The way Jake Ryan attacks ball carriers you would think he has a personal vendetta towards them, as he plays with a true “search and destroy” attitude. His instincts, field vision and ability to call assignments had the staff shifting the strong-side ‘backer to the “Mike” position as a senior. The hard-hitting tackler was missed during the first half of 2013, as he was limited to 30 tackles when he returned in mid-October from March knee surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament tear. In his previous two seasons, he had combined for 125 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 27.0 stops-for-loss and five forced fumbles.
His senior season was one of the few bright spots for Wolverine fans in 2014, as the new middle man led the team with 112 tackles and 14.0 stops-for-loss that included a pair of sacks. He also caused two fumbles and broke up three tosses. Among active FBS players, he is currently third with 45.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for his career and has registered 267 tackles.
Ryan is more quick than fast, but shows good closing speed vs. plays in front of him. He builds his acceleration steadily and stays low in his pads to slip under blocks and make plays in pursuit. He is much more active with his hands as a senior than in the past. He has a good array of counter moves and can surprise a lethargic blocker with his rip-&-swim maneuvers. He demonstrates very good ability and strength taking on blocks, as he refined his hand placement and improved his hand technique to prevent the lineman from gaining leverage.
The Wolverine won’t explode behind his hits, but when he keeps his pad level down, he is effective at driving into and pushing back the ball carrier by consistently attacking the opposing runner’s legs to impede their forward progress. He gets a little out of control trying to make plays in long pursuit and when he fails to redirect fluidly, he struggles to recover. He is a better tackler on the move, as he knows how to avoid the bigger blockers when making plays at the point of attack. He has good body control in space, showing the ability to break down and hit with functional pop.
With his move inside, Ryan showed that he has a strong grasp of blocking schemes and the ability to beat offensive linemen to the point of attack. He does a nice job of keeping his head up to locate the ball quickly. He’s quite effective at reading the quarterback’s eyes when he drops into zone coverage and does an above-average job of timing his breaks on the ball for an inside linebacker with just one year’s experience at the “Mike” position.
Perhaps his inexperience in the middle led to some over-aggressiveness at times last year and that left him vulnerable to play action, but he had the foot work to generate adequate depth in his pass drops, along with demonstrating a good burst coming out of his back-pedal to mirror receivers in the intermediate area.
Ryan also did a solid job covering a lot of ground in zone coverage. He has the ability to open his hips and is fast enough to run with most backs and tight ends in man coverage. He also shows good ball skills to make plays in coverage, as his three tipped passes and interception came at during opportune times (all on third-down snaps). His footwork is a bit inconsistent when he has to get back into the deeper areas, as he has some problems recovering when takes extra steps.
While Ryan still needs some work on reading routes and isn't as aggressive in coverage as is defending the run, he shows the lateral mobility when scraping down the line of scrimmage, as he has the quick feet to avoid blockers while on the move and gets through traffic quickly. While he can be relentless and shows good sideline-to-sideline range, there are times he does not take sound pursuit angles and could have some problems trying to prevent NFL running backs from turning the corner until improves in this area.
With 45.5 stops-for-loss, Ryan shows that he is aggressive and quick enough to disrupt running plays in the backfield. He gets under the blockers' pads and shows active hands when teams run at him, and last season, he demonstrated a violent punch and kept his hands active and inside his framework to prevent from being reached by interior offensive linemen.
Ryan loves to tackle, but he will occasionally try to deliver the big hit rather than wrapping up and when he gets too high in his tackle form, bigger ball carriers can bounce off his side tackles. He is more explosive attacking between the tackles, but is also effective in the open field when he squares up to the ball carrier and drives legs after making contact.
Even with 9.5 sacks, Ryan might show the ability to slip blockers in the backfield, but he has not developed an arsenal of pass rush moves and struggles to get to the quarterback when his initial momentum is stopped by the protection. He is not the type that will jump the gun, as he times the snap well and shows good closing speed to flush the quarterback out of the pocket.
Jake Ryan NFL Scouting Combine measurables
6-2/240 (4.65 forty)
31-inch arm length
9 3/8inch hands
34.5-inch vertical jump
120-inch broad jump
7.11 3 cone drill
4.20 20 yard shuttle
11.65 60 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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