Analyzing Steelers Sixth Round Pick Isaiah Buggs: A Disruptive Force

Updated: Oct 29, 2019


Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

In 2017, Isaiah Buggs released an album entitled 'Better Than Good'. In many ways, the title of his album, appropriately encapsulates his true value as a player. During his two years with Alabama, he was overshadowed by players such as Da'ron Payne and Quinnen Williams. Yet his production was on par with any defensive player in the nation during the two seasons with the Crimson Tide.


Prior to transferring to Alabama in 2017, Buggs was a standout defensive lineman at

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he accumulated 134 tackles and 7.5 sacks, while earning 2015 and 2016 All-MACJC South Division honors.


In his first year with Alabama, Buggs started in 13 of his 14 games that season, collecting 51 total tackles, 20 of them solo, and 1.5 sacks. In the National Championship game against Georgia, he contributed 5 total tackles and a tackle for loss.


Last season, Buggs broke out in a big way on a defensive line that considered one of the best in the nation. For Buggs, his ability to rush the quarterback and become a disruptive force, earned him second team All-America honors as well as second-team All-SEC by The Associated Press. His 9.5 sacks ranked him fourth in the conference, while his 13.5 tackles for loss ranked him eighth in the nation. In addition, he collected 52 total tackles, two forced fumbles and three passed defended.


His drafted placement does not appropriately reflect his skills and production on the field. Buggs has proven at every level that he can be a disruptive force. As a pupil of current Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, Buggs has been able to translate Dunbar's techniques into the type of production that is on par with any defender selected ahead of him.



Effective Use Of Hands:


Contrary to what was noted in his NFL Draft profile, Buggs' hand usage is much better than many perceive it to be. If there is any doubt that he is a product of Dunbar's system, his ability to redirect blocks to get to the ball carrier, is a reflection of Dunbar's third component of his run progression process, which entails "defeating the blocker". Buggs does not possess a wide arsenal of pass rush moves, yet the ones he possesses, he uses effectively and generally produces splash plays.


In this sequence against Mississippi State, Buggs is seen positioned at the defensive tackle position on the right side. When the ball is snapped, Buggs does a good job maintaining a low pad level, using his hand to fight off the block while trying to locate the ball carrier. Once he is able to locate the ball, he execute a beautiful swim move to insider, allowing him to separate from the offensive guard on his side and make the play in the backfield. The smooth transition from stack to swim is impressive to watch in this clip.




Athleticism


Buggs may not be naturally gifted in this area, but every so often, he will flash instances of athleticism which is impressive for his size. When positioned outside or at the edge, Buggs' is not nearly as effective, but inside he is able to display good reflexes, natural strength, and agility.


In this clip against LSU, Buggs is aligned on right in 5-technique. When the ball is snapped, the Tigers tackle attempts a cutblock midway his pass rush. Buggs is able to keep his balance and avoid being taken down; in the process, he able to jump high enough to block the quarterback's pass and take the ball. Considering the fact that he came from a low position to block this pass, it is an impressive display of athleticism.




Issues Playing On The Outside


As noted before, Buggs is not nearly as effective when playing at outside defensive end

( beyond 5-technique ). In this position, one would need to right explosion off the line and flexibility to get around the edge. In the case of Buggs, he is not overly explosive coming off the line, and possesses little to no bend. Add the fact that he does possess much length, Buggs is susceptible to being neutralized by larger offensive tackles when rushing on the outside.


Such was the case in this clip against Louisville. As in the previous clip, Buggs is positioned at 5-technique. As the ball is snapped, Buggs takes an outside path to rush the quarterback. Ideally in this case, the pass rusher would establish a base in order to start bending inside. In this case, Buggs is unable to do so and is guided off the arc by the Louisville tackle. When he attempts to rush inside, the tackle is able to neutralize him. In general, Buggs is his most productive when he is 3-technique rushing inside. From the outside, due to his lack of explosiveness and bend, he is not nearly as effective.



Coming into this off-season, the Steelers were in need of adequate depth at the defensive line position. With Isaiah Buggs, they received a player with position flexibility along the line, capable of producing no matter where he is positioned. If Buggs is able to produce near the same rate he did during his years at Alabama, he may turn out to be one of the biggest steals of this year's draft.


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