As we are all aware by now, the Rams made Defensive Tackle Michael Brockers their first round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, with overall pick #14. We had assumed, since their trade with Washington, that the Rams would be picking at 6th overall, so we, as fans, didn't learn a whole lot about him. Let's jump into the film from the BCS national "championship" game and see what we got.
A fantastic fanpost that you must read. Note, I dropped the photo for front page formatting purposes. -Ryan
The setting: On January 9th, 2012, the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide played the #1 LSU Tigers in the college football "championship" game. Alabama gashed the Tigers for nearly 4.5 yards per carry behind #3 overall pick Trent Richardson and their dominant offensive line. The Alabama defense dominated the LSU offense, and the Crimson Tide won the game 21 to 0.
I chose this game for two reasons. First, this was clearly the biggest game of the season for Brockers and LSU, and was being watched by millions of people. This is as much of a pressure packed game as he will see until the Rams are in the playoffs, and I wanted to see how he performed.
The second reason is the Alabama offensive line. Widely considered to be the top offensive line in college, from top to bottom, this line closely resembles what Brockers will face on a week-to-week basis in the NFL. It should therefore give us our closest approximation to what we'll see from Brockers for this upcoming season.
Supporting cast: Clearly the star of this clip is Michael Brockers, but there are other guys in the video that people may want to know about as well.
Alabama - #52 - Alfred McCullough - He took over playing guard for Bama around halfway through the season. He was a senior last year, and went undrafted. He signed as an UDFA with the Ravens. He is the man Brockers goes up against most often in this video.
Alabama - #61 - Anthony Steen - Also a guard. He'll be returning to Alabama this season, and in early scouting reports for next year's draft, he is not considered to be a draftable prospect.
Alabama - #76 - DJ Fluker - Alabama's star tackle. He returns to Alabama this year, and is expected to be a top 5 pick next year. One of the more dominant tackles in college football
Alabama - #3 - Trent Richardson - Alabama Running back. We all know all about him. He was picked #3 overall, and is considered to be a once in a generation talent.
Alabama - #42 - Eddie Lacy - Alabama Running Back. Not yet as well known as Trent Richardson, but Lacy is also a very good running back, averaging 7.1 yards per carry, over 1 yard per carry more than Trent Richardson.
LSU - #49 - Barkevious "KeKe" Mingo - He is a rotational DE/OLB for LSU. Although he was a teammate of Brockers, I thought he really jumped off the screen in this video. He was a 4 star prospect coming out of high school, and made second team SEC last year. He's a sophomore in this video, so I'm excited to watch him develop for two more years.
The above is the video in it's entirety. It is every play Brockers participated in during the game vs Alabama. He is highlighted at or just before each snap with a small white box. His field goal block is in this video as well, although it's not a play I looked at in depth. (You can see it at this link).
I encourage you to watch the entire thing to get a better idea of his capabilities. I looked at and provided my thoughts on 7 specific plays. I provided links to the spot in the video for each play, as well.
Play number 1:
The intention of this play appears to be a run to the right guard by Trent Richardson. Brockers is lined up over Vlachos.
This play shows something you see a lot throughout this video; the strength of Michael Brockers. Vlachos hits him from the snap, and Brockers is just unmovable, forcing Richardson back inside, allowing the LSU defense to gang tackle him for a gain of about 1 yard.
Play number 2:
The intention of this play is a throw, preferably to the end zone, by Alabama. Brockers is playing at DE.
This is one of the few plays in the video where LSU is in a 34 defense. He is going up against Fluker. He shows a decent outside move, then does a good job of using his hands to get slight separation from Fluker. When he sees that he isn't going to get to McCarron, he gets his hands up, and the outside pressure doesn't allow McCarron to step into his throw, causing him to throw the ball well out of bounds.
Although you would like to see the pressure come quicker, he does show some decent moves on this play. This is also the best pass rush in the entire video.
Play number 3:
This is my favorite play in this entire video. The intention of this play appears to be an interior run by Trent Richardson. It gets destroyed in the backfield by Mingo.
Although Brockers has little to do with the outcome of this play, his strength and determination just pour through the screen at you. He is double teamed from the snap by Vlachos plus guard Chance Warmack. Not only are they not able to move him off his spot, but Brockers is actually driving both men into the backfield by the time the play breaks down. He is actually able to get free of them by the end of the play to help with the gang tackle on Richardson.
This play makes me so excited to have Michael Brockers on the Rams. I can't possibly speak highly enough about it.
Play number 4(there are multiple replays of this play):
The intention of this play is a run off tackle by Lacy. Brockers is responsible for this play breaking down, and if he doesn't stop Lacy here, it may go for a long run. If you pause at 3:15, you can see the big holes and no one down field.
This is very much a Jekyll and Hyde play. Brockers is going up against Fluker, and is clipped by Steen right as the play starts. He allows himself to get driven into the ground by Fluker at the start of the play, but continues to fight and stays aware of the play developing. He is able to get back to his feet, separate from Fluker, and tackles Lacy for a loss of 1 on a play that looks like a 16 yard touchdown run when it's developing.
Play number 5:
The intention of this play is a stretch right by Richardson. Brockers is against Alfred McCullough again.
I almost left this clip out, only because it's very hard to see what Brockers does on this play. It is a very impressive play by him, if you take the time to rewatch it a couple times to see his role.
From the snap, he reads the play, and is able to slice up field and get a hand on Richardson, slowing him down enough for help to get there, allowing LSU to stop Richardson for a loss of 1.
The most important part about this play is the great burst that we can see from Brockers. He is up field in a flash, completely embarrassing McCullough.
Play number 6:
The intention of this play is a run off tackle to the left by Richardson. Brockers is lined up over Vlachos.
Another Jekkyl/Hyde play for Brockers here, as he shows a great first step, slicing straight into the back field, nearly stopping the play for a loss of 4. However, Richardson escapes, and Michael breaks one of the rules that coaches have been telling him since he was in junior football: don't leave your feet! This kind of thing will drive his coaches nuts.
It's great to see that burst from him again, but it's clear he still has some growing up and maturing to do as a football player.
Play number 7:
The intention of this play is a run to the left guard by Lacy that he bounces back to the right side. Brockers is, once again, lined up over McCullough.
Brockers engages with McCullough at the snap as the play develops left. When Brockers sees it it is being bounced back to the right, he is able to use his arms to shove McCullough off of him, freeing himself up to make a play on Lacy. He is able to grab Lacy's leg and holds onto him until more LSU players are able to come and finish off the tackle.
This is another play where Brockers strength and awareness just shine through. He is going to make some great plays in the NFL just based on his natural ability,
Run stopping: Brockers is everything he was advertised to be in regards to his ability to stop the run. He has great awareness, tremendous physical tools, and is just relentless in trying to stop the run before it is able to go anywhere. You also see him continue to pursue runners across or down the field, rarely giving up on plays.
He has good speed for a big man, and a tremendous first step as well. When he nails his timing, the Alabama offensive linemen are just overwhelmed by his raw power and speed. Even though NFL offensive linemen are more physically gifted than college linemen, I believe his burst will transfer very well. Brockers will be at, or near, the top of rookie rankings in tackles for a loss.
I've mentioned this previously on several occasions, but what I hadn't really heard anyone mention about Brockers was his great awareness. He always knows where a play is going. He is rarely out of position to make a play. His head is always up and looking into the backfield. This was definitely the most pleasant surprise about Brockers in this video.
Pass rush: Unfortunately, Brockers is everything he was advertised to be when it comes to pass rushing as well. He is woefully underprepared for the NFL game when it comes to putting pressure on the passer. You rarely see that great first step or the slicing up field when it is a passing down. Also, on quite a few run plays, Alabama felt the need to double team Brockers for the play to be successful. There were zero double teams on him on passing downs.
Worse than any of that, the relentlessness and incredible effort to stop the run just doesn't appear to be there on passing downs. It's clear that Michael has identified himself as a run stopper, and doesn't put in nearly the effort on passing downs as he does on rushing downs (This one, in particular, is upsetting).
Even the incredible strength you see in running downs doesn't come across during pass rush situations. Several times he is driven to the ground by the same guys he manhandles on running downs (In this one here, he gets completely ragdolled).
Conclusions: If the Rams had made no other major offseason changes except to draft Michael Brockers, the run defense would be vastly improved. It comes across very clearly throughout this game that he takes it as his personal mission to stop his team from ever being run on.
He is incredibly strong. He has a very good first step. He makes great use of his hands, and he has tremendous awareness. It would be hard to overstate how pleasantly surprised I was to see how smart he is for such a young player.
His pass rushing has a long, long way to go. He doesn't have a single move I saw that takes advantage of his great strength. He doesn't seem to come off nearly as quickly, which is quite odd, since he loves to knife into the backfield on rushing plays.
By far the most worrisome thing I saw in this video was a lack of effort and passion when rushing the passer. The vitality and constant effort that comes screaming across the screen when he is trying to stop the run just isn't there on drop backs. He doesn't even seem to collapse the pocket to nearly the degree a DT of his incredible strength really should. Coach Fisher and DLine coach Mike Waufle have their work cut out for them just to turn Brockers into an adequate pass rusher.
Unfortunately, as a top 15 pick in the first round, Michael will be judged not just on his ability to stop the run, but by his ability to get to the quarterback. For both the Rams sake, and for Michael's, I hope he is able to get there...