The Buffalo Bills continued beefing up their front seven in the 2016 NFL Draft with the selection of Ohio State defensive tackle/end Adolphus Washington. With Rex Ryan stating that he’d be running more of “his” defense in the coming years—meaning a multiple and hybrid scheme rooted from 3-4 concepts—Adolphus Washington is a nice fit, as he has experience playing from a variety of alignments, from the zero technique (head up over the center as a nose tackle), one technique (between the center and guard), three technique (between the guard and tackle), five technique (head up over the tackle, essentially a 3-4 end) as well as a seven technique (outside shoulder of the tackle, a 4-3 defensive end).
Let’s take a look at what Adolphus Washington brings to the Buffalo Bills defense, from his athletic abilities, positional versatility, traits as a run/pass defender and where he ideally fits within the scheme.
Adolphus Washington Background
Adolphus Washington appeared in 41 games for the Ohio State Buckeyes, starting 31 games as a starter for his final three years, finishing his career with 142 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, four pass breakups and an interception.
Standing 6’4” and 301-pounds with 34 ½” arms, Adolphus Washington has the size and length you covet in a five-technique/3-4 defensive end. Athletically, he doesn’t offer much in terms of upside, as he tested below the 20th percentile at his position in every drill at the NFL Scouting Combine except for the 40-yard dash, where he ranks in the 34th.
According to NIKE’s SPARQ metric which quantifies athletic ability by combining all of the drills, Washington currently is in the 4th percentile of NFL defensive linemen and ranked 112th in this year’s class.
After a slow start to his collegiate career, in 2015, things began to click for Washington, as he finished the year with 49 tackles, seven for a loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles and a pick-six. He generated 48 quarterback pressures in 382 pass rush snaps, the 10th most efficient among interior defensive linemen in the 2016 NFL Draft. In the run game, he made 23 stops in 282 run snaps, which was 28th among 42 interior defensive linemen.
Adolphus Washington Pass Rush Ability
Adolphus Washington is going to make his money, at least initially, in the passing game. He’s got a quick first step off the ball that allows him to penetrate gaps and disrupt the pocket. He’s got heavy hands and the athleticism to squeeze through a gap while using his length to extend and bring down quarterbacks in the backfield.
This burst and hand use is shown again against Penn State. Washington is aligned at the three technique as the right defensive tackle. Adolphus Washington gets off the snap in a hurry, side-steps and uses his hands to chop away the arms of Penn State’s left guard. The guard tries to recover by grabbing at Washington, but it’s too late as he’s already in the quarterback’s face and brings him down for a sack.
Adolphus Washington’s hand-fighting allowed him to disrupt Christian Hackenberg again on the following play against Penn State. Lined up as the three technique left defensive tackle, Washington shoots his hands into the pads of the pads of the guard and uses his agility to squeeze through the “A” gap. Washington has a clear lane for another sack, but is dragged down by a facemask that didn’t get flagged, but the pressure was enough to force a throwaway.
Adolphus Washington is more of a finesse player in terms of his pass rush than a power player, and shows off a nifty spin move that results in another sack against Penn State. Lined up at the three-technique left defensive tackle spot again, Washington uses his long arms to quickly shoot into the pads of the right guard at the snap. After a bit of hand-fighting, Washington uses a spin move that propels himself into the backfield and sack the passer.
By now, most of you reading this have seen the conversation between Adolphus Washington and myself following a tweet in which I called him awful. This stems from the lack of power you’d like to see out of an interior defensive lineman, especially one that he will be tasked with taking on double-teams and two-gapping—a job he’ll need to do within Rex Ryan’s defense.
Adolphus Washington made his living using quickness and length to make an impact as a pass rusher, as ProFootballFocus’ pressure-per-snap metrics ranked him as the second-most efficient pass rusher on inside moves, 18th with outside moves and 6th most efficient at generating pressure in under 2.5 seconds. However, he ranked 99th when using a bull-rush to generate pressure, with just one of his 48 pressures coming by utilizing the power rush.
Right now, Washington doesn’t seem to have the lower body strength to defeat one-on-one blocks with power. This shows up in the following play against Michigan State. While Ohio State records a sack, Washington, who’s aligned at the zero-technique nose tackle position—a spot that General Manager Doug Whaley stated that he expected him to be able to contribute at—can’t generate any movement against an inferior right guard.
The Michigan State game really highlighted Washington’s struggles to hold the point of attack in both the run and pass game, as the following clip shows him getting obliterated in another one-on-one block, this time against center Jack Allen. Adolphus Washington extends his arms at gets a good step off the snap, but Allen bats away his hands and tosses him to the ground with ease.
Adolphus Washington Run Support
Adolphus Washington was one of the more inconsistent run defenders among the 2016 NFL Draft class as far as interior defensive linemen are concerned. Similar to his abilities as a pass rusher, Washington flashed playmaking ability when he was able to use his quickness and length, but his lack of core strength led to numerous plays that resulted in him getting blown off the ball or finding himself on the turf.
Here against Maryland, Washington showcases his quickness and hands, beating the left guard to the inside on a QB sweep that he blows up for a loss.
Washington shows off his violent hands again here against Michigan State. Aligned as a three-technique, he gets off the ball quick and while he’s pushed off the ball by a combo block, he’s able to use his hands to shed and assist with the tackle for a minimal gain.
In the run game, Washington doesn’t have great anticipation, particularly against trap blocks—a power concept in which a defender is left unblocked by the offensive lineman he’s matched up against, while another offensive player pulls to “wham” him.
However, Washington is able to defeat the “Wham” by Penn State’s H-Back in the following play against Penn State and record a tackle in the backfield.
One of the best traits Adolphus Washington shows as a run defender is his ability to work down the line of scrimmage, using his athleticism and strength to make plays.
Here as the three-technique right defensive tackle, Washington does a great job getting inside the pads of Michigan State’s guard, before working laterally to the sideline. This not only resets the line of scrimmage, but prevents a cut-back lane for the running back, forcing him towards the sideline. Washington quickly gets off the block and records the tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Adolphus Washington will need to be a rotational player as a rookie as he often gets bullied in the run game.
Against Michigan State, Washington looks to penetrate to the inside again, but Jack Allen wins on first contact and throws him to the ground with ease.
Against Penn State, Washington gets too high in his stance off the ball and doesn’t take advantage of his length or hands at all. The guard is stood up and on his heels, but still manages to toss Washington to the ground.
This failure to use his hands shows up again against Michigan State in the following rep. His head is down, he overextends and is thrown to the ground again.
Washington doesn’t have the power to anchor against combo blocks, which showed up on tape time and time again.
Adolphus Washington is an intriguing prospect, as he brings versatility to a multiple defense that the Buffalo Bills run. He’ll be able to make an impact early as a sub-package defender, where his primary responsibility will be to rush the passer. As a run defender he’s a work in progress, as he needs to get stronger, improve his technique and let the game slow down. Fortunately, the Bills now have the depth that won’t immediately force Washington into a full-time role, so he’ll have the necessary time to develop his game.