There are times when your friends want you to go someplace, like a movie that is really not your genre but you go because they are your friends. You get some average but expensive movie popcorn thinking that the popcorn will be the highlight of the evening. Then once the movie starts you find something unexpected, a compelling plot or an actor doing his best work and you are glad that you went with your friend.
The next day you think back to the previous night and you find even more aspects of the evening that were remarkable; you smile quietly to yourself, with the reminder that you almost missed out on something special. You think about calling your friend to thank him for the unexpected pleasure, but you don’t. Unexpected happiness is exactly that; unexpected, you don’t want to press your luck.
I was watching game film of Will Grier, QB West Virginia, last year and had an unexpected pleasure in LT Yodny Cajuste. Cajuste started 13 games in 2017 and was All-Big 12 2nd team tackle as voted by the coaches. He was coming off a lost season in 2016 when he had a season ending knee injury in the first game against Missouri. I thought he looked exceptionally good for a player coming off a major injury.
With the Jets in dire need for offensive line help and this being Cajuste’s 2nd season after surgery I think another look is prudent.
Yodny Cajuste 6’ 5” 321 lbs Redshirt SR #55
The first thing you notice about Cajuste is his size; he is a big man, but he is still slender though the hips. He looks similar to Tyron Smith LT for the Cowboys who has a slim waist for his massive frame. I think it is because of this that Cajuste has superior agility for a man of 321 lbs. Here he is against Virginia Tech.
He gets out of his stance quickly but slightly over sets, allowing the DE to squeeze by his left side. The left guard gets pushed back into the hole which makes the FB have to travel around him and he misses his block on the ILB. The RB is now delayed from getting through the hole and the ILB makes a hit; the DE grabs the ankles to stop the play for a one yard gain. Cajuste got a little too far in front of his toes which hurt his leverage, balance and power. Still, if the left guard made even an average block the play would have been a success 4-5 yard gain. This is also a trust block for Cajuste because he cannot see the play. He knows where the RB is supposed to go but RB’s don’t always go where the play is designed. Cajuste must trust that the RB will cut behind him and go in the opposite direction he is blocking.
This is the same play run a few minutes later, you will see the difference when the left guard doesn’t get blown up.
You see at the snap Cajuste is able to immediately jump into the gap between the DE & DT. He does a better job on the set and he is not too far out in front of his toes. He is now in great position to wall off the defender, plus he has much better balance. He also does a nice job of squaring his shoulders, bending his knees to increase his leverage, creating a huge barrier between the DE and the ball carrier. He also keeps his hands inside the defender, controlling him without holding. These two plays have completely contrasting results but you can see on both plays Cajuste is able to snap his hips around in an instant to get into position. That technique can be taught but the suddenness of his agility cannot.
This shows how one weak link on the offensive line can have catastrophic results for the entire offense. The O-line is the foundation to every NFL offense and tending to its upkeep is essential.
Here he is in more of a drive blocking mode
On this play Cajuste comes off the ball with good balance and is able to bend his knees to gain leverage. The extra leverage helps as the defender is jolted backwards and is torqued out of the play. The defender kind of bails on this play so you can’t see the power drive blocking that you would like but the block is successful. On the negative side you see Cajuste re-gather himself before making the block. That is a no-no in the NFL. He needs to come out of his stance and directly engage his opponent without the extra movement. Still you can see the power and movement skills that make Cajuste an intriguing prospect.
These next two clips are the same play from different angles to see the pass blocking of Cajuste.
There is a lot of good here in that the block is successful and maintained for a long duration, so long that the defender gives up and tries the rush from another direction. You can see Cajuste quickly get into his pass set with a wide base and hands inside his defender. The initial bull rush is stymied by a solid anchor and Cajuste is able to quite easily mirror the defender, controlling him all the way.
You can see from the back view Cajuste gets perfectly square to the defender, staying in front of him with short choppy steps. The defender does a poor job by letting Cajuste get to his chest. Cajuste takes advantage, showing his strength by pushing the defender away with his left hand. He does a nice job but he begins his set with a base that is too wide that will not allow him to use a long slide step should the defender try and race around his left side. These are small technical traits that should be be addressed by his O-line coach in the NFL.
Cajuste has an NFL ready body with good power in his upper body and average lower body power. He can enhance his power by using better lean when drive blocking. He has very good feet that show plus quickness. He has the ability to make reach blocks and get to the second level with ease. His hands are strong. He can sustain blocks once he has a hold on his opponent. He shows a good punch that halts defenders in their tracks and he is usually on target with his blows. He has good balance especially for a player who is slightly top heavy, but that upper body gives him the ability to absorb bull rushes and pure power that defensive linemen will try to beat him with.
He shows a good recognition of twists and stunts. On blitzes he will block the correct player to protect the inside lane. He has the ability to play in any blocking scheme but will probably be best suited in a power/gap system. He can usually block well in space but is better at sealing rather than pursuing.
In pass protection he has ample size with the type of length that teams look for. He has the skill set to play the left tackle position in the NFL early in his career. He has a nasty side to him that his O-line coach will love and he likes to impose his will on his opponents.
There are no glaring negative traits, but Cajuste will need to adjust his technique to be successful at the next level. That being said, all quality tackle prospects must develop all aspects of their games to be even an average player in the NFL. With the level of sophistication and the athletic ability NFL defensive linemen possess, an offensive tackle must have a high level of technical skill to compete. NFL DE’s are smaller than the LT they face and are quicker, faster and more agile than their opponents. They develop a wide variety of moves, so a quality tackle must be able to adjust to moves, compensate quickly and think on his feet.
Cajuste will need to work on his slide step to ensure he can cover the edge against some of the Joey Bosa’s of the world. He will need to work on balance issues; at times he can get too far over his feet. He will need to work in the weight room to enhance his lower body to move some of the behemoths in the NFL. His technique in all aspects of his game will need to be improved but he has the skill level to compete now.
I showed you clips from 2017 to see where Cajuste was at last year. Hopefully I will get you more recent footage (I only have a little) well before the NFL draft. Cajuste has improved this year but we will need to see him at the NFL Combine or Senior Bowl to get a better feeling for where he will be drafted. I currently have a low 1st round grade on him but I am not nearly finished with my assessment.
Let me know what you think of Cajuste.