So to get a better sense of what the Rams picked up, I linked up with Chris Landon of UW Dawg Pound, the SB Nation community for fans of the Huskies.
Greg Gaines’ senior year was something to behold not because he put up ridiculous pass rush numbers or made any kind of special jump from his junior year, but because the man simply showed up for work everyday with his hard hat and lunch pail and went to work, even without Vita Vea covering his backside. Husky fans have a nickname for Gaines: GFG ... as in Greg “effing” Gaines. When you see how this man gears up for every snap, engages in hand to hand combat on every play and lifts the defensive line on his shoulders, you’ll soon be calling him the same thing. Most UW fans will tell you that Gaines was the most consistent if not the MVP of UW’s dominating 2018 defense. I would be one of those.
He’s coming aboard the Rams with a pretty specific role carved out for him as a rookie as a nose tackle with run-heavy responsibilities. How would you qualify his skills as a run defender versus a pass defender?
Gaines is a classic motor player with a low center of gravity and ridiculous strength. As such, he can move pretty seamlessly from one-gap to two-gap responsibilities with ease. I like him as a two gap player taking on multiple blockers because he can create so much opportunity for his linebackers to make plays in the running game. UW’s MIKE, Ben Burr-Kirven (now with the Seattle Seahawks) led the FBS in tackles this year on the back of Greg Gaines playing just this role. He is a blocker eating machine who has mastery of the fundamentals to make the tackle when it comes his way.
When he’s struggled, what has been the predominant issue?
Just like some of other UW’s players in this draft, Gaines doesn’t fit the ideal physical profile. He is a shorter player who can get stymied by blockers with longer reach. Gaines is a bull, but he needs to get into the o-lineman’s chest to get his advantage. Gaines has great stamina and has never had injury issues - in fact he set the UW record for most career starts (more that Jake Browning) which, I think, is an incredible accomplishment for a d-lineman. But he puts a ton of physical effort into every snap. He’ll need breathers in the NFL.
Would you consider him a three-down lineman or at least a prospect with that kind of potential, or do you think he’s better suited to situational inclusion?
In college, for sure. At the NFL level, we’ll have to see. Gaines’s game is built around strength. He was great at creating interior pressure against PAC 12 competition, but he didn’t finish out on a lot of sacks because his closing speed is a weakness. I’ll be as curious as anybody in seeing how this game translates at the next level.
We talked about the program in the Taylor Rapp Q&A. Let’s look at recruiting. Not surprisingly as you guys have upped the win totals in recent years, Chris Petersen has had more success on the trail. You guys landed some nice defensive tackles to help offset the Gaines departure, but who are some other names from this year’s and last year’s recruiting classes that NFL fans should keep an eye out for?
I mentioned in my Rapp Q&A that UW is getting access to more physically gifted athletes that, when put through Chris Petersen’s developmental programs, will have a great chance to develop into high level NFL talent. From the 2019 class, a few players that really stand out are DT Jacob Bandes - a 6-2, 315 pounder with plus athleticism - and Julius Buelow - a 6’8”, 330 lb offensive lineman who looks like he could grow into an absolute monster. Another player to watch out for is safety Cameron Williams who was the talk of spring ball.
We’ll start to really see the impact of the 2018 class this season as most of the really talented players from that class were able to redshirt (thanks to the new rules, we did see some of those guys get some snaps). Incoming transfer QB Jacob “Skinny” Eason will be on every draft watchlist and could leave UW early if he has a big year. I’ll also be paying particular attention to the defensive backs coming from this class. Julius Irvin is a bigger safety with a broad skill set, Kyler Gordon is a quick-footed playmaker who can cover the slot and Dom Hampton - a 6’3” CB - looks like a find out of rural Arizona. Though UW lost almost all of its DBs in the 2019 draft, the pipeline of NFL caliber talent looks stocked.
Thanks to Chris for the time.