Former Steelers NT Chris Hoke Says Young Defensive Players Develop Slower Due To Practice Rules

Prior to the new CBA of 2011, NFL teams used to be allowed to have grueling two-a-day practices during training camp, but now they are limited to having one full-contact padded practice per day accompanied by a walkthrough period. On the latest episode of the Craig Wolfley Podcast, this topic was discussed as it relates to undrafted players and younger players on the offseason roster not getting the necessary work in training camp.

Former Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke, who made the Steelers team as an undrafted free agent in 2001, was asked particularly to give his thoughts on the subject, being as he isn\’t too far removed from the game.

“They don\’t have the opportunities,” said Hoke. “Let me tell you why. Because you have less practices. You have less practice snaps. So you have to let the veterans take more snaps in practice, because your trying to get them ready for the regular season.

“Usually, when you have two double days, you have double days back to back to back, you can kind of let these veterans rest a little bit and let these young rookies and free agent guys step in there – which happened to me – step in and get some snaps. Now, with the limited snaps, you got to get your veterans ready to play and their taking those snaps, that in the past, the young guys would take.”

Hoke went on to talk about how it\’s tough particularly on young nose tackles and defensive ends to develop thanks in part to the new practice rules set forth in the new CBA.

“I think your also going to see these younger guys not develop as fast,” said Hoke. “The draft picks, because their not getting those snaps again. You got to get snaps. As a nose tackle, I\’m thinking for nose tackle and defensive end, because I played both, it\’s timing, and in the Dick LeBeau defense, you got to be able to get a good feel for the blocks.

“You got to get a number of snaps. If you go and get eight snaps in practice, that\’s not enough to get you familiar and get you comfortable in the defense. You got to get 15 to 20 snaps in practice and get the timing down, the handwork down, the footwork – everything. It just takes time.”

In my post last week about the Steelers lack of depth at the nose tackle position, I stated how I thought it would be pushing it to expect either Alameda Ta\’amu or Hebron Fangupo to be ready to backup starter Steve McLendon this year at nose tackle. The comments above made by Hoke further help my argument.

Last year in training camp, Ta\’amu was third string behind McLendon and starter Casey Hampton, but with Hampton on PUP until the end of training camp, the Steelers fourth-round pick was able to get extra practice snaps. It didn\’t, however, result in him getting many snaps in preseason games, something a young player on the Steelers defense really needs.

Once the season started, Hampton was back practicing and I doubt Ta\’amu received many snaps in practice as a result. The same goes for Fangupo, who was claimed off of waivers from the Seattle Seahawks very late in the season.

So, will Ta\’amu or Fangupo get enough snaps this year in training camp, especially since the team will want McLendon as sharp as possible come the start of the season? In addition, will either get a lot of work this year in the preseason because of the same reason? That will certainly be worth paying attention to.

Yes, I do believe that one of the two have a chance to become the full-time backup to McLendon over time, but I still believe that the Steelers should strongly consider re-signing Hampton for one more year in order to bridge the gap. I wonder if Hoke would with agree me.

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