time watching the Penn State defense that was headlined by Yetur Gross-Matos and a supporting cast of Cameron Brown, Robert Windsor, and John Reid in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, their star linebacker, Micah Parsons, is still on the team. But Parsons isn’t the only player returning for the 2020 season in hopes of securing their status for the 2021 NFL Draft. One player on their defense ready to see his draft stock soar is edge rusher Shaka Toney.
Underrated during much of his time on a football field, Toney was a three-star recruit out of the Imhotep Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He didn’t have all of the big time offers to USC and Alabama like so many other players. Instead, he received offers from teams like West Virginia and North Carolina, but without question, Penn State was the best team on the list of schools that offered him, per 24/7 Sports. With the 2020 college football season ostensibly around the corner, it’s his time for Toney to showcase what kind of edge rusher he can be for an NFL team during the 2021 NFL Draft.
Inside Hand Usage with Consistent Rip Move
It would be wrong of me to say that every single pass rush from Shaka Toney is him utilizing a rip move or chop down with his inside hand. However, he does look to use that move more than any other pass rush move he has in his arsenal. It’s certainly a big reason why he had 6.5 sacks during the 2019 season. Here’s an example of him using that inside hand on his pass rush.
Without question, Toney’s best game of the season was against Purdue last year. He had three sacks and gave the right tackle trouble all day long. On the play above, you can see a good start as he times the snap well, but watch what he does with his inside hand. He chops down with his right hand/arm and follows through with the rip move. This gets him to the top of his rush, where he’s able to turn the corner, flatten his hips to the quarterback and bring him down for the sack.
Straight Speed, Baby.
Much like the play above, Shaka Toney will use the inside chop with the rip move to bring the quarterback down on the next play. However, I don’t want to focus on the chop or rip move. Instead, let’s focus on the speed and overall get-off from Toney.
Aligned in a wide-9 technique, Toney shows a great stance. His inside hand is down, his butt is up (indicating he’s a full-go to the backfield) and his back is flat. This sprinter stance indicates what he’s expecting from Purdue, and that’s a pass play. Once the ball is snapped, you can see that Toney is the first player off the ball. In fact, he’s so quick that the right tackle immediately turns his lower body toward Toney to try and catch him, but speed kills, and Toney chases down the quarterback with great pursuit.
Much like the previous play, Toney uses his speed to get to the quarterback. He uses his inside hand (left hand) to rip through and get to the quarterback. In the process, he also drops his inside shoulder, which helps him turn his body toward the quarterback. Ultimately, his speed is what helps him on his path to the sack.
Crossing the Opposition
As I mentioned, Toney had a field day against Purdue. The following play showcases that, and it’s one of the better rushes I’ve seen from him because it’s all finesse. It shows the type of elusiveness and flexibility he has in his lower body.
Watching the play above, you can see that finesse being put on display. On the initial path of his rush, Toney shows that he’s going to rush on the outside shoulder of the right tackle. In the process, he crosses over the right tackle like a point guard in the NBA and redirects himself inside. This gives him a much easier path, as the right tackle false steps and can’t recover.
Spying the QB
Traditional edge rushers are going after the quarterback 99% of the time off the edge. Toney was asked at times to do different things for the Penn State defense. For example, he was asked to spy the quarterback a few times when playing Indiana.
Playing within the middle of the defense, you can see where Toney is aligned in the A-gap, and he’s just reading the quarterback the entire way. This is a good sign to see when talking about scheme versatility, especially for the next level. This will allow defenses to drop their linebackers as mid-hook defenders or bring in that nickel back or safety up into man coverage responsibilities so Toney can play the middle of the field and spy a more mobile quarterback. It won’t happen all the time, as he’s talented enough to rush off the edge most of the time, but it’s still a promising sign for the talented edge rusher.
Stopping the Run and Designed Screen
For edge rushers, it’s not just about rushing the passer. I’ve often said this, and in most of my film breakdowns you will see them stopping the run. How about those designed screens? There are certain blocks, such as free releases from the offensive line or chop blocks, that are dead giveaways a designed screen is coming. Shaka Toney shows that he has the ability to feel, read, and react to a chop block on a designed screen.
On the play above, Toney is aligned against the right tackle, and he gets hit hard with a chop block from him. With the expectation of knocking him down, the right tackle doesn’t succeed, and Toney is able to maintain his balance, keep his feet, and get back in time to make the tackle on the wide receiver. In the process, he almost tips the pass and brings it down with a pass deflection, but regardless, it’s a good tackle and overall read from him.
Much like earlier, Toney shows on a consistent basis that he’s one of the faster players when it comes to jumping the snap. Against Pittsburgh, they show what looks like a trap play. Toney beats the right tackle into the C-gap and meets the pulling guard in the backfield. Due to his disruptiveness in the backfield, Penn State is able to stop Pittsburgh on this run and it leads to no gain.
Standing at 6’3″ and 236 pounds, there will be some concerns with his overall weight and whether Shaka Toney can get stronger, especially when he has to squeeze things down and fight pressure with pressure on the outside. However, he’s shown some versatility and the ability to consistently win with speed rather than power. There’s a place for that at the next level, no matter how you want to view it.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Shaka Toney earned an overall grade of 81.2, which was third best on the entire team for returning players. Meanwhile, he had 39 quarterback pressures (highest on the team), according to Sports Info Solutions (SIS). Even though the sack numbers don’t replicate those from Chase Young or Toney’s teammate, Yetur Gross-Matos, the disruptiveness is there for teams to covet when considering an edge rusher for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Moving on to the 2020 season, he’ll need to develop a more consistent pass rush plan, but the tools have slowly been developed within his toolbox. From his overall speed rush to his spin move and the inside chop with the rip move, polishing those skills can make him one of the better pass rushers in the Big Ten, and possibly the country. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of college football happens in the fall, but I can guarantee that the 2021 NFL Draft stock for Shaka Toney is ready to soar.
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