Darrian Beavers film study: LB offers Giants useful skillset, with limitations

The New York Giants selected Cincinnati linebacker Darrian Beavers as their final draft pick at No. 182 in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Beavers is a shade under 6’4, weighing 237 pounds. He provided versatility for Mike Tresell’s Bearcats defense in 2021; he aligned 716 times in the box, 141 times at EDGE, and 32 times as an overhang defend.

Beavers was recruited as a safety out of Colerain High School in Cincinnati. He signed with UCONN and played two seasons for the Huskies before transferring to the Bearcats in 2019. He was predominantly used as an edge rusher at UCONN and led UCONN in 2018 with 4.0 sacks.

Beavers was a crucial part of the Bearcats’ defense after his transfer. In 2021, he finished with 102 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 21 pressures, 53 STOPs, one pick, two passes defended, and two forced fumbles. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and finished first-team All-Conference.

Beavers’ RAS and Mock Draftable spider chart suggest an excellent athlete with great size. While his size is fine, his athletic ability is in question-the play speed does not match the testing speed. He’s a little stiff, and his range is questionable, but that doesn’t mean he can’t perform a well-defined role within Wink Martindale’s system.

Martindale organizes his defensive packages to match offensive opponents. He gets the most out of the dressed players, and Beavers-despite his sub-optimal play speed him-will have an impact if he can make the final 53-man roster. Let’s get into his film and see why.

[Darrian Beavers is No. 0]

Taking on blocks

[LB, left side]

Beavers executes his run fit will on this play, but I want to highlight the pop Beavers provides to the center. Beavers sees the running back open to his side out of the pistol formation. Beavers heads downhill and lowers his inside shoulder, and explodes through the center. Just look at the center go backwards. Beavers separates and helps his teammates make a tackle. I wanted to start with this play to show the amount of power Beavers can generate when in a phone booth.

[LB on LOS, left side]

Beavers is tasked to crash the C-gap as the 5-technique slants inside. The tight end steps down and attempts to wash Beavers down the line of scrimmage, but the linebacker easily discards the block and makes the tackle.

[LB, just in screen on left]

The guard climbs and locates Beavers, but the linebacker does a great job stacking and shedding while maintaining vision of the running back. Beavers does a good job absorbing contact, lowering his base, using his length of him, and then separating. He typically doesn’t get removed from his run responsibility by a single blocker.

[LB, left of screen]

I appreciate Beavers’ ability to hold his ground. The tackle blocks down and turns to locate and push Beavers out of the three-hole, but Beavers parks himself right off the line of scrimmage, and the tackle can’t move him. The rest of his teammates rally and make the tackle.

[LB, left of screen]

The guard is uncovered with easy access to climb and take on Beavers in space. After the mesh point, the running back has a two-way go, with Beavers acting as the fork in the road. Beavers parks himself with a low base in the middle of the two-hole. His positioning him forces the running back to try and hit the four-hole to the outside of the guard’s block; the edge defender squeezes while Beavers shades in that direction and the run is stopped.

[LB, left of screen]

The center attempts to drive Beavers backward. He displaces him for a second but can’t turn him; Beavers anchors down well before locating the running back and making the tackle. Despite having his chest him accessed, Beavers was still able to gain control of the lineman, showing excellent upper-body strength and instincts to find the running back.

eye-discipline

Beavers does a good job in the box, trusting his eyes and sifting through trash in confined spaces.

[LB, right of screen]

Alabama runs outside zone, and Evan Neal (73) has to reach and locate Beavers at the second level. Beavers does a really good job dipping his outside shoulder and getting low, showing solid flexibility when going forward to avoid Neal’s contact. Beavers quickly recollects his balance from him, fights through contact from the backside guard, goes over the top of the center’s block, and helps make the tackle down the line of scrimmage. This is an excellent play that displays Beavers’ reactionary quickness and immediate spatial awareness.

[LB, left of screen]

Beavers is the SAM on this play side run from Alabama. Neal and the center both climb in his direction from the outside and inside as the guard handles the 4-technique. Beavers does a good job of not over-pursuing Brian Robinson Jr. (4). Beavers goes forward and doesn’t flow into Neal’s block; he trusted his eyes on him and was slow to come downhill, allowing the cut-back lane to open, which forced Robinson to oblige. Beavers was very patient to force the cut-back before he ran into a ‘Bama block. Beavers then makes the good wrap-up tackle.

[LB, right of screen]

Beavers does a good job as the SAM with Evan Neal as the tight end. Beavers flows outside and feels the tackle climb. Beavers uses a club to stay clean; he then discards the center and undercuts Robinson’s path to help with the tackle. Beavers frequently showed solid key and diagnosing skills to evade and locate.

[LB, right of screen]

Beavers scrapes over the top. He does a great job avoiding the center while showing impressive agility and body control to jump around the contact and stay square to the running back.

[LB, right of screen]

I have questions about Beavers’ range translating to the NFL – it’s my biggest concern for him. He does a solid job avoiding contact and forcing the running back out of bounds on this play, but his original alignment of him is outside the hash by about 4 yards; the NFL hashes aren’t as wide as the college ones. Nevertheless, Beavers does a good job taking a direct path to the running back and making physical contact at the sideline to drag him down.

We see something similar on this play; Beavers aligned outside the hash, and he reacts quickly to hustle over a make a tackle.

I’m not sure how this wasn’t a face mask, but good job on Beavers locating Bryce Young (9). Cincinnati runs a twist, and Beavers does a great job focusing on Young moving laterally. Beavers adjusts his path to match the quarterback and not get caught in the mess at the line of scrimmage. Beavers gets outside quickly with excellent hustle to record the sack.

[LB, left of screen]

Spatial awareness in coverage behind him was a very minor issue I took away from Beavers’ film, but he reacted well to these running back leaks from depth. Beavers read this play and reacted with good timing to come downhill and force an incompleteness.

[LB, bottom of screen]

I also wanted to highlight this play because of my questions about Beavers in coverage and as an overall NFL athlete; Beavers does a solid job on this play carrying the No. 2 receiver on the fade slot. He catches and gets physical before the first-down marker, but he flips his hips and gets his head around to locate the football.

on the edge

Over the last few years, Giants fans saw linebackers like Cam Brown and David Mayo align at edge in certain situations – Beavers has this ability and offers some upside as a power-rusher. He’s not going to win bending through contact like Von Miller, but he can get to the outside shoulder and do a solid job using his hands to create separation to corner. Martindale can leverage this skill in certain situations.

[Edge, bottom of screen]

Beavers times the snap well and uses a stutter to help create hesitation with the offensive tackle. It also does a solid job getting low and sinking its weight while moving forward, which presents a smaller target for tackles to locate.

negatives

I am concerned about Beavers’ overall play speed. He has elite competitive toughness and is always hustling, but range is an issue. He showed good hustle on many plays above between the tackles, but he is exploited when asked to cover a lot of space laterally. All players don’t need sideline to sideline speed; NFL second-level defenders need to be fast to earn consistent playing time. I still believe Beavers is an NFL player, but more of a role player.

[Play side LB]

Beavers is right near the hash and the Navy running back makes the catch on the numbers. The linebacker has to surrender nearly 20 yards to cut the back’s angle and still hardly makes contact from the backside. This is a Navy running back, and the hashes provide more space to the outside at the next level.

[EDGE, middle of the field]

Hustle will never be an issue. Beavers is the edge directly in the middle of the field. He sees the quarterback go to rush and starts heading outside; once the quarterback is squarely at the line of scrimmage, Beavers is at the bottom of the numbers. He just can’t get outside to get to the quarterback. To be fair, this isn’t the easiest to play to make, but it’s one that happened too often in Beavers’ tape.

[LB, left of screen]

In a tighter area, Beavers can’t contain Kyren Williams (23) – a running back who isn’t known for his speed or burst. Beavers can’t locate Williams, and a Notre Dame touchdown is scored.

[LB, bottom of screen]

Notre Dame runs a boundary screen against the Bearcats with Beavers as the boundary linebacker. The Golden Domers run the receiver into the path of Beavers, who works over the top and comes downhill. At this point, two blockers are in space with three pursuing defenders. Beavers attempts to undercut the lead blocker, but that allows Williams to bounce outside.

[Top of screen defender]

Giants fans, where have we seen offenses from this before? One way to exploit the difference in athletic ability between a running back and a linebacker is to align in EMPTY when facing man defense. Washington did this against the Giants in wWeek 2 last year with JD McKissic and Tae Crowder. The back runs a quick curl with the No. 2 receiver running to fade up the numbers to create traffic. The back catches the ball and moves inside, and Beavers misses the tackle in space.

Beavers missed 17 tackles in 2021 – at 15 percent rate. Most of his missed tackles were outside the tackle box when he’s in space or moving laterally, trying to keep pace with a better athlete.

final thoughts

Darrian Beavers has a chance to make the Giants roster, and he’ll offer a specific skill-set to Martindale’s defense. He is a hybrid EDGE/LB who is very physical and can apply pressure from a variety of spots along a defensive front.

I had fun watching Beavers’ film, but there’s a reason he was available in the sixth round. Although he tested very well, his play speed may be an issue at the next level. Questions about how he’ll hold up outside the tackle box are fair. However, I think he offers enough within the tackle box in run defense and while pressuring the quarterback to have an impact within Martindale’s defense.

Beavers can play an early-down SAM role to use its ability to stack and shed and read blocks to disrupt opposing rushing attacks. Man coverage could be an issue, and he’s solid enough as a zone defender to be functional. I also like the appeal of using him on upfront twists. He can be a situational linebacker with special teams upside.

New York’s linebackers were an issue last season after Blake Martinez injured his knee. Joe Schoen selected two versatile players who fit Martindale’s scheme. Many expected Beavers to be chosen earlier; apparently, NFL teams had questions about his translating skills. Martindale is one of the defensive coordinators who can find a role for Beavers’ skills, and I look forward to seeing how that transpires.

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