Hey Cowboys fans! As some of you might know, I'm a Giants fan over from BBV. I've been coming by here lately, just getting an idea of what shape the Cowboys are in, and ya'll seem to have a great site over here. One thing I've noticed though is there seems to be a good deal of Ryan Shazier fans here. Since I was already writing this for BBV, I figured I'd drop it off here and see what ya'lls thoughts were.
For this film study, I've decided to continue something that I started last year, and that's doing a film breakdown on a prospect that I'm really not a huge fan of. Last year, Alec Ogletree was that player for me, and this year Ryan Shazier fills that role. In many ways, Shazier and Ogletree are a lot alike. Both men are incredible athletes, at times looking like guided rockets on the field. Both are also a bit on the smaller side, and have problems with the "stack and shed" method of playing Linebacker. We'll get more into that later though.
Meet Ohio Stat's Linebacker prized Linebacker Ryan Shazier. He's a fast, productive player that managed to rack up a whopping 142 tackles, 23 of those for a loss. He also recorded six sacks, and even blocked a punt. A lot of this had to do with his blazing speed. While he didn't run at the Combine due to a hamstring issue, he clocked a 4.38 at his Pro Day (take that number with a grain of salt if you will since it was at a Pro Day, but anywhere in that neighborhood is still impressive). But in spite of this excellent speed he possesses, there are a lot of flaws that exist in his game. He's a little lanky to be playing Linebacker in the NFL, although he did bulk his playing weight of around 220 up to 237 for Combine weigh ins. We haven't really seen him play at that weight though, and he doesn't have much more room on his frame for adding anything else.
"Stack and Shed"
Branching off from his size and lankiness, I'm going to be talking a lot about how Shazier never looks all that strong throughout the course of the film study. In particular, you'll see me use the term "stack and shed" a lot, and how Shazier isn't skilled in the subject. Since it'll be a focal point of this piece, I thought it'd be a good idea to go over the concept.
Lets start out with stacking. Stacking is when the defensive player squares up a blocker, gets his hands positioned on their body (preferably both hands in the armpits of the opposing player), and either stalemates the blocker or (preferably) drives him backwards. That's the "stack" part. The "shed" part comes immediately after the stack, and it involves the defender using their hands to push/sweep the blocker to one side, putting themselves in position to make a tackle on a ball carrier. When I played, I preferred using the "rip" move to shed blockers while sweeping away the blocker's hands with the arm that wasn't ripping. Below, the stack and shed technique is demonstrated.
Here, Jerry Hughes (Colts) is going up against Dustin Keller (Jets). In the first frame, Hughes has excellent hand positioning, and both his shoulders and hips are square to Keller. When you move on to the second frame, you see that Keller was chucked to (Hughes's) left so that Hughes could make a play on the ball carrier. This is how the technique is supposed to be executed.
Below is an example of just "stacking", with Author Brown getting excellent position on the Offensive Lineman. Notice how he has a wide base, and he's bursting into the Lineman. This is the best way to go for Linebackers since they are always outweighed by the Lineman. If you wait for the Lineman to come to you on the release, the weight plus the momentum that the Lineman carries is hugely beneficial for them. As a Linebacker you have to build up momentum of your own if you want any hope of winning a battle with a "Dancing Elephant".
Also notice that in both pictures, neither offensive player has their arms fully extended. That's a good thing for the defense. As a defender, if you get underneath the blocker's pads, they can't extend their arms and drive you away from the play. If a blocker has his arms extended and base set, it's much harder to do the "shedding" part of the "stack and shed" since that extra space created gives the Lineman an extra second to position himself back in front of the defender trying to shed and go an opposite direction. For Offensive Lineman, that technique is called "mirroring" your defender. With that said, lets move on to the film!
Ryan Shazier vs. Clemson
Just a note, there will be a few plays I skip for time/length sake. I'll try not to miss anything too important though.
Play One: (0:00-0:11) - Shazier does a good job of getting rid of that sloppy second level block, but he needs to start angling for Watkins about half a second sooner and maybe he has him for no gain. Still, a good job of making sure Watkins gets out of bounds here.
Play Two: (0:12-0:17) - Here Shazier is lined up on the edge, and he does a good job of fighting across the Tight End's face to get to the ball carrier and assist on the tackle.
Play Three: (0:18-0:26) - Lined up in the A Gap, close to the LOS, Shazier blitzes, and pretty much gets stonewalled.
Play Four: (0:27-0:35) - The Offensive Lineman comes up for a second level block, and Shazier seems a bit hesitant to come up and get engaged with the Lineman. Kind of gets shoved back here instead of looking to come forward and make the tackle. This is where the stack and shed technique would/should come into play.
Play Five: (0:36- 1:24) - Ugh. This is not a good play for Shazier. On this play, Shazier is in the gap that the pulling Guard is responsible for clearing. Now if Shazier even just stacks here, forget shedding, then the hole gets clogged up and other Buckeyes are able to make the play for a minimal gain. Instead, Shazier is standing up too tall, and he gets knocked backwards. This creates a hole for Boyd, who takes it in for a Touchdown. This is where Shazier's biggest flaw shines through on tape.
Play Six: (1:25-1:31) - We come in on this play post-snap, but it's easy enough to tell it's a screen. Shazier turns his back on the ball for a moment, whereas I'd much prefer he drive those blockers back into the ball carrier since the blockers are Wide Receivers.
Play Seven: (1:32-1:40) - Shazier lines up outside on the LOS, and crashes hard to the inside. The play is popped outside though, but I won't fault Shazier as it looks like he was designed to do that, not play outside contain.
Play Eight: (1:41-1:47) - Here, Shazier demonstrates a few positive traits towards getting a solid stack and shed, but the one thing he's not doing is playing low and aggressive. If he does so, he's got a much better chance of winning match ups like the one on this play. He has to take that step or two forward to engage the Lineman.
Play Nine: (1:48-1:58) - A pretty solid blitz from Shazier here, he fights through a pass block pretty well. Good play design from the offense though.
Play Ten: (2:06-2:13) - Skipping ahead a bit, I really like what I see from Shazier on this play. His speed is harnessed and used within a confined space, which is how he's going to have to play in the NFL. His read steps are very quick, but he doesn't overextend himself. He stays at home, and reads the play nicely. Then he comes forward aggressively to pop the ball carrier. Not a play that jumps off the screen, but it's nice to see the little things done right.
Play Eleven: (2:14-2:24) - The screen on this play goes away from Shazier, but he realizes that Sammy Watkins has the ball and immediately takes a severe angle to cut him off. This is a smart call by Shazier, as he ends up right in Watkins vicinity, ending up being the guy to cut him off and force him out. One thing I've come to like about Shazier is his angles. He doesn't rely on his speed to get him to the play as much as he does his angles, and that's just good football.
Play Twelve: (2:25-2:33) - Initially Shazier drops back into coverage here, but sees Boyd scrambling and begins to come up. He takes on the Running Back's block hard, even knocking him to the ground, but Boyd runs by him as he's doing so. Nice display of aggression, but stacking and shedding the blocker could lead to a tackle before the first down marker.
Play Thirteen: (2:34-2:42) - A good drop into coverage, and a good job of taking on the screen block, but he doesn't get his body on Watkins to make the tackle. Part of that is Watkins being pretty darned quick.
Play Fourteen: (2:50-3:01) - Skipping ahead a bit, we see Shazier fake a blitz, but then drop back into coverage. He reads that Bryant is the lone WR on his side, so he gets in position to help the CB make the tackle once the catch is made. Shazier just plays with flat feet here though, and Martavis Bryant goes right around Shazier, leaving him in the dust.
Play Fifteen (3:02-3:12) - I can almost guarantee that Shazier is the man responsible for the screen here, as he lets two of the Trips WR's release downfield without even giving them a glance. He moves forward and takes away the screen/dump off pass here, which forces Boyd to tuck and run. Good work by Shazier, completing his assignment effectively.
Play Sixteen: (3:13-3:21) - Shazier shakes off two blockers here, not going backwards at all. I'm not sure if the Lineman slips or if Shazier actually forces him to the ground, but a good job of getting clean regardless. He comes up to make the hit on the ball carrier, but the runner shakes him off. Fortunately for him there are two Buckeyes to clean up behind him, but you've got to wrap up and make that tackle.
Play Seventeen: (3:31-3:39) - Skipping ahead here, we see Shazier having to deal with a releasing Lineman. Shazier gets pushed back pretty badly, and he essentially allowed himself to go backwards. Needs more aggression here.
Play Eighteen: (3:40-3:49) - A good job of staying at home and not over pursuing on the reverse. He takes on the FB block decently, and gums up the play for the most part. Still would have preferred Shazier to come flying up in that hole when he recognized that the play was coming his way, but not a bad play here.
Play Nineteen: (3:50-4:00) - Shazier initially drops back here, but sees that it's going to be a screen. A strong job of taking on the Lineman here, I'd like to see more of this from him.
Play Twenty: (4:00-4:10) - Not sure if Shazier was trying to get pressure here, because it doesn't seem like he's being too aggressive at the start of the play. Seems more like a QB spy here. If so, he over pursues to his left a little, giving Boyd a space to run. But here we see Shazier use his extreme speed and good angles to head off Boyd and force him out of bounds, preventing a first down.
Play Twenty-One: (4:11-4:21) - Another play where Shazier does a good job of taking on a block. Not the best shed in the world, but good work here.
Play Twenty-Two: (4:36-5:00) - I skipped ahead a few plays here, and this play isn't pretty for Shazier. He initially does a good job of getting into position to make a tackle, but once there he just gets absolutely driven backwards by Sammy Watkins. The problem is twofold here. 1) He's playing too high, allowing Watkins to get leverage and march him backwards. 2) He's letting Watkins come into him, as opposed to stepping up and delivering a hit. Not what I want to see from a Linebacker here.
Play Twenty-Three: (5:01-5:19) - A good play by the whole defense here on a short yardage play. Shazier does a good ob playing contain by engaging the Tight End, and the rest of the defense clogs up the middle. Great execution by the defense all around.
Play Twenty-Four: (5:31-5:40) - Skipping one play, where Shazier delayed a blitz and didn't have much effect on the outcome, we see another example of Shazier's ability to stack and shed. He just gets utterly beat by the Lineman here, continuously going backwards.
Play Twenty-Five: (5:41-5:53) - A good angle taken by Shazier after the screen, but he's not needed as Watkins gets wrapped up before he gets to Shazier.
Play Twenty-Six: (5:54-5:59) - Shazier stays at home (I don't ever really see him over pursuing really) and does a good job of wrapping up the ball carrier and slinging him down.
Play Twenty Seven: (6:09-6:20) - We skip ahead one play here, where Shazier blitzed but it didn't matter since the play was a screen, and we see Shazier get blocked out of the play here when he could have been the key to clogging up the running lane. But he does run down the play and help make the tackle at the end though.
Play Twenty-Eight: (6:35-6:44) - More of the same here, as I see Shazier get blocked out of the play again, this time by a Tight End. You can't let a Tight End prevent you from driving forward aggressively and possibly stopping the play. Boyd ends up scoring here, and the fact that one of the Buckeyes biggest defensive weapons was taken out of the play by a Tight End frustrates me a bit.
Play Twenty-Nine: (6:45-6:51) - Here is the exact opposite of the last play, and Shazier actually does a good job stacking and shedding the Lineman. The play ends before it gets to him though. Interesting.
Play Thirty: (6:52-7:05) - Shazier starts out getting blocked on this play, but he's able to slide off just enough to put a hit on Boyd as he's coming to the goal line. Not sure if he prevented Boyd from getting the ball over the line though.
Play Thirty-One: (7:14-7:22) - The last play of the film, and we see Shazier get his arms around Boyd, but is unable to bring him down.
Throughout this film there were some things that I found myself really, really liking about Ryan Shazier, and some things that I really, really didn't like as well. To start off with what I did like, I was a huge fan of not only his speed, but his angles. They were smart, and they were usually always right on target. Sometimes he overshot a little bit, but better to overshoot than undershoot. He's also very good at knowing his assignment and not getting out of position. That's key, and between the angles and the ability to stay in position, I see a very smart football player here. Personally, I value smart players very highly, knowing your role on the field is pivotal to executing well designed plays and schemes. It doesn't matter how smart a coach is if their players are unable or unwilling to stay in position and play out their job.
Now as for what I didn't like, I think I made it clear that I'm not a fan of his ability to stack and shed at all. The most infuriating thing though is the the fact that there were times in the film where Shazier took on a block and did a good job of stacking and shedding. So it's not like he just physically can't do it, but it seems like he's just choosing not to more times than not. Another thing I noticed is his tackling is average to below average. There was only one or two times where it looked like he really exploded during a tackle. He also has a tendency to try arm tackling, or he just doesn't wrap up. Between the lack of great tackling skills and the lack of willingness to take on blockers all the time, I fear that Shazier isn't an aggressive player. That worries me about any football player, but especially a Linebacker. Aggression isn't just laying someone out once or twice a game, with Shazier's speed we're bound to see that happen when he has space to move and build up momentum. No, aggression is constantly fighting through those blocks and consistently gumming up the running lanes, even if you aren't going to be making the tackle yourself.
Pass Coverage: B+: We didn't see much of it in this film, but Shazier's excellent athleticism combined with the fact that he's smart and knows his zones lends to him being a strong coverage Linebacker.
Run Stop: C- : I just can't give him a higher grade than this. With as many times as he got beat by releasing Lineman, and even Tight Ends, this is something Shazier will HAVE to work on at the next level.
Tackling: C+: He may have made a lot of them in his time at Ohio State, but wrapping up and driving is something I want to see more of from him. Even on that play where Sammy Watkins drove him backwards nearly five yards, he still gets the credit for the tackle, so don't look to the stats to justify him as being a good tackler.
Pass Rush: B- : We didn't see a lot of it in this film, but he has the speed to come off the edge as an occasional blitzing Linebacker. He doesn't have many pass rush moves after speed though, so that's why he doesn't grade out higher here.
Instincts/Awareness: A: The film shows me a really smart football player, so that's how he grades out for me. Even when his speed starts to decrease as he ages, his smarts will keep him playing at a high level for a longer time.
When it comes down to it, Shazier is pretty much only going to fit as a WILL in a 4-3 Defense. He's nowhere near aggressive enough when it comes to shedding blocks to play MIKE, even though he spent a good deal of time at that position at Ohio State. I don't see him as an edge player in a 3-4 either, he's not polished enough as a pass rusher in my eyes.
With the large flaws that I see in his game, I don't see Shazier going in the top half of the first round. The argument could be made that he's a target worth trading back for late in the first round though. His athleticism gives him a lot of upside, and his smarts means you won't have to coach up a raw player and have him possibly not see the field for a while. Still, the flaws he has are big ones in my opinion, and I see him as an early second rounder. Aggressiveness is something that is near impossible to teach, which is what's really holding Shazier back.
So what do ya'll think? Also, if there's anyone else you'd like me to profile, feel free to drop a name!