I got this idea from comments made in another thread. I think we would all agree that wide receiver and defensive tackle are our deepest positions, so tell me who you think should start next year AND why. Details after the jump.
- Mike Patterson played in 15 games, starting 14. He produced 30 tackles, 8 assists, 2 sacks, and 1 fumble recovered.
- Antonio Dixon played in 15 games, starting 10. He produced 25 tackles, 5 assists, 2 sacks and 2 passes defended.
- Broderick Bunkley played in 14 games, starting 5. He produced 17 tackles, 3 assists, and 1 pass defended.
- Trevor Laws played in 15 games, starting in only 1. But he littered the stat sheet with 13 tackles, 2 assists, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 5 passes defended, and 1 fumble forced and recovered.
The "Eye" Test:
- Patterson had another consistent and underrated system, which is surprising considering he was probably best drafted for a 1-gap system. At USC, he had 30 tackles for a loss and 15.5 sacks and displayed amazing quickness off the LOS when rushing the passer. I think that of our current DT's, he actually stands to gain the most from a shift to a 1-gap system as it would allow him to get back to what he does best.
- At first glance, you would think that Dixon stands to lose the most from the switch. Because of his size and incredible strength, he is best suited in a 2-gap system or even possibly as a 3-4 nose tackle. However, stopping at his size does not tell the whole story. Dixon has a tremendous burst and plays with great pad level. He also shows excellent technique that, when combined with his brute strength, make him a tough person to single block. Even if he doesn't get to the QB, he is always a disruption because of his ability to drive the OG into the pocket of the QB. Comparisons to Haynesworth (on the field) are, in my opinion, fair and warranted and he has the athleticism, pedigree, and desire to excel.
- Broderick Bunkley's eye test is one of the most deceiving of all the defensive tackles. While he lost his job (after injury) to Dixon, I think that it was more a function of Dixon's play and our early struggles against the run then to Bunkley's play. When healthy, Bunkley is probably our best two-way defensive tackle as he is really good against the run and when rushing the passer, just not necessarily excellent at either. I think with his speed and quickness, he has a chance to be return as a starter in Washburn's system.
- Trevor Laws had to have a great 2010 season and he didn't disappoint. Easily our most productive tackle despite less playing time than the other three, he consistently made game changing plays. Excellent explosion off of the line of scrimmage, great use of hands, and great closing speed are the reasons he gets more sacks than the other three. Whether he is starting or not, he could still be more productive than the other three DTs in a 1-gap system.
SYNOPSIS: I think ALL of our DT's performed their assigned duties excellently. In my opinion, we have 4 starting caliber defensive tackles with completely different skill sets...but strangely, all seem to fit a 1-gap system very well because of their ability to rush the passer. Of the four, you would have to say Dixon is the most obvious 2-gap player, however he showed tremendous pass rushing technique and ability last year.