Editor’s Note: Leading up to the draft we’re going to re-visit some of our reviews to get some draft crush names fresh in your minds.
When you think of a Steve Spagnuolo defense what immediately comes to your mind? Aggressive. At least for me, that’s what I see in my minds eye. He’s going to bring a defense that blitzes and tries to confuse the offense by bringing many defenders up to the line of scrimmage and making the offensive line figure out who is really coming. In his recent defenses, he hasn’t had the Mike linebacker that truly fits what he’s looking to do, and that doesn’t change with Anthony Hitchens. He’s a downhill guy, at his best, with limited coverage and block shedding ability. Is it possible that the Chiefs can draft his eventual replacement in 2019?Embed from Getty Images
Some of you may know, but I am a Michigan fan. Lived there for most of my life and grew up bleeding Maize and Blue. I’ve watched every football game they’ve played for as long as I can remember. I say this with absolutely no bias whatsoever, the Chiefs should, if possible, draft Devin Bush. I have made no attempt to hide my feelings about this pick. He could be the most explosive linebacker in the draft and if he falls far enough, the Chiefs should take a long hard look at a player that would fit Spags defense very, very well. With the combine coming up, there is a good chance he improves his draft stock, which I think is probable. But his projection as of now is a late first round, early second round pick.Embed from Getty Images
Now I know there’s going to be some push back and I’m okay with that. The biggest issue with Bush is that he’s 5’11 and doesn’t possess the length to shed second level blocks. But he makes up for that with his willingness to engage blocks and get into gaps quickly. He finds ways to get around blocks in space, but it can come at the cost of attack angle. He also is average when it comes to man to man coverage, having to turn around and keep up with a running back or tight end. I’ll show you something that could help ease your worries about his strength as well…
And that’s the list of his true weaknesses, all can be helped except his length. He can learn better ways to shed blocks and how to cover when trailing a receiver. All that being said, Bush’s strengths far outweigh his weaknesses and his greatest strength is his speed, something that only one of the Chiefs linebackers possesses.
Bush has the sideline to sideline speed required to be a Mike linebacker in the NFL and shows it here. After the read-option fake by the offense, he takes off. His first step after making his decision is truly explosive and his ability to close is remarkable. He gets to the running back and delivers a crushing hit, throwing the back off his feet.
Looking at Hitchens, I don’t believe he will ever have the speed necessary to be an every down Mike linebacker. In Dallas he had Sean Lee and Jaylen Smith to help on passing downs and to tell him where he needed to be. Bush is the leader of the defense he’s on, and his speed to get downhill, into opening run gaps, and into the flat make him a true Mike linebacker. His explosive first step is extremely valuable in this because it helps his acceleration. In other words his lateral mobility is exceptional.
Bush also possesses something that helped Hitchens come to Kansas City, he delivers big hits. Although, Hitchens didn’t show a lot of promise in the area of living up to his nickname the “hitman”, Bush has the motor and speed to consistently deliver big hits on a game to game basis.Not only can he deliver big hits to lateral moving players, but he isn’t afraid to meet a running back running downhill and prevent any sort of yardage gain. He has a lot of stopping power.
It’s fourth and one and like most teams on every level of football, the offense is going to run the ball. Bush identifies the gap and isn’t going to be denied the fourth down stop. He gets into the gap and executes a perfect form tackle, and he does it with force, preventing the back to gain and yards after contact and drives him back, forcing the turnover in downs.
When Bush sees something, he doesn’t hesitate, he goes for it and thanks to his high football IQ he is right most of the time. Everyone gets burned from time to time, and after working with NFL personnel he is bound to get even better at diagnosing plays. The more impressive part to me is that he isn’t afraid to get run over, most likely because he doesn’t get run over much. He is the one delivering big hits; some have expressed worry that he doesn’t always wrap up, but on plays like this, he does and makes the back pay.
As most Chiefs fans will know, Hitchens found it difficult to read offenses last year and it showed on tape with hesitation. He was very indecisive and that can be remedied by better coaching which he should receive in 2019. But there’s no telling if he can really command the defense and tell others where they need to be. Bush on the other hand has been in charge of the defense at Michigan since he started playing there. He has been playing in a 4-3 his entire college career and can make pre snap reads. This includes zone coverage.
Bush is closer to the line of scrimmage than he normally would be, Michigan’s Don Brown disguised his blitzes well and made the offense guess where the blitz was coming from. At the snap Bush gets into his shallow zone and reads the quarterback’s eyes. He’s quick enough to get his hand in the passing lane to deflect the throw. It goes to a different receiver, but that’s not his fault.
Coverage is going to be a work in progress for both Hitchens and Bush, but Bush has the lateral quickness and movement to get better. Bush has tons of upside and everything I’ve showed you is a great reason to draft him high but one of the biggest reasons is his blitzing ability. He totaled 10 sacks the last two seasons and consistently gets pressure on the quarterback.
Bush is great in many aspects of football but his ability to get after the quarterback is a trait that should get him drafted in the first round. Bush gets up to the line of scrimmage after the offensive shift and takes off on the snap. The delay in the showing of the blitz forces the running back to take on Bush. Unfortunate for the back; Bush’s speed and bend are not unlike an edge rusher and he quickly gets under the back recording the sack.
In Spags defense, Bush would be a great asset in pass defense and blitzing. Spags likes to blitz, he’s an aggressive defensive coach and would love to have the skill set if Bush. I fully expect Hitchens to be the starting Mike linebacker, but the addition of Bush would allow Hitch to rest in passing situations and provide the Chiefs defense with another pass rush element. The true weakness of the Chiefs defense in 2018 were the two inside linebackers. Rags and Hitchens were not a great duo, but I believe that allowing Hitchens plays off will give the Chiefs a peak at the player that was in Dallas.
It may not be a popular opinion but the Chiefs need to find the future at Mike linebacker whether they like it or not. Hitchens has a chance to be a better player in the 4-3 this coming season, but he is not going to all of a sudden lead the defense by diagnosing plays and getting people in the right position. Bush has a real shot at doing just that, with the added bonuses of pass rush potential and commanding the defense.Embed from Getty Images
There are doubts about Bush that I have stated already, but I do believe that he makes up for them in everything else he provides a defense. The most common positions being talked about are safety and cornerback for the Chiefs at 29, but if Bush falls into the 20’s on draft day, they should go after him. Take a chance on him, his motor won’t let him fail.
Feel free to comment down below with any and all opinions, I welcome all sides of the draft conversation. Any film suggestions as well!