The first thing you notice about Montez Sweat is his size. He is 6’6” with a lean, muscular build (245 lbs) and long arms which help him immensely to keep offensive linemen from grasping onto his upper torso. He is one of the most feared edge rushers in the nation. Sweat led the SEC in sacks (11) and TFL (16) in 2017. He currently leads the SEC in Sacks (8) and TFL (11) with 24 total tackles in 6 games from primarily a DE position.
Sweat is a little older than most prospects. He played in 1 game for Michigan State in 2014 before we was suspended for the season by Mark Dantonio for unspecified violations of team rules. He was still at Michigan State in 2015 when Dantonio defined Sweat’s status as “in limbo.” Thisprompted Sweat to leave the team. Since it was too late to enroll at a Division I school, he transferred to Copiah -Lincoln CC in Mississippi where he starred.
He moved on to Mississippi State for his junior year. He has played as a DE in a 4-3 alignment and as an OLB in a 3-4. He is very agile for a tall man with excellent body control and deceptive power. He could have left for the NFL in the 2018 Draft but wanted to show he wasn’t a one year wonder and that his personal problems were a thing of the past.
Sweat does get some “tweener” concerns because of his distinctive size. He is 6’6” which is great for a DE, but he weighs under 250 lbs which is a concern for his ability to hold the edge in the NFL. His athleticism is great for a tall man, but he would have trouble playing in space because a man as tall he is will struggle to open his hips. You just can’t be as quick as someone who is smaller and as athletic as you. He would be fine in zone coverage, but if you want him to cover RBs out of the backfield one-on-one he would be a liability. Teams would attack him unmercifully.
Jim Nag,y who is the executive director of the Senior Bowl, went to Starkville, Mississippi, and came away very impressed with Sweat. He said, “he appears to have grown up” since his time at Michigan State. Nagy said, “The coaches say he is doing all the right things on and off the field, but seeing him work with the younger defensive linemen at practice shows me he is maturing.”
Sweat is definitely a top prospect in the draft. He is a first round talent who will go quickly off the board on day one. His “tweener” concerns may be just coach speak meaning. “We really want this guy.” His size gives him versatility, and his athleticism will allow a defensive coordinator to move him all over the field.
Lets take a look at some video...
On this play Sweat is going against a possible top ten 2019 NFL Draft pick in OT Greg Little of Mississippi. He shows good speed off the snap, which Little counters by getting to his slide step quickly and cutting off Sweat. By doing so, Little is a little high and top heavy in his set. Sweat uses one of his best attributes, long arms. He attacks Little high with his arms, and he is so far away that Little can’t get to Sweat’s body to control him. Little is now off balance and Sweat uses that advantage to go around him. Again he uses his length to corral the QB.
On this play he he uses his speed, power and quickness to beat a left tackle quickly and decisively. Sweat has excellent upper body strength, especially for a man with such long arms. He has an exceptional ability for a tall man to gain leverage on a tackle.
Look here. Sweat is 6’6” but he gets under the pads of the 6’ 3” 320 lbs LT. You see his upper torso bounce back when he is contacted. Sweat uses this momentary lack of balance to go right around the LT all in one motion. He does this almost effortlessly so it is a move he has in his back pocket that he could use at any time.
This next clip shows how well Sweat uses his length to keep a LT away from his chest. He also is smart enough to stop his assault when he is going past the QB, and he doubles back. This confuses the LT and Sweat makes a jarring hit on the QB.
Once he passes the QB he uses a strong “arm over” move as he comes back to the QB. This move insures he breaks away from the LT and gives him a straight line to the sack. The LT makes a futile attempt to grab and hold him, but Sweat is too far away.
Arkansas had one of the best O-lines in the SEC in 2017, but against Sweat they used a FB to try and chip him on the way to his wheel route. You can see the chip does little and the 6’6” 323 lbs LT is no match for Sweat.
Again you can see that Sweat stops once he feels he is passing the QB vertically. He stops. which confuses the LT. and he doubles back for the sack. One thing I noticed about Sweat is he never goes for the big hit. You can see here he actually engulfs the QB and almost sets him to the ground which is a very secure tackle. Too many times you see edge rushers out of control and only graze the QB as they go by.
Another thing I have noticed about Sweat is that he always secures the edge of the line first before he goes after the QB. He is fast but also patient to see what the play is before he goes crazy rushing the QB. Offensive coordinators will watch for this and use a screen or a sweep when they think the DE is crashing down too hard.
This next clip is two plays that happened in succession..
On the first play he is facing a FB who has come over to block Sweat but gives little resistance to him. He still waits to see whether the back is going out for a pass but then quickly beats him for a sack. The next play it is now 3rd and 18 and Sweat still makes sure he holds the edge before rushing the passer. Most (if not all) college DEs would have been ravenous for another sack after just getting one and leave their responsibilities for someone else; Sweat is a player who does his job. Now some DCs might want him to go all out to rush the passer, which he can do, but it is nice to see a player who shows restraint when needed.
The last three clips are against Dalton Risner #71 of Kansas State, who is one of my favorite offensive linemen in the draft. Risner was an outstanding center as a true freshman and has been moved outside to a tackle position because of team needs. I think Risner’s true abilities are inside, and I would love to see him as the Jets’ center next year.
In this first clip Risner is playing RT. Sweat comes off the ball hard and gets under Risner (6’5” 300 lbs) lifting him off the ground. The RB falls for a two yard gain because Sweat through the RT back into the hole. That was impressive.
This next clip is a technique I have mentioned a few times before. This is the push-pull method of pass rushing. It can work well at times. Sweat gets a hit on the QB, although the pass is dumped to a wide open RB who gets the first down.
The technique is fairly simple. The DE rushes the RT. As he gets to him, he grabs the jersey of the RT. Then in almost the same motion he pulls the RT forward, which gets him off balance, and scampers to the QB. This is a fairly nuanced move for a junior DE in college; it shows he is working in the offseason to manufacture different ways to get to the QB.
This last clip is a sack but it is not Risner’s fault.
Sweat uses a hard outside rush, and Risner is more than happy to keep pushing him by the QB. Sweat stops as he realizes he is going to go past the QB and spins back towards the inside. Risner has this pretty much covered, but the QB tries to escape a very nice pocket and runs himself into a sack. You can see the pocket is very well formed when the QB gets happy feet and wants to escape. The QB also had a crosser who was wide open but he ran himself (scared) into a sack. This sack wasn’t Risner’s fault. He did exactly what he was suppose to do. If the QB had stayed in the pocket, he was safe for another few seconds.
Sweat won SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors for this game. He totaled 3 QB pressures, two hits and a sack. He also garnered the FWAA’s Bednarik Award in his team’s 23-9 win against Auburn. He had 3 sacks, a forced fumble and 2 QB hurries in that game.
If you get a chance to watch the game ,you will be watching a top five edge rusher in the Draft, no doubt. If you can’t watch it, DVR it. Sweat will not sack the QB or hit him every time. Great edge rushers put pressure on a QB (sack, hit or hurry) about 15-20% of the time. Von Miller had 18.5 sacks one year but rushed the QB on over 600 occasions. You have to watch everything he does. Watch the way he holds the edge, how he collapses the pocket, and how he works with his defense.
Sweat is a player with talent, and I was surprised and delighted that he returned to school this year and refine his craft. He already was decent technically in his approach, and another year will only enhance that. Edge rushers are hard to find so we will see how this plays out. I heard Mike Maccagnan was interested in Chandler Jones (possibly). This kid is similar.
Another player to watch is the center for Mississippi State, Elgton Jenkins. He is in my top 5 center prospects in the 2019 Draft. He has 21 starts with 13 at center and 5 at LT. He also was on the academic honor roll award (twice).
The Mississippi State Bulldogs will be going against LSU at 7:00 pm EST on ESPN on Saturday.
Watch the game and tell me what you think....