Last night, former New England Patriot Dominique Easley signed a one year deal with the Los Angeles Rams. He is a bit of a wild card at this point, but there is absolutely value in giving him another shot in the NFL.
Health issues and perceived character issues have plagued Easley's time in the NFL. Prior to being drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots in 2014, Easley tore each of his ACLs at separate times while in college, the second of which ended his senior season. While in the league, he battled injuries, too. They were largely minor injuries, but injuries no less and he missed some time in his two years with the Patriots.
The reward for signing Easley could be stunning, barring his health. Him being cut by the Patriots was not all about his health, either. Easley has a dark, eccentric personality that was simply a poor fit in New England. Between his health, poor personality fit and unclear linkage with the Chandler Jones incident (Jones was also shipped off in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals), it made sense for the Patriots to move on. Los Angeles can be a new beginning for him.
Easley is incredibly energetic on the field. He moves around a lot along the line of scrimmage prior to the snap, doing his best to confuse the offensive line as to what his true intentions are. His energy was contagious at Florida and lead to a lot of explosive plays from the front seven. Sometimes he would dance at the line of scrimmage before a play, while other times he would do this...
Energy aside, Easley is an outstanding penetrator along the defensive line. Coming out of Florida, he was up to par with Aaron Donald, in terms of talent. Health has obviously hindered that, but the point remains. Easley is wildly explosive off the snap and has a mean streak. That combo has lead to Easley putting a lot of linemen, running backs and quarterbacks in the dirt over the course of his career. When he is on, he has the ability to derail a play before it even starts.
As a run defender, Easley is best shooting gaps. He can do that from anywhere, though. 1-tech, 3-tech, 5-tech- it doesn't matter for Easley. Just put him in a gap and he will shoot it.
Here, Easley is lined up directly over the guard, but Miami's zone running game creates a gap for him. The entire line steps to the right. For most defensive lineman, the center squares them up and the battle starts there. Not for Easley. He fires out of his stance and the center has no option but to hold Easley, which is ultimately unsuccessful anyway as Easley destroys the play and racks up a tackle for loss.
Easley shifts from being shaded into the A-gap to being shaded into the B-gap here. He explodes as soon as the ball moves and forces Ronald Leary (65) to lose balanced footing. Travis Frederick (72) was not much helping in stopping Easley either. Easley set out on a mission to stop the rushing attempt and he did it single handedly, and did so against the best offensive line in the league, no less.
This is where Easley is most valuable. His work in the run game is good, too, but his ability to manhandle opposing linemen in the pass game and generate interior pressure does wonders for a defense
On both of these plays versus the Indianapolis Colts, Easley crushes the pocket in a hurry. In the first clip, he blows the center off the ball, works him back until he is off balanced a bit, and then goes for the kill by ripping him and throwing him to his side.
The second play does not end in a sack, but Easley does force Andrew Luck to make a major adjustment. Easley jumps first at the center, but quickly disengages and works to the far shoulder of the left guard. Easley immediately overpowers the center and drives him back into the quarterback's lap, stripping Luck of any comfort he thought he might have had in the pocket.
This example versus the Houston Texans shows Easley lined up over the B-gap at 3-tech. Easley lands his punch and begins pumping his legs through the guard. Easley's raw power overwhelms the lineman and gets him to stumble backwards right into then quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Fit With the Rams
Dom Easley brings the same dynamic that Donald does, though, due to health issues, not to the same extent. Easley makes for a perfect rotational player for Donald, seeing as he is the same type of player. On third downs and other obvious pass situations- or if Gregg Williams wants to deliberately disrupt the interior of a run play- Easley can work in unison with Donald to generate penetration along the interior.
A lot of Easley's success rests in where he is at health-wise, but if he can avoid another big injury, Easley will certainly have an impact for the Rams and may very well revive his career altogether.