NFL Prospect Focus: Texas A&M Defense

Texas A&M gave up 568 yards of offense to Alabama on Saturday as well as 35 minutes in time of possession. With that said, how good can they be on defense? They are shaky at best. There are only two senior starters and both are considered prospects. They are outside linebacker Steven Jenkins and defensive lineman Kirby Ennis. I don’t think either player played that well Saturday, but it’s still early in the season and there is plenty of time for them to improve.

Steven Jenkins – Linebacker

Jenkins is listed as the inside linebacker in their defensive scheme. Because Alabama played a lot of 2 wide receiver formations, Texas A&M often played with just two linebackers with Jenkins being one of them. Jenkins played the whole game and had some good flashes, but his overall play was average.
Jenkins is a 4th year senior and a Junior College transfer. He played one year of junior college ball then transferred to A&M. He was a part time starter in 2011 before becoming a regular in in 2012. He has very average linebacker size at 6’2" – 220. He has a long, lean frame. While he is a good athlete with good play speed, he is not overly strong or physical. I thought he showed adequate reactions versus both the run and pass. He can find the ball. What I don’t like is he is not a tough, aggressive player at the point of attack. I only saw one impressive play in this game and there were only 2 plays made at or near the line of scrimmage. The big play was early in the 4th quarter when he helped stop ‘Bama running back J.J. Yeley for no gain and caused a fumble at the 3 yard line. He shot the gap and came unblocked on the play. For the rest of the game, his plays were downfield or pursuit plays. Because of his lack of size and top strength, Jenkins can struggle getting off blocks. There were a few plays where he was driven 4-6 yards off the line. He lacks good hand use. He makes some plays when unblocked but none when blocked. As a pursuit player he usually takes good angles and shows a burst.
In coverage, he takes good drops. He can get depth and shows fairly good receiver awareness. He has range in coverage and has adequate ball reactions. I didn’t see enough man coverage to be able to grade. As a pass rusher he blitzes a few times a game. He is best when he comes free on delayed blitzes, otherwise he can get stopped cold when blocked.
There will be some teams that like Jenkins because he has some speed and athleticism. He is a run and hit type linebacker. I personally don’t like linebackers who aren’t strong point of attack players, but this is basically a difference in philosophy. I will need to get a later look at this player but based on the Alabama game, I feel he is a late pick at best.

Kirby Ennis – Defensive Tackle

Ennis is a starter at defensive tackle in the Aggie 4-3 scheme. He usually lines up in a 0, 1 or 2 technique. He plays in a rotation and often comes out for obvious passing downs.
He is a 5th year senior and a two year starter. He is listed as being 6’4" – 310, but he looks much bigger. He has a thick build and looks to be about 320. While he is big, he is not very athletic. He shows some straight line quicks but he has no speed and just average change of direction. He shows average snap reaction but can often get tall. He seldom gets penetration and is not disruptive. He was credited with only 1 tackle in the game.
What Ennis does best is occupy blocks. While he doesn’t get penetration, he rarely gets knocked off the line. He does a good job staying on his feet. He has strength and power and can hold the point. He can be slow to shed and does nothing in pursuit. When rushing the passer he can get a little push but nothing else. He shows no moves to and has average hand use to get rid of blockers.
Ennis may have some interest from some 3-4 teams as a nose tackle because he has size and strength. He will never be an active type defensive lineman and I don’t see him ever being better than a backup. A late choice at best but probably an undrafted free agent.

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