The Indianapolis Colts are finally on the board in free agency, as they signed defensive lineman Isaac Rochel to a one year contract worth 2.5 million dollars. While it may not be the splashy move we all hoped on the defensive line, it is at least a start!
Rochell was the runner-up for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the Chargers. On the field, he has 9.5 sacks in four years with the Chargers as mostly a rotational defensive end.
In today’s film room, we will break down some strengths and weaknesses in his game as well as looking at what some Chargers’ reporters had to say about the newest Colts’ defensive end.
Rochell was a seventh round pick by the Chargers back in the 2017 NFL Draft. He tested as a below average athlete with good size and strength but poor athleticism. His lack of athleticism certainly shows and is part of the reason why he has had his struggles on the edge in LA.
Opinions of Chargers’ Reporters
Before I jumped into the film, I wanted to get a feel for what kind of player I was going to be watching. I asked my friend Michael Peterson (a contributor for Bolts From the Blue) for his opinion on Rochell:
“Best ability is availability” type of player. Never hurt. Played both Leo and big end in Gus Bradley’s defense. High effort, great personality. Unfortunately was “just a guy” in the defense. Solid backup that won’t blow his responsibilities but also won’t make many splash plays, if at all.
While this opinion isn’t the most flattering, it does paint a bit of a picture as to why the Colts would sign him. With Al-Quadin Muhammad a free agent and unlikely to return, the Colts could use a high energy depth player on the line. Just to confirm what Michael said though, I also reached out to Jake Hefner (Co-Host of the Chargers Brawl Podcast) for his opinion:
Rochell is a serviceable depth piece. Good against the run, but leaves some to be desired as a pass rusher. Durable, great teammate and quality depth piece at DE.
Seems that Rochell fits a bit of the mold that the Colts were losing in Muhammad.
Unfortunately, I may be even lower than both Jake and Michael on Rochell. When charting some plays and watching film, I didn’t see too many positives to talk about. In his four year NFL career, the highest PFF grade he has received is a 55.1— which grades out as a below average player. Still, I did find a few things that I thought he was decent at. One was assignment sound football. He seemed to understand his role perfectly well and where he needed to be on certain plays and alignments. He crashes down and scrapes well off the backside in run defense:
Rocell is a decent run defender. Gets moved a bit too easy at times but scrapes down the line well and is fine when he has a decent base pic.twitter.com/QZggDQ6BqU— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) March 19, 2021
While there are some issues with his play strength on a down to down basis, he flashed the ability to be a really good run defender when everything was right for him. When he could get to his landmark, stay balanced, and get his hands inside, he was able to make some plays in the run game. I know that is a lot of variables that have to go right, but it is a positive. Right?
Rochell's top play from this past season from what I've seen: pic.twitter.com/Th6rj18C6l— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) March 19, 2021
The biggest positive in his game from what I’ve seen is his energy level and hustle. Nearly every sack I have seen from his career came from pure hustle rather than skill. While that may not be a positive, he does at least give his all on the field. He is athletically limited but that doesn’t stop him from running down plays from the backside.
At least he shows some effort! (the second clip was one of his three sacks from this past season) pic.twitter.com/sRSYSqP6uK— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) March 19, 2021
Outside of that though, it is a lot of negatives from what I’ve seen. He is not a good athlete at all on the edge. While the Colts’ scheme will likely be better for him— I imagine he will get some snaps at DT— I still think he is too limited to have a significant role in this defense. We saw teams last year attack the edge around Denico Autry a bit due to his lack of athleticism and I imagine that issue would be much, much worse with Rochell.
I'm going to be insufferable when Isaac Rochell outsnaps Ben Banogu at DE this year pic.twitter.com/or3ruqhBHj— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) March 19, 2021
For a player who is cast more as a run defender, Rochell misses a lot of tackles. In his career, he has logged 58 tackles. He has also logged 10 career missed tackles (according to PFF). That is one missed tackle for every 5.8 tackles he makes. That is simply not good at all for a run defending defensive end. With his lack of athleticism and tendency to miss tackles, I envision a lot of scenarios where offenses run read plays or gap plays where they leave him unblocked and just pick on him. Not encouraging to see at all.
Then lastly, and the worst aspect, is his ability as a pass rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, Rochell generated pressure on 6.2% of his pass rushes last season. That ranked 104th out of 111 edge rushers from this past year. That... is not good at all. His game is not predicated on rushing the passer as he has no plan of attack and at best, just caves in the pocket a little bit. This clip was the best way to showcase how he rushes the passer:
A breakdown of how most pass rush reps look for Rochell pic.twitter.com/2i5RBddcaX— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) March 19, 2021
I totally get bringing in Rochell this offseason. He is a high character guy who is still young and is a decent run defender. He fits a lot of the Chris Ballard mild, especially since he can play a little bit inside as well.
My biggest fear though is that this becomes a situation like Al-Quading Muhammad the last few years. Muhammad was a decent player but never had the upside of players such as Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay. The fact that Muhammad played a ton of snaps last year and Banogu was a healthy scratch was mind boggling. If that happens again with Rochell now instead of Muhammad, that is an issue.
I think Rochell is a perfectly fine bottom of the roster/healthy scratch player to have (signing him for 2.5 million is a bit much but whatever). As long as he doesn’t take snaps away from younger players with higher pass rush upside, it shouldn’t be too bad of a signing.