THUNDERING BLURB » defensive end ANDREW GARDA'S ENDLESS TAKES ON NFL AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL Fri, 22 Oct 2010 12:30:31 +0000 en hourly 1 2010 NFL Rookie Analysis – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants Wed, 28 Apr 2010 16:36:08 +0000 admin Since I’m now located on the East Coast, I’ve been following East Coast teams much more closely than I have before.

Of course, you’d have had to be blind to miss Rutgers’ recent rise to prominence (hence the rumors they are the target of a pilfering attempt by the Big Ten) no matter where you lived. But there’s a lot more to the conference than I thought before I returned back to NY.

This year, 18 players from the Big East Conference were drafted and a slew of others were picked up as street free agents.

Over the next week we’re going to take a look at some of them, where they went and what their landing spot might mean for their success in the league.

Previous Articles:

Devin McCourty, CB, New England Patriots

Anthony Davis, OT, San Francisco 49ers

This time out, we finish off the first rounders with former University of South Florida defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul.


The Giants' defensive line rotation should allow Pierre-Paul time to round out his game

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida – Drafted by the New York Giants at 1-15
Pierre-Paul is the highest drafted player in the University of Southern Florida’s history and according to Brian Bennett’s ESPN Big East Blog, when he was selected he gave the Big East more first round picks in this draft than the Pac-10, the same number as the Big Ten and only one less than the ACC. And the Big East did this, Bennett points out, with fewer teams than any of those leagues.

Pierre-Paul may be a bit of a big boom-bust risk but Giants just might be the perfect team for him. As New York loves to rotate defensive linemen in and out, they’ll be able to give Pierre-Paul the time he needs in order to sand off the rough edges of his game while still taking advantage of his explosive pass-rushing skills.

What rough edges you ask?

His speed and quickness make up for a lack of instinct as Pierre-Paul will sometimes read a play completely wrong and on occasion gets too focused on pursuing the quarterback, abandoning his positional responsibilities at times.

His athletic ability will allowed him to make up for it at times in college, but that won’t fly in the pros and he’s going to need to reign it in. Remember also, he lacks a lot of experience, having transferred from College of the Canyons (a JUCO) to USF, where he only played for a year.

That lack of experience coupled with his instinct issues makes him a risk. Again, the Giants need not rely on him completely to be effective and hope by sharing time, he will be allowed to improve without the pressure of having the defense sit on his shoulders.

The cost will still be high if he busts, but if he hits, Pierre-Paul could be a dominant pass rushing force to be reckoned with in the NFC North.

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2009 NFL Draft: Defensive Position Class Grades Sat, 25 Apr 2009 00:22:00 +0000 admin Each season a new crop of college athletes take part in the NFL Draft Process, and every year what the overall strengths and depths of the class are will change as often as the needs of the teams doing the drafting.

This year is no exception.

Last time we looked over the offensive talent in the 2009 NFL Draft but we all know defense can make or break a championship team.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the overall talent in the NFL Defensive Draft class of 2009.

PositionDefensive End
High SideBrian Orakpo, Everette Brown, Tyson Jackson
Low SidePierre Walters, Orion Martin
Overall GradeA
Explanation – The Defensive line class – both Tackle and End – is very deep this year. I think the defensive end class is deeper than the tackles and I think you could see between eight and ten going on Day 1 – possibly more than any other position and that includes the ever coveted offensive tackle position. And to my mind, even the low side is chock full of talented guys who have a shot to make an impact. That said, keep two things in mind here. First, even the top guys can be converted to linebacker or tackle depending upon the defensive scheme. That versatility is a good thing but also makes it hard to count on the DE being taken as an actual DE. I love Orakpo like many others, and have been a big believer in Jackson for quite some time, calling him out as a distinct possibility as the Jets’ pick at 17. Now he’s even being talked up as a top 10 pick in many circles I respect. If those two go quickly, guys like Brown, Larry English (Florida State) and Lawrence Sidbury (Richmond) may move up. This is a deep, deep class too. Pierre Walters from Eastern Illinois is all over the team interest lists I did at and he’s a very productive, smart and versatile guy who could go late and still contribute early. Rulon Davis from Cal is another guy who, with his hard work ethic, high motor and good tackling skills could hang around and contribute as he develops. There are plenty of players who have the talent to get on the field and stay there in this class.

PositionDefensive Tackle
High SideB.J. Raji, Peria Jerry
Low SideRa’Shon Harris, Sammie Lee Hill
Overall GradeB+
Explanation – An excellent overall class, with talent fitting for every round from first to seventh. Excellent ability front to back, plenty of depth. This class could have a tremendous impact for some time to come with the top end able to make plays from Day 1. Raji has been getting a lot of the press but don’t forget his Boston College compatriot, Ron Brace. While Raji is more of the complete package, Brace is quick off the snap, can shoot the gaps and penetrate to collapse the pocket and is outstanding versus the run. Peria Jerry is a name you have been hearing more the last few weeks but has been on my radar for some time, and he’s a good bet to go in round one behind Raji. Another guy I absolutely love and am pretty sure he will go around the turn at ½ is San Jose State’s Jarron Gilbert. He absolutely blew up his Pro Day and several teams are very interested, including the Jets, whose coach Rex Ryan was in attendance. While it’s a good class, it lags behind the Ends in part because it just isn’t quite as deep.

Position - Outside Linebacker
High Side - Aaron Curry, Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing
Low Side - Anthony Felder, Stephen Hodge
Overall Grade - A-
Explanation – Another incredibly deep class on the defensive side of the ball, Aaron Curry leads a strong group of OLBs which once again contains a large contingent of USC Trojans. The group had a good showing at the NFL Combine and shined brightly during their Pro Days and really has become one of the best positions in the Draft. Curry, likely a top three player, is an exceptional player who is the type of guy who can consistently deliver hits while not getting knicked up or missing games. The two USC guys are opposite sides of the same coin – Cushing, a hard working blue collar guy from Jersey, is the safe, consistent pick with lots of experience and probably is closer to a finished project. Matthews, the walk-on with the fantastic bloodlines who worked his way up through the special teams ranks is all upside and raw skill. But both could produce very good numbers in the right offense. Another USC linebacker not getting enough publicity is Kaluka Maiava. Maiava can play sideline to sideline, can play very physical but also drop into coverage effectively and like Matthews, has Special Teams experience. Even players in the back of the pack like Anthony Felder has the potential to contribute early and often. Most people are more familiar with Cal’s other linebacker, Zach Follett, so for many Felder resides in the shadows like Maiava did at USC. But while Felder is a bit smaller than they’d like he’s a very reliable tackler, great range and what’s more, is a very smart player who can learn the things he can’t do. If he can stay healthy, Felder is an example of a late round or street free agent guy who might still be very productive.

Position - Inside Linebacker
High SideRey Maualuga, James Laurinaitis
Low SideWorrell Williams, Antonio Appleby
Overall Grade - C+/B-
Explanation – If there is a weak spot on the defensive side of the draft, it’s the inside linebackers. The top end is very good, but overall the position is thin and riddled with injuries including top prospect Maualuga. Still, Maualuga and Laurinaitis should both go on day one, with El Rey going in all likelihood no later that 16 to the Chargers and Laurinaitis probably hanging around the turn. Watch for rising prospect Frantz Joseph, who has heat after his spectacular performance at his Pro Day. He plays with a nasty streak and is a very football smart guy, though like so many Inside backers, he can be too aggressive. He still has upside to spare. Gerald McGrath is another guy who could go late and be very productive. McGrath, from Southern Miss, is incredibly athletic and while he lacks the bulk, his frame will allow him to add to it and make that up. Still, they are projects and this is a class that is riddled with them, a little too much for my taste.

Position - Cornerback
High Side - Malcolm Jenkins, Vontae Davis, Alphonso Smith
Low SideRyan Mouton, Cary Harris
Overall Grade - B-
Explanation – Another pretty good class for the defensive side of the ball, this group will consistently throughout the weekend. More than one team may focus on other needs first though, so it could be just Jenkins and perhaps Davis who go by the end of round one. There is a firm middle of the road, guys who could go second through fifth that I think will hold some very good value. A great example of the spectrum are guys like the pair from San Jose State, Coye Francies and Christopher Owens who have quite a bit of upside and have attracted attention from many teams. Both are a bit raw but have tremendous upside. Francies is a very physical, can change directions well and has very good instincts. Owens isn’t big and strong, but is very instinctive and really aggressive despite his lack of size. And there are tons of guys with potential like this across the position.

High Side - Louis Delmas, William Moore
Low Side - Lendy Holmes, Troy Nolan
Overall Grade - B-
Explanation – There are plenty of safeties (both strong and free) to go throughout the weekend. The top end is good but not great while the lower end isn’t bad but isn’t great either. Plenty will go and plenty will play for many years but I don’t think you’ll see this as a great class for years to come, but that’s not a knock as many of the guys will be productive. Louis Delmas (Western Michigan) is a great example of a safety – tough, physical with great instincts who will play hard against both the pass and the run. Moore, from Missouri, is also a big, tough hitter not afraid of getting messy against the run game as well as pass. As you move to the middle of the pack, you get guys like Chris Clemons from Clemson (not tough or a big hitter but good closing speed and in coverage) or LSU’s Curtis Taylor (great athleticism, good instincts, special teams player but not great against the run and too aggressive). Players like these have the upside to survive in the NFL but have large gaps in their game in my opinion. A team can take them and work with them on Special Teams or rotating in as time goes on and the risk is not as expensive as an earlier pick but neither is the ceiling or floor.

High Side - Jacob Richardson
Low Side - Justin Brantley
Overall Grade - C
Explanation – While a good punter can make or break a team in the battle for field position, they are not usually in high demand during a draft. This class is fine, as far as any group goes, but they are more likely to find themselves signed after the fact than drafted.

Position - Kicker
High Side - David Buehler
Low Side - Sam Swank
Overall Grade - C+
Explanation – Every once in a great while a kicker comes along who goes early but this group likely does not have a fellow like that. The most intriguing prospect this year seems to be Buehler as teams love his strength and accuracy but are unsure how he will hold up in pressure – something he didn’t feel much at USC. Like the punters, a decent group but not outstanding.

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Interview Transcript: Jarron Gilbert, DT, San Jose St. Fri, 27 Mar 2009 17:13:00 +0000 admin So as most of you ho read my stuff know, I attended both California and San Jose State Pro Days last week and interviewed a bunch of players including hot defensive tackle Prospect Jarron Gilbert, who spent a ton of time with Jet Head Coach Rex Ryan during defensive line drills.

I would go so far as to say if Ryan spent any more time with Gilbert I would have expected him to get down on one knee and offer his giant Super Bowl ring up in a proposal.

Which is not to say that the Jets will absolutely pick Gilbert as their second, maybe third round pick. First, he may flat out not be there. Mind you, the Jets showed last year with Dustin Keller that they have a willingness to move up if need be for a player they fall in love with.

But they are doing their homework and that has to make Jets fans happy. Ryan has been all over the place and the jets have been working out, interviewing and investigating a ton of players, as you can see in my team interest article on

That list looks as long as the one the Patriots have built and we all know how good they are at working the draft.

You can find the interview with Gilbert, as well as the ones I did with Coye Francies and Chris Owens here and also see this transcript and a ton of other great NFL Draft information at

I will be at both USC’s and Hawaii’s Pro Days next week, so more interview transcripts from
those schools, as well as interviews with players from San Jose State, California, Stanford and more over the coming weeks.

Garda: I’m here with Jarron Gilbert, who just had a pretty good Pro Day. Today you spent a lot of time with Rex Ryan–how did that go?

Gilbert: Oh, it went good. We just went through some drills–I think I did pretty good with him, picking things up. Just had a pretty good day out here.

Garda: It definitely looked like you had a very good day. You’ve got a great deal of athleticism. How do you approach the game when you have a good natural, God-given talent? What does that allow you to do that some other players sometimes don’t get a chance to because they have to work a little bit harder at it? When things come easy like that because you have that natural athleticism, how does that change your approach to the game?

Gilbert: Well, I think I’m a lot more comfortable and confident in trying new moves or trying to do things with my body in the trenches that other guys might be afraid to do. Like certain spin moves and just using my speed to beat guys with athleticism and just get around them.

Garda: Ok, I’m sure everybody has asked you this, but the YouTube video? How did that come about?

Gilbert: This is my 1,000th time answering the question, but I heard something our strength coaches said, that Adam Archuleta, the former safety, could jump out of a pool and he was kind of a freak athlete. And everybody was shocked and amazed by it. But I thought to myself it wasn’t a big deal so I went and tried it and brought a video camera out and went out there and did it. No failed attempts, no bloopers.

Garda: You were the 2008 WAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. That speaks to a great deal of consistency as well as production. What goes into your day to day workout routine that allows you to reach such a high-level of play?

Gilbert: Well, during the season I watched a whole lot of film and studied my opponents to a tee. I knew everything about them going into the week, so that really helped me during the season. And I had a lot of free time during the semester, I only took one unit during the semester and that was archery. I had already graduated so it gave me a lot of time to really study my opponent and a lot of confidence going into the game. So, it helped me out there on the field.

Garda: So film study…A lot of guys–the gym, the field–that’s their biggest focus, but it sounds like film study to you is as important as anything else in the game.

Gilbert: Yeah, film study and staying strong during the week, staying healthy. Getting in the training room and getting in the weight room and getting my body back to its peak for Saturday. That was the biggest thing for me.

Garda: So coming away from the day, what do you feel was the best part of your workout, what do you think probably left people with the best impression of you?

Gilbert: My broad jump I think was probably the most impressive thing of the day. I jumped a 10’7” on broad. I jumped a 9’11” at the Combine, but I just couldn’t stick it for some reason at the Combine so I had to do it about nine or ten times. But I got out here today and I jumped a good number. I think it impressed a lot of people.

Garda: What do you feel was the biggest difference between the two things? What did you do differently between the Combine and now, either training or otherwise? That’s a pretty decent increase from what you jumped from one to the other.

Gilbert: Yeah well, at the Combine I was landing around 10’4” I think–10’4”/10’5”-ish but I couldn’t stick it, so by the time I stuck it on the eight or ninth try, it was a 9’11”. But I got out here and was able to stick it today.

Garda: It seems like that’s happening a lot, actually. Chris Wells did like, fifteen, as I remember watching. Last question, then I will let you go. You’re able to not only produce plays out in space, once a player has gotten past the line of scrimmage, you get in the backfield and you cause a ruckus back there as well. What do you do that gives you that edge so you can get into the backfield and disrupt a play before it even really takes off?

Gilbert: I’m just quick off the ball. Quick with a good first step, and I get strong at the point of attack which allows me to get a lot of penetration. I came into the season pretty much a three year starter at end and moved inside, so coming inside I felt more athletic and quicker dealing with the guards then they’re used to. So being able to get off with speed really helped me out.

Garda: Well, you definitely had a good day today. The experience you bring to the table starting as many games as you have is certainly something that’s valuable at the NFL level, so I wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing you on draft day when they call out your name.

Gilbert: Thank you.

My thoughts: Gilbert is an intriguing prospect and one people have moved up on their boards significantly. He can either play tackle in a 4-3 or move to end as a five-technique in a 3-4. He would fit well with the Jets 3-4 scheme and it would be nice to finally see the Jets draft guys who can play the scheme they have, rather than try to jam a guy into a scheme they don’t fit. Guys like Vernon Gholston aren’t busts yet (it’s too soon, I don’t care what anyone says) but the Jets have drafted guys who didn’t fit their defense for years, ever since Mangini came into the picture in fact.

A guy like Gilbert is a tweener, not fitting into any one category easily. But that versatility can also be a strength for some teams.

He looked smooth and solid on his Pro Day, so that may allay some fears about his technique being a little sloppy. Follow up private workouts may get teams a better look at how he uses his hands and perhaps a closer look at effort and motor, something some scouts have been concerned with.

I like Gilbert a ton and think he’s worthy of a late second, early third round pick – and he may go earlier than that.

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