Teams looking for an immovable object in the middle of the field to line up over the center’s head and crush double team blockers, are keeping close tabs on Joey Mbu, feeling much like the emergence Pittsburgh saw from a player with similar athletic ability and minimal statistical production – Daniel McCullers – a sixth round steal in the 2014 draft, might have another find on their hands in this Houston prospect.
Mbu is a wide-body type with adequate change of direction agility, quickness and balance. He is best in the short area, as he does not have long speed. His ability to shed showed marked improvement in 2014, as he played at a lighter weight (word is he has tipped the scales at 350 during his time at Houston), helping him increase his burst to run down plays in the backfield.
When in a one-on-one blocking scheme, Mbu is very is effective, but when he has to take angles or reach the corners to chase down the play, he struggles to locate the ball. He has a good understanding for blocking schemes, but until this season, he was really nothing more than a space-eater.
The new coaching staff helped him improve his overall play, evident by the way he was very disruptive with violent hand usage in 2014, as he learned how to stay lower in his pads and win battles coming off the snap with his hand punch, rather than his marginal burst. While not sudden, he showed good positioning and body lean and did a much better job of getting on the edge of the blocker to keep advantage as a senior.
Mbu shows above average strength at the point of attack. He is still a work in progress, but did a better job of controlling and shedding with his hands in order to win battles vs. the double team. He has the lower body strength to clog the middle rush lane. When he slides over the center’s head to play nose guard, he uses his arm strength effectively to win most battles.
When he gets low in his stance, he can anchor vs. double teams, but when he gets too high, he will give up ground as he fails to redirect. To be more consistent, Mbu needs to improve his flexibility. In the past, he was inconsistent trying to shed, but has now shown improved hand usage, thanks to gaining confidence in throwing a powerful punch and has developed better hand placement to engage and shed.
Where Mbu runs into problems is with stamina and a lack of lateral mobility. He is never going to be a player who can chase down ball carriers in space. He seems to give up too much in long pursuit and rarely makes plays outside the box because he lacks the foot agility to maintain proper balance. He is best being utilized in the short area, where he is a decent bull rusher who is developing an effective change-up move.
Mbu still misses tackles when working in space, but in the box, he has improved his ability to collide and wrap. If he gets a clear path to the quarterback, he will finish, but he is not a soft tackler. He lacks agility to take good angles and gets bounced around a bit when he does not lower his pads. He is best playing over the center’s head or trying to split between the center and strong-side guard, where he does a nice job of crossing the face of the blocker, as he can get off his opponent quickly in the limited area.
Mbu can locate the ball quickly in plays in front of him, but does not have the range or lateral agility to make plays in space. The new coaching staff worked hard with him in 2014, as he shows improvement in dropping his hips to hit on the rise and stack. When he keeps his feet free, he will do a good job in making the play.
Try as they might, the coaches could not improve his poor pass rushing technique. It seems like he lacks the burst to chase down the quarterback. He does not have the lateral agility to pursue plays down the line and fails to bring his feet to accelerate to the ball. There is more push than collapse in his pass rush and it is not advisable to use him in this area. In 50 games at MSU, he has managed only four sacks and ten pressures.
Joey Mbu NFL Scouting Combine measurables
6-3/313 (5.54 forty)
35-inch arm length
9 1/4-inch hands
33-inch vertical jump
97-inch broad jump
8.20 3 cone drill
5.01 20 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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