Bills Archetypes: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

03/21/2019
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Over the last several weeks NFL Draft prospects have been poked, prodded, and interviewed by evaluators across the country. Each player entering the NFL Draft has some sort of measurable data now on record, and if they don’t, then they will by the end of their Pro DayPhysical attributes such as weight or arm length carry more value to some positions than others. The same can be said of the timed drills, such as the 40-yard dash or the three-cone drill. While film rules all, these data allow evaluators to paint a picture of the athlete. With an athletic profile created, general managers and personnel can now interpret and project that player into their coaches’ offensive or defensive system.

General manager Brandon Beane and assistant general manager Joe Schoen have a ton of experience scouting college and pro players. Beane helped GM Dave Gettleman from 2013-2017 construct the Panthers’ draft boards. Schoen helped evaluate players for the Dolphins in 2013, where he served as the director of college scouting, then 2014-217 as the director of player personnel. So while neither front office executive was making the decisions, their role was critical to their general managers’ overall philosophy when it came to college or pro players.

Cover 1’s Fernando Schmude and I rounded up all of the players that these two men have helped sign or draft and generated the athletic profiles that they tend to look for. This will possibly help us narrow down targets that the Bills may be looking at. Today, we are going to analyze and interpret the defensive tackle position. Based on the front office’s history, we found averages across all measurements. Since defensive tackle is an area of need, I used three measurables to narrow down the targets. The first one was a 10-yard split of 1.8 seconds or better, a 20-yard short shuttle time of 4.6 seconds or better, and then an arm length of 32.5 inches.

With the data sorted, defensive tackle Jerry Tillery from Notre Dame was one of the high profile targets that stood out. He wears #99 in all of the following clips.

Given his athletic profile and position, it is safe to say that the Bills have been doing a ton of homework on Tillery. According to Dean Kindig, Bills personnel attended three Irish games in 2018, one of which was seen by GM Beane himself.

In 42 career games, he racked up 133 total tackles, 23 for loss, and 12.5 sacks. His seven solo sacks in 2018 tied him with Quinnien Williams for second-most in the nation, and his 38 pressures ranked him fourth.

That sort of production is what the Bills are looking for in their next 3-technique defensive tackle as they look to replace Kyle Williams. Tillery was used all across the defensive line, but I think if given a shot at the 3t role, his game could be unlocked. That’s because he has a bevy of pass rush moves, and his length will create issues on passing downs. Against Stanford, he put on a clinic with his use of hands. Here, he goes for a stab-chop, but after chopping he realizes that the long-arm has the guard off-balance, so he transitions to straight power then disengages as the QB steps up in the pocket.

Given his frame, I think he still has a lot of room for growth. But as you saw above, he kicks out some power. Just imagine if he can perfect this hump move. You see it flash from time to time, and with the right coaching, he could unlock this legendary move.

https://vimeo.com/325590264

 

The Shreveport, Louisiana product’s versatility will make him appealing to just about every franchise. When you look at this front, it may be confusing. You see two defenders in two-point stances, but if you look at their alignments it’s reminiscent of an over front. It’s all just eye candy. It just looks odd because of the personnel and stances.

Tillery is essentially a defensive end, bumped out over the tight end in what is known as a 6-technique alignment. Any time the Irish had him at nose tackle or bumped wide like this on a passing down, the offense could expect some sort of stunt or twist. Typically, Tillery was the penetrator, or the guy diving into the gap while his teammate looped over the top. On the snap, he does just that. He dives into the B-gap and does a phenomenal job of using power to jam the tackle up, allowing his teammate to loop over the top and attack the soft edge created. The stunt forces the QB up into the pocket and the pass protection is in disarray. Tillery shakes free and strips the QB, and his teammate recovers the loose ball.

https://vimeo.com/325593276

 

His length is a nightmare for interior offensive linemen who typically lack that trait because he can easily land forceful blows before the lineman can land a punch.

Creating soft edges from the interior defensive line is a difficult task. Defenders must possess a certain level of quickness to get positional leverage, but they must also have the hand usage to eventually beat that edge down. Tillery shows us exactly what I mean. He’s shaded to the left of the center but on the snap jumps over to the guard. The guard power-steps to his right to protect the inside gap at the snap. The guard’s base is too wide, and now he has to deal with Tillery.

Tillery continues the assault by planting his right hand on the outside shoulder of the guard, then his athletic prowess takes over.

With his hand in place to control the guard’s movement, Tillery can now shuffle laterally to beat the edge down. He clears the lineman and gets a hit on the QB.

https://vimeo.com/325596601

Tillery’s athletic profile stands out from a speed and explosion perspective regardless of the metric. He is a top SPARQ athlete for his position, according to Three Sigma Athlete. He even posted a top-30 all-time RAS, according to Kent Lee Platte, and all of these metrics match what you see on film.

He shows tremendous short area explosion off the snap. He is typically one of the first guys off the snap, and that is something Bills fans became used to with Kyle Williams.

You can see it unfold right before your eyes as he is able to jump from a shade technique over the center into the B-gap quickly.

https://vimeo.com/325590414

But he is also a force against the run for all of the same reasons above. On this run blitz, Tillery is aligned outside the guard, but as the ball is snapped he jumps two gaps, uses his hand to hold positional leverage, then seals it with a rip move to bring down the running back.

https://vimeo.com/325598837

Tillery possesses the ideal length to keep blockers at a distance. He shows pop on contact and ability to control linemen when he wins the hand battle.

The senior defensive lineman reads blocking concepts very well and can execute run gap exchanges from down to down, and it made the fast-flowing linebackers’ jobs much easier. Tillery’s blend of power and athleticism also allows him to stack linemen then walk his body around his hands or execute a push-pull to disengage and go make the tackle.

https://vimeo.com/325600063

Blocking him 1-on-1 can be a tall task for shorter or less athletic linemen. Don’t get me wrong, center Lamont Gaillard is a dog, but he isn’t the athlete that Tillery is, and it shows on this play.

https://vimeo.com/325600262

But Tillery has a bad habit of playing with high hips off the snap, which at times can stymy any sort of plan that he may have. On zone runs when he is inserting into his gap, he struggles to maintain good pad level and balance. Add in the lack of flexion in his ankles, and you see him washed out of the play or sitting on the turf as the back blows by.

https://vimeo.com/325601160

He’s nearly 6-foot-7, so when he plays high, it gives the offensive lineman more surface area to block. Tillery also goes the power or length route too often. I would like to see him vary up his pass rush moves rather than constantly try to use his natural traits. While he shows elite athleticism, the further he gets from his initial 3-5-yard box, the less effective he is. His initial movements are quick and tough to deal with, but he loses speed the farther he has to travel and the longer the play runs. This can be seen front and center when he is the looper on stunts. His first step down the line of scrimmage is quick, but the cornering to the QB lacks the type of speed needed to consistently get a piece of the passer.

Overall, I believe that Tillery is a second-round prospect who can play in any NFL scheme. He has a high ceiling and a skill set that is still developing. His play in 2018 had average moments, but that’s because he was playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Talk about being a competitor.

Tillery had some minor hiccups early in his career but has been squeaky clean since. There have also been rumors that he is a high maintenance player, but from what I am told, that stems from his other loves outside of football. Thanks to his time at Notre Dame, he has traveled the world and has other interests besides football. Similar to what happened to Rosen last year, I think that is being taken out of context. That is also why I believe the Bills have visited or seen Notre Dame more than any other school; they are simply doing their due diligence. Some may say he isn’t “process-y” which may be true, but the staff has worked tirelessly to build a foundation of leaders and men with high character. Bringing in guys that may have a few chinks in their armor shouldn’t be an issue because of the strong locker room that has been built.

On another note, Director of Pro Personnel Dan Morgan was cross-trained as a college and pro scout while in Seattle, and they place a premium on getting athletes along the defensive line. In 2017, they drafted a similar defender in Malik McDowell.

His career was derailed due to an unfortunate injury, but he was one of five defensive tackles they drafted in the last four drafts.  I believe Morgan’s experience cross-scouting in Seattle may help the Bills draft their future at defensive tackle, and they need him to be a playmaker. Tillery could be that guy they snag in the second round if the position isn’t addressed in the first.

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