Do any of you ever look back and say “Man, I wish I hadn’t missed on Joey Bosa?” I sure do, but as this draft season came and I saw Bosa in action, I was just left miffed why I ever doubted him. Was it his athleticism and just not believing he had enough explosion?
Nope, it was “bend.”
Bend, the phrase many of you have no doubt been exposed to this draft season and prior draft seasons. Some of you may not understand what it is, I personally still am trying to grasp the whole concept. I know it has a lot to do with hip and ankle flexibility to be able to get low and be able to to turn the corner, rather than getting “pushed up the arc.”
That phrase though, “pushed up the arc.”
That is where sometimes context needs to be provided. The truth is that I am still very much learning and trying to understand why I missed on someone and why they had so much success. So, it probably doesn’t come as a shocker that I have used that phrase “Pushed up the arc” before, but the truth is, there is even more to it than I ever thought.
What is one of the most crucial element of any position of football? Footwork.
Yes, that is where I have not clarified. As it turns out, some guys can bend or “flatten” to the QB but the problem is that their footwork is completely screwed up and it requires them to take wasted steps up the arc before they finally come back.
How do I know this is true? It was the same problem Joey Bosa had, which was why I was so low on him. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t discover this by myself, in fact, it was discovered during the 2016 draft season by more experienced people that I try to soak up as much knowledge from as possible.
I was able to learn about it thanks Matt Waldman who does his rookie scouting portfolio videos on YouTube and John Owning of Fan Rag sports. This segment in this RSP video will explain it all to you.
*Note, watch until about 21:30
Yeah John Owning is truly brilliant for pointing this out and I highly encourage you check out his work over at Fan Rag.
In case you did not watch that video segment, I’m about to show you what he was pointing out with Bosa. Remember what I said about footwork? Well, here’s exactly what I was referring to.
Did you catch a glimpse of it? Perhaps the still frame will help clear it up.
Look where his foot is pointed? Right at the Referee and if your foot is pointing in the opposite direction of where you want to go, you won’t be able to turn that corner, plain and simple. I mean for Pete's sake, the defensive rookie of the year is getting pushed up the arc by a TE!
Now look at the difference during his rookie season.
Look where his pointed now, right towards the QB and not out in left field.
He never lacked the flexibility to bend. Not in his ankles or hips. All of that was shown in his 3 cone drill. All Bosa lacked was the footwork to be able to corner the edge and not take wasted steps up the arc.
Now you may be wondering what this has to do with Jordan Willis and that is just it, I believe this may be the same problem Willis has. He doesn’t lack the flexibility because it’s painfully obvious on tape and at the combine that he can bend the edge.
The problem is his footwork.
Again, take a look at the still frame.
Feet are pointed nowhere near the QB, so that is going to lead to him getting pushed a bit further up the arc but did you notice that at the end he started to corner more and turn towards that QB?
That’s the thing, that is absolutely repetitive on Jordan Willis’ tape. It’s a common recurring trend that beyond infuriated me when I had to rewatch his tape after the combine that just left me confused beyond belief.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying Jordan Willis is Joey Bosa because there aren’t very many edge defenders that come out of college with level of polish Bosa had when it came to his hand usage, pass rush moves and overall technique.
Now Willis has shown to be effective converting speed to power time to time and using his hands, but often too many times he was mostly speed rushing the QB in the games you’ll find on draftbreakdown. That’s not a bad thing either, with his freakish burst off the snap and level of bend, but it doesn’t look great when you have too many wasted steps up the arc.
What is really encouraging though is that Jordan Willis seems to have identified this problem and is aware of it, according to this great intereview from Jared Tokarz and Evan Morrison of thenfldraftinsider.
In the interview he was asked about what he could improve on the most, this was his response:
I would say the biggest thing is that when I pass rush, there are times when you can bend the corner tighter as you try and sack the quarterback and there are times when, if I do that more often even if the quarterback steps up in the pocket 3 to 4 yards, I can get to the quarterback a lot sooner.
That may not seem like a big deal, but not a lot of guys are able to identify the problem and work on it. Willis is a hard worker and has tremendous character from what I’ve seen from various amounts of articles on the internet.
This to me is important because that means Jordan Willis has a higher ceiling than I initially had anticipated and if he is truly a hard worker, knows the problem and has the level of athleticism that he displayed at the combine, then Willis could be among the top overall edge defenders in this entire class.
I don’t know if the Steelers are targeting him, but one thing is for certain, I am not going to make the same mistake twice and underrate Willis like I did with Bosa.