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Tape Don’t Lie: What Gerald McCoy brings to the defense

Film study of McCoy and how he fits into Bradley’s scheme

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Gerald McCoy is a long time NFL veteran who has logged almost 6,400 snaps throughout his storied NFL career. A four-time All-Pro and six-time Pro-Bowler, McCoy has racked up 59.5 sacks, 89 TFLs, 24 passes defensed, and six forced fumbles during his 10 years as a professional defensive tackle.

There is of course a question of age and availability. McCoy missed all of 2020 dealing with a quadriceps injury, and it is valid to wonder just how much the former All-Pro has left in the tank.

Let’s take a look at some aspects of McCoy’s game.

Stopping the Run

Defending the run usually isn’t flashy, especially the style of play Raiders fans have grown accustomed to watching recently. In Paul Guenther’s scheme, defensive tackles were asked to squeeze down gaps, hold up offensive linemen, and keep linebackers free to fill the run lanes.

Bradley however employs a contrasting style of defensive line play, preferring for penetration into the backfield. This style serves two purposes 1) it creates chaos for opposing blocking schemes having to deal with defensive linemen in the backfield, and 2) it helps keep the defensive line attacking in case the play turns into a pass, they can more easily adjust to a pass rush.

In the above clip, we see McCoy do just that: penetrate through his man’s outside shoulder and catch the ball carrier unawares. The defensive lineman does a great job here using his hands to get under the guards shoulders and forklift him backwards. This rep of course occurred in 2017 when McCoy was in his prime. What about the last time he played?

Again we see McCoy get penetration into the backfield shooting the gap and taking advantage of a mugged front that confused the blocking scheme. McCoy’s “get-off” out of his stance is the most relevant aspect of this play.

He times the snap and fires out low, creating minimal surface area for a blocker to touch. This more technique than brute force and if the savvy vet can carry this into 2021 the Raiders should enjoy some plays like this.

Now check out this rep going against Marshall Yanda. This time McCoy is using a different technique to stop the run and attempts to control the line of scrimmage. Being a taller defensive tackle, his body type makes this strategy slightly more difficult for him than say a 6’2 315lb defensive lineman.

McCoy’s pad level gets too high and the combo from the guard and tackle takes him on a walk into his linebackers, exactly what the offensive line wants to do here. McCoy isn’t the greatest run defender of all time, but he certainly is better when attacking, and that’s what this scheme will ask him to do.

Rushing the Passer

Now we arrive at the most important part of McCoy’s game: getting after the quarterback. McCoy has put up 7 or more sacks four times in his career. He is a complete pass rusher from the interior and showed in 2019 he had enough left in the tank to sack the quarterback 5 times. Not too shabby for a 31 year old (at the time) player.

The most exciting part of the clip above is the variety in which McCoy got the quarterback on the ground. We see him use a cross-chop, swipe inside, bull rush, stunt inside and out, and hustle to sack the QB.

Many times we see defensive linemen who are one trick ponies (think the speed rush from Vic Beasley) or who are scheme specific (think Ted Washington going from a 3-4 to a 4-3). With McCoy however he has proven he can rush the passer no matter the scheme and with a high degree of technique.

McCoy has played in every front during his 10 year NFL career with a wide philosophy of defensive play callers. From the conservative Leslie Frazier to the more aggressive Ron Rivera, there has been no situation where McCoy hasn’t been effective.

Conclusion

Although the Raiders aren’t getting prime Gerald McCoy, they are getting a proven pass rusher up the middle which is exactly what this defense needs to complement the outside rush of Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby. The departure of David Irving and Maurice Hurst left a gaping hole in the ranks of defensive tackles who could bring the pass rush element, McCoy’s arrival should fill that gap.