The introduction is the same as part one, feel free to jump to Developed Skills if you read the previous article.
As of right now, Colts writers and fans seem to find ourselves in a slow news period, with the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, and the start of the season still far down the road. So, during these next couple of weeks when we aren’t expecting huge news, I wanted to look back at some of the young players on the roster and speculate on what may await them in the 2019-2020 season.
In this article, I’ll take a look at Kemoko Turay, a bit of his film/technique and where I see him fitting in the Colts future scheme. He’s an interesting player with an incredible amount of upside. Consequently, he could also be a terrible bust. Let’s take a closer look.
Weight: 253 pounds
Arm Length: 33 3/8’’
“I’m our generations Von Miller.”
That was the first thing out of Turay’s mouth the very first time he was interviewed by Indianapolis Media. So confidence isn’t something that he lacks. Another thing that he doesn’t lack? God-given physical gifts. His arm length, explosiveness and motor are most certainly the reasons Ballard decided to give the Scarlet Knight a chance at number 52 overall in the 2018 Draft.
Last season, he proved Ballard correct by demonstrating how he was oozing with potential in the passing game. On the contrary, something that was held against him in the draft, his inability to impact the run game, also proved to be a problem throughout the season.
The previous article talks about Turay’s physical attributes, which are all impressive parts of Kemoko’s game. He came into the league able to get off the line quickly, pursue and tackle. However, where I’ve seen Turay’s game develop the most has been in the run-game and in his technique. Now, in no way am I saying he is a finished product, but you can begin to see him mold into the player the Colts want him to be.
At the beginning of his Colts career I was a bit worried about Turay’s trajectory in the NFL. He reminded me a lot of Tarell Basham (6’4’’ and 250 pounds) in the sense that neither played for traditional powerhouse, although Turay played in the Big 10 and Basham played in the MAC. Both players were very raw coming into the league, but they both had great physical attributes in their burst, length (Basham had 34.5’’ arms) and athleticism.
The main difference was that Basham only had one move. Bullrush. If that failed, which it did often, he had no counters. This is why he often got completely removed from plays.
Turay, on the other hand, seems to be developing his countermoves nicely. Let me show you some of his early tape and some more recent film so we can analyze the growth.
Here is some film from the Week 2 matchup versus the Redskins, when Turay was more of a raw product. In this first clip you can see that Turay’s get off is decent and that he goes for a straight bull rush. This fails for one main reason, which is that Turay’s leverage and balance was atrocious. He does push the lineman back into the Quarterback, but that’s because he’s leaning on the OL very hard. As an EDGE, you want to be able to bend, but you also need to be able to support yourself without help. So when Turay ducks too low and looses his footing, #71 flattens him.
Here we have another piece of film from early in the season. I cut Turay some slack on this rep, because if you look closely at the end of the play, he does get held by #71. Unfortunately for Turay, though, in the NFL, linemen will hold you on almost every play. It’s just part of the game and you have to learn to deal with it. Nonetheless, Turay should get criticized for is his terrible get-off and lack of burst on this snap, not to mention the fact that he gets too tall too fast.
Here is a play that shows some development. It actually happened in the same game as the previous two, displaying Turay’s ability to adapt to what is unfolding before him. I like the attempted swim-move, although I don’t think Turay is as strong as he needs to be to pull this off. Not yet. However, it does set up the comeback spin-move nicely. The OL is able to recover and hold off Turay, but he is still able to have an impact on the play. His 33’’ arms and 9.5’’ hands can block off part of the passing lane. Also, if the Tackle doesn’t recover and the QB holds the ball a faction of a second longer, this play is a sack.
Here’s another example of Turay staying active. The Colts stunt on this play, and due to the lack of communication between the tackle and the guard, Turay gets lost and he is able to slip into the backfield for a QB hit.
On the contrary, this here is an example of how Turay hasn’t completely finished polishing his pass-rushing technique. I can’t really explain what this is, although it does resemble a spin move. The problem here is that instead of planting his foot on the ground to change directions, Turay jumps and spins in the air. Another issue is that he plants with his outside foot instead of his inside foot, so instead of completing a spin-move, he ends up with his back to Taylor Lewan, who promptly goes on to......hug him?
It’s a strange play, what can I say?
Defending the run
Defending the run is by far the weakest part of Turay’s game. Throughout my whole film study, I rarely found any film of Turay playing on running downs. On the few plays I found where the opponent ran the ball and Turay was on the field, he either got completely beaten (sometimes by a TE/WR!), or the play went in the other direction.
This is one of the few examples I found. The Wide Receiver lines up to Turay's outside shoulder. As the ball is snapped, #81 takes full control of Turay and pushes him out of the play completely. To say this is concerning is a vast understatement. Plays like this, where a WR blocks Turay with ease, and reports about him struggling against the run in practice are probably the main reasons why Turay struggled to see the field the second half of the season.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, factors that Ballard takes into consideration when selecting young players is their work ethic and character. Everyone in the league is good, but it's that motivation to wake up everyday trying to get better that separates champions from everyone else. And, while other players spend the offseason relaxing on the beach in the Bahamas, gambling in Vegas, touring Europe and the like, Turay decided to stay in Indy and work on his craft.
Just trying to get better each and every day. Just watching film and just looking at the bad habits that I did during the season and just trying to improve and polish it up a little bit. Last year, I didn’t have a consistent move — I was just using different moves — but this offseason I just constantly stayed here in Indianapolis, and just constantly just worked on my body and tried to find my move and who I am as a pass rusher.
It also doesn’t hurt that the future Hall of Famer and Colts pass-rushing legend Robert Mathis is helping Turay train. Hopefully the young Colt takes full advantage of this opportunity to pick Mathis’ brain. I’ve actually begun to see the latter leave an imprint on Turay, as he has taken a particular liking to the spin move, just like his mentor.
Yeah, most definitely. I worked with him (Mathis) during the offseason, just trying to polish up what we watched last season and the things I feel I needed to work on. I go to him every Tuesday and Thursday during the offseason, then come here and get some lifting, and watching some film and do things I need to do to get better.
Turay understands that this is a business, and that his livelihood depends on him putting in the work now to prove to the Colts that he can develop just like they envisioned. That he can, in a sense, fill his mentor's shoes as the next great Colts pass rusher.
Kemoko Turay seems to be on the right path for a long and successful career as a Colt. His athleticism is what has helped him produce thus far, but he should be able to develop some moves that can elevate his play. However, if he is incapable of expanding his game to have some of counter-moves, I see a future like that of Basham in store for Turay.
Turay seems to have the work ethic to dictate a productive career. Furthermore, a statistic that I like to look at to determine a pass-rushers career direction is conversion rate of QB hits to sacks. If a player’s QB Hit to Sack conversion percentage is below 45%, you can reasonably predict their sack total will go up next season, and vice versa. In Turay’s case, he had 13 QB hits and 4 sacks, a conversion rate of 30.77%. If he truly wants to be more than a 4-6 sack a season type of player, he needs to improve his technique and be on the field more.
To be on the field more, he needs to improve his run game. After my film study, one of the main takeaways I have is that to improve his game Kemoko needs to be on the field more. However, he’s not going to stay on the field if he becomes a liability that opponents can scheme against in the run game. Right now, Turay’s career and his ability to defend the run are attached at the hip. He will either succeed in both or fail in both.
Finally, I read some of the comments and Tweets in regards about which young player I should do a “Building Blocks” article on next. Right now I’m debating between Smith, Leonard, Nelson, Lewis, Hooker and Hines. Please let me know which one of these, or others, you’d like to see.
Also thanks to @merylofish for the lead art, I appreciate it.