Bull Rush: Versatile Crowder Now On The Bubble

February 18th, 2010

Former Bucs DE Steve White

Former Bucs DE Steve White

By STEVE WHITE
JoeBucsFan.com analyst

 Steve White spent every season of the Tony Dungy era playing defensive end for the Bucs. He’s spent countless hours in the film room with the likes of Warren Sapp, Rod Marinelli and more. Joe is humbled to have White, also a published author and blogger, as part of the JoeBucsFan.com team. Below is White’s weekly Bull Rush column that breaks down all things defense. It’s simply a can’t-miss read for the hardcore Bucs fan. 

 With the 2009 season over, White is profiling every Bucs defensive lineman and breaking down his strengths and weaknesses, as well as how they may fit in in next season.

Today he looks at Tim Crowder.

Strengths

Tim Crowder is a guy who resurrected his career last year with the Bucs. A second-round pick of the Broncos in 2007, he was waived by Denver right before the 2009 season and was at risk of being labeled a major bust. However, Crowder came in and made an impact as a backup almost immediately after being signed by the Bucs. He showed versatility by being able to play on both the right and left sides. He showed consistency by logging 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks as the primary reserve at defensive end. He also showed great effort through out the season.

Thinking back, I can’t remember a time when I thought Crowder looked tired while he was in the game, and he always gave great effort. The biggest compliment I could give him, however, is that you didn’t see a drop off in production when he came in the game. When you are a backup, the one thing you never want to be is to be seen as a weak link, and he definitely was not that. He even started four games in the course of the season and acquitted himself quite well.

Weaknesses

One thing I would like to see more of from Crowder is a diversity of pass rush moves. He has good size at 6’4 and 275 pounds, but he relied on bull rushing way too much if you ask me. He is fast enough and athletic enough to work in some speed rushes. And by trying to take the corner on opposing offensive tackles, he makes his bull rush that much more effective. If a tackle knows that all you are going to do is run into him all game, then he knows all he has to do is set and brace for contact each play. When he isn’t sure if you will try to burn the corner or not, then he can’t get comfortable with his set. But with Crowder at times, it almost looked like he had a magnet pulling him into offensive tackles on passing plays. And while that worked at times, at others he got absolutely no push and no pressure on the quarterback.

I also would like to see him get better at running pass rush games. It’s all a matter of patience and timing when it comes to running a successful pass rush game. If you are a defensive end running a TEX game (tackle penetrates, end loops inside) the one thing you HAVE to do is get up field far enough to give the defensive the tackle a fair chance to penetrate and get to the offensive tackle’s back before you loop inside. By being patient, it will be a lot more likely that when you do loop inside the guard will stay with the defensive tackle, and the A-gap will be yours for the taking.

But Crowder showed a tendency to always want to loop inside too fast. That meant the offensive tackle never sat back, which meant the defensive tackle never had a chance to penetrate so the guard was easily able to switch off the defensive tackle and come back and block Crowder going in the A-gap. That equals a wasted rush and you never want to have a wasted rush, especially on 3rd-and-long.

The Future

You would think that after the strong season Crowder turned in as a backup and with the injury to starter Jimmy Wilkerson, that he would be a lock to be on the roster next season. But having been a backup for most of my career, I can tell you that he is probably still on the bubble more than most fans would think.

For one thing the Bucs drafted Kyle Moore last year out of USC and they are probably going to be pushing him to get playing time this season. For another, its been widely acknowledged that we have to upgrade our defensive line. That means you can expect the Bucs to bring in some more ends either via free agency or the draft. And one thing you never can know or control as a player is how one of those other guys will perform.

Now I like Tim Crowder. And I think he can be a good player for us, but he is going to have to work out this offseason as if his career depended on it because, at least with the Bucs, it just might.

The one thing he can control his how much better he gets. If he works to get better as a pass rusher and continues to stay in great shape he will make it awfully hard for the Bucs to move someone in front of him. But if he looks at it as if he has arrived and starts cutting any corners or gets complacent at all, he may look up and find himself at the bottom of the depth chart.

Such is the nature of the beast for backups in the NFL. Considering the passion I saw him play with for much of this season, however, I think it’s safe to assume that he realizes this and will push himself accordingly.

28 Responses to “Bull Rush: Versatile Crowder Now On The Bubble”

  1. Jonny Says:

    Steve can you tell me what a “pass rush game” is?

  2. sgw94 Says:

    @Jonny

    A pass rush game is when two or more defensive line exchange rush lanes in order to try to confuse the offensive linemen and or give themselves an advantage on getting to the quarterback.

  3. Mike J Says:

    I have been thinking that Crowder would share snaps with White at RE, & Moore with J.W. at LE. Is that wrong??

  4. sgw94 Says:

    @Mike J

    In my opinion Crowder is a better LE but he can play both as he showed during the season. The problem is we don’t know how the roster will shake out yet. Jimmy may or may not be resigned and even if he is he may or may not be healthy to start the season. So in that situation it makes sense to let Crowder and Moore fight it out to start at LE (assuming we don’t draft an LE high or sign one via free agency). In that situation speaking from past experience the draft pick, in this case Moore, has an inherent leg up. If they end up about equal after camp Moore is almost assured of getting the starting job because the scouting department will want more checks in the win column. Crowder would have to decisively out shine him in my opininon to take the job. And again, this could all be moot if the Bucs make a lot of moves bringing new guys in. I expect that one way or another the Bucs are going to get another right end in here because we need more pass rushers, we don’t have a lot of depth, and White is getting older (plus he wants a new deal).

  5. Mark Says:

    Steve,

    I don’t know if you’ve done it yet, but I’d certainly like to get your take on Suh and McCoy…

    I’d expect at least one of them to be there for us in the draft…

    Which one’s game is going to translate to the NFL?

    Who would you pick between the two?

    Thanks – I’m enjoying your work.

  6. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    @Mark

    Here is my take on Suh

    http://passingonthegame.blogspot.com/2009/11/one-game-evaluation-of-ndamukong-suh.html

    I actually think he translates better into a left end in either a 3-4 (preferred) or 4-3. I like McCoy as a better fit for our style of defense quite honestly.

    I will say however that I don’t think either will available to us at #3. I know people are speculating about the Rams taking a QB but that ignores 2 things in my mind.

    1. Their probably pursuit of Mike Vick

    2. The only QB rated well enough to be drafted that high is Sam Bradford and he is coming off shoulder surgery plus he played in a spread offense his whole career, something that hasn’t translated over well for quarterbacks going into the NFL.

    I would much rather we went after a proven commodity at defensive tackle through free agency or a trade as its one of the positions where there are a LOT of draft busts no matter how much hype a guy coming out of college has.

  7. OAR Says:

    Mr. White, I had posted something on another site about that earlier today myself and think the same.
    -”As for Rams, there are rumors that they want to trade for Vick. The supposed connection: Their new GM was an assistant in Atlanta, when Vick was there. Hmm? If they did that, they would still have thier 1st round pick and probaly take Suh and qb later. Just a rumor though and right in time for the smoke-n-mirrors phase of the draft.”

  8. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    @OAR

    There is another thing to consider too. People keep focusing on the Rams spending 1st round picks on defensive linemen and I guess that could be a concern but as far as I can tell they are happy with Jake Long and Carriker may still turn out ok after he returns from injury. The big thing though is that it seems like they are going to part ways with left end Leonard Little, a guy I played with at Tennessee. Now for years he has been pretty much their only pass rush threat, and losing him will make a bad defense a helluva lot worse. They could potentially take Suh and put him at left end and have a decent nucleus for years to come of young defensive linemen for Spagnulo to build around. Now I also hear the Redskins might trade up to 1 for Bradshaw, but my question would be why? The Redskins already pick at 4, the ONLY team that could potential draft Bradford in the top 4 other than them would be the Rams and if they are that sold on Bradford they would never trade that pick to the Redskins anyway. It would make a lot more sense for them to just stay at 4 and get Bradford and if he is off the board get a left tackle since it looks like Chris Samuels is done.

    But hey, thats just my take on it.

  9. OAR Says:

    Mr. White, That sounds about right too.

  10. Joe Says:

    Steve:

    Now I also hear the Redskins might trade up to 1 for Bradshaw, but my question would be why? The Redskins already pick at 4, the ONLY team that could potential draft Bradford in the top 4 other than them would be the Rams and if they are that sold on Bradford they would never trade that pick to the Redskins anyway.

    The Redskins are not the only team in need of a quarterback. If Shanahan and Snyder are hellbent on getting Bradford, the only way to lock him up is to get the Rams pick.

    Of course, this doesn’t rule out another team from trading with the Rams to get that pick. Might Pete Carroll want to make a splash? Charley Casserly said the other night on the NFL Network there are four or five teams in the top nine that seriously have to discuss in their warroom drafting a quarterback in the first round.

  11. bucfanjeff Says:

    If any teams trades spots with the Rams to take a QB, the land a DT, probably McCoy (whom I like better anyway (for the Bucs)).

  12. bucfanjeff Says:

    ..the Bucs land..

  13. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    @Joe

    If you ask me Seattle has more than one area of concern and they have 2 picks within the top 14. Hell it looks like they have to replace their left tackle and Imagine a good one will be available at 6 but they also need WRs TBs defensive linemen etc. I guess they could go up to 1 and get Bradford but then they wouldn’t have anything to surround him with. See to me, if this draft had a quarterback who just lit it up this year then I could understand the speculation, but when the best guy is coming off shoulder surgery and isn’t even going to be 100% at the combine, I just think its a little ridiculous to spend a number 1 pick on that guy. I sure as hell wouldn’t. Especially if he only played in a spread offense.

    And don’t forget, although people know USC mostly because of the offenses they have had under Carroll, HIS background is with defense.

    Last thing, if I was going to pick an injured QB high, I might actually go with Pike over Bradford. I know Im in the minority on that but I saw Pike play outstanding ball this year and show athleticism I didn’t think he had. And really when you boil it all the way down, all Cincy had on offense as a legit weapon was Gillyard.

  14. kennedy Says:

    Agree that Pete Carroll will go defense.

  15. Mike J Says:

    Steve, I am with you. If I needed a QB, I’d wait until round 2 & go after Pike. Puts me in mind of Flacco.But I hope the Rams don’t do this

  16. Mr. Lucky Says:

    Steve, with your take on Tim Crowder – did you notice any difference in his production from LE vs. RE?

    I was looking at Crowder’s numbers and except for sacks (3.5 vs. 6.5) Crowder’s tackles were similar to S White – but Tim was the backup.

    With Jimmy’s injury ending his season he’s not even listed on the Bucs depth chart – so that looks promising for Tim but would Crowder be better off staying at RE and possibly pushing Stylz for the starting position?

    Secondly with regard to pash rushing techniques you talked about Tim mainly doing a bull rush. How difficult is it to “teach” a player to do a swim move or spin move (like Feeney’s) from the left vs. the right?

    At the pro level are there certain training methods that Tim should be attempting in this off season?

  17. FlBoy84 Says:

    Hey Steve, in your review of the tapes, do you see a common theme of most of the Bucs DL lacking in the “pass rush moves” column? I seem to recall you saying that players really aren’t coached on moves once they reach the NFL level. If so, how can it be corrected?

    Also, as far as pass rush games, are they typically called by the D-Coordinator or sometimes decided upon while you’re in the huddle?

  18. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    @MrLucky

    I thought Crowder played much better overall at Left End. See historically folks haven’t normally counted on LEs to be big time pass rushers with a few exceptions. The reason being of course is that most QBs are right handed and thus the RE comes from the blind side where as the LE has to come from his line of sight making it harder (normally) to put up big sack numbers. Crowder isn’t close to being the pass rusher that White is, BUT he appeared to be in better shape than White and thus could perform more consistently. I don’t however think he would stand a snowballs chance of unseating White at RE unless White just totally dogged it this off season.

    As for how difficult it is to teach pass rush moves, its not that hard per se but a lot of it has to do with the student and not the teacher. To be a good pass rusher in the NFL you have to be a student of the game as well as trusting the guy who is coaching you. I learned a lot of my moves from watching old film of great pass rushers who were built like I was like Chris Doleman. I also learned my spin move from watching Bruce Smith who was one of the best at it. But then I got my technique right by listening to Coach Marinelli and actually trying to do the things he would tell me to do in 1 on 1s at practice. The problems of course is not every guy really studies film that way and not every coach is on Marinelli’s level. I think most of our guys can get a lot better at pass rushing but they have to put in the work in both the film room and on the film. For whatever reason when I watched them this season a lot of them looked like they never tried anything but a bull rush durinig practice because that seemed to be the only move they ever used on Sundays

  19. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    @FlBoy

    I think I answered your first question in my response to Mr Lucky but if not let me know. As for the second question it depends from team to team on who calls the games. We were fortunate here in Tampa that our defensive line coach trusted us to make the calls on the field. They would give us a generic call on 3rd and longs and then one guy would say which game or alignment we would use. Other teams, like the one I was on in NY, have the d line coach call the game, which I absolutely hated. The reason being is that on the field guys have a much better field for what is happening with pass protections and what might work whereas coaches tend to just call a game they think has been successful before or that fits a certain situation regardless of what has been going on at that point in the game.

  20. gotbbucs Says:

    I really hope they keep Crowder around, he’s still young and has a chance to get better I think. Like you said Steve, he’s got a good motor and that’s something you just can’t teach a guy. The rest of it can be learned if the guy wants to put the time in. I even thought Michael Bennett had some good moments . The problem is we have a log jam at LE and have only one true right end. What would really help one or two of these guys out is if they could prove to be effective inside on passing downs.

  21. FlBoy84 Says:

    Thanks Steve. Very informative. As for Crowder, the one play that stands out for me this year was when he tracked down the RB from behind about 10 yards down-field. Can’t remember which game it was, but it was a total hustle play that not many DE’s make. Hope he can continue to improve and stick around.

  22. Mr. Lucky Says:

    Thanks for the explaination and great analysis as usual.

  23. Mike J Says:

    Hmmmm…….Aaron Kampman?? Misplaced as a 3-4 OLB. Shouldn’t cost a bundle, & not terribly old.Could he move to the right side??

  24. sgwhiteinfla Says:

    @Mike J

    I like Kampman quite a bit but he is pretty much a left end….and a really good one.

  25. Joe Says:

    Joe has been wanting Kampman for some time. Yes, a misplaced 43-front defensive end. However, Kampman might be a target of a number of teams which means the Bucs would have to get into a bidding war, which Dominik likely won’t get involved with.

  26. JoeBucsSteveCampbell Says:

    SGTWhite-I see your point on the Rams, if they take Vick, but if they don’t I think they are crazy if they don’t take Bradford #1.

    I think had he come out last year, he would have been picked ahead of Stafford, Sanchez, & Freeman. And OU doesn’t run a spead like Florida or Texas Tech does. It’s a much more “pro” type offense.

  27. jvato24 Says:

    Tim Crowder plays with HEART!! He could be a big part of our rotation and A solid player if he continues to develop

  28. gotbbucs Says:

    I played in highschool with Kampman, he’s the ultimate team player and the Bucs would be smart to get a guy with his character on the team. Plus, he’s one hell of a good football player. My guess though is that he’ll take less money to stay somewhere in the NFC North so that he can stay closer to home.

 
 

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