Last weekend, after Darron Lee’s suspension was announced, the Jets added edge defender Bronson Kaufusi to their active roster for the second time this season. He was previously on the roster for a few days earlier in the year but did not play. Kaufusi was also inactive in Sunday’s game against the Bills. Nevertheless, we’re going to take a look at his strengths and weaknesses.
The 27-year old Kaufusi is listed at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds and was a third round pick out of BYU in 2016. However, he’s only played in three NFL regular season games and recorded just five tackles. He was released in final cuts by the Ravens back in September and has spent most of the season on the Jets’ practice squad.
Kaufusi was a productive player over four seasons at BYU, racking up 175 tackles and 25.5 sacks. He had a career year as a senior with 64 tackles, 11 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
After attending the senior bowl and scouting combine, Kaufusi was projected as a day two pick in the 2016 draft and was eventually selected early in the third round by the Ravens.
Unfortunately, he spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve and struggled for opportunities in his second year where he was mostly a healthy scratch. He started one game, but only played in two others and racked up just five tackles.
A position change in camp in 2018 showed some initial promise, but he ultimately wasn’t able to make the team and the Jets were able to add him to their practice squad. They activated him for one game in October, but he was inactive and then got released and signed back to the practice squad until last weekend.
Let’s move onto some further analysis of what Kaufusi brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Kaufusi has outstanding length, but doesn’t have an especially bulky frame which means he is a bit of a tweener at the NFL level.
At the combine, he posted a solid 25 bench press reps and good agility numbers, but his speed (4.87 40-yard dash) and explosiveness numbers were underwhelming.
However, on film he has shown some signs of explosiveness and good closing speed.
Kaufusi was a defensive end for his first two years at BYU but then lost weight in an effort to convert to linebacker. That reportedly didn’t go too well, so he added more weight and mostly went back to defensive end in his senior year, although he still dropped into coverage from time to time.
He’s struggled to establish a position at the NFL level too, as he was mostly a defensive end in his first two years, but played primarily as an outside linebacker in preseason this year.
Kaufusi’s motor is regarded as one of his best traits. He plays hard, works to the whistle and chases plays down. A lot of his production, especially as a pass rusher, came on effort plays. Kaufusi also played on the basketball team at BYU and has said this helped his conditioning.
Here’s an example of him working hard to chase down the quarterback for a preseason sack.
Kaufusi has been productive against the run in the past, grading out particuarly well in his senior year. He had 18 tackles for loss against the run in his college career, including eight as a senior.
As you might imagine, Kaufusi’s effectiveness in the running game is affected by where he lines up. He can have issues holding up at the point of attack against offensive linemen, but is able to overpower tight ends on the edge. However, he can be exposed in space.
Here’s an example of him penetrating upfield to set the edge and then shedding the block to make the play himself.
As you’d expect based on what was stated above, Kaufusi can contribute on effort plays in pursuit or crashing downhill from the backside.
Kaufusi posted some good sack numbers in college and has generated pressure at a reasonable rate in his NFL preseason opportunities.
While he generates a lot of this pressure through sheer effort and hustle, he has shown an ability to get past blockers with an arm-over move and he gets out of his stance quickly enough to beat the tackle to a spot and beat him on the outside from time to time. He seems to do this more effectively with his hands in the dirt.
What Kaufusi lacks is the ability to make a sharp turn coming around the corner to get to the quarterback instantly or to prevent him from being able to step up and avoid being sacked. However, his long arms are an asset when corralling opposing passers.
Here, he demonstrates that he can also bring some power on a bull rush that leads to a sack.
Kaufusi actually measured at 6-foot-6½ at the scouting combine and, like many players of that size, pad level can be an issue for him. Here’s an example of the tackle easily creating a lane because Kaufusi’s pad level is too high and he’s unable to stand his ground.
Kaufusi’s hand techniques are good and he’s worked hard at improving his footwork - again benefiting from his basketball experience.
Kaufusi is a productive tackler who is good at using his long arms to wrap up ball carriers securely to haul them to the ground. He doesn’t tend to miss many tackles unless it’s a situation where the ball carrier is out of his reach.
However, he does have a tendency to overrun plays or take bad angles from time to time and can struggle to recover in these situations.
Kaufusi had two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and 14 passes defensed at BYU, although most of those passes defensed came from batting passes down at the line. That’s something he’s also done a couple of times in preseason action.
When he converted to linebacker in his junior year, he would drop into coverage occasionally and was exploited from time to time. However, this has at least prepared him for that role at the NFL level, where he’s sometimes dropped into a short zone or followed a back out into the flat. In preseason action, he made a nice play to tackle a slot receiver for a short gain on a drag route but also gave up this first down.
Kaufusi is a coach’s son and is regarded as a smart player who works hard on preparation and knows his assignments. Playing multiple positions also helps him in this regard.
Here’s an example of Kaufusi executing well on a play that many Jets defenders have messed up on this season.
Kaufusi hasn’t made much impact on special teams at the NFL level yet, although he has played on multiple units. In college, he blocked a field goal and a punt and also had an 18-yard punt return.
Kaufusi is a hard worker, who is said to love football even though he has a quiet and polite demeanor. He hasn’t committed any penalties at the NFL level and only had one in each of his last two seasons at college.
Kaufusi was healthy throughout his college career, despite having been injured as a high school senior. However, he suffered a broken ankle in training camp and missed his entire rookie season. Although he missed 13 games in 2017, these were all as a healthy scratch.
As noted, Kaufusi has played both as an end and an outside linebacker in Baltimore so it will be interesting to see how the Jets use him. A role similar to the one played by Kony Ealy last year could work for him. Of course, he might end up playing in a different system next season anyway.
Kaufusi’s career has been a disappointment so far and he might not get many chances to start turning things around in what remains of the 2018 season.
The fact they added him to the roster presumably means that the Jets wanted to get a look at Kaufusi in action before the season was over, although maybe they just identified him as the most likely player from their practice squad to get poached by someone else.
With Jordan Jenkins, Frankie Luvu, Brandon Copeland, Tarell Basham and Jeremiah Attaochu all ahead of him, it might be difficult to get much playing time on the edge and there’s not much room on the defensive line either. Ultimately, this might be an addition which is geared towards him being in the mix for a role in camp next year.