In the Raiders' Renaissance, the 2014 Draft will be legendary as the draft that laid the foundation for the Raiders. Mack, Carr, Gabe, Jelly, McGill, Carrie all came from that draft. In the undrafted stage, Reggie found two gems in wide receiver Seth Roberts and defensive lineman Denico Autry. Both of these undrafted players spent their first year on the practice squad, but they worked hard, honed their respective crafts, and in the new atmosphere of fierce competition, they were given the opportunity to win jobs.
Denico found himself as a sub player but in time he fought his way up the depth chart and earned increasing playing time, until he found himself as an important part of the Raiders' defensive line rotation.
In the preseason, when Mario Edwards Jr went down, it forced Denico to take a step forward once again.
Here's a look at some of his plays in week 1.
Listed at 6'6", 270 lbs with long arms, Denico Autry plays up and down the line, lining up most times inside and generally has Bruce Irvin or Khalil Mack lined up outside him.
Reviewing his play, what is immediately noticeable is how much of an attacking, slashing player he is. He has very nice quickness and has developed a few nice moves that he uses to attack into one gap.
Here are some examples :
Rip move v Andrus Peat
Lined up against on the Guard's inside shoulder (2i technique), Autry squares up, breaks to the inside, and then uses an Arm Under move (Rip) to get past Andrus Peat and get a clear lane to Drew Brees. If not for the Center Max Unger's right leg tripping Autry, this may have been a sack.
Quick Swim v Andrus Peat
Lined up on the Guard's outside shoulder (3 technique), Autry explodes immediately to the inside gap and swims right over the top of Andrus Peat to get into the backfield and dirups the runner.
Quick swim v Terron Armstead
This time Autry is lined up farther outside, head's up with the Left Tackle Terron Armstead (4 technique). On the snap, he uses the same swim move to get past Armstead and then he makes the tackle.
Winning the gap v Terron Armstead
Head up on Terron Armstead again (4 tech). On the snap Armstead moves to reach block Autry, but Autry uses his hands to set Armstead and then uses his agility to move his feet and beat Armstead into the gap.
A very nice bonus is Autry's special teams play, particularly on the field goal block unit. 6'6", nice vertical, long arms. That's a nice combination and in this game, Autry made a short field goal exciting by getting his hand on the ball. Unfortunately, the ball had enough pace to fight its way over the crossbar.
Slanting Inside v Andrus Peat
Outside shoulder of the guard (3 tech). On the snap, Autry slants hard inside and uses a Rip move to try the gap and get to the runner. Peat tries to recover by riding Autry thru the lane.
At the point of attack, Jihad Ward is getting turned out and the center Max Unger is sealing Ben Heeney. If the runner Mark Ingram gets into that lane, he's got room to run.
But Autry crashing thru cuts off Ingram's path and forces the cutback. Autry very nearly makes the play for a tackle for loss.
Autry getting washed out does leave a backside gap and Ingram is able to cut into it and find 3 yards.
This play shows that nice quick step that Autry has and his move to win a gap, but it also shows that he can sometimes get moved and washed out rather easily.
Sealed by Peat
Inside shoulder of the Guard (2i tech). Autry steps inside and Peat dominates him to the inside, bending Autry over backwards and widening the running gap for Mark Ingram. Ingram runs thru and gets 12 yards on the play.
Inside shoulder of the guard (2i tech).
Center Max Unger and Left Guard Andrus Peat execute the Ace combination block, where they combine on Autry (double-team) and then Peat releases downfield to pick up the inside linebacker. Autry gets turned and taken completely out of the playside gap and is unable to offer any resistance.
Ingram gets 9 yards on the play.
Side note : notice that #53 Malcolm Smith is dropping into the middle of the field on the play, which gives Peat ideal leverage for his block. This is because of the Jet Sweep motion coming from the left side.
Double Teamed into Malcolm
Outside shoulder of the guard (3 tech).
Left Guard Andrus Peat and Left Tackle Terron Armstead execute the Deuce combination block, where they combine on Autry (double-team) and then Peat would be looking to release to the 2nd level.
Here, Autry gets washed down so hard and fast that he thrown into Malcolm Smith and the double team actually takes out two defenders without the blocker releasing from the combination.
Autry is fighting to get into the runner's lane and so he's doing a good job of occupying Peat and keeping the combination from getting to Malcolm Smith, but he's playing so high that he can't anchor at all and is thrown backwards into Malcolm.
Malcolm has this play read and is attacking the gap. If Autry could just hold his position a little bit and let Malcolm get thru, it's a minimal gain instead, it's 17 yards on the play.
Mark Ingram's day looked nice on paper. 12 rushes for 58 yards, 4.8 avg. His best 3 rushes were at Denico and went for a total of 38 yards (12.7 avg). That means on the other 9 rushes he only gained 20 yards (2.2 avg).
In these past few examples, we see that Autry can have trouble holding the point of attack on the run. He tends to play a little upright and "high", which is great for mobility, but not so much for anchoring and playing with leverage and ground power. He's 270 lbs on a long frame and so he's naturally playing "higher" than shorter/squatter players. Still, when Autry plays high, he looks more like a 250-lb player than a 270 one.
What is interesting, though, is that Denico shows some signs of being able to be a pounder or at least to be multiple enough to work some tough plays.
Here are some examples
Inside shoulder of the guard (2i tech). Autry takes the guard straight up, works his feet in space, and swipes the guard to the ground. Autry keeps his feet and squares up on the runner.
Double Teamed and Fights
Same play shown a few GFYs earlier where Autry is blocked down into Malcolm Smith, but this time, Autry shows how it's supposed to be played.
Lined up outside shoulder of the guard (3 tech).
On the snap, the guard Andrus Peat and the tackle Terron Armstead execute the combination block. They want to drive Autry back, but the key is to get Armstead into place blocking Autry while Peat releases downfield to block Malcolm.
Here, Autry takes on the double and meets it with some aggression. Then Denico gets into Peat with nice leverage and grabs onto him so that he can't get downfield. Denico keeps the pressure on Peat with some very strong hip drive.
Malcolm Smith is kept clean so he can get into the lane and make the tackle.
Also, #75 is rookie UDFA Darius Latham fighting the double team and forcing the cutback into Malcolm.
Withstanding the Combination
Lined up outside the Guard's shoulder ("loose" 3 tech).
On the snap, Autry gets the double by Peat and Armstead, but Autry sees it, braces himself, and delivers a blow. Autry takes the hit from both blockers and keeps his feet, holds his position, and wins that inside gap.
Ben Heeney's aggressive attack forces Peat to bump-and-release very quickly and this allows Autry to crash inside and disrupt the run.
Denico Autry is a move-defender. Agile, explosive, dynamic, and intense. He can blow things up in a variety of ways and it's exciting to watch him play. We can see the great potential in him, though he's still inconsistent and it's hard to rely on him to hold the point of attack against multiple blockers.
As he keeps working and developing, he should grow into an all-around player. For now, though, he's still a role player, even though that role is expanding.
Denico is like a sword; you use him to slice the opponent's line into ribbons, but you do not use a sword if you need to pound nails.