December 28, 2011; San Diego, CA, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (44) after sacking California Golden Bears quarterback Zach Maynard (15) during the fourth quarter in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Jackson Jeffcoat, DE Texas


The Texas Longhorns had one of the most physically impressive, dynamic sets of defensive ends in the country entering the 2012 season in Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat.  Both were slightly raw but were able to make big plays in defensive coordinator Manny Dias’s scheme that asked them to get up the field and force plays up the middle.  Unfortunately, Jeffcoat was only able to play in six games before suffering a season ending pectoral rupture.  There was some speculation that Jeffcoat might be a player who would have left early and gone to the NFL, but the injury ended that discussion and he came back for his senior year.

The Longhorn defensive scheme has used Jeffcoat as both a Leo linebacker as a standup end as well as a traditional defensive end with his hand on the ground.  He has the athleticism to drop and make plays laterally which gives offenses an added element to prepare but Jeffcoat’s impact is primarily going forward and making plays in the backfield and specifically getting pressure on the quarterback.

Jackson, the son of former Dallas Cowboy defensive end, Jim Jeffcoat, has inherited tremendous genetics and with combined with hard work, has impressive physical potential both for the Longhorns this coming season and in the NFL.  He is still developing as a player, which made the injury all that much more frustrating, but he has a chance to come back and refine his technique and get rid of a few bad habits that could ensure he is a top 50 player with a chance to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft.

Vitals & Build

Jeffcoat is listed at 6’5” 245lbs with the potential to get bigger and stronger.  He has a big frame and will be able to continue adding strength; the question facing him is how big he wants to get.  Jeffcoat should be able to eclipse the 250lb mark without having any factor and probably closer to 255lbs, but if he gets up near 260lbs, he it could start to impact his ability to contribute as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and start becoming a tradeoff between athleticism and power.

He possesses good acceleration, quickness, and the ability to change direction in small spaces in traffic with impressive strength with the frame and potential to continue improving, but consistency in his technique will do more for him to show off his natural athleticism than anything else.  Jeffcoat does have a good motor and can bring a consistent effort and play a lot of snaps.  He will occasionally quit on plays too early, but usually does a good job of staying in plays and has several second effort sacks.

Snap Anticipation & First Step

Jeffcoat can be explosive off the snap but it does not happen often enough at this point.  He has some habits he needs to break, especially when he is coming out of that 2-point stance off the edge.  When the ball is snapped, Jeffcoat takes a false step with his front foot that does not actually do anything other than sort of reset him to go after the play.  Most of the time, it looks like he is just picking it up and putting it down in the exact same place and while that might not seem like much, that step is happening at the same time the offensive tackle is taking a step, so he is immediately in better position to stay in front in pass blocking or a step closer to being in position to make a good run block.  If he can work on his stance and adjust it so he eliminates that false step, he will come off the ball much faster and get up the field quicker, giving him an advantage.

Although it may not be used as much this year as it was when he was a sophomore, Jeffcoat is more explosive out of his three or four-point stance he uses when lined up as an end.  He explodes forward off the snap better and gets into the backfield quicker making it easier to make plays.  It also forces him to come out lower, with better leverage as he is often too high as a standup end.

Block Shedding

When Jeffcoat is able to work half the man, he is able to use both his strength and agility to power his way around the edge and flatten out to the quarterback, but he runs into significant issues when he has to take on an offensive lineman without that advantage.  Almost all of his action is from waist down and he needs to do more and be active and dictate the matchup with his arms.

Jeffcoat will use his speed to rush on the outside but will also try to juke and keep opponents off balance by not giving away where he is going.  He will also to use what basically amounts to a jump cut to make a quick shift to go from the inside to outside or vice versa and obviously, they play a big role in the effectiveness of his bull rush.  His arm on the other hand are really only being used to reach out and make contact with the bull rush and then attacking the outside shoulder when he attempts to rip through to free himself up and make a play; the result is that he has more pass rush moves with his legs than he does his arms.  Too often, his arms simply stop and he ends up locked on the offensive tackle and tries to run himself off the block with rare success.  Not only should he continue expanding his repertoire with his arms to beat blocks, but he also needs to work on avoiding being engaged in the first place as he does work better in space than he does on the block.

The Longhorns ran far too many overload looks to create opportunities for him and when he faced NFL caliber offensive tackles that were able to stay in front of him, he struggled.  Jeffcoat also has experience rushing inside on stunts, but because of their scheme, does not have a ton of experience rushing inside and could stand to do more of it.

Run Stopping

Jeffcoat is a pretty good run defender at this point in no small part due to his strength.  Not only does he have the strength to hold up at the point of attack, but there are a number of examples where he is able to hold up against double teams.  He has the ability to dominate tight ends with power when they are isolated on him.  His agility and quickness make him able to able to shoot the gaps on occasion, get out and make plays on the run inside or outside, but he will occasionally get too far up field and open up running lanes behind him.  Again, possibly as a result of their scheme that asks him to attack outside, he will have plays where he gets too far up the field and others where he does a great job of getting heel’s depth and making a play in the background.  Jeffcoat has the ability to both hold up against offensive tackles and track down the run himself with good range for either a defensive end or outside linebacker.

Rushing the Passer

Physically impressive, he is a huge talent that still needs to work on improving technique.  He possesses a great deal of strength, but when he comes from a two-point stance, he is too high and makes himself a huge target for offensive tackles.  When he comes from a three or four point stance, he has much better pad level and leverage enabling him to use his physical strength with the ability to knock opposing offensive linemen into the backfield, collapsing the pocket or getting them off balance enough to use a second move to free himself up to make a play.

While he possesses the ability to make plays on second and third efforts, he needs to make more plays on the first.  Too often, the plays he is able to make are open and as a result of the opponent having too many players to block and blocking inside enabling him to come free off the edge.  He possesses impressive power and can really do some damage when he hits the quarterback with the ability to cause fumbles.

The biggest adjustment that would help Jeffcoat for the upcoming season would be to improve his first step and rid himself of the false step, but he needs to improve his variety of pass rush moves and get better at shedding blocks, so his natural speed and strength show through more.  Jeffcoat has some adjustments that would make it easier for him to make plays because as it is now, he works harder than he needs to and has to play catch up too often.

System Fit

At this point, the best fit for Jeffcoat is as a 3-4 outside linebacker who can make plays in space and rush the passer.  Because he needs to do a better job of taking on and beating blocks, having him out in space where he can run plays down, drop in coverage, and have more options in how he rushes the passer.  Teams that could envision him in that role could include Arizona, Baltimore, and Houston.  He can also play as a 4-3 defensive end with his athleticism, but he needs to add more strength to hold up long term.  Lastly, Jeffcoat could be of interest to teams that use a Leo backer like Jacksonville and Seattle as he has the experience and athleticism to do it in the NFL.

Schedule

Sat. Aug 31 vs. New Mexico State
Sat, Sept. 7 at BYU
Sat, Sept. 14 vs. Ole Miss
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Kansas State
Thu, Oct. 3 at Iowa State
Sat, Oct. 12 vs. Oklahoma
Sat, Oct. 26 at TCU
Sat, Nov. 2 vs. Kansas
Sat, Nov. 9 at West Virginia
Sat, Nov. 16 vs. Oklahoma State
Thu, Nov. 28 vs. Texas Tech
Sat, Dec. 7 at Baylor

Notable Games

The second game of the year is a big game for both Jeffcoat and Texas as a whole as it is in Provo and they need to win that game to get off to a good start.  The Cougars could opt to use Kaneakua Friel, their tight end to stay in and chip him.  The following week they host Ole Miss before they get into their Big XII schedule, which may enable him to have a speed advantage on the edge, but could be a decent test of his power.  Kansas State’s Cornelius Lucas could be an interesting test if they are lined up on the same side. Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Baylor are worthwhile matchups for the simple fact those are huge games for Texas if they are going to get back to being a competitor for the conference and any game that gives Jeffcoat opportunities to show improvement with his technique is a worthwhile one.

NFL Comparison

In so many ways, Jeffcoat is a slightly smaller, sleeker version of his former running mate, Okafor.  Okafor was bigger and had more success with forcing fumbles, but they both have incredible athletic ability and a good deal of potential, but struggled to defeat blocks.   Okafor was more slanted to play end because of his size, but he was a better fit in the 3-4 as an outside linebacker as well which is what the Arizona Cardinals took him to do.  Jeffcoat could have a draft path if he does not take the next step in his development.  And while both were good players for the Longhorns, both have the potential to be better NFL players if and when the light goes on for them.

Draft Projection

First and foremost, Jeffcoat needs to prove he is healthy this year and he should be, which will give him the opportunity to show why his athletic ability can allow him to be dominant.  His size, strength, and speed were NFL caliber, but his technique and polish need work.  On his athletic ability alone, he could be a top 100 pick as it is, much like Okafor was projected to be, but if he takes that next step and becomes an impact edge rusher, he could secure himself a spot in the top 50 and perhaps the first round.  He has always been productive, even with the issues that he has faced, but if he makes adjustments, he has a chance to really break out and be one of the most dominant defenders in the country.

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