Latest look at our new birds is up, Josh Sweat's scouting report – https://t.co/1E5rFBLANv. Big thanks to @mockdraftable! The pics below compare the combine performance (left to right) of; Ricky Sapp, Alex McAlister & Josh Sweat. pic.twitter.com/7IjnuTm502
— John Breitenbach (@eagleslinc) May 1, 2018
Looking at Howie Roseman’s draft history, the selection of FSU’s Josh Sweat with the Eagles’ second fourth-round pick should not have been a surprise. In his first draft as general manager, back in 2010, Roseman selected an athletic defensive end well regarded out of high school. Ricky Sapp’s selection was the first insight into a strategy that is starting to come into focus. In 2016, back in charge of personnel decisions, Roseman again drafted a well-recruited, long, athletic defensive end in the late-rounds in Alex McCalister. Sticking to form, Roseman targeted another Florida product who fits his parameters for the position this year. Compare the athletic/measureable profiles of the three prospects (courtesy of the excellent Mockdraftable). Each player had a minimum arm length of 34.5 inches, combined with excellent scores on the explosion drills. Let’s take a look at how those traits translate to the field.
Where he thrives
Sweat is a polarising player. At times, he flashes outstanding hand usage and a tremendous ability to run the arc. Occasionally, he flashes refined technique, using his length to good effect in the run game in particular. That length, combined with accurate hand placement, shows up against the run, where he wins through a variety of methods. As well as the swim and rip, the pin/pull move also shows up on Sweat’s tape. From time to time, Sweat uses his prodigious wingspan to stack and shed offensive lineman, standing up his opponent on first contact, finding the football and then finishing with his impressive open-field athleticism. He’s also disciplined on the backside of runs, particular the read-option, ensuring he keeps contain and funnelling everything back to his help.
The ACC has been a mobile QB’s paradise in recent years, and Sweat was one of the few defensive lineman capable of tracking down the likes of Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson at the collegiate level. Sweat has good eye discipline, tracking quarterback movement effectively during his rush sequence. The FSU product was most effective rushing the passer from the interior, where he could use his quickness to exploit slower guards inside. He’s probably unlikely to get many looks there as a rookie however, with Cox, Ngata, Bennett and Graham all preferring that alignment in the nickel.
Where he struggles
On the other hand, Sweat can be a hugely frustrating prospect to watch. As explosive as he clearly is, his first step is massively inconsistent. At times he’s the last lineman off the ball, despite playing with space-eating giants Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas. Sweat should be making them look slow, not labouring out of his stance like a lamb in spring time. Part of the issue is he anticipates the snap so poorly, taking an age to recognise the play has begun.
In addition, Sweat is far less productive defending the run than a man of his size and strength should be. His height can work to his detriment at times. Sweat often plays with poor leverage, standing upright out of his stance (partly due to his poor snap anticipation), leaving him vulnerable – even to tightends – on the frontside of plays. When he does get off the ball effectively and delivers a powerful initial strike, although able to generate vertical movement, Sweat fails to consistently disengage in the backfield to finish plays. He also diagnoses run concepts slowly, allowing offensive lineman to manoeuvre into position to reach him out of his gap on the backside of zone.
For all the refinement Sweat flashes against the ground game, his pass-rush technique remains surprisingly raw. He uses the rip move almost exclusively off the edge, displaying a lack of counters that would make the world’s worst Checkers player look a genius. Most frustrating of all, however, is his inability to convert speed to power. Men of Sweat’s height/weight/speed combination should generate tons of pressure on power moves, but an effective bull rush is a rarity in his tape. It suggests his knee injuries (ACL, MCL & PCL) are impacting on his ability to generate lower body power on contact at full speed, a major concern going forward.
Sweat is your trademark boom-or-bust prospect. A lack of production combined with injury issues slim his chances of success. Yet his athletic and physical profile, combined with a tenderness of years (Sweat is barely 21) indicate there is plenty of room for improvement. Previous gambles on pass-rushers with upside have failed, but Sweat is a higher tier of high-potential prospect. The Super Bowl champion Eagles can afford to take such a luxury.