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Analyzing Steelers UDFA Francis Kallon: Gifted and Growing

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Senior year at Central Gwinnett High School was one of many milestones for Francis Kallon. For starters, this was the first time the native of London, England started playing football; by the end of his only high school season, he finished with 70 tackles, seven sacks, three fumble recoveries. His performance was so impressive, he received a four-star rating from rivals.com, and received recruiting interest from many Division I colleges. While at Georgia Tech, he started as a red-shirt freshman and played in only a handful of games. By his Senior year, he played in 12 games and became an important component of the Yellow Jacket's fearsome defensive line. His most notable accomplishment came in the 2017 Tropical Bowl, where he recorded two sacks, three tackles and was and the named the Tropical Bowl's top lineman.

Francis Kallon is quite an enigma as it pertains to his college career, since he does not possess a tremendous body of work. One may ask why the Steelers were intrigued enough to sign him. The fact of matter is that Kallon is a 6'5, 295 lbs physical specimen, who ran a 4.8 at his pro day, and continues to evolve with every passing year. Considering the fact that he only started his football career at the age of 18, one can imagine the physical gifts and work ethic he possess that allowed him to make it this far. Kallon indeed has many physical gifts and as you will see in this film session, those gifts will hopefully help him become a more proficient defensive lineman.

Pad Level ( leverage )

As a defensive lineman, size and strength is a desired quality, but what separates good linemen from the great ones is the ability to consistently use that size and strength to win battles. For a defensive lineman, pad level is an essential skill in order to win battles in the trenches. Playing with leverage entails playing with a low pad-level; thus allowing a defensive lineman to keep his size and strength at a base, as opposed to his upper body. For someone like Francis Kallon who stands above 6'5, this is especially important. The tendency for taller linemen like Kallon is to keep all their weight in their upper body; often, this leads to them standing upright and playing out of control, resulting in losing battles with an offensive lineman. In next clips, you will see an example of Kallon playing upright, versus Kallon playing at a lower pad level. The results speak for themselves:

Kallon Francis vs Miami (2015)

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Francis Kellon vs Virginia (2016)

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Kallon's improvement in pad level from his junior year to his senior is evident in this case. In both clips, Kallon comes off the ball quickly; however the difference in both clips is leverage. In the Miami clip, he stands upright and is driven off balance by the offensive guard; perhaps Kallon was reacting to the tackle pulling, but this was a battle already lost. In the clip against Virginia, he is lined up 2-tech and engages directly with the Auburn guard on his side. Notice his pad-level is lower and is immediately in control; he is able shed the guard and make the stop.

Strength

From watching Kallon on film, it was apparent that strength was not an issue. A big part of what Kallon was highly regarded by NFL teams was due to his natural strength. Even with natural strength, the key for Kallon is turning that into functional strength; this will derive from acquiring the proper technique to use it. In this next clip, you will see an example of his natural strength, but you will also see what happens when proper technique is lacking.

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In this clip, Kallon's pad level is noticeably high, yet his is still able to win the battle with lineman in front of him using his strength. He creates the proper separation to make the play, yet because he is too high, he makes a horse collar tackle on the running back, resulting in what ended up being a costly penalty. As impressive this clip was, Kallon needs to consistently use proper pad level in order to make his natural strength functional in games.

Hand Usage

This is the type of skill few college linemen have conquered coming into the NFL; Francis Kallon is no exception. Hand usage is an essential skill for a defensive lineman to have in their arsenal as it allows them to effectively combat blocks of opposing offensive linemen. When viewing Kallon on film, his hand usage was quite basic. He mainly used his hands to create separation, and there were very few instances where he used his hands to combat or manipulate blocks. With this noted, Kallon is a highly intelligent player, capable of acquiring new skills quickly as he displayed in the 2017 Tropical Bowl game.

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In the previous clips, there was little to no hand manipulation on his part. In this clip, he gets a little creative with his hand movement, as he is able to swim away from the lineman and get the stop. For Kallon, it is imperative that he acquires with time, a variety of hand manipulation techniques that he can use. With his natural strength, if his hand usage improves, he can become a mismatch against many offensive linemen.

Summary

No doubt Francis Kallon has a long road ahead of him. To make the practice squad, Kallon will need to prove that his skills have upgraded since the Tropical Bowl. Considering the fact that he started playing football in his senior year in high school, Kallon is the type of player ripe enough to acquire new skills and implement them quickly. In essence, Kallon has little to lose and all to gain. If he is capable of putting it all together, this athletic freak from London England could be one of camp's biggest sleepers.

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