Scouting Adrian Clayborn - 2010 Week 2 vs Iowa State - There's That Pass Rush

In previous stories (found here and here), I scouted two of Clayborn's games in the 2009 season, when he had 11 sacks. I concluded that Clayborn looked like a good run defender, but not a special pass rusher. He struggled to get around the edge against offensive tackles, and looked limited overall as a rusher. So given the fact that his productivity dropped dramatically in 2010 (3.5 sacks), I expected him to look worse as a pass rusher in 2010 as well. Instead, at least in this game against Iowa State, he looked much better than he did in 2009. 

Since this is Iowa State, he's going up against OT Kelechi Osemele again. Looking up some information on Osemele, he looks like a first-round pick next year. He may not stick at left tackle in the NFL, as is his skillset seems better suited to the guard or right tackle positions, but Clayborn is going up against an NFL-caliber talent. And in this game, he is very impressive doing so. 

I've already talked about his abilities against the run, and those show up again. He engages the tackle and consistently sheds him to make the tackle, making very good use of his hands. He does play a little upright against the run especially when playing head-up on a tackle, but he still beats his opponent when doing so. There are also some negatives, though. He's asked to play head-up against an offensive tackle, and on run-heavy downs he is consistently late off the ball and doesn't seem to play fast. Fortunately, the Bucs are not going to ask him to play head-up on offensive linemen, instead positioning him outside the offensive tackle and asking him to play just one gap. 

This should help him excel, because Clayborn looks at his best when asked to play one-gap, as he's allowed to shoot off the ball instead of having to read-and-react. In this game he routinely beat Osemele when he knew a pass was coming. He got plenty of opportunity for that, as Iowa got off to a 3-score lead very early on. Clayborn beat Osemele over and over again in a variety of ways: inside moves, speed around the edge, bull rushing, or throwing him to the side: Clayborn did it all. And all that while routinely being double-teamed. This was about as good a game a defensive end can play without notching a sack. This game was a prime example of why relying on individual sack numbers to evaluate players is not a good idea, as Clayborn 

What I really liked seeing on film as well was that he ran a number of stunts with the defensive tackle to his side, both planned and 'natural' stunts which emerge in the course of playing. This gave both Clayborn and the other lineman the opportunity to get to the quarterback more easily. Back when Rod Marinelli was still the Bucs' defensive line coach and the defensive line was stocked with talented and experienced players, stunts like that were a staple for the defensive line and got them a lot of pressure. If the Bucs get back to running those more often, Clayborn ha experience and knows how to run them well. 

If this was the only game of Clayborn I had to watch, I'd come away convinced he was a top-10 NFL talent. I don't know if the rest of his 2010 season looked like this, but if it did, I do not understand how anyone could say he hurt his stock by staying in school. He looked much better as a pass rusher in this game than he did in either of the 2009 games I watched, despite failing to notch a sack. 

Previous Installments:
2009 Week 2 vs Iowa State
2009 Week 11 vs Ohio State

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