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Scouting Jets offensive lineman Conor McDermott

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NFL: AUG 29 Preseason - Vikings at Bills Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the regular season underway, we’re going to be looking at the players the Jets have added since cutdown day, continuing today with Conor McDermott.

The 26-year old offensive tackle is listed at 6’8” and 305 pounds and was a sixth round pick out of UCLA in 2017. He has played in eight NFL games, all with the Buffalo Bills, but has yet to make his first NFL start.

Background

McDermott, who also had a background in basketball, was a two-star recruit out of high school and followed his older brother to UCLA in 2012 after a year at a prep school in Connecticut.

Having redshirted his freshman season, McDermott contributed in a reserve role in 2013 and saw time as an extra tight end in the first half of the 2014 season. He started the final seven games of 2014 and was a full-time starter in his last two seasons, earning 2nd-team all-PAC-12 honors in his senior year.

McDermott attended the senior bowl and the scouting combine during the pre-draft process and was a projected mid-to-late round pick. New England drafted him in the sixth round, but he failed to make their final roster and was released in final cuts.

Buffalo claimed him off waivers and kept him on their active roster for the next two seasons, although he only played one offensive snap as a rookie. In his second year he was said to be in the mix for the starting role at right tackle but failed to win the job and ended up playing just four snaps in the first 15 games before seeing action on 18 snaps at the end of the season finale.

This offseason, the Bills signed a handful of offensive linemen with starting experience so McDermott’s roster chances were not looking good. However, he did start off the year on the 53-man roster. He was waived earlier this month and claimed by the Jets, although he hasn’t been active for a game with them yet.

Now let’s take a look at what McDermott brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

McDermott is extremely tall but lacks bulk. He got up to 312 pounds at his pro day, but has apparently struggled to keep weight on. His lack of functional strength was regarded as one of his main weaknesses entering the league, so he’ll need to prove he’s developed in that area to get a chance with the Jets. McDermott did post 22 bench press reps at his pro day.

At the combine, McDermott showcased some decent athleticism with a 5.18 in the 40-yard dash and above average explosiveness numbers. His agility numbers were outstanding, although his film does show that he can be slow to react and change directions at times.

McDermott was a solid basketball player in high school and routinely impressed with his athleticism on the court.

Usage

McDermott primarily played as a left tackle at UCLA, other than a few snaps here and there on the right and his occasional role as a jumbo package tight end earlier on in his career.

At the NFL level, he’s worked on both sides. With New England in 2017, he played on the right in preseason, but then played on the left in preseason with the Bills in 2018. Having played some right tackle in the season finale that year, he played extensively at both tackle positions in preseason this year.

McDermott has not played inside at the college or pro level and his lack of bulk would probably make him not ideally suited to such a role.

Pass Blocking

McDermott posted excellent pass protection numbers at UCLA, as he gave up less than 20 pressures in each of his three years as a starter, although he did surrender eight sacks.

Heading into his senior year, McDermott was thought by some to be a potential first round pick. However, that soon changed when he faced Myles Garrett on the opening day of the 2016 season. Although Garrett only registered three tackles and one sack, he totaled 11 pressures, most of which saw him beat McDermott.

The problem for McDermott in that game was that Garrett was too strong for him, constantly driving him back off his spot to set up a counter move of some kind. That’s something that has also been an issue for him at the NFL level.

Nevertheless, despite his struggles against Garrett, McDermott handled the rest of his competition well that season, allowing less than one pressure per game the rest of the way.

Unfortunately, doubts resurfaced about his ability to hold up against NFL-level pass rushers as McDermott struggled in pass protection at the senior bowl, giving up two sacks including one to current New England Patriot Derek Rivers. On this occasion each of those sacks came from speed off the edge and that’s been an issue for him at the NFL level too.

However, he is perhaps showing some development in that area. He didn’t give up any pressure in the season finale last year and held up well in this year’s preseason with no sacks and just two pressures surrendered. He had previously given up a sack in each of his first two preseasons.

McDermott has decent length and will stay balanced in his sets, as long as he doesn’t have to deal with a power move. Here he does well to repel an attempted spin move and counter.

Run Blocking

In college, McDermott had some dominant play in the running game, although scouts were skeptical as to whether he would be able to replicate this at the NFL level or if that dominance was just a product of being so much bigger than most of the players he was tasked with blocking.

He does use his size well, extending his long arms in the running game and showing an ability to move his feet to reset his angle and stay on a block.

One obvious concern is pad level, but McDermott does show good enough feet and hand placement to convert a leverage advantage into an upfield surge and has generally fared quite well in the running game in preseason and his limited regular season action.

One thing he’s shown is an ability to work well in combination with his teammates - something the Jets as a group have been struggling with. On this play, the guard sets him up to be able to drive his man downfield, before peeling off to the second level.

By contrast, on this play, McDermott and the right guard drive the defensive tackle off the line with a combo block before this time McDermott is the one who peels off to the second level.

McDermott also did a good job on this short yardage play, as he controls his man at the point of attack. The play still fails due to poor blocking elsewhere but you can see how McDermott is able to move his man off his spot and that was in regular season action, not against some third-stringer in a preseason game.

In terms of weaknesses, McDermott did have a few plays where he allowed his man to fight off the block to get in on the stop and can be inconsistent in terms of finding and latching onto a target in space.

Screen Blocking

Getting out in front of a screen pass isn’t something McDermott has been able to showcase so far in his limited NFL experience. In addition, at UCLA, the screens they ran would typically require the tackles to funnel pass rushers outside and up the field so he didn’t get a chance to do this in college either.

He is athletic enough to make blocks on the move, but when he does he can be inconsistent in terms of squaring up his block, as noted, and can tend to lunge after his target.

Footwork/Technique

McDermott’s technique needs some cleaning up, mostly in pass protection. While his footwork is generally good, he can at times be slow to react to quickness or changes of direction, meaning he can’t get across in time and has to rely on his reach to try and slow the pass rusher down.

There are also times when he can be slow-footed getting into his stance, which makes him susceptible to speed off the edge. This particular play came as he was called into emergency action due to an injury with two plays left in the game, so may have been a case of him not being completed warmed up and ready to go.

Penalties

McDermott has been reasonably disciplined on the field over the years, with 13 penalties in his 32 starts at UCLA. He only had four in his senior year.

At the NFL level, he’s had two false starts and two holding penalties in three preseason campaigns. One of the holding penalties came as he initially kicked his man out but then the run got bounced to the outside and he couldn’t resist hauling his man down by the waist.

Special Teams

McDermott hasn’t contributed on special teams other than being a blocker on the placekicking unit. However, he has some experience as a long snapper and his brother Kevin was an NFL long snapper with the Vikings until last season so perhaps that’s something he could handle in an emergency if he happened to be active.

Instincts/Intelligence

UCLA’s blocking schemes are not exactly straightforward so McDermott has shown some abilities to make a variety of different types of blocks, pass off assignments and react to the opposition.

However, on this play in preseason, he blocked down when he perhaps should have been more alert to the threat of pressure coming unblocked off the edge.

Here’s a play which shows him having to think on the fly, as he initially has nobody to block, but then finds someone to create a seam for the runner to get some decent yardage.

Attitude

McDermott is considered to be a player with good character, as he was described by his college coach as mature, calm and a respected leader.

He had to work hard to become an offensive tackle, having been a 235-pounder when he first took the practice field with the Bruins.

Injuries

McDermott hasn’t missed any time through injuries over the course of his career so far. He was a healthy scratch in 27 of 35 games while with the Bills, though.

He did miss some time in preseason with a concussion and also suffered a dislocated shoulder playing basketball right before his college career began.

Scheme Fit

As noted, McDermott played in a varied scheme with the Bruins and has shown an ability to block on the move so he should fit in with the Jets, assuming the current system remains in place.

Conclusions

McDermott was regarded as a project player with a high upside when he was drafted, but New England gave up on him very early and the Bills gave him more than two years before also pulling the plug. However, they must have liked something about his potential to carry McDermott on the active roster for that long.

McDermott is probably still not ready to contribute much at this stage of his career and it would be surprising to see him get much playing time in 2019 unless there are a series of injuries. However, he’ll have a year left on his rookie deal at the end of the season so the Jets have the rest of this season and next year’s camp to see if he’s on the verge of developing into a potential swing tackle.