Read & React: Very instinctual player, which is why he can play
the middle with an average frame. Might take a false step on bootlegs
and misdirection but reacts and accelerates quickly enough to prevent
big plays. Sees the ball so well inside that linemen must get more than a
hand on him to negate his playmaking ability.
Run defense: A bit smaller than teams prefer as an in-the-box
presence, yet very effective as a run defender. Flows to the ball and
reads his keys well, at times moving towards the play side before the
snap. Picks his way through traffic on most plays but gets caught up in
trash and engulfed by offensive linemen at times due to his small frame.
Plays with leverage, however, against blocks to hold his ground or
bounce off to chase plays down the field. Stays low to the ground to
defeat cut blocks with his hands. Also uses his hands or a swim move to
avoid approaching linemen, albeit consistently. Is a bit aggressive in
his angles; quicker backs can beat him to the corner on occasion.
Pass defense: Fluid pass defender in space, owns the hips and
athleticism to stay with running backs out of the backfield. Keeps
athletic position when greeting backs in the hole, reads and reacts
quickly to out routes or square-ins. Will take a step in on play action
and overrun routes, but recovers well enough to make a play on the ball.
Faces match-up problems against taller, stronger tight ends over the
middle. Has not intercepted a pass or knocked away many passes.
Tackling: Excellent pursuit tackler. Excels as a drag-down
tackler in traffic or in space, but can be explosive as well when lined
up. Goes sideline-to-sideline, giving great effort to chase down fast
ballcarriers in order to prevent touchdowns. A bit undersized to stop
larger running backs and tight ends in their tracks, but plays with a
low center of gravity to hold them up until help arrives. Typically
flows well to the ball but will overrun plays occasionally because of
his aggressive style. Inconsistent getting off linemen blocks inside but
defeats those from most tight ends on the edge. Could be an exceptional
special teams coverage unit performer.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Effective blitzer because of his ability to
anticipate the snap count, read gaps and explode through them. Uses
hands to defeat pulling guards and fullbacks in the hole. Plays with
leverage, gets under the shoulder of guards to beat them inside when the
space is available. Has speed to turn the corner when blitzing from
outside. Hustles toward the ball until it is away. Good change of
direction to track down mobile quarterbacks in the pocket or chase them
down outside of it. His lack of size allows linemen to latch on if they
get a hand on him, though he still sometimes manages to get a hand on
backs coming through the vacated hole while engaged.
Intangibles: Considered the team's greatest playmaker and leader
on defense, as well as a solid young man. Voted co-captain by coaches
and teammates. Gives full effort in weight room and on the practice
field. Mentors and commands respect from younger players. Durable
performer who hasn't missed a game in three years despite mixing it up
in the box for half of those games.