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Next man up: Caraun Reid (Part one)

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Checking on DT Caraun Reid's development from the early 2015 season

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Next man up is a series of articles examining players further down the depth chart, particularly young players being developed for larger roles.

This time, we are looking at defensive tackle Caraun Reid.

Draft Flashback

Basically every draft profile mentioned Reid's conditioning and energy, playing hard all the time through the fourth quarter. While his pass rushing abilities were not in question, there were concerns about whether Reid could adjust to higher levels of competition. Could he apply better technique instead of relying on simply being the better athlete with more quickness and strength than FCS competition?

NFL.com Scouting Combine Profile:

Weaknesses: Tends to stand straight up, negating his quickness and power out of the gate. Is not stout and can be waylaid by the double team. Marginal upper-body strength (diminished from 2011 pectoral surgery). Shows little feel for blocking pressure and can be late to locate the ball. Can do a better job protecting his legs. Pushed around too easily.

CBS Sports:

WEAKNESSES: Appears to have a maxed-out frame. Obvious level of competition questions.

Relies on his burst, making him a potentially better fit in the 4-3 rather than the 3-4.

USA Today:

Reid is 6-2 and a rock-solid 302 pounds. He participated at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and performed well.

"They were a little bigger, taller and faster than what I went up against during the season," Reid said. "Within the first practice, I was already adjusting. I thought, ‘This is the way this guy adjusts. This is how he likes to use his hands.’ I knew what my training was. I adjusted my technique and got into the moment. It was definitely different than the Ivy League, but it was a lot more relying on technique instead of brute force and strength."

These suggest we should be thinking about whether Reid has been able to deal with double teams, checking to see if his strength is adequate, and if his technical work shedding blocks and taking good angles has kept up with the physical development.

Splitting the double team

Backed up against the goal line and down by five, Detroit desperately needs to hold Minnesota to a field goal. On third and goal, Caraun Reid shows two things we wanted to see: he breaks through a double team on a sustained play, and demonstrates a nice pass rush move (the good over-arm swim move mentioned by the CBS Sports profile under strengths).

2015 MIN, 3Q (6:54). Third-and-goal at the Detroit 6.

97 DT Reid is lined up on the right side of Detroit's line, between 63 LG Brandon Fusco and 75 LT Matt Kalil. Both 94 DE Ziggy Ansah and 91 DE Jason Jones are very wide, while 92 DT Haloti Ngata is playing the 1 technique inside 79 RG Mike Harris and 61 C Joe Berger. Minnesota's protection is as shown below, with one-on-ones against Ngata and Jones and a three-on-two to the left side: LG Fusco helps funnel Reid to the center and then helps LT Kalil, who will bait Ziggy to go inside.

Reid engages LG Fusco and gets passed off to C Berger. Shooting his left arm over Berger, Reid breaks through and runs down 5 QB Teddy Bridgewater for a huge 11 yard sack.

Strength and Technique

Some draft profiles mentioned Reid's torn pectoral injury in 2010 as a concern that his strength would not be up to par. Had his recovery been enough to dominate lower competition but not enough against the pros? Here's an example of Reid using power to get inside pressure and force a bad throw.

2015 MIN, 3Q (13:09). First-and-10 at the Minnesota 49.

Again matched up opposite the left guard, Reid this time pushes through the inside shoulder of Fusco. The Lions bring up 57 LB Josh Bynes as on outside blitzer on the defense's left - he unfortunately gets chipped by the releasing TE 85 Rhett Ellison and picked up easily by RT 68 TJ Clemmings. Both LDE 95 Brandon Copeland and RDE Jason Jones take outside lanes, but get picked up. On the inside, 96 DT Andre Fluellen at the 1 technique loops in behind Reid shooting the A gap from the 3.

Reid drives Fusco back, plowing through to prevent Bridgewater from stepping up into his throw. With no power and follow through, the pass sails way over intended receiver 14 WR Stefon Diggs' head.

2015 DEN, 3Q (13:07). Third-and-5 at Denver 37.

This is the Quandre Diggs fumble recovery for touchdown that was called back. What is of interest here is how cleanly the inside stunt by Reid and Ngata gets a good rush lane for Ngata. From a Double A Gap look, this is the same twist with Reid leading by shooting the A gap with Ngata looping behind the way Flu did above.

When you watch Reid, there are two things he does that contribute to the success of the twist. First he dips his right shoulder well, getting under LG 69 Evan Mathis to turn him and draw Mathis inside, away from the rush lane. Second, as he fires through the gap, Reid deliberately angles and raises his left arm to clip 61 C Matt Paradis. This ensures Paradis is off balance and cannot pursue Ngata. Ngata gets in 18 QB Peyton Manning's face, forcing an early dump to 88 WR Demaryius Thomas before he can get good separation.

While 31 CB Rashean Mathis knocked the ball free for the turnover, the throw was short of the sticks for only 4 yards and would have resulted in a punt. That play shows Reid's quickness is just fine against pro talent and that he has a good understanding of what Teryl Austin's overall design is trying to do.

Awareness

One of the things mentioned in the draft profiles was that Reid needed to protect his legs better, and he lacked a good feel for where the blockers are coming from. The next play we'll look at features both.

2015 DEN, 1Q (6:50). First-and-10 at the Denver 35.

This is an outside zone play by 23 HB Ronnie Hillman that gets strung out by the Lions for 2 yards before the ballcarrier stepped out of bounds. 32 SS James Ihedigbo drew an unnecessary roughness penalty for shoving Hillman out of bounds, but otherwise it was a successful play for the defense.

Watching Caraun Reid in the middle of the mush pile at the line of scrimmage, we see him scooted over into a 0 technique right over the nose of 61 C Matt Paradis. At the snap, Reid launches out of his stance fast enough to cause Paradis to engage him high, at least momentarily. At the same time, 65 RG Louis Vasquez dives low at Reid's legs. Not only is Reid cognizant of the hi-lo chop block, he manages to avoid the dirty hit completely and remains upright to pursue from the backside.

Next Time: More Caraun Reid

These plays were chosen specifically because they come against playoff teams in the "bad" part of the 2015 season, so nobody can say these demonstrations of good play are coming against inferior competition. Next time we'll take a look at more examples of Reid showing good technique and power against the run.