Film study: The improvement of Floyd

Sharrif Floyd took a big step forward in 2014 for the Minnesota Vikings, as several plays show on film. We look at some of the big plays he made last year and what allowed him to do it.

The Minnesota Vikings had three first-round draft picks in 2013, and the first was defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at No. 23 overall. Floyd was considered a top-10 pick by many draft analysts, so the Vikings felt as though they got a steal when he fell to them, but he struggled a little in his rookie season and fans began to get a little concerned.

During his rookie season, Floyd recorded 19 tackles, 2½ sacks and a forced fumble. Many people felt as though he was underperforming and were already writing him up as a potential bust.

However, his second season in the NFL was much different. He became a full-time starter and recorded 42 tackles and 4½ sacks in 14 games. Floyd missed a lot of time due to injuries and even tried to play through those injuries on multiple occasions, so his stats presumably would be better if he was able to stay healthy.

It is hard to say definitively what it was that caused the change in Floyd’s production, but there are two obvious components that stand out. The first is that he just gained more experience and understood what to expect at the NFL level. The second is the hiring of head coach Mike Zimmer and defensive line coach Andre Patterson.

It is very possible that Floyd did not feel comfortable in Leslie Frasier’s defensive system and that could have caused him to struggle. But once Zimmer took over, Floyd appeared to play much better and feel more comfortable.

Viking Update took a look at Floyd’s performance during the 2014 season and highlighted multiple plays that helped showcase his skills on the football field.

Play No. 1
In this first play, the Vikings run a stunt along the defensive line where Floyd (No. 73) takes up both the left guard and tackle. This then allows defensive end Everson Griffen (No. 97) to cut to the inside of Floyd and have an open lane to the quarterback.

Not only does Floyd take on two blockers, but he is actually able to split between them and make it to the quarterback before Griffen does. He then holds on to the quarterback so he doesn’t get away and Griffen is able to come in and help get the sack.

Zimmer likes to run these stunts, which means that players have to be willing to sacrifice stats for the betterment of the team. Although Floyd still got part of the sack, he showed that he is willing to be a team player and take on multiple defenders in order to free someone else up.

Not only did he show that, but he also displayed his ability to rush the passer by splitting a double team and being the first one to reach the quarterback.

Play No. 2
In this second play, Floyd shows that he has the ability and strength to drive an offensive guard backwards. By doing this, he then collapses the pocket and leaves no room for the quarterback to step up. This allows him to grab the quarterback and bring him to the ground.

There has been some speculation that Floyd is more of a finesse player when it comes to rushing the passer and that he doesn’t utilize his strength as much as he should. But in this play he digs in right when the ball is snapped and is able to drive the guard backwards, showing off his strength and ability to leverage.

And at the age of 23, Floyd is still going to be able to add strength. As a defensive tackle, strength is important because he is right in the middle of the trenches. So as Floyd continues to build his strength and hone his craft, fans should continue to see plays like this one occur.

Play No. 3
In this next play, Floyd shows that he is able to help stop the run as well as rush the passer. The play is just a run up the middle towards his side of the center. Floyd is able to shed his blocker and make a diving tackle on the running back, holding him to a gain of 2 yards.

One of the primary objectives for a defensive tackle is to take up room in the middle of the field, fill the gaps and stop the run. By shedding his blocker right off the snap of the ball, Floyd freed himself up to fill the gap and stop the ball carrier.

When a team can hold the opponent’s running game to short gains such as this one, it puts the offense in tougher situations on third down. If the defense can put the opponents in third-and-long, it is more likely they will be able to force a punt.

Play No. 4
In this next play, Floyd is able to get a great jump right when the ball is snapped. You can see he explodes off the line and buries his shoulder into the offensive guard. He is then able to use that leverage he gains to ride the guard across the offensive line and catch up to the running back. He then grabs the running back and helps his teammates bring him to the ground.

Floyd’s reaction time and anticipation to the snap are the key factors in this play. By anticipating the snap he helps himself get off the line faster, but he is also able to remain disciplined enough so he does not jump off sides and draw a penalty. And the reaction he has to the ball actually being snapped allows him to get the upper hand on the opponent.

He is then able to take advantage of the upper hand he gets and use his leverage to his advantage. By driving his shoulder into his opponent he does not let them regain their footing. At that point, Floyd is able to move him wherever he wants and is easily able to run down the line of scrimmage to the ball carrier.

Being able to get off the ball quickly is important for defensive linemen, and once they do have them beat it is important for them to understand how to take advantage of the leverage they gain. Floyd does both of these on this play, and that is why he was able to help hold the play for a minimal gain.

Play No. 5
Floyd is still a young player who is developing and learning his position, so he will make mistakes or be beaten on occasion. With this next play, Floyd made a couple of mistakes and it could have gone for a big gain if not for his teammates.

At the start of the play, Floyd appears to over-pursue to the inside, which left a big opening in the line where the runner was heading. Luckily for Floyd, though, his teammates filled the hole nicely and stopped the opponents for a short gain.

By the time Floyd realized that he had over-pursued, he couldn’t make it back to the hole. He had given up the leverage to the offensive lineman and was stuck on the inside of the play. If Floyd is going to want to continue to improve in his third season, he will need to work on cutting back on the errors that can take him out of position.

Floyd made a lot of improvements in his second season in the NFL. He became a dangerous presence while rushing the passer from the middle of the field and played well as a run stopper, too. However, there are still some things that he is going to have to continue to work on and improve if he wants to become a consistent threat.

The biggest thing for him will be to stay healthy. Floyd missed time with injuries in 2014, and if he is going to want to continue to improve he will need to be out on the field on a more consistent basis.

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