After his NFL career as a safety was over, current ESPN football analyst Louis Riddick worked as a scout and director of pro personnel with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. In other words, he’s more than qualified when it comes to evaluating players currently in the league.
A few days ago, Riddick was a guest on ESPN Radio’s The Russillo Show and when discussing the preseason play that he’s seen so far out of some of the current top-rated rookie pass rushers around the league, he made it clear that he hasn’t been impressed with Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
“I know it’s early, I know they’ve only played two preseason games, but Bud [Dupree] looked no different against Jacksonville than he did against Minnesota in the Hall of Fame game,” said Riddick. “And this is a guy who was a combine workout warrior. Pittsburgh has missed on some pass rushers already in the past in the draft. Jarvis Jones has never become what they needed him to.
“I wasn’t high on Bud Dupree (coming out of college). I know people think I’m grinding an ax, but I’m just not seeing it, man. And if I’m them, based on what I saw him do at Kentucky, and people made all of the excuses in the world for him at Kentucky as far as him being hurt, how they used him, blah, blah, blah, what I saw so far in the first two weeks of the preseason for him, is exactly what I saw at Kentucky. And that would be a real concern for me, especially how these other rookie pass rushers are lighting it up athletically right out of the gate.”
In Riddick’s defense, Dupree hasn’t been overly impressive in the Steelers first two preseason games as the 78 snaps that he’s played have resulted in just three total tackles and one quarterback hurry. He’s been slow getting off blocks in the run game and really looks like he’s thinking a lot before reacting. He’s also very mechanical right now and looks unsure about where he’s supposed to be on the field when asked to drop into coverage.
In Dupree’s defense, the Steelers aren’t expecting him to come in and be the starter right away. In fact, he’ll probably be lucky to play 250 snaps during his rookie season barring injuries. Like most rookie Steelers linebackers, he’ll be asked to contribute heavily on special teams in his first season while he works on learning the defense in addition to getting stronger and working on his technique.
Shortly after the Steelers drafted Dupree, who recorded 23.5 sacks over the course of his college career, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops admitted in an interview that his former player probably didn’t get the best positional coaching after the team switched from a 4-3 defensive scheme to 3-4 a few years ago. In fact, Stoops went on to say that Dupree’s college stats probably would’ve been better had the team never switched defensive schemes at all.
“If we just left him in the 4-3 and let him rush the passer and be a 4-3 defensive end you’d see his numbers go through the roof with sacks,” Stoops said in May. “But he did a lot of things with us and he’s very versatile, and we were transitioning. It was very nice for us to have such a versatile athlete playing that position, but it also will benefit him, honestly, with a position coach.”
Dupree now has Joey Porter as his position coach and it will be interesting to see what kind of development the former sack artist can get out of the first round draft pick over the course of the next three preseason games. Dupree was at the center of a fight with a few members of the Steelers offensive line Wednesday during practice and while that likely can be blamed on the late dog days of training camp finally getting to the rookie, perhaps Porter was responsible for lighting a little fire under his young player.
It’s way too early to label Dupree as a bust, but being as Jarvis Jones has yet to live up to his first-round status, the fan base isn’t likely to be very patient with the Steelers most recent first-round selection. The Steelers certainly can’t afford to have both Jones and Dupree turn out to be duds and that’s exactly what Riddick seems to be expecting to happen. If I’m Dupree, I would hang Riddick’s quotes up in my locker so I’m forced to look at them every day.
As for Porter, he believes in Dupree.
“He’s young. He overthinks some stuff. That’s just being a young pass-rusher,” said Porter, according to Jeremy Fowler. “He has plenty of time to get better at that. For all the abilities he has, it shouldn’t take long for him to get where he’s supposed to be. He can be whatever he wants to be. He can be a speed rusher. He can be a bull rusher. A guy with multiple moves. He’s shown signs he can do it all. Once he figures out what fits him best, that’s what he’ll become.”