Few players boosted their stock like Devon Still in 2011. Previously an inconsistent defensive tackle with sloppy technique, he dominated the Big-10 as a fifth year senior. He’s the most likely three-technique option for the Seahawks in round one this year – probably edging LSU’s Michael Brockers - and should leave the board within the top-20.
Last year Still showed he was good at maintaining his position at the P.O.A. but he simply didn’t get enough penetration on a consistent basis. Too often that he was leaning into blocks and leading with the shoulder. You’ll see in the first video below (2010 tape vs Florida & Alabama) how he struggled with balance and spent far too much time on the turf. In the Florida tape at 5:10, as soon as he turns his right shoulder to the blocker he’s led to the ground and essentially tackled out of the play. This happened far too often last year and it’s good to see he’s made the necessary technical adjustments. He’s now a lot more square when attacking blockers and the results were obvious - 17 tackles for a loss in 2011.
There also wasn’t much evidence of a club or swim and when he was engaged and struggling to shed a block, there’s rarely a counter. He really looked like a boom or bust type of guy – sometimes knifing the hole and causing a splash, but most of the time he’d be blocked out and have very little impact. The Seahawks don’t have explosive pass rushers among their interior line, but they have active tackles who eat space due to their size and play with a relentless nature. My concern was that Still wasn’t enough of an upgrade as a pass rusher to compensate a little on the run-defense.
Clearly he made significant strides in 2011 as you can see in the second two videos (vs Illinois & Alabama). Still attacks the A and B gap relentlessly, exploding off the snap and exploiting any hesitation among the interior lineman. He’s very difficult to block when you’re not head on, and Still’s power and explosion to attack space on zone scheme’s flashed time and time again. He completely dominated Illinois from start to finish and gave Alabama’s offensive line more problems than any other opponent I saw in 2011.
There’s better handwork on show, including an effective swim move to avoid blocks and work into the backfield. He consistently folds the pocket affording outside pressure on pass plays, but against the run he’s almost immovable and most of the time will maintain position to force runs outside. When I watched Penn State last year, they didn’t appear to blitz as much in the second half of the season -I put that down to Still’s influence. I spent some time considering whether he’d be a better fit in the 3-4 as a five technique. While I still think he can adjust to that role (and if San Diego are willing to consider Corey Liuget for that role, anything is possible), for me Still is more suited to playing at the three-technique. You want him abusing the A & B, he’ll perform best against a tackle with size who clogs the gap between the center and left guard drawing more than one block. Although Cleveland may be out of range at #22 (and may be concentrating on offense anyway) Still would be an ideal partner for last year’s first round pick Phil Taylor.
That’s not to say he couldn’t find a home in Seattle alongside Brandon Mebane. Pete Carroll knows the value of a productive three technique – he nearly always had one at USC and it’s integral to this scheme. At the moment Seattle’s pressure comes almost exclusively from Chris Clemons and for the long term – finding a serviceable three-tech is surely second on the list of needs after franchise quarterback. Last year the Seahawks had Alan Branch playing the role, with Anthony Hargrove spelling on specific downs. The direction of the team’s defense could swing heavily on April 26th depending on who the Seahawks pick. A guy like Still would maintain the base 4-3 look and afford Seattle a penetrative interior force on standard downs. Keeping Branch and investing in an edge rusher such as Courtney Upshaw would move the team closer to a hybrid 3-4, maintaining size up front but relying on outside pressure.
There are some things that he has to keep working on. Still has a tendency to play high and although I’ve not seen this as much in the 2011 tape, last year he appeared to be susceptible to cut blocks and didn’t protect his legs well at all. Against Alabama he was consistently cut to the ground – violently so by Trent Richardson on one play. I’d like to see him work to get bigger in the lower half of his body. Still is top heavy and will need greater power from his legs at the next level. He also doesn’t have much of a bubble and looks more like an oversized end than an interior rusher. Another slight concern is his injury history. While he’s fought back to enjoy three productive years as a red-shirt senior – he tore an ACL in 2007 and suffered a broken ankle in 2008. He mised two 2011 regular season games and also missed his final opportunity to appear for Penn State with a turf toe injury, a problem which also stopped him attending the Senior Bowl work-outs this week. Could he make it to Mobile? Maybe, it’s hard to tell how serious the injury is but many expected him to attend. If he is healthy enough to compete, it could be a missed opportunity to boost his stock.
In terms of the other players available at this position in the past, Still grades lower than Liuget and some of the more high profile players available in previous years. I suspect the Seahawks will have players higher on their board (Upshaw?) – even despite the importance of the three-technique position. However, it’d surprise me if he wasn’t at least on Seattle’s radar as a possible target at #11 or #12.
Tape supplied to Seahawks Draft Blog by JMPasq
2010 vs Alabama & Florida
Now see the difference in 2011…