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Film Room: Germaine Pratt is a tackling clinic

An examination of Pratt’s film shows that he is an excellent tackler, but needs development in one key area.

NCAA Football: Boston College at North Carolina State James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Germaine Pratt did not get much pre-draft buzz, but his film is amongst the best in this year’s class of linebackers.

Perhaps the reason he slipped through the cracks to some extent is that he was only a one-year starter at the WILL backer position, but what a year it was. Pratt was super productive for the Wolfpack with 104 tackles and 6 six sacks in his senior campaign.

The Bengals need an injection of speed at the linebacker position. Pratt is a converted safety who ran a 4.57 at the combine. He has the speed to make plays on both edges from the middle backer position. The clip below demonstrates his closing speed when pursuing the ball carrier on the perimeter.

Of course, the biggest problem the Bengals defense had last year was tackling and the linebacker position may have been the worst tacklers on the team. Pratt however, is an excellent tackler. In fact, he was statistically one of the best tacklers in this draft class.

In this first clip, Notre Dame has driven the field and has NC State’s backs against the wall in a goal-to-go situation. Pratt plays tight to the line, and as soon as he sees a crease, he shoots through it and tackles the running back for a loss.

In this next clip, the quarterback keeps the ball and attempts to run to the defense’s right. Pratt bends his knees, lowering his hips just before contact. This loads his hips like a spring.

On contact, he extends his hips giving him power, and he keeps his feet moving which allows him to drive the quarterback back into the backfield. Notice also how he keeps his head up. This is key, because it allows him to account for any cutbacks the rusher may attempt by keeping his eyes on him.

When a defender lowers his head, he takes his eyes off of the ball carrier, which often leads to missed tackles.

On this play, the offense attempts to get to the edge on the defense’s right with a jet sweep. They release an offensive lineman up to the second level to block Pratt. Notice how Pratt strikes the lineman with his hands, and gets extension. This allows him to get his eyes on the runner.

If you slow the clip down, you can actually see the moment when the ball carrier is deciding whether to cut inside or outside of the block on Pratt. If Pratt simply shot through in one direction or the other, he would essentially be blocking himself.

Pratt is patient and waits for the ball carrier to commit, then he disengages from the block and makes the tackle.

In this clip, Pratt is lined up on the line of scrimmage to the bottom of the screen. The run play goes to the opposite side of the formation. Pratt’s role here is the “cutback play” and he executes this assignment perfectly. He inserts himself into the box, staying on the running backs inside hip.

When the back crosses the line of scrimmage, Pratt engages his hip and makes the tackle.

Here, Pratt is lined up five yards off of the slot receiver, The offense is running a slip screen and believes that they can get an offensive lineman up to the second level to block him.

They are mistaken.

Pratt reads the screen and bursts into the backfield, running the play down, and tackling the receiver for a loss.

Pratt matches up well with running backs in the passing game. Here, the offense slips the back out into the flat quickly and shoots the ball out to him. Pratt is able to break quickly and make the tackle for a short gain.

Pratt did not have any interceptions in his senior season, but had two as a junior and four total in his college career. In the clip below he does a great job of matching up with the receiver, then gets his eyes back to the quarterback and is able to make a play on the ball.

Unfortunately, his reactions in coverage are not always great. Take the play below for example. Pratt is the outside linebacker on the top of the screen. He recognizes that the slot is releasing wide and does not attempt to chase him in zone coverage.

Pratt even seems to be communicating with other members of the defense. This is all very good. He levels out and gets his eyes to the quarterback, and he appears to make a great read, breaking right as the quarterback starts his throwing motion.

However, his first step is a bit lateral rather than directly at the receiver. This rounded cut causes him to get to the spot just a bit too slow to make a play on the ball. He does, however, make the tackle for no additional gain.

Here, we see a similar issue in man coverage. Pratt matches up with the receiver as he releases vertically up the field, but struggles to change direction as the receiver breaks off his route.

You can see Pratt as he watches the receiver cut, but he does not sink his hips and cut with him immediately, which opens up a window for the throw.

Pratt may need a little work in coverage, but he can certainly rush the passers. In this clip he simply shows great athleticism. He is the inside linebacker off the ball on the top of the screen. He does not show blitz or creep up at all, instead waiting for the ball to be snapped to make his move.

On the snap, Pratt comes off of the right side and bends around the edge for the sack.

Pratt can blitz up the middle as well. Here the defense is running a blitz scheme that involves two linebackers twisting. The linebacker to Pratt’s left goes first to the inside, and Pratt then loops around outside of him.

It works to perfection, as the running back picks up the first blitzer, but there is no one standing between Pratt and the quarterback. Pratt shows great athleticism to run him down.

Pratt is exactly what the Bengals need at the linebacker position. He is an excellent athlete and incredible tackler. He is good in coverage, but improving some of his movements will prevent receivers from getting open on cuts.

The Bengals need to get Pratt on the field in their base and nickel personnel groups as soon as humanly possible,