Haason Reddick is a player whose stock has risen tremendously over the last couple of months. He has had an interesting career track since setting foot on campus at Temple. Reddick walked onto the team as a safety and paid his dues early on by playing on special teams. His athleticism was just too good not to have on the field, but the staff struggled to find where he would fit best. During his redshirt freshman season, he played his first defensive snaps as a Sam linebacker but finished the season as a defensive end.
Once they settled on his role, Reddick began to flourish. Each season his craft improved, and so did his production. Reddick is a player who earned the respect of his peers, and as such, they awarded him with a single digit jersey number. The team gives single digit numbers to players who they believe are the toughest on the squad. That’s why this season he wore #7, and the confidence he gained as a result led him to have his best season as an Owl.
At the Senior Bowl, he began his transition to off the ball linebacker. Reddick measures in at 6’1 1/2″ and 237 pounds, so you can imagine why he was being converted to linebacker. At that size, he would have trouble playing down in and down out defensive end on Sundays. However, I do believe that he could play any of the linebacker positions in a 4-3.
He has good athletic ability, including a very good first step, which was confirmed at the NFL Combine. Reddick posted a 7.01 three cone (7th best) and a 4.52 forty yard dash, which was second best amongst defensive lineman and linebackers combined. His vert of 33.5 inches was best among defensive lineman and 7th among DL and LBs, and finally, his 133″ broad jump was the best of both positions.
As was often the case on 3rd and long, he was a pass rusher from a two point stance. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Reddick registered a 14 pass rush productivity grade which included 42 total total pressures. On this play, he flashes his athleticism. By his third step, he has the tackle perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.
He is keying the quarterback’s drop. The QB took a three step drop out of shotgun, which put him at about eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. Reddick continues his pass rush wide. Now matched up with a running back, he performs an arm over move to get by.
As he clears the back, the quarterback feels the pressure and decides to pull the ball down and climb the pocket. This is where Reddick displays his very good feet and change of direction. He plants off his left foot, cuts back, and brings the QB down.
But it doesn’t end there. He rips at the ball in an attempt to cause a fumble. This is a great display of what he brings as a pass rusher.
He has a stutter rush and a sharp inside rush that I think can still be developed further but it is something that led to 28 QB hurries. You can see it flash on the following play. He rushes up field, but on that first step he darts back into the B gap and rips through the tackle, forcing the QB to get rid of the ball quickly.
This sudden change of direction will be very useful at the next level on stunts and twists.
His up the field explosiveness is what drives his game as a pass rusher and what led to 10 sacks in 2016. Before the ball is even snapped, Reddick is in the lineman’s head, which gives him the upper hand he needed as an undersized defensive lineman. Look at how he maximizes his explosiveness, leverage and pass rush moves.
Look at this play to get an idea of his explosiveness. Penn State appears to call a run pass option, and Reddick gets a fantastic jump on the tackle. By his second step he is past the left tackle.
Reddick plays with tremendous play speed. He turns the corner and recognizes the QB putting the ball in the belly of the running back, so he takes an appropriate angle.
As the QB pulls the ball to hit the pop pass to the tight end, Reddick changes his angle of rush to the QB. Reddick had the corner by his third step — an amazing blend of athletic ability and mental processing.
Here’s the full play:
It’s quite clear that he can rush the passer, and those skills are probably why he registered 17.5 sacks for his career. The transition to linebacker at the next level will be an adjustment, but there are reasons why scouts think he should be able to make the move. His versatility was on full display at the Senior Bowl, and one could argue that he was the best player on the field.
During practice, he showed the ability to carry out assignments with ease. For example, he can cover a tight end in man coverage. Tight ends nowadays are freak athletes, and you are not always going to win with your athleticism, especially in man coverage. Reddick gets beat inside, but he doesn’t panic. He just reads the man. Again, his mental processing flourishes. The tight end has him beat to the out, but Reddick makes the throw a tough one (up and over him), but as soon as the TE catches it he rips it out. Making plays on the ball will lead to a long career in the NFL, and Reddick’s ball skills are good because he has played in the secondary before. He needs some work on his overall man coverage skills, as he tends to be grabby, but the arrow definitely points up in that area.
Reddick playing m2m in senior bowl. Tight coverage and rips the ball out at the end. pic.twitter.com/8A4LykM0Bo
— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) March 8, 2017
How well he can play zone coverage in space is yet to be determined. He didn’t do much of it in college, other than an occasional drop into the hook/curl area or flats responsibilities to the boundary. But whether he is in zone or man, he is always processing the play properly. Here, he provides underneath help to the corner by dropping. Look at him play the man. As soon as the WR hits the top of the route and displays the behavior that he is going to break back on the ball, Reddick turns his head and makes a play by high pointing the pass for the interception.
Taking away quarterbacks’ options and passing lanes is the name of the game in zone coverage, and Reddick is able to do that.
He was asked to carry out all types of responsibilities in the Temple defense, including spying mobile quarterbacks. Temple calls a cover 2 defense with Reddick as the spy on third down. The QB leaves the pocket, but Reddick shuts down the initial running lane, so the QB bounces it wide. Reddick keeps very good leverage on the ball and forces the QB to throw it away, forcing fourth down. When the defense needed a big play, they counted on Reddick and his very good mental toughness to execute.
Against the run, his size and play strength limited his ability to win one-on-one. Temple often schemed to get Reddick in space to make plays, but the rest was in his hands. Playing in space so often allowed Reddick to register 47 tackles for loss! Here’s a run blitz that gets Reddick in space.
He never let the team down and always played with tenacity and hustle. Here’s another third down stop, giving the offense the ball late in the game.
Questions about his transition to an off the ball linebacker position have to do with his weaknesses against the run. He has trouble defeating one-on-one blocks. If this occurred at the college level, then you know it will creep up on Sundays. On this play, Reddick is easily sealed by the tight end, which gives the running back the edge for a considerable gain.
The Bills’ defense is in a complete rebuild. They are changing from a 3-4, man based defense to a 4-3, zone defense. So the roles and responsibilities will change in a major way. The linebackers in a Sean McDermott defense are typically some of the most athletic LBs in the league. Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson both played safety in their collegiate careers, and Luke Kuechly is just a rare specimen. Those LBs were asked to do a lot in coverage, an area in which the Bills linebackers aren’t the most adept. Sure, they can drop to a landmark in the hook to curl area, but that’s not something many teams coach anymore. Zone coverage has become matchup based. If an outside linebacker is responsible for the hook/flats, he doesn’t just run to said landmark. Rather, he plays the nearest threat to the landmark. With that said, linebackers have to be athletic and versatile.
They must possess very good change of direction skills, one of Reddick’s top traits. He uses it in coverage as well as any linebacker in the draft. The running back may leak to his side, changing his responsibility from rush to man coverage. He has the fluidity and intelligence to take away the RB.
His skills as a pass rusher could be quite useful to Buffalo if slotted as a Will LB in McDermott’s defense. According to Pro Football Focus, in 2016, Thomas Davis blitzed the 5th most for all outside linebackers. He blitzed 15.4% of his snaps, registered three sacks, two QB hits, and 15 QB hurries. His 20 total pressures and 15.6 pass rush productivity led all outside linebackers.
In my opinion, right now, with LBs Lorenzo Alexander (Sam), Reggie Ragland and Preston Brown as Mike LBs and Ramon Humber (Will) slotted as starters, I worry that the Bills will not have that type of athleticism needed along the second level — specifically, pass rushing ability from their linebackers. Alexander will definitely be an early down backer, primarily playing the Sam LB, so there will be times where he won’t be an option as a pass rusher from the LB position.
Haason Reddick has a nice blend of athleticism, intelligence, pass rush, and coverage skills that fit a typical Sean McDermott defense. Depending on how the board falls, he is a player that should be considered in the first half of the first round. Trading back, getting an extra pick, and selecting this talented player should be explored. The versatile defender’s skills simply scream Sean McDermott.
Grade: 86.364-1st rounder
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