Sharrif Floyd signed with Florida as a 5 star recruit, and the top rated defensive tackle in his recruiting class. His Freshman year, he immediately showed great promise. He worked in as a rotational player for most of the season, but he earned the start in the Outback Bowl vs. Penn State, and he was eventually named to the 2010 Coaches’ All Freshman SEC Team. Going into his Sophomore season, he was pegged as an Athlon Sports Pre-Season All 2nd Team defensive lineman. With some experience under his belt from Freshman year, and a starting role all to himself, this appeared to be a promising year for Floyd. However, in his first year as Florida’s Head Coach, Will Muschamp made what I would consider to be a questionable call in regards to Floyd and his development as an NFL prospect. Due to injury and depth issues, the 6’3 300 pound DT was forced to start 11 games as a defensive end. He still registered some memorable moments, including an 11 tackle game vs. LSU, but all in all, I felt as if he looked tremendously out of place at this position. He appeared to be a very linear athlete, who struggled to bend like a defensive ends needs to. However, whenever I saw Floyd kicked in to his usual defensive tackle spot, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his quickness and aggressive hand usage.
As we progress to this past season, Sharrif’s Junior year, he found himself back at defensive tackle, which is much more conducive to his skill set. I decided to evaluate and do this piece on the Junior (even though he hasn’t officially declared yet) due to the fact that there have been numerous rumblings, rumors, and reports that he’s almost undoubtedly leaving early. In my review of Floyd, unsurprisingly, I felt as if he looked much more natural at the defensive tackle position. Just as I saw last year, he’s very quick off the ball, explosive in short areas, and can be violent with his hands. This combination of traits allows him to frequently find himself disrupting run plays in the backfield. Pictured below is an example of this. As the entire FSU Offensive Line takes a hard step to the left, the RT is unable to match Floyd’s initial burst off the snap. Floyd combines his quickness with getting his left hand into the blocker’s chest, which prevents the lineman from ever gaining favorable position. Floyd keeps churning, and will eventually combine with a LB to drop the RB for a loss on the play.
As a pass rusher, it appears as if Floyd’s time at defensive end has rubbed off on him. As the center blocks towards the nose, Floyd is left alone in the middle in a one-on-one situation versus the right guard. After the snap, Floyd shifts his momentum to his right, beating the RG across his face. Given the fact that the center has shifted to block the other defensive tackle, the additional space created by this gives Floyd a look/angle he saw frequently last year at defensive end. While Floyd still doesn’t have the natural flexibility to sink his hips, and drop his shoulder to win this way against an OT (he only registered 1.5 sacks last year), it’s enough to beat the right guard. Note the similarities in the following pictures. Floyd wants to keep an arm planted in the lineman’s chest to keep him off of his own chest, and he wants to keep his other arm free in order to reduce the surface area to be blocked, as well as to be able to pull the quarterback down while still engaged.
While the plays shown above show how Floyd’s game has been impacted by his season at DE, I think overall, the impact has been more detrimental than it has been helpful. As I explained before, Floyd was able to get himself into that bending, shoulder dropping, with an outside arm free position that pass rushing defense ends are so fond of. However, from what I’ve seen this year, it’s almost become a comfort, or a habit of Floyd to fall back into this position. Pictured below is an example of what I’m talking about. As Floyd lines up at the 3 technique position, closer to the top of the screen,off the snap he immediately turns his shoulder. When the LT steps down at the same speed as Floyd, the result is Floyd taking on the block with his shoulder, which is a severely compromised position.
This makes the job of the offensive tackle very easy. He is able to use his entire body versus about half of Floyd’s. Due to this, the LT walks Floyd to the opposite side of the field, and it opens up a gaping running lane for the RB to easily find.
Floyd’s habit of trying to get into this positioning also gives him remarkable issues against the double team. While he’ll have the ability to beat most college guards with his moves, due to his superior skill set, when the second blocker comes he’s almost assuredly going to be unprepared to hold his ground, and will be pushed out of the play.
I illustrated earlier some of the defensive end like pass rushing techniques used by Floyd, but I also wanted to point out the issue that comes along with what I’ve noticed. While I described his play in the running game as more of a habit, in the pass rushing department, it seems to be more about obtaining comfort. In the following instance, Floyd is jockeying for the chance to “turn the corner” and get free, but since he lost the initial hands battle, he gets caught up at the line of scrimmage, and renders himself completely ineffective.
I’ve mentioned before that defensive end prospects who spend a significant amount of time at defensive tackle (see Aldon Smith at Missouri, Alex Okafor at Texas) intrigue me, because their hand usage development is often accelerated out of necessity. However, in the case of Sharrif Floyd, a defensive tackle who was forced to play DE, I think his development has been hindered more so than aided. I think his play suggests that he doesn’t want to be stuck in a telephone booth, he wants space, and he wants isolated matchups where he doesn’t always have to make plays off collisions. Floyd’s at his best when he’s winning the hands battle and crossing the face of the blocker. When considering all of the aspects of his game, I think he’s best fit will come as a 1 gap 34 DE.