The Jacksonville Jaguars have mastered the art of trench building.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than 55 sacks from Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson and Company, it did. The Jaguars selected Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan with the 29th overall pick, and he provides all the potential in the world to help continue Sacksonville’s dominance for years to come.
At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of the pick. I knew of Bryan’s ability to rush the passer, and was in awe at the explosion in his game when I observed him at the UF Pro Day:
— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) March 28, 2018
— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) March 28, 2018
However, I didn’t believe in the idea of drafting someone to play in a limited role early in their career considering the Jaguars are currently in a Super Bowl window. Offensive guard was the ideal pick, in my opinion.
But there is a ton of logic in the Bryan selection. Defensive end Calais Campbell isn’t exactly what you’d call a spring chicken at the age of 31 years old, and he will turn 32 the week before the 2018 NFL season kicks off. On top of that, Campbell, as well as defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus, have outs coming up in their contracts within the next two years. The Jaguars can create cap space by cutting Jackson and Dareus after the 2018 season, and the same can be said about Campbell after the 2019 season.
Considering these factors, looking to the future at the Jaguars strongest position group — defensive line — is always smart. The timing of the Bryan selection gives him the opportunity to grow under the players mentioned above, and eventually take over in their roles.
Let’s take a look at the film to get an idea as to what Bryan offers immediately to the Jaguars pass rush, and where he can grow as he ascends into the future of the Jaguars’ interior pass rush.
- Incredibly explosive athlete. Usually has a full step on his DL counterparts on the snap. Ran a 4.98 40 yard dash, 7.12 3 cone, 4.48 20 yard shuttle, and a 119 inch broad jump.
- Doesn’t struggle to get off blocks. Displays good hand usage and pop on contact.
- High motor that allows him to drive when he creates leverage. Walks offensive linemen yards back into the pocket with ease.
- Crazy chase speed. No loafing. Wants to finish every play.
- Arm bar, push-pull, and rip rush moves are very polished.
The first thing that stands out to me in Bryan’s film is his first step explosion. He isn’t a snap-jumper, and is rather disciplined on timing off of the line of scrimmage. The three other defensive linemen in this clip are barely out of their stances and Bryan has already initiated hand placement on the left guard. The ball is only half way to the quarterback. That’s insane.
His speed to contact gives Bryan leverage on most pass rushing snaps, and when he creates leverage against a block, he has no issue driving linemen back into the pocket and create easy pressure. His disengagement here is clean, but he also possesses a swift push-pull rush move to get off blocks:
Bryan gets his arms extended before you can blink your eyes, and the guard never has the time to set his feet. This is the pure explosion and strength that Bryan brings to the table.
Here’s an example of Bryan’s rip move, on an extended version of the clip used above to examine his first-step explosion. It’s near impossible for linemen to recovery-block Bryan when he beats them with his first step and low pad level, so they try to push him out by his shoulder. I’d assume that’s how he developed his rip, and it’s incredibly effective.
Bryan told me at his pro day that his rip-move is one of his favorite moves, as well as arm-barring:
Bryan doesn’t seem to struggle vs. double teams unless the opposing linemen match his athletic prowess, being able to react to his first step and even out pad level. That isn’t the case in the clip above, as Bryan bulldozes his way between the left tackle and guard to record the sack.
- Despite his polished arm bar, push-pull, and rip moves, Bryan’s pass rush moves arsenal is limited.
- Awareness and recognition is a work in process. Needs to learn to trust what he sees ahead of him.
- Pad level is inconsistent vs. athletic offensive linemen.
The biggest weakness I see in Bryan’s game is his play recognition and awareness of what he needs to do once he explodes through the line.
On the backside of the play, the Florida defensive end has the perfect set up to eliminate the option. Bryan needs to become aware of that and continue his aggression to where the play is going. This run went for 17 yards, when it could have ended in a loss of four yards.
When an offensive lineman is athletic enough to challenge Bryan, he struggles to create leverage due to an inconsistent pad level. This, like his awareness issues, is coachable, and considering the group of pass rushers and that Jaguars DL coach Marion Hobby is pretty good at his job, I trust that Bryan will develop in these areas just fine.
The best way to sum up what Taven Bryan offers is incredible athleticism and explosion for a man of his size (6-5, 291 lbs), with upside to turn into a dominant pass rusher. There are aspects of his game that need to be developed at the next level, but Jacksonville offers him the perfect situation to groom himself into being the next great NFL defensive lineman.
I’d expect Bryan to be a sub-package tackle and end throughout his rookie year, and that his role will grow into full-time starter at either of those positions within the next two years.
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