Four years, $21 million dollars. That's the contract the Washington Redskins gave free agent defensive end Stephen Paea in 2015. General manager Scot McCloughan, who doesn't make a living in free agency, offered the contract based on Paea's potential and the Redskins need for defensive line help. Unfortunately, that potential wasn't realized. Paea generated 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year. Obviously, the Redskins were expecting more. With Terrance Knighton and Jason Hatcher no longer with the team, there is no better time than now for Paea to start earning his money. I watched Paea's tape vs the New Orleans Saints to try and gauge what we can expect from him and how he will be used going forward.
#1. Here is the most likely scenario for Paea. Despite being the biggest defensive lineman on the Redskins, Chris Baker has vehemently said hes a defensive end. Matt Ioannidis was drafted but he may not be ready for a role early. The Redskins are going to need a nose tackle (0-Tech) in base and a 1-Tech (shown above) in sub-packages/4-man fronts. Because Joe Barry runs a 1-gap penetrating scheme, he doesn't need a 330+ lb NT to eat up blockers. The Redskins could use Paea here to take advantage of his brute strength that powered him to 49 reps on the bench press at the combine.
It's the dirty work, but someone has to do it. He may be taking on two blockers each play and asked to try and split them, pushing the pocket so the outside rush can eat.
#2. If this is how Paea will be used, he needs to be situationally aware of two blockers at a time. Here he is on a run play from this game. The block on Paea is the key block for the play.
Paea explodes off the snap into his blocker. Unfortunately, Paea puts his head down too. He loses sight of the ball like this and he doesn't have his head on a swivel. He does not see the second blocker coming to clean him out.
Paea gets pancaked and ends up on the ground.
#3. Paea can be good in the run game. He just needs to be more consistent. Here Paea is at the 1-Tech spot on a zone right run.
This time Paea does a great job keeping his head up allowing him to read the play. Not only that, but he beats the blocker to the gap and is able to keep his play-side shoulder free. Text book.
The running back wanted to cut back but Paea took it away with good technique. The running back just ducks his head and gets what he can.
#4. On this run play, Paea is lined up outside which gives his blocker the leverage on this run.
Paea kept his head up again but as I said, his line up made it difficult to have his play-side shoulder free again.
Paea has that samoan toughness and motor, though. He fights through the block and crosses the blocker's face. At that same time, the running back tries to cut back.
That lead to a pretty solid thud as Paea ran right through him.
#5. Here is Paea at defensive end again on a run play. This is just a 34 give.
Paea takes on the blocker but is able to keep his head up and eyes in the backfield.
Once the running back commits to a hole, Paea sheds the block and drags the running back down for little gain. The Redskins need more of this.
#6. Paea will also have to produce as a pass rusher and he has shown flashes. On this play, he's going to try and jump inside.
Paea's favorite move is the swim move. His powerful arms give him an advantage in getting blockers off-balance.
Paea chucks his blocker to the ground and had a straight line to the quarterback but Drew Brees, who is a master at pocket manipulation, had already fanned out left so Paea had to go around. This just shows that if you don't have a solid base against Paea, he can put you on the ground quick.
#7. Here's Paea in another pass rush situation.
Paea gets a one-on-one situation and again uses the swim move with ease.
Paea puts his blocker on the ground again and forces Brees to throw early while all other Redskin rushers are blocked.
#8. Paea's only full sack on the season came from playing nose tackle in a hybrid formation. The positive to being a NT at only 300 lbs is they're still athletic enough to do stunts. Here, Paea stunts with Jason Hatcher.
Paea jumps right into the gap and starts driving on both blockers. His effort makes one of the blockers see Jason Hatcher late. That blocker leaves to pick up Hatcher but Paea already had leverage over blocker who stayed on him.
Paea goes right through and two hand pushes Brees down like the weak kid at the play ground for the sack.
There is a difference between stat production and film production. Stephen Paea does not need to light up the stat sheet in order to justify his contract. However, if he isn't, then his presence needs to be helping others light up theirs. Paea could end up doing a lot of the dirty work in the middle as the Redskins figure out their rotations. After a disappointing season, it's time for Paea to bounce back and reach the potential the Redskins saw in him in the first place.
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst and Draft Evaluator at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr
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