I wanted to get this up sooner, but I finally gone back and looked at tape of the Falcons newest fifth round pick on the defensive side of the ball. Massaquoi was a player that first came to my attention in the 2010 New Orleans Bowl, where he utterly dominated Ohio’s offensive line to have 8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks in that game. From that game he looked like he had the potential to be a stud pass rusher at the next level.
But after watching four games of his from this past year, I’m not nearly as impressed with him. Here are some of the things I saw on tape:
Pros: Has nice straight-line burst off the edge. He plays with a high motor and continues until the whistle. Does a good job timing snaps and getting a good jump to get the offensive tackle off-balanced. Will use his hands at times to keep blockers off him and get extension. Flashes ability as a bull rusher, able to get his hands inside and jolt the tackle off the snap. Can make the quick inside counter move to collapse the pocket from the edge. Has experience dropping into coverage on zone blitzes, and does a nice job with his backpedal and footwork.
Cons: Doesn’t have the first step or burst off the edge to really wow you. His first step is really only effective against the lesser tackles he faces. If he cannot win with his first step, he struggles to disengage and win battles. Gets pushed around too easily and knocked off his rush when tackles get their hands on him. Struggles to get leverage at the point of attack and tends to get swarmed under when you run directly at him. He doesn’t show great recognition to maintain the edge. Not a very good open field tackler because he doesn’t do a great job breaking down and ducks his head. Doesn’t change direction well when you get him in space, and can get caught out of position against the run there. Doesn’t show great hips when he drops in coverage, and is very straight-line.
I think part of hte reason why Massaquoi shined in 2010 vs. Ohio was because he was much lighter than he was in 2011. He was listed at 252 back in 2010, but appeared to play much closer to 260-265 range as a junior in 2011. That additional weight seemed to make him lose a step. While he does have decent burst, it didn’t look good enough where he was going to really beat starting-calber NFL tackles with it. The hope for the Falcons is that the burst can return once he gets a bit more used to playing at the additional weight.
Another reason is that Troy’s defense doesn’t really take full advantage of Massaquoi’s skillset. He plays left defensive end in their defense, and too often I saw him lined up in a 5-technique or over the tackle. Forcing him to use his hands rather than his speed. His hands are by far his weakest aspect. But he still managed to be productive in the four games I saw when he was able to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. But a lot of his pressures came from him being able to time snaps very well rather than him being able to simply win with his burst alone.
Overall, Massaquoi reminds me a lot of Lawrence Sidbury. Sidbury playing at Richmond also didn’t have a high degree of competition on a weekly basis. Sidbury too could prey on the weakest offensive tackles he faced. Massaquoi and Sidbury’s burst are similar, and like Sidbury I think Massaquoi can be a very good situational/rotational player. But he’ll likley be very limited in a starter’s role because of his lack of size and the fact that he doesn’t have the burst to really be a force off the edge.
And thusly, like Sidbury, I don’t see Massaquoi doing a whole lot his rookie season. And may not be a guy that will contribute until his third year. Unless he can add strength and learn how to use his hands better, it’s hard to see Massaquoi doing much more. One thing I did like about him that could be developed is his bull rush. He could at times get his hands inside and jolt tackles off the ball. He still hasn’t quite mastered the ability to lock on and drive the blocker into the backfield, but that can come in time.
Overall, I believe Massaquoi is a nice depth option for the Falcons that can be developed to help out the rotation in time. His potential to play in coverage might be a little better than the Falcons current group of edge rushers, but it’s probably not a skillset that will be developed to any high degree.