With the primary surge of Free Agency wrapping up, the focus for the Indianapolis Colts turns to the draft, where GM Chris Ballard looks to hit another home run with the 2019 class. Last draft season, Ballard drafted Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard who both ended up earning First Team All-Pro honors as rookies. On top of that, he also drafted a handful of contributors in Braden Smith, Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay, Nyheim Hines, and Matthew Adams.
This new film room series will attempt to highlight certain prospects that may interest the Colts and go through their film to find their strengths and weaknesses. Today’s prospect is Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich. Winovich is a player that turned a lot of heads at the combine after flying a bit under the radar since his late season injury.
We will look through the film and see what Winovich could potentially bring to the Colts if they end up drafting him. Clips in this piece will be from five games that I watched, all five were on coach’s film. The full list of games watched were against Michigan State, SMU, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Notre Dame.
6’3” 253 pounds with 33 inch arms
40 Time: 4.59 / 10-yard split: 1.57 / Vertical Jump: 30.5 inches / Broad Jump: 117 inches / 3-Cone: 6.94 seconds
166 total tackles, 43 tackles for a loss, 18.5 sacks, 1 pass deflection, and 3 forced fumbles
Late Round 1 / Early Round 2
Run defense is vital to receiving playing time on the Colts’ defense. A skilled pass rusher like Kemoko Turay was held off the field by a more dominant run defender in Al-Quadin Muhammad late last season in pivotal games. Winovich won’t have the same issues as Turay though as he’s a solid run defender. He may not be the best in terms of strength at the point of contact but he knows how to find creases and separate from blockers in tight areas. He is very Jabaal Sheard like in his run defense.
Winovich is slippery against the run. Blockers struggle to get their hands on him and even when they do engage, he is able to effortlessly disengage with an array of hand moves. In this clip here, he slides off of the block from the right tackle to make the tackle in the backfield. Excellent play to get the immediate penetration and make the tackle for the loss.
Again, he is able to slide by with violent hands. He is able to club inside and shoot the gap between the guard and tackle to get the quick penetration into the backfield. His innate ability to slide between creases in the line makes him a valuable piece to run defense.
Did I mention how he gets instant penetration? His pursuit in run defense is relentless and his usage of strong hands and a flexible waist make him insanely hard for lineman to block one on one. He may not be consistently powerful and stout at holding the edge but he makes a lot of impact plays for negative yardage. Reminds me a lot of Jabaal Sheard in this regard.
Hand usage is a big part of Winovich’s game in both run defense and rushing the passer. We talked about how he uses strong hands to shed run blockers but he also uses this skill when pass rushing. He shows off a strong club move and when he pairs other moves and counters with it, he is quite difficult to block.
Winovich attacks the right tackle’s hands on this first play. He stands the lineman up with a hesitation off of the line. He then swipes the hands of the left tackle which throws the lineman off balance and allows him to slide by for the pressure. The strength to knock the tackle off balance and nuance to swipe away his hands is impressive.
Again, Winovich is able to swipe the hands of the tackle and swim underneath for the sack. He sets the move up well by punching inside on the tackle. He then swipes away the hands and moves inside for the sack. Great pursuit to track down the quarterback on the play as well.
The last two hand swipes were quick and subtle to knock away lineman hands and slide pas them. This club/swipe however is violent. He clubs the shoulder of the lineman and knocks him off balance completely. He can bring nuance and quickness on the edge along with power and violence. Great combination of finesse and power from him.
The most important trait to have as a pass rusher, according to some scouts and evaluators, is bend on the edge. Bend separates good pass rushers from great pass rushers. It is the natural ability to put a player’s skillset over the top and make them truly dominant. Winovich is not near the top of this class in terms of bend but he does have good hip flexibility to turn the corner.
Look at the how he turns the corner on this first clip. Is it elite bend and flexibility? No. He does, however, showcase the ability to turn the turn his hips in space and collapse on the passer. A player without bend or hip flexibility would easily be run out of this play and be forced to circle back around the pocket. Winovich is able to turn the corner here.
Again he shows the ability to bend on the corner. Is it up there with guys like Brian Burns or Jachai Polite? Not at all. He can still turn the corner at a better than average rate though and that will really help him find success when he uses that along with his violent hands in the NFL.
There are quite a few weaknesses in Winovich’s game. The main issue that we will highlight is that his play strength is not consistent and there are plenty of times where he looks over matched by bigger blockers. Other issues though are his tendency to over pursue when left unblocked and occasional missed tackles. On top of that, he will be a 25 year old rookie and has had injury issues in his career.
The main issue we are going to look at is his play strength issue. He is a strong run defender when he can shoot gaps and sift through creases but he does struggle with blindside blocks and staying on his feet. Here he gets crushed by Notre Dame’s tight end. For a defensive end who is expected to hold the edge, he can’t be getting knocked down like this.
When rushing the passer, this issue isn’t as prevalent but it is still an issue. Here he allows the guard to get inside his chest plate and drive him to the ground. Winovich will likely need to get a bit stronger or fix up some leverage issues at the next level so he can get stronger at the point of attack.
Bonus: Go-To Pass Rush Move
Every NFL pass rusher has a go-to rush move. Julius Peppers has his hump move, Khalil Mack has the long arm, and Von Miller has his dip and bend. Chase Winovich has his push-pull. He is excellent at this move and uses it whenever he has the chance. Here are a couple clips of his go-to move and how effective it really is.
Punches inside on the tackle and then tosses him aside with a nasty pull. Results in a quarterback hit on the play.
Yet again, Winovich’s push-pull has an offensive tackle flailing as he records the sack on the play.
Last but not least, he is able to toss another left tackle en route to another quarterback hit.
Bonus Part 2: Ballard Mold
Effort plays are the biggest part of Winovich’s game. He is relentless in his pursuit and will sometimes make plays 20 yards down the field even. As a backside defender, his motor does not stop until the ball carrier is on the ground. This is a trait that GM Chris Ballard loves in his defenders and will certainly be something that catches his eye on tape.
A motor that never runs out. Winovich will relentlessly pursue running backs from the backside of the play until they are on the ground.
These plays are why you can live with his issues. A skilled player who plays with fiery hot motor is an asset for any team.
Chase Winovich checks off a ton of boxes for the Colts in this draft. He is a high motor player who wins with excellent hand usage, a solid plan of attack featuring a go-to move, and above average bend around the corner. He is also a savvy run defender that is difficult to block one on one and knows how to find creases in the offensive line. A lot of his game reminds me of Jabaal Sheard for the Colts.
There are some concerns, but the main ones revolve around his recent injuries and the fact that he will be a 25 year old rookie. How high does a player with those concerns go in the draft? It’s tough to gauge.
I do know this. His film is excellent and off the field he should also wow some folks. He was a team leader at Michigan and was a tireless worker for his team. Add in that he is very skilled and I have no problem with Ballard taking him even in the first round of this draft. Ideally though, he ends up on the Colts with the 34th pick and the team ends up with a team leader who can improve their pass rush.