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Monday, February 3, 2014

Rookie Review: Star Lotulelei

I wanted to go through the rookies, with draft picks and the few
relevant UDFAs, so I'll pump through these in fairly short order.

Star met very high expectations, and was everything I hoped for out of
a top 15 draft pick. He was incredible value at the time, and remains
so. He's a building block upon which this team will be exceptionally
strong on defense, just out of deference to how he can control his gap
and what that means for the guys behind him.

2013 season performance

For a guy that size to have 3 sacks and be 7th on a very strong team in
tackles is remarkable. That he played more than 50% of snaps after an
expectation that he'd play 30%, that's pleasing. He also played a lot
of 3 technique, which again I was concerned he'd be too bottled up at NT
this season. He ended up starting at the under tackle next to Colin
Cole while ably splitting both jobs long term.

He was a powerful player, and a legitimate rookie of the year
candidate. Sheldon Richardson was likely a little bit better, but that
shouldn't take away from Lotulelei being the difference maker in
Carolina becoming an elite defense.

Longterm Prognosis?

He's going to only get better. I can't wait to have him locked in
longterm to his second contract.

You'd anticipate that he would, long term, stay in the middle since
Kawann Short is more or less only a 3/5 tech guy. But, I could
completely see Star playing a lot of 3 with Short not in the game, which
would leave the NT spot to be where the team puts more resources in
backups and rotation.

That said the difference is minimal in practice, as neither spot plays
two-gap, and if you wanted to say "situational run-stopping depth"
instead of a strict NT, there's no difference. In the end, our DTs hit
a gap and defend it, whether in the 1, 3, or 5. Doesn't matter.
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