Kozora: Don’t Give Up On Bud Dupree

Bud Dupree is off to a, let’s say less than stellar 2017 season. And Steelers’ Nation has taken notice, placing him in the dreaded Jarvis Jones category.

As Lee Corso would tell ya, not so fast, my friend. 

I admit I’ve been one of Dupree’s biggest supporters from the beginning. Yes, I proudly shouted he was in for a 12 sack season. That’s…not going to happen. But I haven’t abandoned hope. I’m the dude who’s still trying to sell you on buying a Hummer (they look so cool!). Hear me out.

Box score scouting is inherently dangerous – I get that. But the guy still has five sacks this season. That’s only one fewer than T.J. Watt, who (rightfully) is praised by the fanbase. Based on my charting, Dupree actually has more pressures than Watt too. 25.5 to 20.5 on my latest count. And he’s dropping into coverage at a pretty decent clip (though no, not as often as Watt).

Don’t misunderstand me. Ask me who is playing better, Watt or Dupree, and it’s Watt. Clearly. But that might just mean Watt is special, not that Dupree is dismal.

As the coaching staff has endlessly repeated, rush and coverage go together. And poor coverage has robbed Dupree of putting up better numbers. One relevant example from Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

That’s not a great pass rush rep by any means. Dupree is pushed upfield, gets knocked off balance, but is able to recover and change directions. If Mike Wallace isn’t wide open, odds are good he gets home to Joe Flacco. If Dupree had another two sacks, I don’t think we’re having this “end is near” discussion that’s dominating Twitter. He’d be close to a ten sack season. The chances have been there.

Of course, he is not without faults. I think I grilled him pretty hard a month ago, writing up a complete breakdown on his pass rushing tendencies and where he’s failing. Stats alone don’t tell the story. He should be playing better than he is. Expectations were, and have always been, high. He hasn’t lived up to them yet.

Injuries shouldn’t be an excuse but shouldn’t be forgotten. Even though he’s long removed from an injury report, Dupree’s been banged up all year. A shoulder ailment has been most frequent and I can’t help but wonder if it’s still bugging him.

When he’s said he’s felt healthy, he has gone out and performed. I’m just throwing stuff at the wall but he could wind up being one of those guys having offseason surgery that no one is expecting. Remember this tweet from Jeremy Fowler back in October? Dupree told him he needed painkillers just to be able to lift his arm.

Maybe the shoulder has gotten better. But do you really think it’s completely healed? It’s just more wear and tear on his body as the weeks add up. You don’t go through consecutive weeks playing Cincinnati and Baltimore and come out feeling good or anything resembling such.

Steelers’ Nation is writing off Dupree like he’s Enron stock. Maybe he’s not Bitcoin but there isn’t this crash and burn that people argue exists. There’s context and nuanced that’s being missed.

Bottom line. It’s reasonable to ask and want Dupree to play better. No argument here – I’m asking for it. But he’s not Jarvis Jones. And not every pass rusher who doesn’t become utterly dominant is. One more sack in 2017 will give him as many as Jones had in his entire career. Dupree’s above average against the run, though his technique has to be improved. He’s not Watt in coverage but holds his own there, too.

Dupree is a hard worker, athletic freak, and we’ve seen flash that success fans demanded since he was taken in the first round.

I’m not guaranteeing success.

I’m just saying to have a little patience.

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