Tillery turned in arguably his best performance as a Raider, logging an elite 91.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, his second-highest mark since joining the club last season. That was also good enough to be the third-best among defensive linemen league-wide and lead the Raiders for the week.
The defensive tackle had a good game as a pass-rusher, tying Maxx Crosby for the team lead with five pressures, per PFF. However, Tillery did it on 31 fewer opportunities.
But what might be the most surprising aspect of the five-year pro’s outing is he led all interior defenders with an 87.7 PFF run defense grade, which is typically his biggest weakness.
So, let’s dive into the tape and break it down.
We’ll start with a positive rep against the run as the Jets motion their backside tight end across the formation to run a variation of counter where the tight end is the lead blocker instead of the guard. Defensively, Las Vegas has a good play call where the defensive line slants strong, which gets Tillery a one-on-one block with the other/playside tight end.
Tillery does an excellent job of being physical at the point of attack and keeping his hands tight and on the tight end’s chest. That allows him to get penetration and defeat the block across the tight end’s face, helping to take away the outside lane and funneling the running back into Marcus Epps and Bilal Nichols on the backside.
The result is about a two-yard gain that keeps New York’s offense behind the sticks with second and eight upcoming.
Tillery’s football IQ and block recognition show up more than anything else on this play.
New York gets a little tricky here as they line up with the inside tight end in the off the line of scrimmage and put the outside tight end on the line. That can make life difficult for a defensive end because the end still is responsible for the C-gap between the offensive tackle and the off-set tight end. However, the end won’t be able to attack or get his hands on that off-set tight end, and has to worry about a down block from the outside.
Also, the Jets fake a counter run to the running back and flip the ball to a wide receiver on an end-around, further mudding the look for the defense.
Post-snap, Tillery does a great job of recognizing that the tackle and inside tight end aren’t blocking him and immediately takes his eyes to the outside, where he gets that down block mentioned above. From there, he uses a long arm to keep the blocker away from his body which not only allows him to defeat the block but also draw a hold that ends up taking a first down off the board.
Something you might notice about these clips is Tillery was playing defensive end a lot more than he normally does, likely so that he could get more one-on-one blocks like what we see in the clip above.
The Jets come out in 13 personnel with all three tight ends on the same side of the formation. They run duo and the Raiders’ front-side defenders plug up their gaps with linebacker Luke Masterson coming downhill to fill the hole and forcing the running back to cut back.
Meanwhile, Tillery wins at the point of attack with great hand placement and a strong shed to get off the block. That allows him to make a nice tackle right at the line of scrimmage from the backside of the play.
Overall, this is also a great example of team defense.
Another schematic tweak that Las Vegas did to help Tillery out was post-snap they had him slant into a different gap than the one he was lined up in pre-snap. For example, here he’s outside shade on the left tackle, Mehki Becton, pre-snap but works across Becton’s face and into the B-gap post-snap.
That movement throws off the tackle’s angle and since Tillery is slanting, linebacker Robert Spillane is going to be responsible for the playside C-gap against this outside zone run from New York.
Circling back to Tillery, once he gets inside of Becton, Tillery uses a long arm again to keep the blocker away from his body. With Spillane and Malik Reed (No. 52) setting the edge, Tillery uses a spin move to get back outside and factor into the play as the Jets lose a couple of yards on the run.
A couple of Tillery’s pressures came on basically the same look from the Jets’ protection scheme, so I’ll spare you some of the details and go over one of those reps.
New York is running play-action off of an outside split-zone run fake, which puts the tight end working across the formation one-on-one with Tillery. Off the snap, the defensive lineman sees the offensive tackle work inside and turns his head to make sure the tight end on his side of the formation isn’t down-blocking him.
Once Tillery clears those threats, he gets his eyes inside to take on the block from the other tight end or the splitter and then starts working up the field. When Zach Wilson starts to climb the pocket, Tillery redirects and uses his inside hand to use the splitter’s momentum against the splitter and works back inside.
That forces Wilson to get the ball out and make a throw without setting his feet and the end result is an incompletion.
Here, it’s third and long with the Jets down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter. So, it’s a pretty obvious passing situation.
Pre-snap, the Raiders put five defenders on the line of scrimmage to create some confusion with the protection scheme. Post-snap, Las Vegas has Spillane drop into coverage which gets the right guard to work inside and Tillery is going to loop around to the other side of the center on the line game.
He does a good job of gaining ground vertically and laterally while moving across the formation and with the guard working inside so hard, Tillery attacks the B-gap and uses a cross-chop to get pressure. That forces Wilson out of the pocket and into a scramble before running out of bounds well short of the sticks, and the field goal unit trots out onto the field.
This is a nice play call and pass rush to make sure the Raiders hold onto the lead late in the game.
We’ll end with Spillane’s pick, which also happens to be the most impressive pass-rush rep from Tillery.
It’s a passing situation again, so the Raiders slide Tillery inside. He sells the bull rush well by getting to square on the guard and shooting his hands, which gets the guard to be more aggressive and start to lean with the guard’s nose over his toes. Tillery feels that lean, uses his outside hand to pull the blocker’s outside shoulder down and wins around the edge with a nice rip move.
Wilson has to get rid of the ball or it’s a sack, leading to a poor decision as Spillane jumps the route and puts the game on ice.