Eric Stoner


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Noles Know Pass Rushing

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The strength of the Florida State defense lies in their two defensive ends - junior Bjoern Werner and senior Cornellius "Tank" Carradine. The two differ in style, much like the thunder and lightning duo of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora the New York Giants featured earlier in the decade. While no pass rusher comes into the NFL a finished product, their unique talents will have them ranked very highly on NFL teams' draft boards.

Bjoern Werner (#95/6'3/255)

Werner fulfills the "lightning" role for Florida State, and he compares quite favorably to Umenyiora. Osi and Werner are very similar from a talent and skillet standpoint, and they're almost identical from a Height/Weight/Speed standpoint.  Werner is an incredible athlete, possessing an elite first step and burst off the snap (as well as the ability to figure out a quarterback's cadence and jump the snap). There is an economy of movement through his pass rush, and his burst off the line combined with excellent pad level and flexibility make him one of the most dangerous edge pass rushers in this class, displaying excellent Bramel Efficiency



Lined up just outside of the tight end, Werner is in a four-point stance with his weight forward, his body coiled and ready to explode forward into a speed rush. 



Two steps into his pass rush - compare the placement of Werner's feet and how far upfield he is already in comparison to the rest of teammates on the defensive line. His burst off the ball gets the offensive tackle's shoulders turned immediately to the sideline. 



On his fourth step, Werner begins turning his shoulders and angling his body to the quarterback. This reduces the surface area available for the offensive tackle to target and block - Werner is only giving up his inside shoulder, as opposed to his entire chest area. Further, it reduces the distance Werner has to travel - instead of looping around the edge, he can use his flexibility and body lean to take a direct path to the quarterback. 



Werner is able to keep his body lean all the way around the edge as he beats the offensive tackle. He does not have to re-gather his feet and balance once contact is no longer established, showing that he's relying on his own flexibility as opposed to just learning on the offensive tackle. 

While Werner's elite burst off the line and flexibility around the edge are his greatest assets, he doesn't have a developed set of pass rush moves (not uncommon for college defensive ends). He does have quick and active hands though, showing the hand-eye coordination to slap offensive tackles' hands off his body as he turns the corner. He also shows good discipline in shooting his hands and fighting for inside placement against run blocks. Overall, his hand-eye coordination and fast hands suggest plenty of potential to hone a set of pass rush moves. 

Cornellius "Tank" Carradine (#91/6'5/265)

The "Thunder" to Werner's "Lightning" (although a fine athlete who displays good flexibility in his own right), Carradine's game revolves around his functional strength when getting his hands on offensive linemen, as well as veteran sense of how to set up his pass rush moves for maximum effectiveness. 

What makes Carradine's functional strength so impressive is that he's able to display it while maintaining relatively poor pad level. He gets upright off the snap, popping straight up and getting perpendicular to the ground, as opposed to firing forward out of his stance. As such, there's some untapped potential there in terms of his burst off the snap (and on the flipside, the potential for his effectiveness to be largely be negated against bigger, stronger offensive tackles.)



As you can see, Carradine is perpendicular to the ground and his pad and helmet level is equal with the offensive tackle's. This position makes it impossible to generate lower body power. Carradine's hips are already extended - he cannot roll up and underneath the offensive lineman, which would allow him to convert speed to power. 



Again, Carradine has been able to get away with this in college because of his incredible upper body strength, a powerful hand strike, and the discipline to fight for inside hand position. From here, he's able to extend his arms and jolt offensive tackles off of their base. He's very, very adept at finishing from this position, executing a "Push/Pull" move to discard offensive tackles as he dips around or inside them after his initial hand strike. Being able to get away purely on upper body strength isn't going to happen in the NFL, but this is a fixable issue (and we have Patriots rookie Chandler Jones as a very recent example of a length-and-strength rusher improving his pad level.) 

That's not to say that Carradine's game revolves around the bull rush and brute strength. He actually has a devastating outside swim move, and, once he gets in a rhythm, is able to couple this with his "Push/Pull" leverage rush to make the offensive tackle wrong on seemingly every dropback. 



Carradine shows an excellent burst off the line and immediately goes into his swim. He uses his right hand to pull the tackle's outside shoulder down, allowing Tank to shoot his left hand over the top in the swim motion. 



Displaying perfect form, Carradine uses the inside "swim" hand as a club, discarding the offensive tackle while propelling himself into the pocket virtually unhindered. 



The offensive tackle, now worried about the outside swim move, over-sets outside on the next dropback. Tank sees the opening, shoots his hands, and slips inside. On the next pass, the tackle over-sets inside, and Carradine goes right back to the outside swim and executes it. His ability to read the offensive tackle's pass set and choose the correct move is incredibly advanced - better than a lot of players currently in the NFL. 

While the staggering depth of pass rush talent in this draft class makes it difficult to ascertain where and when Werner and Carradine will go off the board, they both display a talent and skillet that will be highly coveted come April and figure to be selected in the first round. Further, the "forgotten" FSU Junior defensive end Brandon Jenkins just made his intentions known yesterday to declare for the draft. Jenkins is an intriguing talent in his own right. However, he missed all of this season with a Lisfranc injury. Considering his greatest asset is his speed off the edge, how he checks out medically from his serious foot injury is the biggest question hanging over his stock.

Eric Stoner writes and cuts NFL Draft prospect videos for He is a former high school football coach and works as a legal assistant by day. He can be found on Twitter at @ECStoner.
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