Monday, 22 February 2010

Anthony Davis - Like a Box of Chocolates

By Kyle Rota
I’m not normally a big fan of writing these two game reports, as I don’t believe two games gives enough snaps to make a confident prediction on a player’s ability. Anthony Davis is a prospect who will require even more games than the usual 4 I aim for, but I only have two 2009 Rutgers games so I was forced to stop earlier than I’d like.

Two games is a nice number for one reason, though – they show us, in depth, what a guy can and does do on the field. That’s half the battle, the other half being how often he does it, and what he’ll be able to do at the NFL level. But the first half is important, and with the Anthony Davis rumor Rob wrote about (here) it seemed like a good time to write about the Rutgers tackle.

The first thing that stood out watching Davis is obviously his size and strength. He’s a good athlete, don’t get me wrong. Good enough to play LT in the NFL. But even more impressive is his size and strength. He’s 325lbs (or more) and he really does play like it. He really creates space for the running back on his side of the ball, and (in limited attempts) he does a good job getting to and removing the LB (a key part of zone blocking). While he is absolutely huge for a Gibbs-coached-player, he is every bit as athletic as Russell Okung in the running game and should have no problems in Seattle’s zone blocking system.

The one possible exception is cut blocking – given Davis’ strength advantage over almost every opponent, he had little desire to cut block opponents and I’ve only see him try at most one cut block (it was such a terrible attempt at a block I’m not sure what he was trying to do – sadly not the only time I was confused when watching Davis block). Cut blocking is very important in a Gibbs system, but it is also one of the easier skills to learn so it will be interesting to see (in other games) if Davis gets any opportunities to cut block. If he can’t or doesn’t, it will add yet another confusing issue for Seattle to deal with when deciding what grade to give Davis.

It takes a little longer to spot, but it becomes clear pretty early how inconsistent Davis is. You never know what you're going to get. I can talk about ten plays where Davis did a great job, and ten plays where Davis looked like he should’ve been riding the bench for Rutgers. Davis really impressed me with how he handled the speed George Selvie (USF, DE) brought to his rushes – Davis was able to handle Selvie with minimal help (something a lot of teams have been unable to do) while showing the lateral slide that makes me think he’s one of the rare players who has the athleticism to play LT at 325lbs in any system (Davis was standing up on most of the pass plays against Selvie, he’ll have to show the same athleticism with his hand on the ground as I watch more of him). He’s also (consistently, of all things) quick off the snap – so quick I actually thought he was cheating and beating the center, but really he’s just that quick. That’s an athleticism, instincts, and smarts skill all in one movement, and Davis really excelled there in the two games I broke down.

Unfortunately, Davis has also done some of the poorest blocking I’ve seen, from a technique perspective. There’s the time he launched himself a few feet off the ground at a LB’s general direction in what I am assuming was a terrible cut block. Or the time Davis thought blocking in the back (on a guy with no real chance to impact the play) was a good way to start a drive. Or when Davis flung his leg out in what was either a spasmodic movement or a poor attempt to trip the DE after getting beat, I’ll probably never know. It was really interesting on the few occasions when USF DE Jason Paul-Pierre was matched up against Davis, as you had two great athletes (JPP being more fast, Davis being more big) with terrible technique squaring off. Davis played very well against USF, but JPP was occasionally able to get pressure (Selvie struggled to even do that).

Inconsistency involves more than technique – Davis’s effort seems to grow and fade almost at random. He almost always starts each half playing with fire (sometimes too much so, as he is a walking penalty machine who I swear must be paying Big East officials not to flag him), but after the first series you see him mix great effort with poor effort, especially in the passing game – I think it is telling that some Cincinnati DE who I’ve never heard of was able to get two sacks on Davis, but the vaunted Selvie/JPP duo could not even touch the QB when lined up against Davis. We could be looking at either a motivation issue (playing up/down to competition across from him) or a conditioning issue (Cincinnati game was early in the year and he had to pass protect a lot due to the score, USF was much later, meaning Davis should be in better shape, and Rutgers was able to build a big lead and ran the ball much more frequently). Neither is good, but neither is unfixable either.

I can certainly understand why the Seahawks front office might be interested in Davis. He has the prototypical size and athleticism to play either tackle spot, flashes great nastiness and intensity, and gets off the ball quickly. However, the glaring inconsistency and poor technique really make me pause, as almost every nice thing I say about Davis has to be followed with “sometimes”. It is worth noting that the Shanahan Denver Broncos (with Jeremy Bates on staff) – who still ran Gibbs’ system, albeit without Gibbs – drafted a pretty similar prospect in Ryan Clady, who they coached up to be the best in the league. I can see the similarities between Clady and Davis, and it is certainly possible that the Seahawks are indeed giving the Rutgers tackle a long look.


Anonymous said...

What's up Kyle? Most mocks either have us getting a QB, RB, Safety, or LT in the 1st round. I say we take a "BIG" risk in grabbing the top rated LT at #6 and take a reach at #14 with LG Mike Iupati. If Pete Carroll and company are smart about it, we could possibly trade our # 14 spot for an extra pick in the 2nd and possibly a 3rd. Hopefully Mike Iupati will still be there. If it were me I would make the reach to get him. We all know he will be another Steve Hutchinson. Our left side with Max Unger in the middle will be amazing for the next decade.

Anonymous said...
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Paul, from what I have been reading, Iupati is not a good fit for the zone blocking system, as amazing as he looks. He's a big powerful guy, but the ZBS requires a quicker, more athletic guard.

Rob Staton said...

Iupati is agile and quick - very few guys his size can pull like he can. The big issue is leverage. He gets too high too often.

Kyle Rota said...

Both Iupati and Davis are excellent examples of overpaying in a ZBS.

Can they execute a zone blocking scheme? I can't really speak as to either's intelligence, but physically both could and there isn't even doubt in my mind. They move like 300lbs but have the strength of guys weighing ~330lbs. However, it would be a tremendous waste of resources, because you can find guys later capable of the same thing. With both of these players, you're paying extra for qualities (primarily size/strength) that simply aren't as important to what you want to do. So, Davis and Iupati could definitely play in a zone system, but so could Charles Brown and Mike Johnson (well, from what I've heard, I've yet to scout the Alabama guard/tackle), and the Brown/Johnson combo is going to be way cheaper.

For what Gibbs/Bates/Carroll want to do, the Honda Civic is as good a choice as the BMW, but you can use the savings elsewhere. If we didn't have such huge needs elsewhere, I'd be tempted to do so anyways, but given that we need help at almost every position I can't really get behind an inefficient use of draft picks and money.

CLanterman said...

Excellent point Kyle. Those who are adamant about drafting O-line in the first round often ask why it matters that Gibbs rarely drafts linemen early. The answer is simple, if you can turn in a 3rd or 4th rounder into a quality starter, why waste a 1st rounder? Same for running backs, if you can get a RB who can cut once and have some burst, why draft an Adrian Peterson with the risk that he turns into a Cedric Benson (who has actually looked good as of late)? Sure it would be great to have a supremely talented o-line, but if these guys would have a bunch of skills that wouldn't even be utilized fully in the ZBS, you're getting talent in areas that you don't need. It would be like getting a speedy deep threat when the QB is Matt Hasselbeck and your playbook doesn't call for many long passes. Sure it's nice to have a fast guy for some YAC, but the deep threat doesn't do much good when the QB can't throw it that far.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of your input, I'm looking at it from a selfish point. Our line has been labeled as a bunch of pretenders who do not intimidate. Mike Iupati would change that in a heart beat. Anthony Davis or even Bryan Bulaga and our center Max Unger would definitely feed off of Iupati. It would be like cancer, traveling up and down the O-Line.

Jon said...

Davis already plays in a ZBS in college.

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Kip Earlywine said...

Its disturbing that Davis is so inconsistent in the real tape review. That's something you basically can't get from compilation videos normally, and even on those, he looked a touch inconsistent.

Inconsistency and work ethic issues are major red flags for me with a high first rounder. Maybe the thought process is that they can iron out Davis work ethic and consistency issues with Gibbs, who's the ultimate hard-ass.

Like Kyle, I'd prefer to wait until the late first before drafting a lineman. Having Gibbs here makes it a totally new game.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rob going on another subject here but I was wondering why Forsett cannot be the main running back for the Seahawks? During the Cardinals game (the second one) he was the sole back and he tore up one of the top ranked rush defenses in the country. I realize that plenty of people and coaches say Forsett is a 3rd down back but why? Also who do you think the Seahawks will try to pick up in the draft for rb or what round do you think the Hawks will look for a running back.


@seahawksfan said...

Also a off subject, but what do you think the Hawks management is waiting for with regards to Burleson? At this stage, to me, it appears they are waiting to see how the draft pans out. If that is the case who do you see as an upgrade? The only obvious one I see is Dez Bryant. If this is true, do you think they are possibly targeting him?

Jon said...

I think there are still a few balls in the air in regard to Free Agency. It will most likely be an uncapped year but I think there's still a deadline looming on that, I know you can't trade players until march 5th or something(Rob mentioned that the other day).
It's not like there have been any signings around the league other than special teams players and the Hawks nabbing Ricky Foley from the CFL.

Plus in Burleson's case, he will be one of the top receivers available as an unrestricted free agent so he's going to get some solid offers from other teams once free agency gets rolling.

I think they'll do everything they can to trade Branch and franchise Nate if they have to.

Rob Staton said...

Andy - personally I think the team have discovered that Forsett can be a servicable back, capable of taking some carries and having a level of production. He's never going to be that explosive, game-plan orientating playmaker that will get a defense worried, but he's young and can be more than just a third down back for the Seahawks. Having said that - he absolutely needs a viable partner who can share the workload. Someone either with greater size or someone who's better at finding the edge or bursting free with greater speed.

I think Seattle will consider the likes of Spiller in round one - even if it goes against the Gibbs philosophy - just because he's a sorely needed playmaker on an offense that contains none. However, I think it's more likely they'll target receivers earlier and look at guys like Jahvid Best, Anthony Dixon, Joe McKnight and Mario Hardesty later on in the draft.

Regarding Burleson - the Seahawks won't franchise tag him. That's not going to happen. I think they'll try to get something done, but it'll be on the 'Hawks terms. He's lost a lot of leverage with his twitter campaign to stay in Seattle. At the end of the day though - he's not worthy of the big bucks and the Seahawks won't throw money at Nate Burleson.

Anonymous said...

If the two games you watched were Cincinnati and USF, then you might overblow concerns about Davis' lacks consistency because those games were night and day. It'd be like watching just the Michigan and Georgia Tech games for Bryan Bulaga.

If you want reassurance on Davis as a prospect, you can get it if you find some tape of his games against Uconn and Pittsburgh because he absolutely dominated Lindsey Witten and Greg Romeus. He went on a tear from the second half of the season onward where he really elevated his play individually. That kind of in-season improvement is a good thing.