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Tarell Basham’s Massive Skill Set Needs Polish, Coaching

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As the Indianapolis Colts try to get the most out of their draft picks, they hope that Tarell Basham will become a refined pass rusher sooner rather than later. Basham had a pretty ordinary training camp and preseason, showing that he has a long way to go in his development.

Thursday Ted Monachino suggested that Basham may see more the field Week 2, and that the team plans to progressively get him more involved in the defense. Monachino acknowledged that Basham is nowhere near where he needs to be but that his Week 1 performance and skill set have led to more snaps.

Today, we’ll discuss what is expected from an edge rusher/setter in the Colts’ scheme, with a specific focus on what Basham is doing well, not so well, and on his consistency.

To kick things off, we will start with the most basic of responsibilities of an edge defender in the Colts scheme. Here, Basham is tasked with setting the edge, which simply means to force the running back inside and towards all of his help in the middle of the field.

With more people on the defensive interior to assist in tackling the ball carrier, it means less opportunity to give up a big play. Basham doesn’t quite get up field enough to turn Tavon Austin inside, which allows him to get outside of the numbers and move the chains.

It’s the technique we’re talking about with this clip but, let’s be honest, even if Basham had turned Austin inside on this play, there was a lot of room to rip off a huge run. The middle of the field is pretty barren aside from Darius Butler.

I added this one just so you could see an example of the textbook form of setting the edge and how the defender should be positioned. See how his shoulders are parallel to the sideline and he’s even, or deeper up the field in conjunction to the running back? That’s how it’s supposed to be done.

Basham has nothing to do with this play but seeing it done correctly might help understand what is expected of him and others at the position.

Conversely, this is a perfect example of exactly what you’re not supposed to do. The Rams slant to the interior of the Colts defensive line, and as a result Basham follows the lineman crashing inside to clog up the middle. As a result, you see what a running back can do when he has free roam to kick it outside and navigate down field with a lot space.

If Basham were to hold outside contain here, Gurley would have had difficulty gaining yards. Basham may have been kicked out by the pulling guard, however, Antonio Morrison would have had a clear shot at Gurley once he was turned inside. In theory – with a quality tackle – Morrison holds Gurley to a very minimal gain.

Basham has to remain fundamental as a rookie. He has some great talent and skills to work with, but he’s simply not a playmaker yet and can’t afford to give up plays like this if the Colts defense is going to improve in the coming years with him in the lineup.

I thought this clip was so interesting mainly because it shows success, but really achieving it the hard way. Right from the jump we see Basham lined up across from a tight end who came over in motion. The tight end lines up across from Basham’s inside shoulder, but tries to seal him inside at the snap. Basham almost allows himself to get sealed by taking a false step (wasted step) and not attempting to get outside of the tight end.

Fortunately, Basham is strong enough and has enough natural ability and instincts to power through and still get up field to still close off the edge for the running back. Basham gets a hand on the back, doesn’t make the tackle, but he is directly responsible for the tackle being made.

I’m really hoping to see him clean up some of the fundamentals just to see what he can do in the future. Hopefully he can smooth it out sooner rather than later.

This play is a little different. Basham’s responsibility is to pursue down the line of scrimmage towards the ball carrier from the backside of the play. Basham fires out, but then gets picked up by the tight end who is pulling to the backside for protection.

Once Basham recognizes the play-action he begins to power through the tight end and rush Goff in attempt to get him off his spot. Despite having little time to throw post play-action, Goff’s target, Cooper Kupp, is wide open as soon as Goff gets his head around. I really love the fact that Basham has the bull rush to his game, however, here is a perfect opportunity to use a rip, swim, or spin move to disengage from that tight end to get to the passer quickly.

You’ll see through these clips that you rarely see a secondary pass rush move from Basham. He’s plenty talented and athletic to work those into his repertoire, so let’s just hope that A) he’s coachable, and B) that the coaches are able to help him develop some additional moves as the season progresses.

Here’s an example of how not having a reliable secondary move keeps Basham from getting a hit on Goff. At the snap Basham locks up with the tight end, intelligently peeking into the backfield to see what is going on with the running back and Goff. After it’s evident that Goff still has the ball Basham takes too long to get off the block.

Even against a player he should easily overpower, and eventually does, Goff has those extra couple seconds to wait for the receiver to get open before having to move off of his platform. Basham uses brute strength to disengage from the tight end, but if he had an effective move to release he may have earned his first sack of the season.

While I think some of that will come with time, this has been my consistent critique of his game and what’s missing from it. Basham has been practicing with an NFL team for the better part of two months now and it’s still not there. When it is, he’ll be starting or getting a ton of snaps as a result and his game will come full circle.

Very similar to the last clip, however, Basham is in full-on pass rush for this play. Even matched up against the left tackle you can see that his strength is very real. But, where is the rip move? The swim after the initial contact? No punch-and-swim either? He needs it.

One thing that pass rushers do with their hand usage is attack joints of the linemen’s arms – elbows, wrists for example. It’s taught that way, attack the weakest point of your opponent. Joints bend and can be manipulated. Watch Basham’s right hand at the first pause in the clip. His hand goes to the left wrist of the tackle and earns a release as a result of it.

I like that he’s doing that naturally, without thinking, but that’s not enough given what we’ve seen so far right? Broken record at this point.

Here Basham has a clear lane to the quarterback until that pesky tight end pulls…again. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen that so far – more than I’ve shown. At any rate, I like the get-off here from Basham, but something about this clip makes me feel that he’s absorbing the contact with the tight end as opposed to just lighting him up.

I would have liked to see him destroy this guy, take him clean off his feet and get to Goff here. A punch to the right shoulder of the tight end and an inside move and here’s another opportunity to get his first sack.

For the last clip I wanted to discuss this being Basham’s initial step at the snap. Basham takes an inside step, but then he attacks the outside shoulder of the tackle. This is a pass rush snap for Basham – in the very literal sense. His job is to rush the quarterback here. Why not just take the inside track against the tackle?

Hassan Ridgeway matches up against the guard and Basham could have split the two and gotten home or at least gotten a hit on Goff. Likely, Basham is trying to set the tackle up in order to get him moving inside to make the outside route easier. Basham really likes to bull rush his opponents, but it rarely produces anything more than him getting about to where he is at the end of this play.

If you can’t get to the quarterback in 3 seconds, pending some wonderful coverage downfield, you’re not going to get a sack. Just watch Barkevious Mingo on the other side of the formation. He takes the inside track, the center comes out to pick him up, spin move and he’s already in the quarterback’s face a half second away from a sack.

The design for Basham’s future is to have a big, powerful pass rusher who can also set the edge effectively and stop the run as well as rush the passer efficiently. As I’ve stated above numerous times, he’s got all of the pieces to the puzzle, but as it stands he’s got a long way to go before we see some real production out of him outside of the running game. If anyone in the Colts’ coaching staff is able to develop a player, Basham should be a cakewalk, but he’s going to take time.