When it comes to rushing the passer, you need a deep, diverse arsenal. Getting to the quarterback in waves can dictate so much of what you are able to do on defense.
That is what Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is trying to implement in Flowery Branch, Georgia. One facet that fascinates me about the Falcons 4-3 Under defensive scheme is the diversification that is the defensive line. By now, you should know the basics of the 4-3 Under front: four defensive linemen along with three linebackers that plays off the strong side of the offensive formation.
With that, the Falcons are currently building a solid rotation of defensive linemen. The team is still in search of another addition at defensive end. I broke down the ability of Michigan’s Taco Charlton here as he could be a possible draft day target for the Falcons. Today, I will focus on another prospect that can fill the strong side defensive end spot.
Jordan Willis Scouting Report
Weight: 260 lbs
Strengths: In Willis is an NFL prospect with a stout, muscular frame, first and foremost. The 2016 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year led the conference in sacks this season with 12, which was also tied for 10th in the country. Along with that came 17.5 tackles for loss. Impressively, Willis garnered 87 total QB pressures, which led the nation according to Pro Football Focus. Willis has good read and react skills which coincides with solid situational awareness. He has also rushed from the 7- and 9-Tech positions instead of the defensive line. At times, Willis has accumulated plenty of productivity off tackle-end stunts, a staple of the Falcons defense in 2016.
When it comes to showcasing a strong base—in both pass rushing and run defense—Willis has been effective in that aspect as well. His arm length (33 1⁄4 inches) is used very well, as opposing linemen have trouble getting proper hand placement. His strength makes his bull-rush technique difficult to corral let alone defend. In the Senior Bowl several weeks back, Willis made a lasting impression by totaling two sacks and winning Most Outstanding Player for the South team.
Here is a video courtesy of Draft Breakdown of one of Jordan Willis best games during the 2016 season vs. Texas
Weaknesses: Hands. Something so simple that can open up the skill set for a defensive lineman. For Willis, he does not use his hands consistently as he tends to rely heavily on a bull rush and beating the linemen with a burst. During the regular season, Willis lined up exclusively on the left side. When I say exclusively, I mean EXCLUSIVELY. Which raises some questions about whether he has the same ability on the right side.
Conclusion: The Falcons need pass rushing help, plain and simple. As mentioned above, they have a nice nucleus to start with, but it is well known that they need some additional reinforcements. Willis can help Atlanta by giving the Falcons an underrated prospect that can get to the quarterback efficiently using speed and power. Especially with Shelby and Clayborn coming off injured seasons, Willis provides an excellent insurance policy.
Currently, he has a 2nd-3rd round grade. That is before he participates in the draft workouts, where his stock can improve. The Falcons may very well go defensive tackle or guard in the first round. IF so, Willis can be a prime target for the Falcons on day two of the draft.
He definitely needs more coaching, that’s for sure. However, Willis is a potential gem that can provide solid pass rushing ability for the Falcons. If Senior Bowl practice was any indication, he has the potential to be a quality asset on both sides of the line. Keep an eye out for Willis, as he can provide double-digit sack potential.