Through 3 preseason games, it's becoming increasingly clear that Javon Hargrave looks like no ordinary rookie. The questions about his lack of competition in college are starting to become less and less of a concern.
Hargrave's talent coming out of South Carolina State was evident, and it's becoming extremely evident just how much his talent and game is translating in the NFL (granted it's preseason).
Hargrave, out of college, was known for his quick first step, quick hand usage, his pass rushing upside, along with his incredibly nimble feet, and lateral movement which led to him getting drafted in the 3rd round (arguably could've been higher due to his lack of competition). It's traits like this that made him so appealing to the Steelers who were looking for an athletic nose tackle that could stay on the field in nickel/pass rushing situations.
Speaking of pass rush...
I love Hargrave's first step and I understand why people are enamored with it, but I love his hand usage almost, if not, just as much. The center Jack Allen (UDFA from Michigan State by the way) gets out of his stance but Hargrave gets off the ball quick and immediately counters Allen's punch by swimming over him. Allen can only grasp air by the time Hargrave is on his way to the quarterback.
That's what makes Hargrave a good pass rusher, a good first step is something you can't teach but hand usage is something you need to have in order to be effective pass rusher in the NFL.
Hargrave also offers some unique versatility to the Steelers with his ability to line up as a 3, 1 and 0 tech. I also noticed though a few times this preseason I've seen him lined up in a tilted nose position.
Can't really tell from this angle if Hargrave is lined up as a 0 tech or a 1 tech, all I know is he is tilted across the center (reminiscent to what Joe Greene did back in the day). Regardless, Hargrave's lateral movement speed and low pad level is on display on this play as he's able to work across the blocking guard (think it was zone run, couldn't tell exactly) and chase down the RB, bringing him down.
I get that it's a 7-yard gain, but this is something that gives the Steelers something rare out of their nose tackle position. The fact he's shown the ability to anchor in the run game while providing the speed, flexibility and pass rush of somebody you typically see lined up as 3 tech in a 4-3 defensive front is what makes Hargrave and his talent so special.
I don't know what it is about the Steelers defensive line but they make hustle plays all the time. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are known for their effort plays and it looks like it is rubbing off on the rookie as well.
From first glance, it looks as if William Gay is playing underneath coverage on the left side of the field and he quickly races towards Spiller as soon as the ball is released. Gay ultimately misses the tackle, but thanks to Hargrave, and his hustle on the play (really the defense as a whole), Spiller ultimately winds up going out of bounds.
It's not the sexiest play you'll see from Hargrave, but it goes to show you that he's a hard working player who finishes plays not just in practice but also during crunch time.
Javon Hargrave is showing himself to not just look like a tremendous talent, but quite possibly an indispensable talent that shouldn't be kept off the field. Hargrave played 30 snaps in this game, and while he registered a sack, he also registered a few pressures along with a pass deflection. Daniel McCullers didn't play due to injury, and I honestly see no reason why McCullers should play over the rookie after this game.
It's not that I think McCullers is bad either. I really just believe Hargrave brings such pass rushing upside to the position, along with incredible athletic ability that keeping him off the field in favor of McCullers at nose tackle just seems foolish to me.
Hargrave is doing everything John Mitchell preaches, hand usage, pad level, technique and finishing plays. If that doesn't get Hargrave on the field over McCullers, I might call hypocrisy on coach Mitchell.
I don't think that will be necessary though, because there is no doubt in my mind Hargrave is going to be on the field (barring injury) and he will be making plays just like he has all of training camp and preseason when the games really count.