Darrian Beavers film study: LB offers Giants useful skills, with limitations

The New York Giants selected Cincinnati linebacker Darrian Beavers as their final draft pick at no. 182 in the Sixth Round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Beavers is a shade under 6’4, weighing 237 pounds. He provided versatility for Mike Tresell’s Bearcats defense in 2021; He aligned 716 times in the box, 141 times at EDGE, and 32 times as an overhang defender.

Beavers were recruited as a safety out of Colerain High School in Cincinnati. He signed with UCONN and played two seasons for the Huskies before transferring to the Bearcats in 2019. He was predominantly used as an edge rusher at UCONN and led UCONN in 2018 with 4.0 sacks.

The Beavers were a crucial part of the Bearcats’ defense after his transfer. In 2021, he finished with 102 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 21 pressures, 53 STOPs, one pick, two passes defended, and two forced fumbles. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and finished first-team All-Conference.

Beavers’ RAS and Mock Draftable spider chart suggest an excellent athlete with great size. While his size is fine, his athletic ability is in question – the play speed does not match the testing speed. He’s a little stiff, and his range is questionable, but that doesn’t mean he can’t execute in a well-defined role within Wink Martindale’s system.

Martindale organizers match defensive packages to match offensive opponents He gets the most out of the players dressed, and the Beavers – despite his sub-optimal play speed – will have an impact if he can make the final 53-man roster. Let’s get into his film and see why.

[Darrian Beavers is No. 0]

Taking on blocks

[LB, left side]

The Beavers executes his run will fit this play, but I want to highlight the pop beavers provided to the center. The Beavers see the running back open to his side out of the pistol formation. Beavers head downhill and lowerers his inside shoulder, and explodes through the center. Just look at the center go backwards. The Beavers separated and helped his teammates make a tackle. I wanted to start with this play to show the amount of power beavers can generate when in a phone booth.

[LB on LOS, left side]

Beavers are tasked to crash the C-gap as within the 5-technique slants. The tight end steps down and attempts to wash the Beavers down the line of scrimmage, but the linebacker easily discards the block and makes the tackle.

[LB, just in screen on left]

The guard climbs and locates the Beavers, but the linebacker does a great job stacking and shedding while maintaining the vision of the running back. Beavers do a good job absorbing contact, lowering his base, using his length, and then separating. He typically does not get removed from his run responsibility by a single blocker.

[LB, left of screen]

I appreciate Beavers’ ability to hold his ground. The tackle blocks down and turns to locate and push the Beavers out of the three-hole, but the Beavers parks itself right off the line of scrimmage, and the tackle can’t move him. The rest of his teammates rally and make the tackle.

[LB, left of screen]

The guard is uncovered with easy access to climb and take on beavers in space. After the mesh point, the running back has a two-way go, with the Beavers acting as fork in the road. The Beavers parks themselves with a low base in the middle of the two-hole. His positioning forces try to hit the running back and hit the four-hole outside the guard’s block; The edge defender squeezes while the Beavers shades in that direction and the run is stopped.

[LB, left of screen]

The center attempts to drive the Beavers backward. He displaces him for a second but can’t turn him; Beavers anchors down well before locking the running back and making the tackle. Having his chest accessed, the Beavers were still able to gain control of the lineman, showing excellent upper-body strength and instincts to find the running back.

Eye-discipline

Beavers do a good job in the box, trusting their eyes and sifting through trash in confined spaces.

[LB, right of screen]

Alabama runs outside the zone, and Evan Neal (73) has the reach and locks the Beavers at the second level. The Beavers do a really good job dipping his outside shoulder and getting low, showing solid flexibility when going forward to avoid Neal’s contact. The Beavers quickly recollects his balance, fights through contact with the backside guard, goes over the top of the center’s block, and helps make tackle down the line of scrimmage. This is an excellent play that displays Beavers’ reactionary quickness and immediate spatial awareness.

[LB, left of screen]

The Beavers are on the SAM this play side run from Alabama. Both Neal and the center climb in his direction from the outside and inside as the guard handles the 4-technique. Beavers do a good job of not over-pursuing Brian Robinson Jr. (4). Beavers goes forward and doesn’t flow into Neal’s block; He trusted his eyes and was slow to come downhill, allowing the cut-back lane to open, which forced Robinson to oblige. The Beavers were very patient to the cut-back before he ran into a ‘Bama block. The Beavers then makes the good wrap-up tackle.

[LB, right of screen]

The Beavers do a good job as SAM with Evan Neal as the tight end. Beavers flows outside and feels the tackle climb. Beavers use a club to stay clean; He then discards the center and undercuts Robinson’s path to help with the tackle. Beavers frequently showed solid key and diagnostic skills to evade and locate.

[LB, right of screen]

Beavers scrapes over the top. He does a great job avoiding the center while showing impressive agility and body control to jump around the contact and stay square off the running back.

[LB, right of screen]

I have questions about translating the Beavers’ range to the NFL – it’s my biggest concern for him. He does a solid job avoiding contact and forcing the running back out of bounds on this play, but his original alignment is outside the hash by about 4 yards; The NFL hashes not as wide as the college ones. Nevertheless, the Beavers do a good job taking a direct path to the running back and making physical contact at the sideline to drag him down.

We see something similar on this play; The Beavers aligned outside the hash, and he reacts quickly to make a tackle over the hustle.

I’m not sure how this was a face mask, but good job locating the Beavers on Bryce Young (9). Cincinnati runs a twist, and the Beavers do a great job focusing on young moving laterally. The Beavers adjusted their path to the quarterback and didn’t get caught in the mess at the line of scrimmage. The Beavers get out quickly with excellent hustle to record the sack.

[LB, left of screen]

Spatial awareness in coverage behind him was a very minor issue I took away from Beavers’ film, but he reacted well to these running back leaks from depth. The Beavers read this play and reacted with good timing to come downhill and force an incompletion.

[LB, bottom of screen]

I also wanted to highlight this play because of my questions about coverage in the Beavers and as an overall NFL athlete; The Beavers do a solid job on this play carrying the No. 2 receiver on the slot fade. He catches and gets physical before the first-down marker, but he flips his hips and gets his head around the football.

On the edge

Over the last few years, Giants fans have seen linebackers like Cam Brown and David Mayo align at the edge in certain situations – the Beavers have this ability and offers some upside as a power-rusher. He’s not going to win bending through contact like Von Miller, but he can get to the outside shoulder and do a solid job using his hands to create separation to the corner. Martindale can leverage this skill in certain situations.

[Edge, bottom of screen]

The Beavers sometimes snap well and use a stutter to help create hesitation with the offensive tackle. He also does a solid job of getting low and sinking his weight while moving forward, which presents a smaller target for tackles.

Negatives

I’m concerned about the Beavers’ overall play speed. It has elite competitive toughness and is always hustling, but range is an issue. He showed good hustle on many plays above the tackles, but he is exploited when asked to cover a lot of space laterally. All players don’t need sideline to sideline speed; NFL second-level defenders need to be consistent to earn consistent playing time. I still believe the Beavers are an NFL player, but more of a role player.

[Play side LB]

The Beavers are right near the hash and the Navy running back makes the catch on the numbers. The linebacker has to surrender about 20 yards to the back’s angle and still rarely makes contact with the backside. This is a Navy running back, and the hashes provide more space to the outside at the next level.

[EDGE, middle of the field]

Hustle will never be an issue. The Beavers have the edge directly in the middle of the field. He sees the quarterback go to rush and starts heading out; Once the quarterback is squarely at the bottom of the line of scrimmage, the Beavers are at the bottom of the numbers. He just can’t get out to get the quarterback. To be fair, this is not the easiest play to make, but it is one that happened too often in the Beavers’ tape.

[LB, left of screen]

In a tighter area, the Beavers couldn’t contain Kyren Williams (23) – a running back who is not known for his speed or burst. The Beavers can’t locate Williams, and a Notre Dame touchdown is scored.

[LB, bottom of screen]

The Notre Dame runs a boundary screen against the Bearcats with the Beavers as the boundary linebacker. The Golden Domers run the receiver into the path of the Beavers, who works over the top and comes downhill. At this point, two blockers are in space with three pursuing defenders. Beavers try to undercut the lead blocker, but that allows Williams to bounce outside.

[Top of screen defender]

Giants fans, where we have seen offenses before this? One way to exploit the difference in athletic ability between a running back and a linebacker is to align with EMPTY when facing man defense. Washington did this against the Giants in wWeek 2 last year with JD McKissic and Tae Crowder. The back runs with a quick curl with the no. 2 receiver running a fade up the numbers to create traffic. The back catches the ball and moves inside, and the Beavers misses the tackle in space.

The Beavers missed 17 tackles in 2021 – a 15 percent rate. Most of his missed tackles were outside the tackle box when he was in space or moving laterally, trying to keep pace with a better athlete.

Final thoughts

Darrian Beavers has a chance to make the Giants roster, and he’ll offer a specific skill-set to Martindale’s defense. It is a hybrid EDGE / LB which is very physical and can apply pressure from a variety of spots along a defensive front.

I had fun watching the Beavers’ film, but there was a reason he was available in the sixth round. Although he tested very well, his play speed can be an issue at the next level. Questions about how he’ll hold up outside the tackle box are fair. However, I think he offers enough inside the tackle box in the run defense while pressing the quarterback to an impact within Martindale’s defense.

Beavers can play an early-down SAM role to stack up their ability to stack and shed and disrupt opposing rushing attacks. Man coverage could be an issue, and he is solid enough to be a zone defender to be functional. I also like the appeal of using him on twists upfront. He can be a situational linebacker with special teams upside down.

New York’s linebackers were an issue last season after Blake Martinez injured his knee. Joe Schoen selected two versatile players who fit Martindale’s scheme. Many expected beavers to be selected earlier; Apparently, NFL teams had questions about translating his skills. Martindale is one of the defensive coordinators who can find a role for the Beavers’ skills, and I look forward to seeing how that transpires.

Leave a Comment