The Bills believed that their biggest needs were on the defensive side of the ball, so they addressed those areas with their first three picks. The draft fell perfectly in place for the Bills allowing them to get two maybe three possible starters at key positions to the defense.
Adolphus Washington at the Senior Bowl
With an apparent shift to more of a 3-4 base defense, the Bills needed to add talent that fit the scheme but still maintained the attack style of defense that Rex Ryan loves. Adding defensive tackle Adolphus Washington to the rotation along the defensive line will definitely bolster a defense that was 19th in passing yards given up in 2015.
Washington started 30 games while at Ohio State and won 28, so when Whaley says that the Bills are trying to bring in winners, he is not kidding. The senior finished his career with 142 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 25.0 tackles for loss (TFL). In his final season he finished with 51 tackles (35 solo), 5 sacks, 8 QB hits, 35 hurries and 26 run disruptions. At this stage in his career he is better as a pass rusher than a run stuffer. He was ranked as the 6th most productive defensive tackle in the nation when the QB had 2.5 seconds or less (PFF). That matches up perfectly with the style of play that you see on film. He can penetrate from the interior positions.
Adolphus obviously has the size to play in the NFL, but his success in his rookie year will hinge upon how he is utilized. Rex told Adolphus that he wanted to bring him in to play right away, if that is true his most likely position will be as a 5 technique defensive end and nickel pass rusher.
When you turn on the film you see glimpses of how his game will translate into the Bills scheme. He closely resembles a former Ravens player that Rex spent plenty of time with in Dwan Edwards.
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Edwards was drafted by the Ravens in the second round in the 2004 draft when Ryan was the defensive line coach. Once Rex became coordinator in 2005 Edwards’ playing time and production increased.
As you can see Washington only bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times, so he needs to increase his upper and lower body strength. As a defender at the point of attack, his lack of ideal strength doesn’t allow him to anchor down versus double teams.
The center fires out of his stance lower, as the guard brings the power. Washington is knocked back and unable to clog the middle for the Buckeyes.
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I thought that his 2014 game tape was more useful in determining where he will fit in the Bills defense. In 2014 he was often aligned as a nose tackle. In college he held his own from that position, but I believe that he can not be used at that position full time yet. Where Rex could use him from the nose position is on passing downs, when Rex loves to utilize his odd fronts. Similar to this play by Kelly Gregg.
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Here he is aligned at the nose and uses his burst off the snap then rips through the block for a QB pressure. According to Urban Meyer his former coach, Washington is a defensive end in a defensive tackles body. Pro Football Focus had him as the 3rd highest grade as a pass rusher in the nation last year. That is evident on this play, he has the short area burst of a defensive end but the size of a defensive tackle.
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Another pressure from a shade position over the center. This offers Rex many options on passing downs. He typically likes to be in those odd front or shows disguised looks. Having a talented pass rusher with his length could create problems.
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In pass rush situations Rex can dial up any number of looks, but even in this 3-4 under defense having penetrating players at defensive end can cause issues for the QB.
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Rex has a multitude of alignments that could get Adolphus in one on one scenarios but he might not have to. The Bills have some talented players that can penetrate and create on their own. Washington will probably be the last player coordinators will game-plan for. But get him one on one where he can just rush the passer, and he will be a plus player.
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Rex loves his odd front fire zone blitzes and Washington would excel in these calls. On fire zone blitzes, defensive tackles and defensive ends are often asked to jump gaps or occupy lineman to free up blitzing backers. Such as this Laser Bear call from Rex’ playbook.
The lateral agility that Washington possesses fits perfectly on these play calls. Look at how he aligns over the center but on the snap has the speed and agility to jump to the B gap, perform an arm over move and get the sack.
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As you can see he has the pass rush abilities to start at the next level but does he have the run stopping abilities to start at defensive end? In 3-4 defensive schemes the defensive lineman are asked to hold the point of attack and occupy players. That is why Washington fits well as a 5 tech defensive end. This play shows how disruptive he can be. He over powers the guard trying to block him and the pulling guard has to help seal the hole because Washington has the upper hand. He occupied two blockers and that let the inside backer fill and make the tackle.
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At the NFL level he will have growing pains though, his attack mentality will get him into trouble at times as teams will use his aggressiveness against him. On this play he shoots the gap and Michigan State runs a trap play, an easy counter to penetrating defensive tackles. Notice the unusual spacing between the left guard and center, that was done to widen Washington making the trap block that much easier and makes the hole much bigger.
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One thing that Rex loves in his defensive lineman are long arms. This trait is critical to two gapping schemes because defensive lineman are asked to stack and defend two gaps. Washington has 34 1/2 inch arms allowing him to stack. But he does need to improve upon that skill. He needs to work on jolting lineman on contact to help him set the line of scrimmage. With lots of reps I believe that he can be taught to be a better run defender.
Here is a play where he does a good job of stacking. He is aligned as a shade over the center and the center blocks back on him. Washington easily stacks him with his right arm and keeps his outside arm free.
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But this play is as good as it gets when it comes to stacking. He fires out, wins the hand battle. His long arms are used quite well. He stays in control, eyes on the back and just shuffles down the line of scrimmage to make the tackle. You can see the lineman trying to establish some kind of grip, but Washington’s arms are just too long. Very good job.
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He can get washed down at times, but that isn’t always bad. He is so big and disruptive he brings two lineman along for the ride allowing his backers to clean up.
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There are times where he can easily get turned or manhandled. With some proper coaching of leverage, keys and how to read blocking schemes he will improve in that department.
The Bills had a successful draft when you consider the positions they needed to address. They got tremendous value in just about each round. Adolphus Washington is a player that I expect to get a lot of snaps next season primarily because he has a lot of the traits that two gapping defensive players need. I believe that Rex and Whaley want to insert him into the lineup sooner than later because as we all know this is a passing league. He offers tremendous value as a pass rusher, almost too much to not have on the field. His weaknesses such as technique, pad level and consistency of stacking can all be taught. His upside is tremendous and the Bills will want to take advantage of his size and skill in just about every defensive look.
Expect to see him play defensive end when the Bills are in their 3-4 defense and for him to steal some snaps from Corbin Bryant and Kyle Williams in nickel rush situations. He has several pass rush moves and counters so he will create havoc up the middle, something that the defense has to get better at. Many scouts had 2nd round grades on him, but the fall of Jarran Reed and A’shawn Robinson into the second round pushed Washington into the third. Allowing the Bills to select him with the hopes that he will be a starter on their defense.
Breakdowns of Bills draft selections:
Round 1- Shaq Lawson
Round 2- Reggie Ragland
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