For years fans have called for the Las Vegas Raiders to spend a high pick in the NFL Draft on a linebacker as the position group has been an issue for the team for a while. However, there were very few backers in last year’s class who were worthy of a top selection, but that should change in 2024 as Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr. has first-round talent.
Trotter Jr. appears to be following in his father’s footsteps as Senior was a third-round pick in 1998 and went on to have an 11-year career that included two All-Pro selections (one first-team and one second-team) and four trips to the Pro Bowl. As referenced above, the younger Trotter’s career might be off to an even better start as he currently ranks 12th on Pro Football Focus’ early big board.
Junior is also coming off a season where he ranked tied for seventh among all FBS linebackers with an 86.9 overall grade from PFF. His coverage skills are what really stand out on tape as he allowed a passer rating of just 44.5 in 2022, eighth-best at the position.
So, what could the Clemson product potentially bring to the Silver and Black? Let’s roll the film!
Jeremiah Trotter Jr. with a nice close on the flat route pic.twitter.com/u7BEbYkeH8— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 10, 2023
The ability to quickly close on flat routes is something that’s essential for linebackers in coverage. Here, it’s second and 15 so Trotter Jr. knows he can stay deep in his zone to help take away any throw over the middle and then rally to a short completion.
From there, he gets eyes on the quarterback and sees the pass is going to the flat so he starts to break on the route. He shows some impressive closing speed to make contact with the tight end shortly after the catch so the tight end can’t build any momentum. Finally, the Clemson product caps the play off with a nice open-field tackle to force a third and long situation.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr. with a nice pick 6 pic.twitter.com/7Ngsr8aFA2— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 10, 2023
Now we’ll get to a more flashy play in coverage.
Just before the snap, South Carolina motions their running back out of the backfield which the quarterback likely thinks will pull Trotter Jr. out of the box and the throwing window for the slant. Instead, the SAM or outside backer follows the back to the flat and Trotter Jr. drops into his zone.
He keeps his eyes on the QB and recognizes that the QB doesn’t see him, so Trotter Jr. starts to chop his steps and pull up a bit to give the illusion that the passing lane is open and bait the throw. Once the ball is in the air, he pounces, makes a nice grab and turns it into six points.
It’s a combination of his instincts and athletic ability that puts the Tigers on the board early in a big rivalry game.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr. with a nice open-field tackle on 3rd and long pic.twitter.com/Jx2s9ij0Br— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 10, 2023
Lining up in a double A-gap or mug look can make life difficult for inside linebackers dropping in coverage because they’re running backward or sideways and have more ground to cover. But that’s what makes the Clemson product a little different as his athletic ability and speed allow him to have no issues getting to his spot/depth.
In the clip above, Trotter Jr. is able to help take away the seam route from the tight end and he does so fairly easily. That, combined with the rest of the coverage, forces the quarterback to scramble and the linebacker makes a beautiful open-field tackle on third and long to force a fourth down.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr. recognizes the RPO and makes a beautiful play pic.twitter.com/R9QbNo1ldL— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 10, 2023
South Carolina is running an RPO here with the run action to the boundary and a seam route by the tight end to the field as the pass option. Initially, Trotter Jr. is lured downhill by the run fake but then his instincts and athletic ability quickly take over as he stops his momentum and gets up to bat the pass away.
This is another example of him combining his football IQ and physical ability to make a play and force the offense to play behind the sticks.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr. slips the block and makes a tackle for short gain pic.twitter.com/Mw6RMTxBVI— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 10, 2023
We’ll end with a clip of Trotter Jr. making a nice play against the run. Admittedly, he’s not the greatest at taking on blocks from offensive linemen with his hands/brut strength. However, he can use his athleticism to slip blocks which is what we’ll see here.
Florida State is running an outside zone where the left guard is going to work up to the second level to block the middle linebacker. Trotter Jr. stays patient initially and lets the guard get into space which helps open that gap to the inside.
From there, he uses his quickness and change of direction skills, combined with a nice shoulder dip, to make the lineman miss and be in a position to tackle the running back for a short gain. That puts the Seminoles in third and long around midfield, a big win for the defense.