Bleacher Report senior writer, Matt Millen, has done an excellent job in detailing how scouts break down inside linebackers. In this article, I am going to use his analysis on CJ Mosley and how he fits in the Ravens 3-4 defense.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
In the Ravens 3-4 Defenses, there are two inside linebackers. The projected starting linebackers are Daryl Smith and CJ Mosley. During the 2013 season, Daryl Smith was excellent against the pass, but struggled against the run. According to Pro Football Focus, Daryl Smith had the worst run stop percentage against the run. Look for CJ Mosley to fill the role of the ‘Mike’ backer. Typically, the MIKE linebacker is more athletic and a better sideline-to-sideline player. At 6-2, 234 lbs, Mosley is an ideal candidate to play this position.
Using the all-22 film from the Alabama – Auburn game, let’s look at CJ Mosley’s ability to play run defense and pass defense.
CJ Mosley in Run Defense
In the 3-4 defense, Mosley will not have two defensive tackles in front of him as he did in Alabama. He must be able to come off blocks to make tackles.
On this run play, the offensive line is running a zone blocking scheme where the Center will peel off the defensive tackle and block Mosley.
At the snap of the ball, Mosley covers the A Gap (space between center and guard) in anticipation of the run. The center will peel off of his initial blocking assignment and then block CJ Mosley.
The Auburn Center does not have a good block on Mosley. He has not completely sealed off Mosley from the running lane. He is leaning forward and does not have good leverage. Mosley takes advantage of his poor technique and is able to shed his blocker in order to make a tackle.
As a smaller linebacker, Mosely’s success in his rookie year will be dependant on Brandon Williams, Chris Canty, Haloti Ngata and the rest of the defensive line taking on double teams and allowing him to roam free to tackle the runner. Think Alex Mack of the Browns, Chris Myers of the Texans or Ryan Kalil of the Panthers peeling off of Chris Canty or Haloti Ngata to block Mosley. These are elite Centers that you do not want engaging your rookie linebacker.
In order to be effective, CJ Mosley must be able to fight through traffic to get to the ball-carrier. During his pro-day Mosley was able to bench press 225 lbs 15 times. CJ Mosley will need to add upper body strength in order to fend off blockers and to get through subsequent blockers protecting the ball.
While many scouts applaud Mosley for his ability to anticipate the play as it is developing, Mosley struggled against the read option and failed to detect when the Quarterback kept the ball to run. On this play Mosley anticipates that the running back is going to receive the ball at the mesh point and moves towards the running lane. Unfortunately, the Quarterback keeps the ball and runs untouched for the eventual touchdown. It will be worth noting to see if the Carolina Panthers run read options plays when Mosley takes the field.
CJ Mosley in Pass Defense
CJ Mosley is an ideal linebacker in pass coverage. In pass coverage a linebacker relies more on speed and athletic ability. When dropping back into coverage, CJ Mosley exhibits excellent instincts by always moving, looking for the ball.
On this passing play, Alabama lines up in a cover 2 defense. Mosley has to drop into zone coverage and cover the middle of the field.
While keeping an eye on the receiver in his zone in addition to the quarterback, Mosley is able to change directions quickly without hesitation. The flexibility, hip movement needed to cut, change direction are very strong attributes in CJ Mosley’s pass coverage skills. Mosley’s ability to swivel his hips and foot speed will allow him to keep up down the field with many of the tight ends in the NFL.
CJ Mosley Tackling Ability
The BSL forum described CJ Mosley’s tackling ability as a strength: Strong physical tackler who drives through his target. I disagree. Mosley is not always a fundamentally sound tackler. He does not wrap up when he tackles. The majority of time, Mosley throws his body into an opponent in order to bring him down. The biggest issue is that Mosley will drop his head on contact. This could lead to a major injury. From the scouting reports, the lack of good tackling skills could appear to be a sign of weakness in terms of strength.
CJ Mosley has all of the tools to be a successful linebacker for the Ravens. He is an immediate starter that can play the middle linebacker position in the Ravens 3-4 defense. However, there are a couple of factors that must happen in order to enable a successful rookie year:
Strength of the defensive line in run defense – The defensive line must limit the offensive line’s ability to penetrate into the second level and engage Mosley and Daryl Smith. CJ Mosley must be allowed to run unobstructed and to the ball carrier. He currently does not have the size to take on NFL linemen.
Upper body strength and tackling – Mosley must work on his overall strength, especially his upper body strength. The lack of strength leads to poor tackling. Without an improvement in strength, Mosley could have difficulty in bringing down Le’veon Bell of the Steelers who is 244 lbs.
Nadeem was born and raised in Baltimore and now lives in Chicago with his wife and two kids. He is a graduate of Loyola College in Maryland with a degree in Engineering. Nadeem started to write about the Ravens in 2013 for his site Ravens Film Review, and progressing to work for I Hate JJ Redick. and later Russell Street Report.