Shawn Pastor: Neblett played nose tackle in Temple's 4-3 defense. He was actually a high school linebacker who bulked up quickly and saw time on the defensive line as a true freshman in 2006, when the Owls played a 3-4. With the switch to a 4-3 in 2007, he played alongside current Jacksonville Jaguars DT Terrance Knighton on Temple's interior line for two years. Knighton was more the playmaker and Neblett the space-eater, but he did often occupy two blockers and keyed Temple's strong run defense. The Owls generally play a pro-style 4-3, they don't stack eight men in the box or blitz too much, so they depend a great deal on their front four for generating a pass rush. Neblett was the core ingredient on the nose while the defensive ends put up big sack numbers in 2008 and 2009. Former teammate Junior Galette is currently in minicamp with the Saints and current Temple junior Adrian Robinson is another future pro.
ML: Neblett was essentially a four-year starter at Temple and has a ton of experience under his belt. How much untapped potential is left in there?
SP: With Neblett, what you've seen at Temple is probably what you're going to get if he can make an NFL squad. He doesn't have a particularly high ceiling. It's difficult to imagine him being someone who's going to grab your attention and make big plays. But he won't get pushed around. Then again, he doesn't have anywhere near the size of many NFL nose tackle types. The question is whether he's quick enough to slip blocks and make a difference at the point of attack.
ML: Would you describe his game as NFL-ready? Why or why not?
SP: He certainly won't get outworked and he's plenty smart and very mature, so in those aspects he is NFL-ready. But again, that doesn't mean he's ready to make an impact. Perhaps he could carve out a role similar to what former Temple DL Raheem Brock played with the Colts. Brock was a big and athletic college defensive end who bulked up to play DT for the Colts. Neblett is probably slightly undersized as a nose tackle, but athletic enough as a former linebacker to perhaps shed a few pounds and play defensive tackle in a front-four scheme that favors speed over bulk.
ML: Was there one specific game or play at Temple that made you think this guy has a future in the NFL?
SP: In the second game of his sophomore year, Neblett had two sacks in Temple's last-second loss to UConn. There was a stretch in that game when Neblett absolutely owned the middle. At the time, the Owls had won a single game in a three-year span, so it was a shocker for them to play UConn so close. And Neblett was one of several youngsters who played a prominent role on that developing defense. He looked like a guy with big-play potential that day. Alas, his role developed differently as the Owls got better.
ML: What is the best role for him in the NFL? Practice squad? Rotation player?
SP: Neblett's work ethic could earn him a practice squad spot or perhaps a long career in the CFL. Or maybe I'm underrating him because so many of his former teammates at Temple put up the big numbers. If they got those numbers because Neblett was controlling the middle, then maybe he can do the same thing, on a more limited basis, in the pros.
ML: Where does he need the most improvement?
SP: At this point, his frame isn't going to get any bigger and his arms aren't going to get any longer. With a bigger frame, he could be as good as Knighton. But since that's not happening, Neblett would be best served by improving his quickness, both hands and feet. Because his size and strength won't provide the same kind of advantage at this level as it did in college.