ORCHARD PARK NY - DECEMBER 26: Danny Woodhead #39 of the New England Patriots runs against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26 2010 in Orchard Park New York. New England won 34-3. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Back when we started our Buffalo Bills re-watch, we took a little time to talk about then-rookie defensive tackle Torell Troup's struggles in extensive playing time against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now that we're evaluating the fourth Bills game beyond that contest, we wanted to re-visit not just Troup's performance, but the possible mechanical flaw we pointed to in the original article.
Between Weeks 5 and 10, the Bills continued to operate out of defensive alignments that used four defensive linemen. The heavy-front 4-3 the team used against Jacksonville - the one that featured Troup, three other 300-plus-pound defensive linemen, and Chris Kelsay at linebacker - was not used as frequently, however. As such, Troup's playing time had decreased by the time we got to Week 10, but as he saw fewer reps, he also got better defending the run.
If you recall, we talked about Troup's three-point stance as a possible problem in his easily conceding leverage against the Jaguars. In roughly a month, the improvement Troup showed playing with leverage was significant.
This was Troup's three-point stance against Jacksonville. If you missed the previous post, take a look at the angle Troup's back makes to the ground as compared to any of his fellow linemen here. While his teammates' backs are just about parallel to the ground, Troup's is at an angle. As he sat back on his haunches a bit, linemen were able to easily get under his shoulder pads and drive him backward and upward simultaneously. We hoped to see a change in Troup's stance as the year went on.
Here, we have two shots of Troup's stance four games later. In the first shot, with Lions quarterback Shaun Hill under center, you can see that Troup's still not as low as his teammates, but that he is significantly more parallel than he was against the Jaguars. In the second shot, against a shotgun formation - one which elongates Troup's stance - he is also much flatter, though again, not yet perfectly parallel.
Troup really struggled against the Jaguars, who often put two blockers on the rookie to create massive rushing lanes. One of the two blockers would then scrape off of Troup and hit a linebacker at the second level, making the jobs of Jacksonville's excellent runners that much easier. Repeatedly throughout the day, Troup was driven backwards.
In the first shot above, you can see that the improvement Troup has made at the point of attack is, frankly, night and day. There, he has proper control of his blocker with arms extended, and now he can guide that blocker down the line depending on the direction of the run. In the second shot, you can see where Troup still had some issues - shedding a block to make a tackle. Stephen Peterman was able to contain Troup's arms long enough to prevent him from making a cleaner tackle, but Troup is obviously in much better position to make a play on the runner. (And it helps that his teammates are playing better run defense across the board, as well.)
In that play, Troup dealt with a single blocker. There were occasions where he was double-teamed, and he still struggled to anchor against those for the most part, though he was not dominated in the fashion that he was in Week 5. As a general rule, even though his playing time has decreased in our re-watch, Troup is playing much better football, and quickly adapting newer techniques to his game.
We'll keep an eye out in the event that anything changes. But for now, in the context of this re-watch, Troup deserves credit (as does Buffalo's coaching staff) for correcting a flaw and elevating his level of play. Plus, he's already taken care of the next step: getting bigger and stronger.