Earlier this off-season, Buffalo Bills second-year nose tackle Torell Troup shared via Twitter that he'd bulked up to a svelte 326 pounds thanks to an intense off-season workout regimen. The youngest non-rookie on Buffalo's roster, Troup is entering the 2011 season being counted on as a big part of the team's hopefully improved run defense.
Having re-watched the first half of the team's Week 5 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars from Troup's rookie season, it's not difficult to understand why Troup spent so much time concentrating not just on building up strength and bulk, but concentrating on his core strength specifically.
In that game, the Bills unveiled their heavy-front 4-3 defense for the first time, featuring Troup and Kyle Williams at defensive tackle, with Dwan Edwards and Marcus Stroud at defensive end. Troup's playing time saw a sharp upswing in that contest, and after the jump, we'll get in-depth regarding just how much trouble the then-rookie had at the point of attack.
To put it very mildly, Troup struggled mightily in this contest. He was routinely double-teamed and driven yards backward off the line of scrimmage, and was a big reason the Jaguars were able to rush for 216 yards in the contest. The issues, to my eye, were more technical than anything - but Jacksonville ran right at No. 96 all day long, and for very good reason. He was the matchup they most frequently exploited on the ground.
You can see the depth Jacksonville's interior offensive line has driven Troup off the line of scrimmage, and the ball is barely into Maurice Jones-Drew's hands. You can also see that Troup, in attempting to re-establish his base, has dropped to a knee. This was routine for Troup in this contest - and though Williams was asked to shoot a gap on this play, there's a good three yards between the two players.
This is a shot of Troup attempting to deal with a double-team. Again, he's on the verge of having a knee on the ground, and he's getting pushed backward. There was very little lean to his game - he spent a lot of time with his back arched in this fashion, getting blown off the football. Not only does this hamper his ability to shed blocks, but more importantly, it opens up running lanes.
It's possible that Troup's perceived lack of core strength was the big reason for his struggles at the point of attack in this contest. I'm no expert by any means, but I'd also point to his three-point stance as part of the problem. Note the difference between he and Williams - Kyle's back is parellel to the ground and he's ready to stay low off the snap, while Troup is almost sitting back on his haunches, his back forming a 45-degree angle with the ground. That stance left him ripe for any blocker to get under his pads and drive him backward, negating the majority of Troup's significant upper body strength. He played with very little leverage. I thought early on that Troup was lining up this way due to fatigue, but it was prevalent throughout the entire contest. I'll be keeping an eye on Troup in subsequent re-watches to see if that changes at all. It's possible this was addressed later in the season.
It's important to end this post noting that we're talking about one game very early in Troup's rookie season. It would be a mistake for anyone to base your opinion on Troup on this post or his performance in this game, because it does not take into account his entire body of work by any stretch. This is just something I noticed in this game. If by the time we get to re-watching Week 16 and the same thing is happening, then you can probably voice stronger concern. Troup will improve.