Scouting Notes: Dominique Easley vs Miami
While pass rushers who bring pressure from the edge of the defense historically have drawn more attention, both from personnel men and coaches, there is a growing emphasis on the ability to disrupt offenses from the interior of the line.
One could even argue that penetrating the A and B gaps of the offensive line is more universally disruptive (against both the run and the pass) to opposing offenses than bringing pressure from the edge. Explosive interior linemen who can consistently penetrate and disrupt the backfield are becoming increasingly valuable to teams looking to disrupt the timing of today’s high-octane NFL offenses.
Perhaps no prospect’s better situated to benefit from this emerging league trend than Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley.
Easley came to Florida as a highly touted five-star prospect from Staten Island, New York. His snap anticipation and explosive get-off made him the No. 2 defensive tackle prospect in the 2010 recruiting class. Though he has totaled just 16.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in his first three years in Gainesville, many expect Easley to break out this season after moving back inside to his more natural defensive tackle position. If his performance during his first two games gives any indication, he could be well on his way toward doing just that.
You would not know it from his stat line (1 TFL), but Easley was a consistent presence in the Hurricanes’ backfield Saturday afternoon. While he did the majority of his work from the 3-technique position, he lined up at 1-technique and defensive end as well. Miami offensive linemen took turns getting beat off the snap by Easley, who overwhelmed blockers with his combination of explosiveness and quick hands, leaving them to recover (or hold) while they were being blown by or driven into the backfield. His ability to shoot gaps in the line has always jumped off the tape, but the consistency with which he turned speed to power in Saturday’s game was very impressive in terms of his overall development.
Limited lateral agility and inability to change directions quickly when pursuing the football may limit Easley’s statistical impact, but there is no denying his elite burst off the snap, or his ability to penetrate and wreak havoc on opposing offenses. His get-off is on par with explosive interior defenders like Sheldon Richardson, Geno Atkins, and Gerald McCoy. However, he has yet to demonstrate the same ability to finish plays that we saw from the aforementioned players at this stage in their development.
Easley needs to learn to control his momentum and do a better job of shedding blocks to make tackles if he is to see his disruptiveness translate into statistical production. Still, you can bet Easley’s performance has caught the attention of NFL scouts and coaches, the same scouts and coaches who will anxiously gather with stopwatches in hand to time his 10-yard split when he runs at next year’s combine.