Having looked at each of the Jets’ draft picks in detail, we’ve now moved on to discuss each of their undrafted free agent signings. We continue today with a breakdown of Troy defensive lineman Trevon Sanders.
The 22-year old is listed at 6’2” and 327 pounds and was a all-Sun Belt conference first team selection in 2018, along with fellow Jets undrafted free agent signing MyQuon Stout. Sanders started 30 games in a four-year college career that saw him rack up 108 tackles and six sacks.
Sanders was a first team all-state, all-county and all-region selection in high school and headed to Troy as a two-star prospect.
He played in a rotational role as a freshman, recording 34 tackles, including one for a loss. However, in his second season, he started five times, including the last three games of the year. He ended his sophomore season with 22 tackles, including three for loss and the first 1.5 sacks of his career.
As a junior, Sanders started all 13 games and registered 22 tackles, including five for loss and a career-best 2.5 sacks. He was named to the all-Sun Belt second team.
As a senior he was a first team all-conference selection with 30 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. His 7.5 tackles for loss were a career high.
At the end of the season, Sanders was invited to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, during which he had a run stuff and a pressure. He wasn’t invited to the combine but had plenty of interest at his pro day.
The Jets signed Sanders as an undrafted free agent after he went unselected in the draft.
Now let’s take a look at what Sanders brings to the table, divided into categories.
On the face of it, you might think the 327-pound Sanders would be more ideally suited to a nose tackle role than the 304-pound Fred Jones, who we reviewed recently. However, interestingly, Jones actually weighed in slightly heavier (318) at his pro day than Sanders (317) did, despite the disparity in their listed weights.
Despite having shed those 10 pounds, Sanders’ pro day numbers were not as good as Jones, as he posted a 5.42 40-yard dash, 22 bench press reps, 89-inch broad jump and 8.1 three cone drill. Jones had posted a 5.32, 26 reps, a 100-inch broad jump and a 7.88 three cone drill. Sanders’ vertical and short shuttle were slightly better though.
Aside from his workout numbers, Sanders’ wingspan and hand size were measured at about average for the position.
Sanders played both as a nose tackle and as a conventional 4-3 defensive tackle, but the majority of his reps each year saw him over or shading the center.
Towards the end of his career he was campaigning for some offensive reps, but the coaching staff refused to indulge him.
Sanders showed an improved ability to handle a starter’s workload as his career progressed. Prior to 2018, he had only played more than 40 snaps in one game. However, in 2018, he played at least 40 six times in the first seven games, albeit that he only did it once in the last five.
Sanders has limited range due to his size, so isn’t much use when chasing the quarterback from the pocket, but generally gives a good effort in the trenches.
Sanders’ primary role was just to plug gaps and be as immovable as possible. He didn’t make a lot of splash plays but was capable of overpowering his man at the point of attack.
While his pursuit range is generally limited, Sanders can move well down the line of scrimmage and shows that ability to come downhill here.
There were times when he overbalanced and ended up on the floor or his opponents were able to use his momentum against him to take him out of plays.
Sanders didn’t generate a lot of pressure, although he did compile six sacks. Most of these were simply cleaning up as the quarterback stepped up but he did collapse the pocket nicely here.
As a pass rusher, he tended to have most success when just using a bull rush. If he tried anything else, he again lacked the agility and balance to make it work.
Nevertheless, he shows that he can get to the quarterback with a more direct approach. A clean initial strike here gives him the separation to duck under and gain the leverage advantage so he can get into the backfield.
In the trenches, Sanders shows an ability to get under the pads of his opponent and stand him up by extending his arms to leverage his way off the block.
However, his footwork can leave a lot to be desired. His base is too narrow here, leaving him unable to anchor and easy to drive off the line.
Sanders only averaged a couple of tackles per game at Troy, many of which just saw him bottling up a run. In space, backs can sometimes slip out of his grasp.
On the whole, though, he didn’t miss a lot of tackles, although he did have a high of five in 2018. He had no forced fumbles in his college career.
Sanders hardly ever dropped into coverage, but seemed to be alert to screen passes and would drop off the line to pursue downhill. That ability led indirectly to the only interception of his career.
He hasn’t batted down any passes at the line and could perhaps do a better job of getting his hands up when rushing the passer.
As noted, Sanders was quick to diagnose screen plays and has been praised for his meticulous preparation. In the trenches, he seems to display good vision, including on this play where he is tasked with two-gapping and keeps his head up so he can control his block and free himself up to fill whichever gap the back runs into.
Sanders didn’t contribute much on special teams with the Trojans, seeing action on the defensive line for extra points, field goals and occasionally punts. He didn’t make any impact plays.
He had some experience of returning kicks in high school, but again his campaigning to get back there in college fell on deaf ears.
Sanders is a popular player who is regarded as a jokester and developed into a role of being a veteran leader. He is a hard-working and determined character.
On the field, his discipline has been solid with just six penalties in four years. In 2018, he was flagged for holding on a screen pass and jumped offside twice.
Sanders missed just two games in his collegiate career; the season opener in 2016 and an early season game in 2018. The latter came because of a knee injury and he displayed some toughness by returning the following week against Nebraska and playing through the pain.
That was actually the first game we watched and we were ready to write him off as being heavy footed and lacking explosiveness despite the fact he still did a good job of space-stuffing inside. However, he showed more explosiveness and far better mobility in the other games, so that was likely because he was limited due to the knee.
As with Jones, Sanders’ best fit would be at the nose tackle position but it will be interesting if the pair find themselves on the third unit together with Stout in preseason, because they can’t all play nose tackle.
Sanders at least has the two-gapping experience in addition to taking some reps on the interior of a four-man front.
Sanders has some potential as a space-stuffing big man, but there are other, more versatile players on this roster who also show some promise in that area. It would be a shame if Sanders ended up forced into this role and therefore blocking some other players from showing their ability to play that same position.
He looks like a player that could get himself into better shape and improve his on-field athleticism in addition to making some technical improvements. If these things can happen then you can’t rule out him showing enough to earn a chance to stick around. However, there’s barely enough room for any young defensive linemen at the moment except maybe on the practice squad, so the competition could be fierce.