South Carolina vs Clemson & good day for defense

Despite an early start I was able to catch Clemson’s one-sided defeat to South Carolina this weekend. I wanted to focus on Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson) after a stunning season with 16 sacks and an interception which has firmly put him in the top-five bracket.

However, this was a difficult game to judge anyone on Clemson’s defense.

For starters, they spent nearly the entire game on the field. With the offense such a non-factor, it looked like a draining experience out there trying to stop USC’s star studded offense. Quarterback Stephen Garcia didn’t have too much trouble getting the ball to Alshon Jeffery who made 141 yards and a score from just five catches. If anything this performance made me further appreciate Janoris Jenkins’ (CB, Florida)¬†excellent job v.s. Jeffery earlier this season.

The Gamecocks did a good job putting double or triple teams on Bowers, forcing him to pick through a maze to find the backfield. His great power and size was best exhibited when he moved inside and faced less traffic. Despite the almost constant attention to Clemson’s standout, he was able to get round the edge and create pressure on occassions. Bowers would’ve had a 17th sack of the season but for a blatant jersey grab which led to a holding call.

The real value comes in that he’ll fit any scheme. 4-3 teams can use him as a power end, capable of bursting off the edge and also moving inside on passing downs. Teams that use a 3-4 scheme will like his fit at five technique, he’s got the size (280lbs) for the role and this might actually be his best position at the next level. Seattle would use him in the Red Bryant position – a place he would thrive.

Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul saw their stock limited a little last year due to their lack of scheme flexibility. Aside from Bowers’ physical brilliance and huge production this year, his ability to fit on any team will guarantee a high pick.

It was also a good weekend for other defensive prospects:

-Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State) recorded his 6th sack of the year against Stanford. It’s only the 5th sack conceded by the Cardinal in 2010.

– Justin Houston (OLB, Georgia) added an interception against Georgia Tech to his 11 sacks for the year. He needs to prove coverage skills to teams looking for 3-4 OLB’s.

– Cameron Jordan (DE, California) returned a fumble 21-yards for a touchdown. He’ll be a 5-tech at the next level and will be a top-20 pick.

– Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn) had two more sacks against Alabama. Getting eleven sacks for the year is incredible for a defensive tackle.

– Von Miller (OLB, Texas A&M) also had two sacks against Texas and also an interception. He’s been lights out after a tough injury-hit start to 2010.

– J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin) followed up an interception last week with his 7th sack of the season against Northwestern. Another 5-tech prospect.

– Pernell McPhee (DE, Miss. State) got his second sack in as many weeks after a solid outing against Arkansas solidified a grade in the R2/3 range.


  1. 1sthill

    I watched the Clemson game and I was really impressed with Clemson DT Brandon Thompson. He has decent quickness (2.5 tackle for loss today), very good strength, and he has a good motor. Thompson is 6-3 305 lbs but is strong enough that he plays nose guard when Clemson’s defense swith to the 3-4. He did a great job of holding his ground when he was double-team on running plays. He is only a junior but a guy worth keeping a eye on.

  2. Kelly

    Hey Rob,

    I’m still peeved from the Hawks recent loss today…but I will try to keep those emotions out of this comment.

    As I watched today…I couldn’t help but sit back and wonder what exactly are draft needs are going to be for this years draft.

    Although I feel that a QB of the future is still are number one need, this game made realize how many holes this team has. Let’s say that neither Luck, Newton, Mallet or Locker are available when we pick…what position do we target. Do we look at FA like Carson Palmer???

    The three things that KC showed me…

    1.) We couldn’t get pressure on the QB. Only 1 hit on Cassell.
    (A common problem when we lose games)

    2.) No pressure on the QB, makes it difficult on our Defensive backs. Dwayne Bowe got open and made it count for 13 catches and 3 touchdowns.

    3.) We still can’t run the ball. Neither with Forsett or Lynch. Wheres the O-line?

    I guess I’m wondering…what area would you look to upgrade. A pass rusher, a CB, or some more offensive line help. Its gonna be an interesting offeseason…

  3. Alex

    QB is most critical position and one need to address in this draft now. Pick one no lower than the 2nd round. Even if he is a project, I’m for taking one to sit for 1-2 years behind Hasselbeck. Other than that, I would say the biggest needs are CB, OG, DE. WR used to be in that list, but I’m filling better after seeing Mike Williams and Olubamu (however you spell that name). If we were to simply keep the order as it is and not move up or down, then I’m for QB and CB in round 1,2 and then OG for R4. CB is pretty deep this draft, so we can pick up someone nice even in R2 while QB can be in either R1 or R2 as well. Though DE is a need, I’m not for picking DE unless they’re high impact ones like a Mario Williams or Julius Peppers because it’s far more important to have an every down great pass rusher than simply a “good” pass rusher. And the only one I see at this point is Bowers, but I don’t think he’ll make it past the 2nd pick. I can’t say if someone like Quinn would truly be an upgrade over Clemons.

    As for Cameron Jordan…, I don’t know. I’ve seen him in the Oregon game and UW game, and I didn’t come away with the impression that he is worth a 1st round pick. He didn’t particularly stand out (Price stood out and Suh stood out BIG time). What did I see? 5 tech, decent speed, great discipline in technique and gap control. My issue of him as a 1st rounder? I see him as more of a jack of all trade, but master of none type of player. His physical assets and athleticism are NFL caliber, but not elite like Peppers or Williams. He’s solid, but he won’t change the dimension of a DL.

    Stephen Paea is somewhat similar except I can see why he is highly regarded. He think he’ll be a solid 3 tech in the NFL, but I wouldn’t rate him higher than Price last year. Paea may have slightly greater assets physically and technique wise, but unless your DT position just absolutely blows (as in desperate), I wouldn’t take him with a 1st round pick. For us, Colin Cole and Mebane (when healthy) are good enough that I don’t think a 1st round is worth it.

    By now, you can probably tell that I’m like Pete Carroll in the draft in that I want as much upside as possible. There are plenty of good players, but the ones I want are those who can be “elite” or true difference makers. For QB position, I’ve seen enough to say Luck can be one, and Locker and Mallet have the potential. I’m still hesitant on Newton. DE- Bowers. WR- Green. I haven’t seen Quinn enough to say. CB- Prince Akumura, Patrick Patterson really stood out though there are others that I haven’t seen. DT- there are solid DTs, but I saw few impact DTs. I’ve seen plenty of Bama, LSU, and Auburn games who all have a potential 1st round DT in their team and didn’t come away blown away.

    Hopefully we can get one of the high impact types


  4. akki

    I haven’t seen Clemson play this year so I have a question about Bowers. Gaines Adams (RIP) never was able to cut it in the NFL. I’m not completely sure on the reason, but I heard that he was just so dominant with speed and power in college that he never had to develop much technique, and was easily stopped in the NFL due to his lack of pass rush moves. Philip Merling hasn’t been successful yet either, though he needs time to adjust. (Hmm, Aaron Curry might fall into this class too.)

    Might be unfair to Bowers to bring up Adams and Merling, but it’s the same school and system. So I’d like to know how much of his success is due to talent, how much to scheme.
    -Does Bowers play the same DE position that Adams and Merling did?
    -Does Bowers get his sacks through speed and bull-rushing, or does he have moves?
    -Does he get moved around to avoid blockers, or is he taking on blockers to get his sacks?

    • Rob

      The main difference between Adams and Bowers for me is the size. Bowers has about 25lbs on Adams, who was more of a speed prospect. I think he ran the quicket 40 yard dash time for DE’s at his combine. Bowers won’t do that – he’s not slow, but he’s more rounded. He’s surpisingly agile despite his great size and doesn’t rely on pure speed to beat his guy. He’s capable of over powering, he can drive guys back. He’s got a nice rip move. Overall he’s a more complete package. He’ll get to the passer but he’s good vs the run. He can set the edge, he can move inside and work as a three technique. Clemson tend to use him on the outside where he sees a lot of double teams, but still manages to create havoc. He moves inside occassionally. It’s not like Florida State who put a guy on his own in space and let him use pure speed. Adams was nowhere near as physical or strong as Bowers. For me – he was an athlete who was good enough to cause problems in college but not NFL lineman. Bowers with his size, power, agility – he’s much more prepared to progress. If Adams was a pure pass rusher, Bowers is a complete defensive lineman. I’d put him in any scheme.

      Merling has similiar size to Bowers. He was powerful but lacked the speed or agility. Bowers like I say isn’t an elite athlete in terms of pure speed, but he’s just so light on his feet. He’s cat-quick. Merling never had that.

      There’s a marked difference in production too. Merling had seven sacks his final year at Clemson. Adams had 11 sacks. Bowers has an incredible 16 sacks and the key thing for me is how the production is spread. He didn’t get 4 sacks against one weak opponent and have a few games off. He had two sackless games, the most recent against South Carolina when he only failed to register a sack because of a jersey pull and holding call. That’s ten games with a sack.

      • akki

        Thanks Rob. That’s a wealth of information you have, and I agree that your key point is a huge factor.

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