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Scouting Jets UDFA edge defender Bryce Huff

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Cotton Bowl Classic - Memphis v Penn State Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the next few months, we’ll be providing an in-depth scouting report for each of the Jets’ undrafted free agents. We begin today with edge rusher Bryce Huff.

Huff, who went to college at Memphis, is listed at 6’1” and 254 pounds and was a two-time all-AAC second rounder. He racked up 18 sacks over the past three seasons, including 9.5 in 2018.

Background

Huff was an all-state linebacker as a high school senior in Alabama. He was originally going to attend South Alabama, but then de-committed and went to Memphis instead.

As a freshman, Huff saw action as a rotational backup and special teamer, although he was only credited with five total tackles and five pressures.

His role increased in his sophomore year and he made the first three starts of his career. He ended the season with 30 tackles including five for loss of which two were sacks.

As a junior, Huff’s role continued to increase. He started eight games and led the team with 9.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Huff was voted to the all-AAC second team at the end of the season.

In his senior year, Huff was again an all-AAC second-teamer, although he only had 6.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. He did set a career mark with 52 tackles though and was among the nation’s leaders in total pressures. While he started all 14 games, Huff actually played fewer snaps than he had the previous year.

Huff wasn’t invited to the scouting combine but helped boost his stock with an impressive showing at the East West Shrine Game.

The Jets signed him as a priority undrafted free agent after the draft, guaranteeing him $90,000 which was the highest guaranteed sum for any of this year’s Jets undrafted rookie signings.

Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Huff brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.

Measurables/Athleticism

Huff displays some good athletic ability on film but we cannot quantify this because he wasn’t invited to the scouting combine.

He has bulked up well since being an undersized high school recruit but lacks ideal length with his arm length having been measured at 31.75 inches at the East West Shrine Game. That would put him in the bottom five percent of all edge defenders to attend the combine.

Usage

In his first three seasons, Huff primarily lined up as an outside linebacker, although he would occasionally play off the ball, drop off to pick up a receiver in the slot or put his hand in the dirt.

In his senior season, Huff officially moved to defensive line, although he still played a lot of reps while standing up. He dropped into coverage a lot less though.

When originally recruited, Huff was viewed as an inside linebacker in some places and there are still analysts who consider that could end up being his NFL position, where his length would be less of an issue.

Motor

Huff describes himself as relentless and you can see some of this in his effort on film. He will keep working to the football to help in clean-up and his effort in pursuit is apparent on plays like this one.

He showed the capability to handle a starter’s workload in college, playing over 750 snaps in each of his last two seasons.

Run defense

Huff has been a productive run defender, especially over the last two years, and has shown development in that area.

One of Huff’s best attributes is his quickness, which will see him blow up plays by shooting gaps or exploding into the backfield unblocked.

An area of concern would be how well he might hold up in the trenches at the NFL level. There were examples of plays where he was dominated at the point of attack and he struggled to hold up against double teams. At the NFL level, he might be better equipped to set the edge against a tight end than on the defensive line.

Huff does display some good awareness in the running game though. He takes on the block well here and disengages at the perfect time to make the play.

Unfortunately, because his arms are so short, that may mean he struggles to get off blocks at times.

Pass rush

Huff’s statistical production as a pass rusher speaks for itself. He racked up 64 total pressures in 2019, placing him in the top five edge rushers in the nation according to Pro Football Focus. However, there are some questions over the competition level he faced.

It would have been interesting to see how he would have fared again Josh Jones from Houston but Jones missed this year’s Memphis-Houston clash. In the previous year, they matched up extensively but Jones didn’t give up a pressure. Huff did have a couple of good reps against a potential NFL prospect in Will Fries from Penn State in the Tigers’ bowl game, though.

Based perhaps mostly off highlight reels, some fans and draft analysts have describe Huff as a “bendy” pass rusher. It’s true he does show an ability to dip and bend to get around the edge and force the quarterback to step up.

However, more extensive research seems to indicate that he’s still a bit out of control coming off the edge and will often overshoot the quarterback because he can be too easily re-directed.

This may affect his ability to be a finisher at the NFL level if he can’t improve on that aspect. It could also explain why nobody in the top 20 for pressures last year had fewer sacks than him. However, it is encouraging that he had a better sack count in his junior year.

Technique

Huff does bring some promising technique in terms of some of his pass rush moves. For example, check out the footwork on this jab-step as he blows by the left tackle on an inside move.

The technique on this move is impressive too. He shoots his hands in an effort to get the right tackle to brace for the bull rush, but Huff’s upfield momentum continues so he is able to beat his man to a spot and gain an outside leverage advantage, which he converts by transitioning smoothly to a rip move.

Huff will also try to use a spin move at times, but didn’t seem to have much success with that particular move.

His lack of length could be a detriment to his ability to beat some of the NFL’s long-armed pass protectors, but he does use his hands quite well in an effort to mitigate this.

Tackling

Huff had some good production as a tackler with over 100 tackles over his last two seasons. He seems to close well on the ball, hit hard and wrap up securely.

He hasn’t had major issues with missed tackles, as seven is the most he’s had in any season. However, he will tend to overpursue at times.

This is a similar issue to what we see from Huff when rushing off the edge as he perhaps struggles to break down or change direction.

Coverage

Huff didn’t drop into coverage very often in 2019 but did it from time to time in his first three seasons. This often just required him to drop into a shallow zone near the line of scrimmage and he did a solid job of limiting yardage on short passes in 2018.

He’s been credited with three pass-breakups in his career, two of which saw him bat the ball down at the line. On this play, he drops off rather than going after the quarterback and gets his hands up to force the turnover on downs.

Instincts/Intelligence

Huff seems to read the action quite well in terms of diagnosing when he can shoot a gap or keeping his eyes up when engaged in the trenches. However, he can be caught unaware by a down block at times.

On this play he finds himself isolated on the outside and ends up getting caught on a block, which allows the receiver to go down the sideline for a long touchdown.

His instincts in coverage are perhaps somewhat lacking. On this play, he let the fullback leak in behind him for a big gain as he was caught peeking into the backfield.

Huff only had five penalties in his college career. Both his 2019 penalties were for jumping offside.

He was one of several Memphis players awarded a “Tiger Scholar” award for his academic achievements last season.

Special teams

Huff has seen plenty of action on special teams, primarily as a blocker on the kick return unit, which saw some decent success with him in that role. Tony Pollard returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns in Huff’s first three seasons.

He has seen limited action in kick coverage, although he wasn’t credited with a tackle. He did field two kickoffs and returned them for 15 and six yards, though.

Attitude/Demeanor

Huff is regarded as a player with a good work ethic, who apparently developed into a leader during his career at Memphis, where the coaching staff preached accountability.

Apparently, he spent a lot of time refining his technique over the past two seasons, notably in terms of improving his get-off.

He doesn’t appear to have any red flags in terms of off-field issues or anything like that.

Injuries

Huff didn’t deal with many injury issues at Memphis, as he played in 52 games during his career. However, he did miss the 2017 bowl game with an undisclosed injury.

Scheme Fit

Within the Jets’ system Huff will fight for a role as an edge defender and could perhaps get in the mix for a situational pass rush role.

As noted, there are some analysts that feel Huff could try his hand at becoming an inside linebacker if he doesn’t make it as an edge rusher, but that would probably be a few years down the road.

He has been a teammate of one current Jets player. In his freshman year at Memphis, Arthur Maulet was in his senior year and starting at cornerback.

Conclusions

Huff is probably the undrafted free agent who has received the most attention this offseason and he does bring some enticing attributes to the table in terms of his production, explosiveness and pass rushing technique.

However, his lack of length is a concern, as is the jump in competition. He’ll also need to show he can hold up at the point of attack and stay in control when rushing around the corner.

He does play a position whereby it will be easy to make an early impression and that seems to have some roles up for grabs. Hopefully the truncated offseason will not prevent Huff and the other undrafted rookies from getting a chance to turn some heads.