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Crabbs | LB Junior Joseph effective playing forward

Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

Crabbs | LB Junior Joseph effective playing forward

Linebacker Junior Joseph enters his redshirt senior season with the UConn Huskies program as a returning two year starter. The 6’1, 242 lb linebacker has been featured as the middle linebacker of the unit and was an honorable mention for the 2015 All-American Athletic Conference team.

All of these clips are brought to you by Krossover, NDT Scouting’s film partner for the 2018 NFL Draft season.

Joseph is one of the 99 seniors that Jon Ledyard, Joe Marino and I are showcasing this summer as part of our NDT Scouting Premium services.

Joseph’s full assessment will be available for NDT Premium subscribers but as with all of our works at NDT Scouting, we hope to continue to be transparent in our process. Therefore, consider these my “notes” on Joseph, particularly where he’s most successful: between the tackles.

A heavy hitter in the pocket

Joseph’s film is littered with plays like this one. As a level two defender and the “MIKE”, he’s given the flexibility to key the back at the mesh point. If the back leaks out into space; Joseph can sniff out the play. If the back sits in protection, as he does above, Joseph can drive on the pocket and accelerate through his target.

Joseph’s disruption is most regular when he’s asked to play forward. The process of the mesh point here is rapid and Joseph does well to slip past contact and use his build up speed to barrel down and force an overthrow.

This play is a true blitz on a second and goal rep vs. Houston; but two themes remain prevalent. One: Joseph is successful in navigating a crease in protection to get pressure. Two: Joseph finishes at the point of contact. The play ends in a touchdown for the opposition but Joseph’s pressure and penetration could not have been any better.

There’s some extra curricular chatter here as well, as this wasn’t the first time Ward and Joseph were acquainted during the contest.

Devastating pop. When the light clicks on, Joseph bears down on Ward in a hurry. This ability to penetrate gives Joseph some value on third down situations. It’s an important trait for his skill set, as he’s not especially fluid in comparison to the athletes he’s facing when isolated in space.

Possesses requisite zone coverage skills

Joseph isn’t a new age hybrid linebacker/safety player. He’s a tried and true down hill player; but if you cut off a portion of the field and ask for some depth, he’s a strong enough athlete to make it happen. Here, Joseph does well to stay patient and the snap before hinging to greet a vertical stem entering his area.

Joseph’s approach allows him to pin the stem outside of his landmark and force the receiver to break around his body. It appears as though the positioning of Joseph forces an altered throw from the Quarterback; who isn’t on the same page as his receiver. Either that or impending pressure forces an inaccurate throw, but either way Joseph is in position to defend appropriately.

Run defense is a plus quality

One of the essentials of player evaluation and drafting is finding where players win. Joseph has enough flexibility to warrant consideration in a number of roles but his *value* as a player stands with how well he defends the run.

This down hill plug is nasty stuff. Joseph does well to process a down block from the play side guard before stepping forward to fill, meeting the pulling lineman in the alley and delivering a massive pop. This “reset” of the line of scrimmage as illustrated is a vital part of gap responsibility defense. Joseph doesn’t make the play but he executes and the back is forced to look elsewhere for a lane.

This stop by Joseph comes at a vital point in UConn’s early 13-10 win over Virginia. Joseph is keying (or reading) backfield action at the snap. As the backs flood left, Joseph begins to flow laterally, while still gaining ground towards the line of scrimmage.

Why is that so important to note? Because it’s 4th and 2, so getting into the backfield is of utmost importance. Joseph’s scrape is with enough trust that he crosses the face of the back side Guard, who is attempting to climb to the second level and cut him off. Joseph finishes this play with the stuff, thanks in part to some effective work at the point of attack by his teammates.

In all, Joseph is a physical run defender with enough athleticism to warrant keeping on the field in many instances. His profile is currently under the radar but I see him as a player that has NFL value, provided he follows suit with another strong effort in 2017 for the Huskies.

 

Kyle Crabbs

Kyle Crabbs is the founder/Director of Scouting of NDT Scouting Services, a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the lead NFL Draft analyst for the FanRag Sports Network.

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