Throughout the fall at Steelers Depot, we will be highlighting several possible draft prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers may have interest in for the 2023 NFL Draft and their performance during the college football season.
The Michigan State Spartans laid a beatdown on the Akron Zips at home this past Saturday, pitching a 52-0 shutout against their non-conference opponent. The defense was impeccable for the Spartans and Jacoby Windmon led the way with his second standout performance of the season. He posted five tackles, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a pass deflection against Akron, following up a four-sack performance with a forced fumble against Western Michigan. Windmon has been named back-to-back Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his performance thus far in 2022 and currently ranks as the highest-graded defender in the Power % with a 91.8 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus.
So, what exactly stood out from Windmon’s performance against Akron? Well, the first thing that pops off the tape is his nose for forcing turnovers. His first forced fumble came on this rep where he comes free off the edge and contacts the pulling guard as the QB throws the quick screen pass to the right. Windmon quickly redirects to play chase to the ball and flies in from the side as the receiver gets stood up, putting his helmet on the football and rips the ball from the man’s body which his teammate recovers.
Here’s a zoomed-in view of the play where you can see Windmon go straight for the football and rip it out of the ballcarrier’s grasp with relative ease as he is tangled with other tacklers.
Here is another play where Windmon gets in on a fumble recovery, although most of the work is done for him as the running back bobbles the pitch from the QB, putting the ball on the ground. Still, Windmon plays the pitch well by splitting the difference and keeps his shoulders square to the LOS to make the QB decide to pitch or tuck and run. Windmon then bolts for the pitch man who drops the ball and wrestles it away for the recovery.
However, Windmon’s third forced fumble of the game was an impressive one from the snap, showcasing his skillset as a pass rusher. He starts an outside rush on the RT then hits an inside spin move as the tackle overcommits outside. He then runs through the block attempt of the back and swats the hand of the QB as he brings the ball back to pass, knocking the ball to the ground where the running back picks it up and runs toward the sideline, resulting in over ten yards lost on the play.
In two games, Windmon has shown an impressive toolbox as a pass rusher, having the speed and burst to win off the edge as well as the strength and hand moves to defeat blocks routinely to get into the pocket and force the ball out. In his first game against Western Michigan, Windmon used a ghost move like what Alex Highsmith has done on occasion in Pittsburgh to get a sack. On this play, we see him do the same thing, clearing the block with ease against the RT and forces the QB to step up and dump the ball to his RB. Windmon doesn’t get the sack, but he pressures the passer which leads to a poorly thrown ball that falls incomplete.
Here’s a rep where Windmon does get home against the LT on the pass rush, displaying good bend and body control around the edge and he runs the arc against the blocker, flattening the corner and hits the QB low while a teammate goes high combining for the split sack on the play.
In terms of run defense, Windmon has his strengths and weaknesses in this area of his game. His lack of ideal length, standing 6’2, 250lb, can lead to bigger offensive linemen getting hands on him quickly and neutralizing him as a run defender. However, there are examples in the tape where you see good hand usage to shed blocks before the tackle can latch onto his chest. For example, watch this run play on third down where Windmon quickly stacks and sheds the RT at the LOS, in position to make a play, the ball goes to the opposite side of the line and the runner picks up the first, but Windom displays the competency to win as a run defender on the edge.
Overall, Jacoby Windmon made an impact for the second week in a row against lesser competition that he should dominate. The senior outside linebacker came to East Lansing as a transfer from UNLV this season and is off to a hot start with 5.5 sacks, 6.5 TFLs, and four forced fumbles in two games, showing the transition from being an off-ball linebacker with the Rebels to an on-ball pass rusher to be a wise move by HC Mel Tucker for his defense and Windmon’s professional aspirations.
Windmon will need to show continued production in the pass rush department against Power 5 competition and win more consistently as a run defender to be considered a well-rounded OLB prospect to skyrocket himself up draft boards. However, should the production follow him into Big Ten conference play, look for Windom to gain more traction as one of the better pass rushers in this draft class.
What are your thoughts on Jacoby Windmon’s performance against Akron? Do you think he showcased the skillset of an NFL caliber edge rusher? Do you think he should be in-play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early stages of the draft? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!