Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood can be described bluntly two ways; he is not the worst 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. However, he is not the best either.
Hood shows flashes of being very good, but that summarizes his main problem: they are flashes. When watching Hood on film, you would think he would have a very bright future if he was a first or second year player.
Unfortunately, Hood has completed four years in the NFL since being the team's first round draft pick in 2009.
Arguably, Aaron Smith's greatest strength was his football IQ. He recognized blocking schemes quickly and was thus able to find the ball and disrupt the play. Hood does not do a good job of this at all. Admittedly, the Steelers do things differently than most teams. Their way of reading and reacting to blocks has a steeper learning curve than "playing the run on the way to the quarterback."' However, Hood sometimes does not react against blocks at all instead of just doing it slowly. Or, in the first clip, he shows no understanding of the defense that is being played.
This is just inexcusable, and the reaction of linebacker Larry Foote at the end of the play shows it. There is no reason for Hood to be where he is with Foote blitzing A gap. Secondly, when he feels the down block, he needs to anchor and get over the top of the block. He doesn't do it. He just continues to be blocked down away from the play. If Hood just anchors B gap on this play, it is a run for minimal gain.
(note: Hampton is circled inadvertantly in the GIF discussing Hood's pad level, Hood is to Hampton's left)
Ok, that was bad. But, before there are 40 comments about how you saw this happen to Hood 200 times this past season, just relax, because it didn't. I chose this play to illustrate that Hood does not play with very good pad level and strength. Ziggy needs to get a refund from that place where he did all that training and made all of the stupid youtube videos.
Seriously, Hood does not use his hips and legs at all. He relies almost exclusively on upper body strength, and it's clearly not working. Look at how long it takes Hood to get uncoiled out of his stance. Steeler defensive linemen are never going to look like Geno Atkins exploding out of their stance. Once again, that is not the philosophy of the defense. That is also why pad level is emphasized so much.
One more clip to emphasize the point that Hood does not play with strength or explosion consistently.
The good news is that on 3rd and short, Hood does play with good pad level and explosion, He does well. However, 1st and 10 is a different story. That brings up an interesting point. Hood obviously needs to study more. He needs to be more aware of personnel, formations, and backfield sets. If, according to the formation, personnel, and down in distance, there is a good chance of an inside run, Hood needs to play it just like it is 3rd and short.
As I mentioned earlier, Hood is not terrible, If he is slanting, and the Steelers slant a good amount, he does well. A critic would say that he does well here because he can just move. He doesn't have to read and react. That critic would be exactly right.
All is not lost with Ziggy. Compare this play with play 3. He looks 10x better. Hood improved from the first game to the last; there is no denying that. Hopefully, Hood capitalizes on what he did at the end of last year.
In a lot of ways, Hood seems to be like Lawrence Timmons. You see the potential, but you are getting tired of waiting. While watching the tape, I saw Timmons make a lot of great plays. I also saw him being completely out of position (and thus causing) on Darren McFadden's 65 yard touchdown run in the Oakland game. Timmons, in some ways, is still a work in progress.
Still, we should expect more from Hood. There is no reason for him to look like a rookie on some of these plays. Whatever time Hood is not spending in the weight room, he needs to be spending in the film room. He also needs every single rep he can get during OTA's and Mini-Camp. The ability is there, he just needs to use it consistently.