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Tremaine Edmunds: the NFL’s next superstar linebacker

At this point, we all know about Tremaine Edmunds. An athletic marvel at 6’5″ 250 lbs coming off a splendid and productive college football career, the publicity of this 19-year old linebacker has grown significantly in the contemporary months. He’s received comparisons to recent NFL Hall of Fame inductee Brian Urlacher. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah even ranked him as the draft’s #3 overall prospect, giving him a glowing review:

Edmunds has a unique blend of size, length and athleticism. He primarily lines up off the line of scrimmage, but does get some work rushing off the edge. Against the run, he is quick to key, fill and finish as a tackler. He has rare lateral range and collects tackles from sideline to sideline. The former Hokie flashes the ability to shoot his hands and play off blocks, but this is one area where he can improve. Against the pass, he easily mirrors running backs and tight ends; there are even examples of him matching up and redirecting vs. slot receivers. He offers tremendous upside as an edge rusher, where he can dip/rip and bend around the edge. Overall, Edmunds has All-Pro ability. His upside is outrageous.

I’m here to tell you that this hype is entirely warranted. The youngest player in the draft, Edmunds possesses the size, explosiveness, and ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline and in the backfield that turn heads. His upside is extraordinary and paired with his rare combination of skills and ridiculous youth, he will be highly coveted in April’s NFL Draft.

In today’s NFL, it’s very important that linebackers have the movement skills to be able to cover ground quickly, close downhill, and make plays anywhere on the field. Gone are the days of two-down, pure run-stoppers. Versatility in usage is becoming more of a necessity, and all the top linebackers in the game (Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly, Deion Jones for example) are elite athletes that can play in open space:

The athleticism that Edmunds has at his huge size is the trait that makes him so intriguing. He explodes out of his stance like a cannon, glides effortlessly across the field, and showcases insane closing speed on the football, giving him tremendous force as a hitter.

This quick-twitch ability to plant his foot and attack the football carries over very well when it comes to containing scrambling quarterbacks. Edmunds’s eyes are always disciplined and on the passer. He can shadow his movements, redirect his hips on a dime, and close the gap on the QB looking to leave the pocket. Another excellent display of change of direction ability and athleticism here:

These skills are what makes Edmunds such a great QB spy on passing downs. Again, he settles into his stance at a good depth, reads the QB’s eyes, and bolts out of his stance to pursue the ball carrier as he leaves the pocket. Looks incredibly fluid, loose, and natural in lateral pursuit. Edmunds flashes his tackling ability as well. Comes down with a low pad level, shoulders square. He does a good job of chesting up the opponent and finishing the tackle driving his legs through contact after wrapping up:

 

Edmunds has the range to make plays and be around the football all over the field. He’s relentless and has the all the mobility necessary to cover ground laterally and operate in space.

His size and athletic gifts give him the potential to be an elite edge rushing talent. While it’s best that he remains as a do-it-all, off ball guy, Edmunds at least has the potential to make a huge impact as a blitzer and sub-package pass rusher. In particular, he excels running twists and stunts finding the quickest path to the quarterback.

The 4.54 speed is very evident in his film. Watch this supreme sideline-to-sideline range and effort Tremaine Edmunds shows in backside pursuit of West Virginia WR David Sills V. Turns his head immediately and chases the football on the other side of the field.

Edmunds is an aggressive run defender that is quick to diagnose plays and attack downhill. He has terrific instincts to read his keys and react accordingly. With the closing burst that he has, the former Hokies star is a freight train when it comes to filling run alleys and beating pulling linemen to the edge. He’s able to make a lot of tackles for loss by taking great angles in the backfield.

Edmunds flashes extraordinary patience, recognition, and explosion as a gap shooter. He fires out of his stance, flows downhill with a full head of steam, and buries ball carriers in the backfield.

Sweep. The attempted reach block by the center to meant cut off Edmunds’ path to the ball is a failure; he’s already beat the blocker to the spot, and accelerated towards the football. And there’s not a damn thing the center can do, other than watch as his poor teammate Jordan Whitehead gets pummeled for a loss of yards:

 

Linebackers must be able to navigate through traffic and use their hands to take on blocks. This is no problem for Tremaine Edmunds; his length allows him to effectively keep himself clear of blockers and sift through traffic. Edmunds shoots his hands into the chestplate of the blocker, delivering a nice initial jolt. Having your hands inside is a key component of taking on blocks and it is something he does an excellent job of. He attacks with quality pad level and knee bend in order to maintain leverage and control the action. With a full arm extension, Edmunds is able to create separation to locate the football, and then finally being able to discard the block to make the tackle. These are the type of skills that would be expected of a defensive lineman:

More of Edmunds using his hands to work through traffic:

Edmunds again shrugs off a blocker while in lateral pursuit of the running back. Very impressive how he’s able to play through contact so effectively:

His long arms, elite closing burst, and reactive athleticism give him tremendous range as a tackler and the opportunity to bring down the ball carrier from all kinds of angles. His near 7’0″ wingspan gives him a massive tackle radius and the ability to wrap up in the open field and secure tackles as well.

 

The most underrated asset of the vast, versatile skill set Tremaine Edmunds possesses are his instincts and ability to recognize and break down plays. He’s able to read-react-attack very quickly. Combined with his ultra explosiveness and athleticism, this is a big factor in what makes him an absolutely lethal defender:

Motions and movement up front do nothing to throw him off. Edmunds’s patience and eye discipline are superb. He’s extremely quick to anticipate, read his keys, and locate the ball. Once he’s made his decision, it’s full steam ahead for the young star.

 

It is essential that modern-day linebackers have the hip fluidity and speed to stick with backs and tight ends on 3rd down. If a linebacker doesn’t have the skills to cover well enough, their value as a player drops tremendously.

Tremaine Edmunds is exciting in what he brings to the table in coverage. His movement skills translate well into this area of the game. His loose hips give him the ability to smoothly transition and change direction, and his long speed is uncanny for a player of his size. Edmunds has no problem flipping his hips and running vertically stride-for-stride with guys half a foot shorter and 50 pounds lighter:

Edmunds can read the quarterback’s eyes to anticipate and rob routes underneath, like he does in the clip below. As soon as the receiver makes his break inside, Edmunds plants his foot, breaks on the ball, and gets his arm out to break up the pass. Quality play.

 

Versatility is key; offenses are changing and running backs with more well-rounded than ever before. Defenders that can only contribute in a single manner will die. Those that adapt their games to better suit the evolving game will thrive.

Tremaine Edmunds is the latter and then some. He’s a tremainedous (rimshot) player with an elite skill set. Draft him. And watch as he blossoms into a star.

 

Tremaine Edmunds Draft Profile

Harun’s 2018 NFL Draft Guide

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