Over a quarter of the season is now complete, and there is now a good enough sample size to gauge how well or poorly players have been playing thus far. For this week's edition of Monday Film Room, OLS will examine how this year's top rookie tackle prospects have performed. The four tackles that will be examined are Rashawn Slater, Penei Sewell, Samuel Cosmi, and Alex Leatherwood.
Cosmi isn't just the best run-blocking rookie tackle, a case can be made he's the best run-blocking tackle in the NFL. I think that honor belongs to Trent Williams currently, but Cosmi entered week 4 with an 85% run-block win rate according to ESPN, 2nd only to Jordan Mailata who had played in half the games due to injury. He's also second among tackles in PFF's run-block grade category. But beyond metrics and rankings, the film speaks for itself about Cosmi's prowess as a run-blocker.
The things that stand out most about Cosmi so far are his physicality, willingness to finish run blocks, and football IQ. His physicality and finishing ability are on display in plays one and three. In both plays, he blocks until the whistle and never lets up. In plays two and four, Cosmi's IQ and understanding of angles and what each play is trying to accomplish are on display. In play two, he is tasked with reaching a DT and doesn't get much help from the RG. He didn't need it. Cosmi did a great job with his initial zone step to get in position then got his head around quickly and the rest is history. In play four, Cosmi just has to down block the DT to prevent him from getting outside. He does a great job of not only making good initial contact but re-positioning his body to make it more difficult for the defender to pursue the ball-carrier down the field.
Cosmi isn't as far along in pass pro as he is as a run-blocker, but he has made early strides from his early rough start and now looks good in that phase of the game too. What stands out most about him in pass-pro is his hands. He is a powerful puncher. Typical when Cosmi gets beat, it's because of poor footwork, balance issues, or slow hands. However, when he gets his hands on pass-rushers it has been game over for the most part this season. Play one is just an example of his physicality and strong hands as he easily pancakes the blitzing LB. Play two is an example of his stopping power. The end attempts to overpower him, and Cosmi eventually stifles the bull-rush. Also, watch how he grabs one of his hands and then attempts to pull the other arm down. He has a good understanding of the game at an early stage of his career. Plays three and four are examples of him getting beat in pass pro due to balance issues. While neither results in a sack, both could lead to sacks in the future. In play three, he appears to have lost his footing on the initial kick slide and was off balance from the jump. In play four, he bites on Bosa's head fake and over sets to his right leaving him off balance and unable to kick back to his left to protect his inside. He was bailed out by the RB but still beaten on that play.
Slater is one of the better run-blocking tackles in the NFL already. While not quite as powerful as Cosmi, Slater probably has more tools, and at his peak has looked like the best tackle in the class in both phases. In the run game, Slater utilizes hand placement, pad-level, athleticism, and effort to get the job done.
Slater has shown the ability to move defenders, and he typically does it by getting good hand placement and getting under defenders pads to drive them. Plays one and three highlights this ability. In both plays he does a good job of getting his hands in a great position, having active feet, and driving the defender back. Slater's athleticism is on display in play two as he fires out of his stance and gets in a perfect position to wall off the LB at the second level. The final play is an example of both Slater's athleticism and effort. A lot of offensive linemen won't seek out work on a basic run play beyond 10 yards. However, Slater does and eventually finds someone to block that helps add a few extra yards onto the end of that run.
Slater has been the best of the rookie tackles in pass pro. While Cosmi has allowed one less sack and few pressures, Slater has faced tougher competition and taken more pass snaps. He also has a better pressures allowed %. Slater's only bad game in pass pro was Sunday's game in which he was matched up against the league's best DE. He had only allowed six pressures and no sacks before the Browns game. Slater is an effective pass-blocker because he has a good pass set, active hands, and active feet. While he doesn't have to protect long in the first play due to the batting ball, his hands and feet work together in his kick slide, and he maintains good position to easily stall the pass rusher. In play two, his hands and feet are at work again to put him in good position, and then at the point of contact, he has such great position he can just ride the defender up the field. Play number three shows Slater's inexperience. In the play, he has chip help from the RB to the outside so there is no reason he should get beat on the spin move back inside. He also got overpowered which hurt his balance and left him vulnerable to an inside move. In play four, Slater is working so hard to kick back that he's late getting his hands up, and by the time he does Garrett has gotten too close and can make a quick move to shed Slater and get by him. What happened to Slater when matched up against Garrett has not happened to him much vs. anyone else so it's not a huge area of concern. But what separates good tackles from great ones is that the great ones can slow down other great DEs.
Right now, Sewell's game seems to be mostly about brute force and physicality. His run-blocking needs to be refined as his hand placement is not always great and neither are his feet. However, his power and aggression as a run-blocker can sustain him as a solid player in the run game until he gets more technically sound. All four of the plays below show his physicality, aggression, and motor in the run game, especially play three.
We've already looked at some of the things Sewell does well in pass-pro earlier in the season, and that can be seen here. However, Sewell has really struggled in pass pro for three straight games now, and it may be time to start getting concerned. All four plays below outline what has been primarily his biggest problem in pass pro of late, and that's he gets beat inside way too much. A common theme of all the plays below is that Sewell is getting beat inside. It's been the theme on almost all of the pressure and sacks he's allowed all year. What stands out most is how easily he's getting beat inside. In some plays, Sewell is failing to handle basic spin and swim moves. There are a lot of technique problems he needs to get cleaned up. The first is his pass sets. He's oversetting to the outside even when threatened with an inside rush. Second, he reacts slowly, and his inside kick is slow. There are also plays where he keeps his hands too wide and then attempts to punch wide and lets defenders get into him. Sewell has great physical tools and with more time and development could be a great player. But there is no doubt he's struggling right now.
After his first four games of the season, Leatherwood was moved from RT to RG because he was playing so poorly in pass pro. He hasn't been good in the run game either, but he's been such a disaster in the passing game that our entire Leatherwood analysis is going to focus on him as a pass-blocker and what led to him being moved to RG.
The things that stand out about Leatherwood in pass pro right now is that he doesn't pack much of a punch when he gets his hands on people, he has slow hands, makes bad decisions, and has moments of laziness. Play one is an example of laziness and lethargy as he got out of his stance late and didn't seem to have any urgency to try and make up for it. In plays two and three he appears to be looking inside to either help the guard or for a potential blitzer and not paying enough attention to the edge rushers that beat him in both plays. The final play is from Sunday at his new RG position, and the results were not much better. Poor decision-making is on full display as it's a clear stunt situation in which he needs to pass off the DT to the RT and pickup the DE crashing inside. He stays attached to the interior player completely oblivious to the rushers coming back inside, and by the time he realizes what's going on his poor hand placement has allowed him to get hooked, and he's unable to slide over.