Last offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals acquired Larry Ogunjobi and, just before the season got underway, they added B.J. Hill. This three-technique duo gave them the interior pass-rush they needed, combining for 12.5 sacks on the season.
The team was able to bring Hill back, but without Ogunjobi, they have a major need and adding an interior pass-rusher should be paramount.
There are some excellent options in this year’s draft, but they will go very quickly. If the Bengals want to get one, they will need to act fast.
The most likely options at the end of Round 1 are UConn’s Travis Jones and Houston’s Logan Hall. They are very different players, but each would bring Cincinnati the interior pass-rush help they need.
Here is a look at what each can do.
Jones has incredible quickness as an interior pass-rusher, which he shows off in this clip.
Wearing number 57, he lines up in the A-gap to the left of the center. On the snap, he does a quick swim move across the center’s face and into the other A-gap. He quickly penetrates the backfield and has an unfettered path to the quarterback.
If this wasn’t such a quick developing play, it would have easily resulted in a sack.
At 325 pounds, Jones is shockingly light on his feet. He lines head-up over the center in this clip. On the snap, the center slides to the left, and Jones steps to the right, where he is essentially one-on-one with the right guard (54).
As you watch this clip, focus on Jones’ feet. He looks like he is at the gym doing a ladder drill, and yet he still has the strength to disengage from the guard’s block and pressure the quarterback.
This is an excellent example of what makes Jones a special prospect.
Hall shows off some fancy footwork of his own in this clip.
He lines up head-up on the right tackle (50). He takes a quick step to the inside to get the right guard’s attention. (This is key because, if the guard thought there was no threat in the B-gap, he could have helped the center, who in turn could have picked up the rusher who eventually gets to the quarterback.)
Hall then steps outside and tightens the pocket as the contain pass-rusher.
While the previous clip was impressive, this one really highlights Hall’s athletic ability.
Once again, he is the contain pass-rusher, but this time he starts out aligned in the A-gap to the left of the center. On the snap, he runs to the left tackle’s outside shoulder. He strikes the tackle, instantly pushing him back.
Then Hall is able to rip by to get to the quarterback for the sack.
Travis Jones - wax on, wax off pic.twitter.com/PLihUs28ET— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 20, 2022
Now that we have established that both Jones and Hall have impressive feet, let’s take a look at their hands.
In this clip, Jones (57) uses a club/swim move to clear a path to the quarterback. The right arm to the shoulder is intended to turn the center’s shoulder and open the door, so to speak.
In this case, the center is thrown completely off balance from the force of the blow. As he face-plants, Jones swims past him with his left arm on his way to the quarterback. Jones has very quick hands which serve him well as a pass-rusher.
In this clip, Hall (92) lines up to the left and uses his swim move to get the sack.
Hall is fast off the ball and gets his left hand on the guard’s tricep before swimming over that arm with his right arm.
His follow-through is excellent. He doesn’t just swim over the top; he brings his right arm all the way back down, preventing the offensive linemen from getting on his hip. Hall gets into the backfield and brings the quarterback down.
Hall is 6-6 283 pounds and Jones is 6-4 325.
You would think it would be Jones who wins with power as a pass-rusher, since he is bigger and presumably has better natural leverage. You’d be wrong. Hall demonstrates an excellent bull rush time and time again, while Jones does not.
There is a problem though.
Here, Hall lines up on the left side and is able to bull rush the tackle deep into the backfield, but he doesn’t get to the quarterback. This is a frequent issue with Hall. He has the power to collapse the pocket, but he seems to lack a quality get-off move to finish the play.
Instead, he just fights. He never quits on the play, but he ends up in a futile shoving match. Hall will need to develop this area of his game to reach his full potential as a pro.
Jones, on the other hand, does not utilize a bull rush in his pass-rush repertoire. He has no power rush at all.
This is concerning because he won’t be able to win consistently with speed alone at the next level. He needs to have a power pass-rush to set up his speed moves, or he will be ineffective.
The good news is that we have seen his play-strength in other areas of his game. Like in the clip above, where he tosses the blocker in order to make the tackle. The question is, can it translate?
Travis Jones disengage and tackle pic.twitter.com/7lbHdeyus3— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 20, 2022
Jones is a dominant run-stopper despite being frequently double-teamed in college.
Here he disengages from the guard’s block and makes an extremely athletic tackle in the backfield. While the real need may be interior pass rush, Jones has a well-rounded game and would do an excellent job against the AFC North’s talented rushing attacks.
Hall is not as adept in this area, particularly when he is inside. He can get high and off balance. As a result, he may be better utilized on the outside on running downs.
Much of his success defending the run comes on plays like this, where he utilizes his speed to shoot the gap and run down the ball carrier.
Jones and Hall are very different players, but each could be in play for the Bengals at 31.
The Bengals will love Hall’s versatility, which allows him to play on the interior or the edge. That might be the best fit for him on running downs, because he loses leverage and gets pushed around on the inside.
Whether it be against the run or the pass, putting him on the move with a stunt will help him find success. He shows a lot of power as a pass rusher and can collapse the pocket, but he lacks a get-off move to finish the play with a sack as often as he should.
Jones is a true defensive tackle. He does an excellent job of stuffing the run, and pairing him with D.J. Reader would be a huge plus on early downs.
He has quick feet and hands, which he utilizes to rush the passer, but he needs to develop a power pass-rush to reach his full potential in the NFL. If he can do that, he will be the complete package and could be a truly special player.