Over the past few months, we’ve been breaking down the Jets’ undrafted rookies. However, we’ve also been looking at some of the veteran additions they’ve made since training camp opened, continuing today with former Eagles defensive tackle Bruce Hector.
The 28-year old Hector was undrafted out of USF in 2018. He has played in 14 NFL games, starting one, and registered seven tackles, half a sack and one quarterback hit. He was also a member of the XFL champion Arlington Renegades earlier this year.
Hector was a three-star high school recruit who wasn’t regarded as one of USF’s main additions when he arrived with the Bulls. He redshirted the 2013 season and then barely played in 2014.
Over the next three seasons, he established himself as a productive starter, gradually improving his statistical production year on year as he played in 38 games. He had 19 tackles and five sacks in 2015, 33 tackles and six sacks in 2016 and 38 tackles and seven sacks in 2017. He was also voted to the all-AAC second team as his 13 tackles for loss placed him eighth in the conference.
After his redshirt senior year, Hector had a solid pro day workout and also played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl where he recorded a sack. However, he went unselected in the 2018 NFL draft.
The Philadelphia Eagles picked Hector up as an undrafted free agent and he made their roster out of camp, although he would ultimately spend half the season on their practice squad. In eight games, Hector recorded two tackles and a half sack while playing 82 defensive snaps.
Having been traded to the Cardinals, Hector failed to survive final cuts and ended up back with the Eagles in 2019. He was on the practice squad for most of the year but was promoted twice and played in three games, starting one. He had no tackles but was credited with a quarterback hit, then was also active for one postseason game, although he didn’t see action.
In 2020, Hector was cut by the Eagles in preseason and claimed by Carolina, who eventually put him on their practice squad. He was elevated for two games but did not see action.
In 2021, Hector was briefly a member of the Tennessee Titans, but ended up being signed by the Detroit Lions at the start of training camp. He ended up on their practice squad but was elevated for three games within which he recorded five tackles.
He spent 2022 on the Lions’ practice squad but did not see action, then opted to play in the XFL for the eventual league champion Arlington Renegades. Hector had 16 tackles and no sacks during the regular season but then added another seven tackles and a half sack in the postseason.
The Jets added Hector to their roster last week and he already made an impact in his first preseason game with them as he had a strip sack and fumble recovery.
Now let’s take a look at what Hector brings to the table, divided into categories.
Hector is a little undersized for a traditional defensive tackle role, although his length and hand size are adequate. His strength is also adequate, based on his 26 bench press reps at his pro day.
Hector is a good athlete, with his pro day numbers for 40-yard dash (4.98) and vertical jump (33.5 inches) both being good enough to place in the top three had he attended the 2018 scouting combine. His agility numbers were below average though.
Hector has primarily played as a 4-3 defensive tackle over the course of his career, although he has lined up all along the line at times. The Lions gave him some reps as a defensive end and he played some snaps as a nose tackle in college.
In high school, Hector played on both sides of the ball as he was also an offensive lineman.
While the most defensive snaps Hector has played in an NFL game is only 30, he has shown that he has the stamina to handle a starter’s workload, as he played over 600 snaps in his final year at USF. That included an impressive 83 snaps in the bowl game against Texas Tech. He averaged just over 30 snaps per game in the XFL with just one game where he played 40.
On the field, he’s a player who will work hard in the trenches and keep battling to the whistle.
Hector generated a lot of sacks in college. His 18 career sack total was actually the fifth-most in conference history at the time. His pressure rate was solid at that level, but has been lower in NFL and XFL action.
A lot of Hector’s production comes from working to collapse the pocket and then cleaning up when the quarterback steps up or tries to escape.
He made an impact in his first game as a Jet as he burst into the backfield to force a turnover on this strip sack.
Combined, he has registered four sacks in NFL preseason and regular season action and the XFL.
The concern with Hector is that his size makes it difficult for him to hold up at the point of attack when playing the run. It can be easy for offensive linemen to control him and prevent him from getting off blocks.
He generated some good production in college with his ability to shoot gaps and can move well laterally to stay in front of ball carriers and plug holes.
Here’s a nice play where he maintains outside leverage to stuff the runner when he bounces it outside, showing good strength to move the offensive lineman off his spot and disengage from his block.
Hector doesn’t have a wide arsenal of pass rush moves but shows some ability to use hand-fighting techniques to generate separation. On this play, he spins off a block nicely to get home.
In the trenches, pad level can sometimes be an issue for Hector, who often ends up on the ground.
Hector has mostly just rushed kicks as a special teamer but his experience as an offensive lineman has also seen him blocking on the punt and placekicking units.
In his final college season, he penetrated well to block this extra point attempt.
Hector doesn’t necessarily have a lot of range in pursuit but he can close explosively over a short distance to get to a ball carrier and is surprisingly good at changing direction to stay in front of a cutback.
In college he was extremely reliable in terms of finishing the tackle with just seven missed tackles in his career. However, at the pro level, he has been less efficient as a tackler.
It’s been extremely rare for Hector to drop into coverage and he’s never been targeted in coverage. He has batted down five passes during his college career and another one in preseason action, though.
Hector is a self-professed film junkie who says he benefits a lot from examining the tendencies of his opponents to try and gain an advantage.
Here’s a play where the offense tries to catch the defense out with a direct snap to the running back but Hector sniffs it out immediately to blow it up.
He jumped offside once last season in the XFL.
Hector is a good personality, who was considered a leader at USF where he was also awarded a grey jersey in practice as a reward for his work ethic on and off the field.
His on-field discipline has also been good with just two penalties in his college career and none at the NFL level.
Hector has so far managed to avoid injuries in his career. He has been a healthy scratch whenever he hasn’t played, other than a short stint on Covid-19 reserve.
Hector played both in 4-2-5 and 3-3 systems in college and his style of play seems well-suited to the attacking style Robert Saleh demands from his defensive linemen.
He has briefly been teammates with current Jets players Tim Boyle, Pita Taumoepenu and Dane Cruikshank.
Hector was a late addition to the Jets’ roster and one of the main reasons for signing him was that they just needed another warm body to contribute on the defensive interior. This gives Hector a good opportunity to put some things on film even if the chances of him cracking the Jets’ deep defensive line rotation are remote.
Despite being 28, the Jets might feel he has some untapped potential and opt to retain him on the practice squad. If that happens, then he could end up getting called upon down the stretch if there are injuries or opportunities to rest key players.