Once news broke about the Undrafted Free Agents the Cowboys had signed, it didn't take long for the buzz to hone in on the two Defensive Ends brought into the fold.
As I followed the comments after offering an analysis of the speedier UDFA signings, the discussion quickly re-centered on the two pass-rushing prospects. For obvious reasons, I became curious. I started watching tape of the two prospects, and they're not the small-school elite pass-rushing clones they've been made out to be. In fact, they're two very different, very intriguing prospects who bring different backgrounds, skills, and flaws with them to the Cowboys' training camp.
What did we get? Find out after the jump...
A quick perusal of your search engine of choice should generate some information on this small-school prodigy.
Here's his 2011 resume:
26.5 Tackles for Loss
6 Forced Fumbles
2 Pass Breakups
Those 20.5 sacks give him the conference record for single-season sacks previously held by Robert Mathis (who isn't doing so bad for himself in the NFL). One of the primary concerns, especially for the Cowboys, is whether or not that pass-rush ability will translate to the stand-up linebacker position.
After reviewing his highlight reel, it's apparent that he rushes equally effectively from a two-point stance as when he has his hand in the dirt. He's still 10-20 pounds away from being able to use a 3-point stance on the Cowboys' roster, so this is welcome news.
Speaking of his highlight reel, here it is:
Note that the end of the video contains contact information for Hamilton's agent - this video is not what could be considered unbiased information.
For the total picture, we turn to scouting reports. I found a particularly detailed report (which isn't common for prospects rated so lowly) from NFL Draft Monsters.com. I won't attempt to block quote from it - I recommend you read it yourself, as there is quite a wealth of information.
The negatives, however, are the most important (because highlight reels tend to avoid examples of these things). In Hamilton's case, his main drawback is his hand positioning. He excels at using sheer athleticism to run around offensive linemen. Essentially, with his poor hand placement, he stands little chance against NFL-level talent.
What the video showcases nicely, though, is his relatively wide array of pass-rush moves (not the least of which is his spin move) - moves that can only improve through continued contact with DeMarcus Ware.
All-in-all, Hamilton has the potential to be a player that thrives on hard work, hones his craft, and eventually becomes very productive for the Cowboys.
Fair warning: this is going to be an apples to oranges comparison. Aston Whiteside, unlike Hamilton, does not have a propaganda video circulating at the moment. Nor does he have a wealth of scouting information on him. Because of this, I had to track down some actual game film and watch him play. The outcome - I've got a good idea of how Whiteside actually plays, but it's out of context, as I haven't devoted this much attention to any other player.
I'd be lying if I said that this wasn't an exercise in frustration. You'll see what I mean (Whiteside is #2 in blue):
This is a game against University of North Alabama (familiar? that's where Janoris Jenkins finished his career). The 8:40 mark of the video shows a bit of what I mean. When the play doesn't go his way, or he's asked to chase down a play downfield, you'll see him jogging downfield with no apparent desire to put his head in front of someone and hit. Instead, he stays near the play, and waits for someone else to make the tackle, at which point he simply watches.
Worth noting is that this video was uploaded by a UNA fan - and as such may be missing any of Whiteside's potential highlights.
I'm not sure what level of competition UNA represents (though I haven't heard of any elite tackles coming out of there), and so I sought out more video. I struck gold in that department, coming across the ACU full-game film archive. Better yet, some of the games weren't behind a pay wall. You can find it here.
The game I reviewed, linked above, is ACU's homecoming game against West Texas A&M. The announcers clearly feel that Whiteside is an elite player. Watching the game shows a mixed bag. The first problem is that Whiteside plays Left Defensive End in a 3-man front. He begins plays in a four-point stance. This doesn't exactly translate to standing up at Outside Linebacker without some growing pains.
Almost immediately, Whiteside made his presence felt by getting around his opposition, and forcing the quarterback to acknowledge his presence. Somewhat alarming, however, is the frequency with which he missed potential sacks. It's not often that you see an elite (at that level) pass rusher run straight at a quarterback, only to have him attempt and miss an arm tackle.
He was not in any way a wrap up, drive through form tackler. He didn't punish the opposition. Rather, he grabbed players and pulled them to the ground. This will need to be seriously addressed in training camp, as he won't be able to bring any NFL quarterback with the sort of effort he showed on film.
If you're watching the video, moving to the 56:24 mark showcases his amazing spin move, followed by a failure to finish the play.
Also disappointing is the apparent motor that he plays with. On running plays, quick passes, and other plays requiring additional effort, he appears disinterested. He pursues minimally from behind and is very reluctant to join in on gang tackles. At one point, he missed the snap of the ball. At a small disadvantage, he abandoned pass rush, played near the line of scrimmage, and put his hands up to bat down the ball (also mistimed).
I don't dislike Whiteside. I'm not quite sure what to think of him. He has an incredibly quick spin move, and an inside counter that he uses to set it up. He takes plays off, though, and I'm not sure how problematic that is (is he saving energy on instruction by coaches, or is he just not a high-motor guy?). As a potential linebacker, he'll have to learn to play out of a two-point stance (or beef up, and stay on the line at his natural five-tech position).
Overall, Whiteside, in my opinion, has a higher ceiling as a professional. There's a caveat, though. I believe he has a higher ceiling if he remains at defensive end, and it's still a small difference in potential. Whiteside's speed simply translates better to 3-4 end than Hamilton's to OLB. On the other side of the discussion, Whiteside offers little as an immediate contributor, while Hamilton could, in theory, immediately play a few snaps at OLB.
The Cowboys got two of the best available, if not the absolute best, when they signed these two as free agents. It's not often that such productive pass rushers are passed over for seven rounds, and then wind up on your favorite team. These guys will be exciting to watch in camp, to say the least. Is it July yet?