2010 Spotlight: OLB Sergio Kindle – Texas
By CKPublished: January 13, 2010
Posted in: Draft, Prospects
Tags: Draft, OLB, Prospect, Rookie, Sergio Kindle, Texas
By Richard Lines
Over the last two years there has been a new proliferation of 3-4 defensive schemes in the NFL. As such, hybrid outside linebackers have become more of a commodity. However, these players need to have several innate elements to their game in order to make the transition successful at the next level. Some of these necessary elements are: base strength, fluid movement and lateral agility and the ability to rush the passer. Sergio Kindle is a player that many consider to be a natural fit at outside linebacker in a 3-4., but I do not know if that is the case.
The first aspect of this video focuses on his strength at the point of attack. Texas plays in the Big 12, a conference not readily known for its physical style of play. The Big 12 features a predominant number of spread offensive philosophies with only Nebraska featuring a physical style comparable to that of the Big 10 or SEC. As such, Kindle’s ability to handle the point of attack could readily be questioned.
Firstly let me mention that as you peruse the first 2:31 of the video you notice that Kindle does not shy away from contact. He will readily engage offensive lineman and TE’s at the point of attack whether he begins in a 3 or 2 point stance. Kindle regularly plays with leverage, showing a low pad level, wide base, whilst leading with his hands. Kindle also consistently brings his hips when he engages blockers at the point of attack.
The first play I’d like to highlight begins at 0:17 seconds – please note the replay. From the snap of the ball Kindle is lower than his opponent with his helmet being roughly at the top of #67, Marlon Winn’s shoulder pads.
As the play develops, Winn ends up being knocked on his back side upon impact with Kindle. Winn is wildly off balance on the play, showing poor footwork and playing way to tall. Regardless, Kindle’s pad level is on clear display. Kindle shows good body lean, with his shoulder pads out over his toes, leading with his hands looking for contact. If you pause the video at 0:27 you will see just how low Kindle is compared his opponent on impact.
The next play I’d like to focus on occurs at 0:48 of the video. I highlight this play as it is a clear example of Kindle bringing his hips into contact with blockers. Kindle engages Colin Peek, a good blocking tight end at the line of scrimmage. If you focus on the impact you can clearly see Kindle coil for the impact and then surge forward and up into the block; stoning Peek, then shedding him and keeping the runner inside. Now, if you go back to the beginning of the play, you’ll notice that Kindle is in a 2 point stance, whilst Peek is in a 3 point stance. This should give Peek an advantage in terms of gaining leverage on Kindle. However, what you notice is Kindle sets his feet wide, coils and explodes up into Peek, getting his helmet lower than the Alabama TE’s facemask.
Another play that shows Kindle’s ability to engage blockers at the point of attack occurs at 1:11of the video. Here Kindle engages the left tackle #77, James Carpenter on the play. The object for Carpenter is clear; seal Kindle, allowing the back to run into the alley inside of his block. Carpenter does a good job of sealing Kindle, but is unable to turn Kindle out of the play completely. Kindle has held his own against a man 40lbs heavier, on a run first offense Alabama offense.
The next play I’d like to point out – which begins at 0:54, you may want to pause the video at 0:55 and notice Kindle’s body position compared to the Nebraska TE. Once again Kindle’s helmet is under that of his opponent. But this shot should also give you a pretty good idea as to how wide Kindle’s feet are in this sequence.
This play, whilst a good play for Kindle, does show a weakness with regards to his abilities at the point of attack. Kindle, while able to coil and deliver solid pop on initial impact struggles to generate consistent leg drive. Kindle is in clear control of the matchup with the TE, but can only recoil and explode as a means to move his blocker backwards. Kindle can continue to pump his legs if he has a head start, but even in these situations he will only sustain it for 2-3 steps before he no longer generates movement. Some of this will be more evident when he rushes the passer in the next segment of the video, but this issue is on display throughout.
Another example of Kindle winning the battle in terms of striking a blow at impact but failing to generate much leg drive occurs at 1:36 as he is once again matched up with a TE. Kindle once again comes off the ball low stunning his blocker at the line of scrimmage. However, as the play develops, you can see Kindle is trying to drive his blocker backwards. The Texas standout has leverage and is fully extended over his toes, but cannot generate any leg drive, and visibly struggles in this regard.
Perhaps the best example of what can happen when Kindle is forced to drive with his legs occurs at 2:04 when he is matched up with Colin Peek again. Kindle is in good position on initial impact and looks as though he has once again stymied the block at the point of attack. Kindle then tries to generate leg drive in an effort to push his block wide – stringing the play out. However, as soon as Kindle tries to do so, he only generates two steps before Peek overpowers him and drives him off the ball. If you so choose, you can examine the play directly before at 1:55 to see another example, although this is not as conclusive. However, the image is still presented that Kindle can struggle to hold his ground when he is forced to move or pump his legs.
As mentioned, this issue affects Kindle’s ability to provide a consistent bull rush which is surprising considering how consistently he makes good initial contact – again, this will become more evident as the video plays out.
Now, let’s move on to Kindle’s ability to rush the passer and overall speed. As you watch the play at 2:35 it becomes evident that Kindle does have enough speed to threaten the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. Kindle has a good, although not truly explosive first step that forces blockers on their heels with regularity. Kindle has good straight line speed as demonstrated by the play at 2:56 of the video. That play demonstrates to me that Kindle can simply explode into attacking the quarterback. Kindle’s speed is not limited to a good burst as he regularly demonstrates that he can close down distance between himself and the ball.
However, as you watch the tape you will notice that Kindle does not redirect inside very often, and when he does he is not very fluid in his mannerisms.
One instance is on display at 2:44 of the video. Kindle’s initial up the field push is stymied by the offensive tackle. However, the tackle is not exceptionally fleet of foot, and in actuality continues to drop even though Kindle has stopped his advance. Kindle pushes off, which does in fact stop any momentum he had, making it harder for him to cleanly slip inside and apply pressure. If kindle had in fact simply used an arm over or swim move to redirect inside, he could have kept more momentum moving towards the quarterback. As it stands, his push and self created hesitation allows the tackle to gather himself and get back into the play.
Another example of Kindle struggling to redirect inside can be seen at 3:08 of the video. Kindle is initially prevented from rushing up the field, and attempts to redirect inside. Again you will notice that Kindle does not rely on a rip or swim move of any kind to clear his torso so he can accelerate inside to the quarterback. Another play that highlights Kindle’s inability to redirect with ease occurs at 4:32. Kindle attacks up the field, sees he has the tackle scrambling to reach the necessary depth to intercept his rush and attempts to redirect inside. The Texas defender does not use any pass rush techniques to redirect inside however. Rather, he relies on a push to generate separation, and then he begins to drive inside. Once again, it is pretty clear that if Kindle had managed to disengage cleaner, that he would have impacted the quarterback’s ability to throw the pass.
4:49 is also another play that illustrates Kindle’s limited pass rush repertoire as he once again tries a speed rip on the left tackle. The tackle has pretty good technique in his kick slide and gets in front of Kindle without being on his heels or having fully opened his shoulders. The tackle’s sound play ends Kindle’s speed rip, and Kindle can do little else to mount a rush. His lack of consistent leg drive prevents him from bull rushing or attempting to dip in and drive through the contact.
At this time I would like to mention another theme that you will see during this next segment of the video Kindle is really very limited in his pass rush repertoire and is mainly reliant on speed and rushing from the outside. Kindle’s best move is a speed rip with a general rip move running a close second. If the tackle can stymie this first move, Kindle will struggle to put pressure on the quarterback. An example of this can be seen at 3:02. This play can also highlight where Kindle’s lack of leg drive can affect his ability to rush the passer. After defeating the tackle and gaining the advantage, Kindle has trouble dipping his shoulder and driving through the contact. Kindle gets around the corner, but he could have cut down his distance to the quarterback by simply dipping his inside shoulder into the chest of Winn, and ripping up and through his secondary blocking attempt. When Kindle does get to the edge, he will typically be very vertical when he rushes rather than running the arc in the traditional manner.
This is not to say that Kindle does not ever run the arc, only that he is not consistent, and will have difficulty doing so against a tackle that has decent strength and agility. An example of Kindle turning the corner whilst engaged and driving through contact can be seen at 4:56, although I would be remiss to mention that the tackle is hardly showing textbook technique while executing a kick slide. In reality, Marlon Winn often backpedals into position rather than utilizing fundamentals.
However, even if Kindle does run the arc in any fashion, he does not regularly use his inside arm as efficiently as one would expect from a player that typically plays with good arm extension. In layman’s terms, Kindle can be very passive in running the arc instead of displaying the same power shown when he fires out and engages blocker at the line of scrimmage.
If you watch Kindle’s pass rush, you will see any time he has to dip into the blocker and run through the contact he will get a hiccup in his stride, or will appear to be bogged down at some stage of the play. This issue along with his general lack of hand use could be best exemplified by the play 3:08 as already mentioned earlier in the text, or at 3:30 when he is matched up against Marlon Winn again. I like to use Winn as an example because as you can see he is not very strong, nor fundamentally sound at times. Yet, he can control Kindle who clearly should be able to power through this block to reach the quarterback. As it is, Kindle does not rip his inside arm up and extend it to provide himself some separation and possible leverage as he drives to the quarterback.
Another example of a lack of leg drive occurs at 3:38 of the video when Texas faced Nebraska in the Big 12 Title game. Nebraska, as mentioned is the one real physical offense in the Big 12, which is focused more on the ground game than throwing the ball down the field. Nebraska’s top receiving threats garnered 40, 28 and 19 receptions this past season. With this in mind, it bears note that Kindle has difficulty against a tackle that while competent, is not asked to pass protect that often.
Kindle’s issues in mounting a consistent leg drive can also be seen at 4:13 of the video when he once again faces Marlon Winn. Winn has had been soundly beaten by Kindle before, but in this situation Winn manages to stay in front of Kindle. Kindle tries to push Winn backwards, but Winn does a decent job of absorbing the contact; sliding his feet to stay between himself and the quarterback. Kindle cannot sustain the leg drive and his rush comes to an end.
After examining Kindle’s abilities as a pass rusher and strength at the point of attack, I wish to point out how much Kindle hustles all over the field. The first example provided at 5:08 is a shining example of Kindle’s desire to chase down the football. A quick screen to the receiver, who has 2 blockers in front of him typically means that a defensive back will have to make the tackle. Kindle doesn’t make the play, but you can clearly see him turn and attack his responsibility of chasing the ball. Many pass rushers only seek sacks and do not make the little plays that can help a team win games. This type of hustle will surely endear him to coaches who always seek out athletes that try and overachieve.
If you focus on the play at the 5:20 mark on the video, this is another example of Kindle chasing the ball clear across the field him. I cannot express how impressive this effort is on a regular basis from Kindle as he consistently gets himself around the ball. Kindle wants to make plays, and will sell out to do so. He runs with purpose, and is clearly running as hard as he does when he is asked to chase the quarterback.
This last section of the video is not designed to show only that Kindle hustles, but also how he moves in space, and reads the action in the backfield. Kindle is a tightly wound specimen that provides surprising power from his lower half; that much has been documented. Unfortunately, as is often the case with such athletes they are also tight through their hips; making turning and moving in space somewhat problematic. Kindle is in my opinion a tight hipped player than can struggle to change direction in an impromptu fashion. Kindle is often saved by his ability to read the backfield action well. His football intelligence allows him to see the play develop and know what the offense is trying to do for the most part. This is shown throughout the video as he routinely forces the runner to cut inside towards help and by his ability to always end up near the ball. All the hustle in the world will not get you to the ball if you have no idea where it actually is however. 6:49 is a good example of Kindle’s ability to find the ball as he slides inside and attacks the hole to the ball carrier. The 7:00 mark also highlights Kindle’s football intelligence as he sees the play and reacts even though he is rushing through the middle of the offensive line
The problems start for Kindle when he cannot rely on his instincts and intelligence. The play at 5:36 is a good example to start with in examining Kindle’s ability to break down and change directions. After the snap Kindle sees the receiver slipping out into the flat, reads the drop of the quarterback and must break down and change direction. The first thing that should be apparent is that Kindle’s arms are moving vigorously, albeit far away from his body. His feet are not fast and overall he looks somewhat mechanical. Kindle cannot simply slow down and adjust his path, he must gather himself and drive in a new direction.
The next play at 5:42 is an even better example, as you can see that Kindle does not look smooth when he has to breakdown and restart his momentum. His whole lower half must act in one motion for him to move in any direction other than straight ahead. Kindle is asked to change direction several times during this play, and he is clearly having trouble. His arms are far away from his body as he attempts to balance himself. This play also show his ability to read the play as he does once again chase the play down from the opposite side of the field and tracks the runner through traffic.
A fluid athlete would not need to make such exaggerated movement when changing directions. Their elbows would be much closer to their torso and there would be a bit more knee bend throughout any movement. I should mention that while at Texas, Kindle was not asked to drop into coverage a great deal, and when he did he never went far down the field. For the most part Kindle was restricted to a short zone much like that shown in the play at 5:58.
Perhaps the best example of Kindle’s mobility issues, especially changing directions after coming forward occurs at 6:37. Kindle and defensive tackle Lamarr Houston get penetration and see that it is a screen play at essentially the same time. I would like to call your attention to the fact that the defensive tackle is able to turn and run before Kindle has managed to do the same maneuver. Houston looks much smoother than Kindle on this play even though he outweighs Kindle by 45 pounds. Houston’s arm movements are much more confined and he is the first of the two to turn and run. The play at 6:53 is another example of Kindle’s issues when he is forced to change directions in an impromptu fashion.
Overall, Kindle has many good qualities about his game. His base strength and ability to play on the line of scrimmage certainly make him desirable. However, his inability to generate consistent leg drive, limited pass rush repertoire and agility may make some teams pass on Kindle as an outside linebacker. Kindle cannot play as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 alignment that much is clear. His ability to handle the point of attack may see him drafted by a 3-4 team, but even in this situation, he must become a much better pass rusher. His intermittent hand use may preclude him from becoming a nickel end in a 4-3 also. These issues may see Kindle slip some on draft day as teams struggle to find his ideal position given his athletic limitations. His best fit could be as a 4-3 end in a cover 2 where his primary goal is to get up the field, but I worry about his hand use. Kindle’s more likely fit is as a 3-4 outside backer, maybe on the weak side as he will be asked to rush more than drop into coverage – depending on the scheme employed. Kindle’s issues I feel have been adequately exposed, the real question now is can Kindle grow as a player?