The Chargers used their first selection of this year’s draft to select defensive tackle Jerry Tillery at 28th overall. Let’s dive into some of the tape to see what we should expect to see him bring to the middle of the defense.
We’re going to forget the tradition of starting with the bad news and ending on a high note. You’re here to be convinced that if Aaron Donald hit a bigger growth spurt in high school that he would’ve grown up to be 6’6’’ 300lbs and change his name to Jerry Tillery. This isn’t going to be a fluff piece, but let’s keep that fantasy alive for a little while here and start with all the things that make this man a problem.
Tillery understands exactly how to run the stunt call inside and out both in a literal and figurative sense. On this play he does a brilliant job of crossing the guards face and attacking the inside shoulder of the tackle with a bullrush to flatten him out and create a clear path to the quarterback. In his game vs. Pitt he demonstrated good technique on another stunt where he was lined up at the DE spot and did a great job getting up field and cutting inside just before the tackle was able to engage him, shortening his path to the QB. It’s the defensive tackle’s responsibility to get a piece of both blockers (as he executes above) and Tillery has a great understanding of how to occupy both blockers at the tackle spot as well as how to come clean crashing in from the end position.
The more I look at how Tillery set this up, the more impressed I am. Off the snap it looks like he’s trying to win with speed and use a swipe move to keep his hands clean, until he does the exact opposite and deploys a devastating long-arm that drives Nate Herbig back so far that his offspring’s first steps might be backwards thanks to this move alone. For the record, Jerry didn’t come up with this 4 sack performance vs Stanford by matching up with some slouch. That right guard, Nate Herbig, will be looking to make the Eagles roster this summer.
As we can see at this point, Tillery isn’t short on options for getting to the quarterback. We’ve seen a bullrush, a swipe to set up a long-arm, and now the club move which might be his go-to move if he has one. I didn’t see one specific unstoppable aspect of his game as far as an elite first step or strength goes, but Tillery seems to have the hand usage and football IQ of a 10-year NFL vet to pair with his above average strength and deceptive athleticism.
Stack & Shed
This isn’t exactly a consistent depiction of Tillery’s performance in the run game, but it does encapsulate what he’s great at and capable of as a run defender. He does a remarkable job of stacking the center, shedding the block and being the first to wrap up the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage on 3rd &3. While Tillery has some questions to answer about his run defense and his ability to hold the point of attack, he does use his length to his advantage by seeing over the linemen while he’s engaged with them and track where the ball carrier is.
That was fun, but it leads us to a few things in his game that need to be improved before he enters the conversation as one of the better players in the league at his position.
Stack & ...
Being able to see over the linemen and read the running back is a huge advantage. It’s better to be patient for a split second than run yourself out of the play but I see a trend of Tillery being too patient. At least I hope it’s a mental flaw, but when it comes to the run game Tillery seems to either win right away, or struggle to disengage at all.
Tillery is not winning rushing from the outside at the next level, at least not on a consistent basis. He wasn’t even winning from the outside in college unless he was being aided by a stunt, in which case he’s lining up at tackle to begin with. He doesn’t have that explosive first step, the speed, nor the bend to get around the tackle fast enough. Look at the difference between how the left and right tackle get out of their stance. No kick step needed from the left tackle whatsoever, anchoring right away because being beat around the edge is his last concern vs Tillery.
As often as Jerry makes beating blocks look effortless, including this run shown here, he seems to suffer from rookie-year-Melvin-Ingram-syndrome. For those who aren’t familiar, before Ingram was a consistent 8-10 sack per year player, he was notorious for winning his 1-on-1’s and then whether it was bad pursuit angles or failure to wrap up he just wasn’t finishing the play. I saw this on a few occasions in just a handful of game tapes for Tillery similar to the play above where he beats the block almost instantly, with no one preventing him from making the tackle for a loss or at least near the line of scrimmage, and he just whiffs.
Overall, I think it’s easy to see why the Chargers were happy to select Jerry Tillery in the 1st round. He has a wide arsenal of pass rush moves that he’s had success with early in his career. He seems to have a great concept of how to execute stunts and position himself so he doesn’t take himself out of the play, always ready to track down the QB when they step up in the pocket. Even where his weaknesses lie he shows a general sense of discipline so he shouldn’t be much of a liability in the run game, especially with Mebane beside him to handle most of those double teams. I believe how polished he is in the pass game rather than just getting by on athletic traits bodes well for him producing right away. The Chargers may have just finally added a pass rushing presence to collapse the middle of the pocket that allows Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to feast off the edge.
How many sacks should we expect from Jerry Tillery as a rookie?
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