It would seem that Bob Quinn may not have the best of luck. Just as franchise left tackle Taylor Decker was blossoming, hopes for the offensive line began to wilt. After Quinn spent $76,000,000 on a pair of prize pigs, the crown jewel of his inaugural draft class was stolen from him. A shoulder injury – sustained during OTAs, no less – would earn Decker a trip to see the sawbones and sidelined him for several months. Quinn attempted to patch the leak by trading a sixth-round pick for the once-heralded-since-busted Greg Robinson. Many hoped that a fresh start would revitalize Robinson’s sputtering career, but alas. The 2014 number two overall pick allowed five sacks in six games and was eventually waived with – get this – an injury designation. The former future franchise tackle remains a free agent, a discarded scratch-off blowing in the wind.
Since then Quinn has, in an unrelated move, fired the offensive line coach. It remains to be seen who will fill that position, although Lions fans are holding their collective breath amidst tabloid reports that darling candidate Matt Patricia favors the Giants. But, I digress…
As center Travis Swanson continues to struggle with concussions, both he and the team have some decisions to make this offseason. If he doesn’t return, that would spring another hole in the offensive line – and not the good kind. While Graham Glasgow performed well at the center spot down the stretch, the team would be robbing Peter to pay Paul by moving him there permanently. The team could look to address the interior offensive line through either free agency or the draft, if not both. Quinn has been down on his luck, but hey – that’s what gambler’s fallacy is for.
Enter Xavier Su’a-Filo, who went just 31 picks after the aforementioned Robinson in the 2014 draft. Su’a-Filo started sixteen games at left guard for the Houston Texans in 2017 and has not received a new contract. The catch is that he allowed 7.5 sacks in 1082 total offensive snaps this year, which is not great. But Su’a-Filo has talent and is already adept in several areas.
|Prospect (Last, First)
|Scout Name (Last, First)
Free agent (previously Houston)
|Games Played||Starts||Games Won||Winning %||Positions Started||Captain|
|INJURIES||2017 – groin (Week 14, missed no games)
2016 – no injuries
2015 – calf (Weeks 1-5, Weeks 16-17, WC missed first three games), shoulder (Week 13, missed no games)
2014 – back (Weeks 1-2, 15-17, missed final three games)
|KEY STATS||2017 – 1082 offensive snaps (98.2%), 7.5 sacks allowed (46.5 yards), 4 penalties (40 yards)
2016 – 1056 offensive snaps (94.0%), 6.5 sacks (48.5 yards), 2 penalties (20 yards)
Career – only one false start
|Height||Weight||40 YD||10 YD||Arm||Hand||Vert||3Cone||SS||Broad||Bench|
|TAPES VIEWED||2017: 9/10 vs. JAX, 10/29 at SEA, 11/12 at LAR, 11/27 at BAL, 12/31 at IND|
The first thing you notice about Su’a-Filo on tape is his quickness and athleticism. He generates good explosion out of a three-point stance, both as a man/gap blocker firing forward and as a zone blocker stepping laterally. While not the most brutish drive blocker, he snaps his hips into contact and has solid play strength to generate stalemates at the line of scrimmage. His forte in the run game is zone blocking, though. The Utah native was able to consistently cross face against shaded defensive linemen with playside leverage and work his hips around to seal them off.
A fluid mover, Su’a-Filo operates very effectively at the second level and in space. He takes optimal angles to targets while flashing very good speed, acceleration, and balance, arriving under control and looking to make an impact. I was particularly impressed with his performance in this phase against Jacksonville. Linebacker Telvin Smith is one of, if not the best gap shooters in the league, and for Su’a-Filo to obstruct, and connect with, Smith as often as he did was impressive. Furthermore, he demonstrates these same traits when pulling and screen blocking, and he operates with good timing on combo blocks. Simply put, he’s very good on the hoof.
And while he’s definitely more of a run blocker, Su’a-Filo has the requisite athleticism to effectively mirror targets in pass protection. He has good lateral quickness and change of direction ability and handled himself well when challenged by inside counters, stunts, and twists when utilizing proper footwork. His hands are active and he works to refit them. He also has enough sand in his pants and does a solid job to drop anchor if his chest hasn’t been compromised. And when heat comes, he displays sufficient mental processing to recognize blitzes and line games.
Lastly, Su’a-Filo is a respectable competitor. He looks to finish blocks, offers consistent effort even during blowouts, helps teammates up after they’re tackled, and hustles to the ball after turnovers.
Here’s where things get ugly. Su’a-Filo has long limbs and good height, but he’s a little underweight and has a fleshy midsection, and his hands are awfully small. Beyond dimensional limitations, he fires out with slightly elevated pad level when drive blocking, which limits his ability to generate movement at the point of attack.
Whoever signs him will need to spend a significant amount of time reworking his pass blocking technique, which is marginal at best. He has a bad habit of lunging at targets which causes him to fall off blocks. To complicate matters, his footwork is poor. His base often becomes extremely narrow, thereby preventing him from redirecting to match counters across his face. When he’s on an island against bursty 3-techs, he seems to panic and will overrun them.
Hand usage is a big problem for him as well, as he has slow paws that fly high and wide, which limits his ability to secure blocks as both a pass protector and a run blocker. When he does get them in the right place, his grip strength is adequate, but nothing to write home about. These issues spill over into his anchoring, which is diminished because he opens his chest up and allows defenders to control him.
And finally, I was disappointed to see his confidence seemingly diminish after mistakes and against superior competition.
As currently constituted, Su’a-Filo is a starter you can win in spite of. He looks great moving in space and offers tantalizing athletic traits and utility as a run blocker, but his overall hand usage and technical issues in pass protection make him a liability. He worked with a hand in the dirt this year in Houston, but his UCLA tape reveals he operated out of a two-point stance as a Bruin. Perhaps a return to that (and a better line coach) could help him make good on some of the promises that made him the 33rd overall selection less than four years ago.
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