Coming into his week in Mobile, Temple University’s Haason Reddick had much to prove. Reddick lined up as a defensive end at Temple but at 6’1”, 237 pounds, he is widely considered to be undersized for the position in the NFL. The athletic intrigue was always there but evaluators had several questions about his ability to line up outside and set a physical edge in the run game. When the Senior Bowl rosters were released, Reddick was listed as an inside linebacker which created a huge opportunity for him. Not only would he not be required to stand up consistently on the edge versus much larger human beings, he would also have the opportunity to add to his tool belt. NFL teams will always find value in players who can rush the passer as effectively as Reddick can, however, if he can prove he can play off the ball as well, he could open up many new doors to himself. Instead of being labeled by scouts as a situational pass rusher, he becomes a versatile chess piece that can be moved all over the formation to maximize his athleticism and stay on the field for all three downs.
Making a position switch like that is not an easy transition though. Quite simply, football is a completely different game when playing off the ball then it is playing on the line of scrimmage. An inside linebacker must be able to read his keys along the offensive line, follow them, avoid or disengage from blocks, find the ball and get downhill to make the tackle. That is just the basic fundamentals of the job and only includes the run game. An inside linebacker will also have more responsibility in coverage as he is generally responsible for the hook / curl or flat areas in zone coverage or for running backs or tight ends in man coverage. Fortunately for Reddick and those in attendance at Ladd-Peebles stadium throughout the week of Senior Bowl practices, he was able to do all of those things and he did them really well.
In team run drills, Reddick was able to slice through the defense consistently. He did struggle on a few occasions reading the play and finding the ball, but there were also several plays where he read it perfectly and got right downhill to make the play. While there were times where he may have been delayed in his reads, he consistently, and impressively, flashed his ability from a mental standpoint in his first three days at the position. Additionally, Reddick’s best trait is his closing speed. Even if he does take an extra second to find the ball, he is very quick to close on the ball once he does locate it. Throughout the week, this was on display as he was consistently in the backfield or shutting things down at the line of scrimmage.
In one-on-one coverage drills, where most inside linebackers tend to struggle, Reddick was dominant. On multiple occasions, he showed the ability to turn and run downfield in the seam or outside and displayed excellent reaction quickness defending the running back option routes. This is one of the areas that will make Reddick so valuable at the next level. In today’s NFL, linebackers who can properly fit the run and excel in coverage are very hard to find.
The other area where Reddick will provide a ton of value is the pass rush. He was also dominant in these drills throughout the week. He consistently displayed the ability both to blitz through the A gap or the B gap and defeat the running back, or come off the edge to defeat the tight end or offensive tackles. Aside from his elite burst off the line of scrimmage, Reddick displayed a lightning quick swim move and a spin move that were very effective. More importantly, however, he seemed to have a pass rush plan to keep his opponents off guard which is essential to any type of consistent success in rushing the passer at the next level. One area in his pass rush that Reddick could continue to develop is his ability to convert speed to power. With his electric speed coming off the edge, Reddick could have a really dangerous speed to power transition as he can consistently challenge the pass sets of opposing tackles, get them off balance and toss them to the ground.
Overall, Reddick had an excellent week of practice and has most definitely boosted his draft stock more than any other player down in Mobile. In a matter of three days, Reddick was able to go from a situational pass rusher with question marks versus the run to a versatile chess piece that any defensive coordinator would love to toy with.