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Film room: Byron Young the run-stopper

Breakdown of the run-stuffing DT

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama
Byron Young
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders made a bit of a surprise pick in the 2023 NFL Draft by taking Alabama defensive tackle Byron Young 70th overall. Young was ranked 118th on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board and 133rd on Pro Football Network’s, mainly because his pass-rush skills are a work in progress. However, he can be a force against the run.

In 2021, Young ranked fourth among all FBS defensive tackles with an 88.8 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus. That was due in part to the 17 defensive stops he logged and he finished inside the top 10 for SEC defensive tackles with a run stop rate of 9.3 percent.

The Alabama product’s numbers dipped this past season to 75.6, 16 and 6.5 percent, respectively, but he was still impactful as seen by the clips below.

Young’s play strength is apparent on tape and the clip above shows that off.

Texas is running an RPO where the run concept is an inside zone read option. Young lines up on the weak side in a 4i-technique (on the offense’s left and inside of the offensive tackle) and is responsible for the B-gap (between the guard and tackle).

Off the snap, he’s quick to recognize the blocking scheme to start moving his feet laterally and stay in his gap. Then, we can see his strength at the point of attack as he gets his hands on the offensive tackle’s chest and watch as the tackle’s back goes from flat to bowed after contact which significantly impacts the blocker’s power.

To finish, Young has the strength to successfully pull off a hump-by move where he’s essentially just throwing the offensive lineman into his gap responsibility. This is called “closing the gap with the man”. That means the defensive tackle has fulfilled his assignment by taking a running lane away from the running back while also putting himself in a position to make the tackle the back bounces outside.

Young doesn’t show up on the stat sheet here, but physically dominant reps like this one will get any defensive coordinator excited.

This next rep is similar to the last one as Young lines up inside shade of the same tackle, only Texas is going to run duo instead of inside zone. That puts the tackle on a down block against Young and take a look at Young’s leverage at the point of contact.

He makes sure to get his helmet lower than the blocker’s and does a solid job of keeping his hands inside. That allows him to stand up the offensive tackle at the line of scrimmage and gain control of the block. The Alabama product has basically already won the rep as all that’s left to do is use an arm-over move and show some decent quickness and agility to make the tackle outside of his gap about a yard to two past the line of scrimmage.

We’re going to travel back in time to 2021 for the rest of these clips as the one above puts Young against a first-round pick in Kenyon Green, who was taken was drafted 15th overall by the Houston Texans last year.

Young’s block recognition is pretty impressive and this play is a great example. The Crimson Tide slant their defensive line to the left while the offense runs a jet sweep with outside zone blocking up front. Watch how Young—lined up outside the tackle and on the defense’s right this time—stops working laterally and starts getting vertical while the rest of the line continues slanting. No. 48, the left defensive tackle, is a good comparison.

The reason Young does that is that he recognizes that the left guard and tackle are trying to scoop-block him. So, rather than make their job easier by continuing to work inside, he attacks the man he was lined up across from and runs his feet to avoid getting reached/scooped. That allows him to beat the double team and stay in his gap.

Also, the linebacker (No. 10) is free to shoot the gap and be unblocked—minus the clothesline from Green—to potentially make the play because Young occupies the tackle. On top of all of this, he shows great effort to get a tackle for loss outside of his gap responsibility on a stretch run.

Here, we’re going to get a little bit of a training camp preview as the right tackle for Arkansas is Dalton Wagner, who signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent.

Lined up head up on Wagner, Young does another great job of immediately recognizing the outside zone-blocking scheme to start working laterally and avoid getting reached. Again, he has nearly perfect leverage and hand placement at the point of attack to control the block. That allows him to set the edge and gives the running back no choice but to cut back.

Once the running back commits, Young sheds Wagner’s block with ease and works straight down the line of scrimmage to go factor into the play. Not only is he impressive at the point of attack, but we’ve seen several instances of him being able to get off blocks and make tackles.

We’re onto the 2022 National Championship where Young is going to face more NFL-level competition in right tackle Warren McClendon, who was a fifth-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams last weekend.

Georgia runs mid-zone, putting McClendon and Young against each other in a one-on-one block. I think by now you get the point that Young can win at the point of attack and get off blocks to cross the offensive lineman’s face and make the play as it does it again here. He also shows some impressive strength to make the tackle with McClendon hanging onto him.

These types of reps against quality competition make it easy to see why general manager Dave Ziegler was comfortable straying away from the consensus to draft the Alabama product.

I’ll end with a rep that shows Young’s potential as a pass-rusher. Don’t get me wrong, he is still a work in progress in that department, but he did show a few flashes in college.

Arkansas is running a quick game concept with play-action in the backfield. That means the guard is going to be more aggressive with his pass set, making it more difficult to get a rush. However, Young (lined up head up on the left guard) starts working to get on an edge to change the angle on the guard.

Then, the Alabama product uses a violent rip move to win and get pressure. At the top of the rush, he shows impressive bend for a defensive tackle by getting his toes parallel with the 40-yard line, allowing him to take an efficient path to the quarterback. That’s something to build on if he can flush out a couple of pass-rush moves that he can win consistently with.