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Spotlight On: Dallas Cowboys Defensive Tackle Henry Melton

An All-22 tape review of Henry Melton's game against the Jaguars.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Henry Melton is very, very good. I think we all know that, but I also think it's hard for fans, Cowboys fans especially, to really appreciate how good he is. We know the stats (five sacks on the year, tied for 2nd in the NFL among DT's), but you can't really see it on the field. He doesn't have DeMarcus Ware's explosive first step. He doesn't play with the nastiness of Jay Ratliff, or the raw power of say, Chris Canty. He's quick, yes, and tenacious, but nothing that really just stands out on the screen. In reviewing the tape, I've decided that Melton is a craftsman; he understands his job, he has a variety of tools (most notably a world-class swim move), and he plays the game with a quiet precision that's hard to appreciate. But make no mistake, Melton is very, very good. Here's what the tape says:

Play 1: Melton is playing the 3-tech. The Jags run a QB rollout to the strong side, away from Melton, who gets upfield but is blocked away from the play.

Play 2:

Melton 2

You can see Melton is lined up in his typical 3-technique in our base 4-3 defense. Something to keep track of, even when he's playing 3-technique, Melton will vary his position, sometimes playing nearly head up on the guard, sometimes playing closer to the tackle's inside shoulder.


The Jags double team Melton with the guard and tackle (yellow arrow). I've talked a lot about why we don't need a space-eating 1-tech to draw the double team; because it's hard to double team the 3-tech. You have to either have an athletic center, or you leave the defensive end 1-on-1 with the TE, which the Jags have done here. To alleviate that they are pulling their guard (red arrow). This is something we're going to see the Jags do over and over, running a variety of different plays out of the same basic look.


Melton (yellow arrow) has been pushed back, if he has any real weakness it's his anchor; he can be physically beaten by double teams or stronger linemen. The fullback is leading the RB to the edge, and needs to kick out Bruce Carter (red line). But look at the blue circle: Jeremy Mincey has made an incredible play, literally shoving the TE off his feet, forcing the guard to block him.


There's a lot going on here. The yellow arrow is split between Mincey and Melton; while both have been "blocked" you'll notice that both are still occupying double teams. This is important. Generally when you double a lineman in the run game, you would like to move him then have a player peel off and go to the second level. That's never happened here, leaving Anthony Hitchens completely free to fill the gap (red circle). In the yellow circle you see Bruce Carter engaged with the TE. If you compare this picture to the one above it, you'll notice that Carter hasn't moved at all. Last week I praised him for doing a good job setting the edge, he continues to do a good job here. The takeaway from this play; neither Melton, Mincey, or Carter "made" this play, and in fact Melton initially gets beat with the double team. But they each do their individual job, which allows Hitchens to "make" the play.

Play 3:


Again, Melton in a normal 3-tech alignment. The interesting thing here is notice how far wide the DE is lined up on this 3rd down play.


Melton is attempting to set up his swim move inside. You can see the hard inside step. This probably isn't the best idea however, at the top of the picture you can see the other DT is dropping into coverage (something I know many of us hate, but something Marinelli is doing a lot this year). This means the center is completely free and can help on any inside pass rush.


Which is exactly what happens. Dallas gets no pressure on the play and Blake Bortles completes a pass for the first down.

Play 4:


Melton, lined up as a 3-tech on first down.


This is a run play to Melton's side. The Jaguars are running a "stretch" play, similar to what Dallas does; they want to get everybody moving sideways and allow Denard Robinson to find a hole to cut back into. The only problem is Melton got a great first step. You can see that neither offensive lineman actually has a body on him, they are literally holding him back with their arms, like kids playing "Red Rover".


We can see here Melton just breaking through; he's crossed the guard already, and the only real leverage the tackle has on him is sideways; he can move him to the side but can't really impede his progress into the backfield.


In the red circle you can see that the guard has given up and moved into the second level, where he fails to block anybody. This leaves Melton alone with the center, who is actually just pushing Melton closer to the running back at this point.


You can see in the yellow circle the only real way the guard can slow down Melton. His hand is grabbing Melton's jersey pulling him back. At this point it's all academic anyway, Melton's initial disruption in the backfield has blown up the blocking scheme, and it's now a footrace between Melton, Carter, and Hitchens to see who gets to the running back.

Play 5:


And here's something we've seen before! Melton double teamed, pulling guard. Like I said, the Jags run a lot of plays out of this look. The big difference here is Melton is doing a much better job with his anchor.


Here we see that Melton has effectively anchored, and that the DE, instead of coming in, recognizes the run and has moved outside the TE, setting the edge. Carter is heading straight for the RB gap, and offscreen Barry Church is also moving in to clean up.


There's only one problem; this is a pass play. Melton is effectively double teamed, and has not even attempted to set up any rush moves, Mincey has allowed himself to be blocked, and the pulling guard is in place to pick up Mincey or Carter if the latter decides to rush. Even worse, because the LB's and safeties all bit on the play action, you can see a WR (red circle top of screen) running across the middle wide open.

Remember this play. We are going to see the exact same thing exactly 54 plays later; let's see if the defense learns.

Play 6: Not on field.

Play 7: Not on field.

Play 8: Melton lines up as one of two 3-techs on this third down pass. No pressure.

Play 9: Not in, touchdown Jaguars on a long run around the edge.

Play 10: Screen play weak side (towards Melton). Hard to know if he gets good pressure or if he's allowed pressure.

Play 11: Run to opposite edge. Melton avoids the block, and does a good job chasing play down the line.

Play 12:


This play starts off interesting as we see Melton lined up as a 1-technique, and Jeremy Mincey beside him as the 3-tech.


Two things to notice here. First, Melton does not engage or start a move right off the snap. Instead he stands up and hesitates. This causes both the guard and center to key on him, as neither know what he's planning on doing. At the same time, Mincey has engaged with the other guard. Notice that he's cleared his hand (yellow circle). He's about to use it to push the guard to the outside as he makes an inside move.


As Mincey makes his move inside, Melton engages the center (yellow arrow). Mincey (blue circle), has his man beat, and now the center can't come over to help. Now you might ask why didn't Melton just engage the center to begin with? Well look at the LG; because he had to focus on Melton, he's now blocking air (the DE went outside on the tackle).


MIncey has beaten the guard, and now the running back is stepping up to help out. Meanwhile Melton is attacking the center's outside shoulder, while the LG is attempting to keep an eye on the DE and Melton at the same time.


It's a good bit of pressure, however the center does a great job on this play and is able to block Melton while also helping out the RB on Mincey. Still it's a win for the defense when two rushers occupy four blockers.

Play 13:


Third and long play. Dallas comes out with a 3-man rush, and Melton rushes from an upright position.


Melton correctly reads the screen (look how far downfield he is compared to DeMarcus Lawrence) and begins chasing down the RB (red circle).


The RB picks up a key block (red circle) that might have sprung him for a big gain. But look at how much ground Melton has gained; that's really impressive considering it was basically a straight race and the RB wasn't having to do a lot of navigating blocks to this point.


Having to cutback forces the running back right into Melton's path. Look at the hustle from D-Law, who is coming in from the bottom of your screen; compare where he is to where he was in the 2nd picture.


It's a darn good thing Melton was quick enough to get upfield and make the tackle. If he hadn't, the RB had a ton of room to cut back upfield, and then it would have been a footrace for the touchdown.

Play 14: Not in.

Play 15: Not in.

Play 16:


Melton lines up at the 3-tech, with Anthony Hitchens in the "A" gap right beside him showing blitz.


And it is a blitz, but with a stunt thrown in as Melton and Hitchens cross. Look how tight the cross is, Hitchens actually has his hand on Melton's back for guidance. And look at the center's feet; he might not know it but he's already beat; his feet are in close and his weight is already going backwards.


The Jags do a fairly good job of picking up Hitch, but Melton has beaten the center around the edge.


This picture just makes me laugh. Let's start with Melton (yellow arrow). Anytime you have an offensive lineman with his head completely down just lunging at you like a blind bull, you're doing a good job. Then as we move over to the WDE (blue arrow), we see the same thing; beautiful swim move, lineman looking at the ground. Finally, let's look at the guard in the red circle. He's completely oblivious to the pain coming towards his QB, because he has for some reason locked onto Sterling Moore and has decided not to block anybody this play.

Play 17: Not in.

Play 18: Not in.

Play 19: Not in.

Play 20:


This is a formation I haven't seen from Dallas before; as they come out with Henry Melton and Jeremy Mincey lined up as 1-techs (it might look like he's in a 3-tech position here, but when he settles his weight, he's lined up straight up on the guard). My guess is Dallas is starting to recognize just how weak the Jags interior line is and want to take advantage.


It looks like Melton is going to attempt to bull-rush his man, while Mincey attacks the outside shoulder of his guard.


Instead both put swim moves on the guards and attack the "A" gaps. Look how flat Melton makes himself, that's really impressive for a big man.


I feel bad for the Jag's center. Neither guard gets a very effective block, leaving the center to take on both Mincey and Melton.


And it just doesn't happen. The center is game; you can see that he's moving backwards but not giving either player a clear path. But Melton (yellow arrow) has just cleared his inside arm using a swim move. Meanwhile Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are looking backwards while D-Law has beaten the tackle and is closing in.


Bortles is forced to scramble and eventually throw the ball away. And he just barely gets it out; Bortles is an athletic quarterback, but Melton was closing in for the kill when the ball comes out.

Play 21:


Here we see Dallas in a their nickel formation, with Melton lined up in his usual 3-technique.


At the snap you can see Nick Hayden crashing hard inside, while Crawford is playing his man head up. It appears to be a "stretch" run play with the OL attempting to move the DL sideways and back.


I really don't know how to describe what's going on right here. I've watched the video of this play multiple times, and I'm still not sure how Melton gets past this block so clean. He takes just the smallest little side step, and the guard just totally misses him. It was incredible. Anyway, Melton (yellow arrow) is into the backfield before the handoff even starts (red circle).


To the guard's credit, he doesn't give up on the play and is able to re-engage Melton in the backfield. Also, check out the center, (#70), pulling off of Nick Hayden. He's tired of the abuse in this game, and wants to take it out on Bruce Carter.


Melton makes the tackle in the backfield, despite a valiant effort by the RG, that was never really in doubt. But it's really interesting to me; the Center pulls off to get to the second level, and leaves Hayden practically unblocked, if Melton hadn't made a TFL Hayden would have had a tackle for no gain. And the center doesn't really do anything; Carter takes on, and stacks the center. Want to know why the Jags are struggling? Because their line (especially the interior) stinks.

Play 22: Pass play. The Jaguars unveil a new tactic for dealing with Carter; they cut block him.

Play 23: Melton in at 1-tech. Bull-rushes the guard, gets good pressure.

Play 24: Attacks guards outside shoulder, no pressure.

Play 25:


Melton again playing the 1-tech, with Nick Hayden playing 3-tech.


Look at the guards legs expect to see wide splits in pass blocking, but generally if the legs are this wide one leg is kicked back. A split this wide can really only mean one thing...


Cut blocks. We see two here. Melton's man (yellow arrow) just goes straight down hoping to tangle Melton up. But the RT (red arrow) actually lunges at the DE's legs. I hate this. It's nasty, dirty football, and it's how players get hurt.


And it didn't even work. Now Melton is tangled up (the yellow arrow is pointing at his feet) but the DE (red circle) gets away clean, leaving the tackle laying on the ground, looking stupid.

Play 26: With 16 seconds left in the half Dallas lines up with two 1-techs. Run up the middle, Melton takes on blocker but doesn't do much else.

Play 27: Not in.

Play 28: Not in.

Play 29: Not in

Play 30: Not in.

Play 31:


Melton is lined up way outside the guard in an obvious pass rush alignment.


It's actually getting ridiculous at this point. Melton just blows by the guard with a nice swim move.


It's a quick throw, so Melton has no chance of getting to the QB, but this was a great play. He literally had the guard falling down. And look how quickly he was able to "flatten out" and get parallel to the line of scrimmage; he didn't round off or get behind the QB at all.

Play 32: Two 1-techs. Melton gets double-teamed on an inside move.

Play 33: Not in.

Play 34: Not in.

Play 35: Bull rush, no pressure.

Play 36-40: Not in.

Play 41:


Melton is lined up as the 3-tech with Terrell McClain as the 1-tech. Interestingly enough, this might be the first play they've played together.


Not surprisingly they both attack the inside gap. McClain is just running by the center, while Melton is using a swim move to beat the guard.


Unfortunately, McClain falls down, which trips Melton. Now this is an interesting play though. Neither of the DT's are going to make a play obviously, but even down, they're occupying three Jag's offensive linemen, leaving the DE's one on one outside.

Play 42: Bull rush, no pressure.

Play 43: Stunt, with Melton crossing behind the 1-tech. Jag's do a good job picking it up, no pressure.

Play 44: Run off tackle to the strong side, away from Melton. Cut blocked.

Play 45:


Okay there's a lot going on here. I've identified the DE Anthony Spencer (blue circle), Melton playing the 3 tech (yellow circle), and Bruce Carter (red circle) showing blitz up the "A" gap alongside Anthony Hitchens.

45-2 the downward yellow arrow shows Henry Melton attacking the outside shoulder of the guard, occupying the guard and tackle, while Anthony Spencer (blue circle) stunts behind him. Meanwhile Bruce Carter is attacking the "A" gap, but Anthony Hitchens (yellow circle), is hightailing it back to the flats in coverage.


This picture starts with Bruce Carter (red arrow). He's occupying a guard, the tight end, and the center. Henry Melton (yellow arrow) has beaten the tackle inside and is now trying to squeeze through the gap. Meanwhile Anthony Spencer has cleared the scrum and has a line to the QB. On top of all that, we now have Brandon Carr (yellow circle) flying in off the edge.


Above we see that one of the blockers has peeled off of Bruce Carter and is now doubling Henry Melton (yellow arrow). Carter (red arrow) has almost gotten through the line, and both Spencer (blue arrow) and Carr (yellow circle) are clear. At this point who gets to the QB is purely academic (it's Carr). The QB is going down.

Play 46 & 47: Not in.

Play 48: 3rd and long. No pressure.

Play 49: 4th and 1. Melton does a good job of staying low getting into the backfield, but the Jags pick up a first down.

Play 50 - 52: Not in.

Play 53: Melton crashes hard inside. Quick throw, no pressure.

Play 54: Inside rush, good job of collapsing the pocket.

Play 55-58: Not in.

Play 59:


Dallas is lined up in a nickel formation with Henry Melton in the 3-tech position.


Look familiar? The Jags double Melton with the guard and tackle, leaving the DE one on one with the TE with a guard pulling across to help out. Now look at where the linebackers are relative to the yard marker (blue circles and lines).


Again, because of the play fake the linebackers (and Church) stay home and don't drop. Meanwhile Melton (yellow arrow) is swallowed by the double team, Mincey is 1-on-1 with the TE with a guard (red circle) behind him to help, and the RB is ready to block either Hitchens or Hayden, whoever comes through. It's a really well designed play by the Jaguars.


Melton (yellow arrow) can't get out of the double team. Meanwhile Mincey (right pointing red arrow) is now being doubled by the guard and TE, and the RB (downward red arrow) is coming over to block Hayden who has beat the guard. Now look at the blue circles. Neither Hitchens nor Church has started their drop yet. Carter is about 5 yards deep into his.

59 penultimate

And here we see that it is the exact same play we got beaten on earlier in the game, with the WR cutting across the middle. The difference is that this time Carter made his drop. Something you'll hear me say a lot, and Dave mentioned it when doing his video breakdown of Anthony Hitchens, is that our linebackers don't drop deep enough. Here Carter has dropped about 5 yards. While he makes the play, it's not deep enough, he has to highpoint the ball to stop the completion and make the interception. With no player in front of them our 'backers should be dropping 7-10 yards deep to disrupt passing routes.

While the Jags would go on to score on a later possession, this interception was the last meaningful defensive snap of the game for the Boys.

What's It All Mean? Melton absolutely dominated the Jaguars interior linemen this game. He showed the quickness and burst that made him our priority free agent, and also showed an absolutely devastating swim move. While I'm hesitant to praise him too much, simply because these are the Jags, this game is just the latest in a stretch of dominance for Melton. While he can be beat in the power running game, and his ability to anchor isn't the greatest, Melton is an ideal fit for Marinelli's attacking defensive front, and is playing like a top defensive tackle right now.

What do you think BTBer's? Is Henry Melton worth keeping next year? And who would you like to see the next film breakdown on?

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