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Into the Depths: Leger Douzable

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How versatility, circumstance, and familiarity has a 7-year veteran on his 8th NFL team performing as one of Buffalo’s top early-season rotational players.

If you’re like me, Leger Douzable stood out early on in the 2016 offseason mainly for his name (which I pronounced incorrectly until looking it up for this article: It’s Leh-je’ DOO-zah-bull, according to this video from training camp. I am a disgrace to my high school French teacher). In what was expected to be a deep and talented defensive line grouping, he didn’t seem to be a good bet to make the roster when he signed in June, instead appearing to be more of a training camp participant who was familiar with the Ryan defense. When Marcell Dareus was suspended, it opened a pathway to the opening day roster for Douzable. While it appeared early on that he would be a lock for release after Dareus returns in Week 4, his play thus far in the 2016 season has made the coaching staff’s decision much more difficult. So, what preceded the unheralded lineman’s opportunity in Buffalo?

Tulsa v Central Florida Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Solid College Career

Douzable was a Knight in college, playing at UCF from 2004-2007. In 49 games (24 starts), he amassed 102 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, and 15 sacks. In his junior year, he had 7 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss; he totaled 49 tackles and 7.5 sacks in his senior season, and added all-academic honors in Conference USA both years. While the numbers were solid, playing in a non-elite conference worked against him. He was not invited to the NFL combine, and did not run a tremendously explosive 40-yard dash (his best time, according to NFL Draft Scout, was 5.14). After graduating, he signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent, beginning a long NFL odyssey which has led him to Orchard Park.

Douzable’s theme song may as well be Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere,” because he has been rostered by 25% of the NFL at some point over the last 8 NFL seasons. He went from Minnesota to the New York Giants (September 2008-September 2009) before he was waived and subsequently signed by the St. Louis Rams. He was waived by the Rams in June 2010, and then was signed by the Lions...who released him in August of the same year. Later that month, he was signed by the Jaguars, and he played there for two years. In 2011, he had his best professional season, recording 38 tackles and a sack. After sitting out all of 2012, he was signed by the Jets in 2013. He totaled 59 tackles and 4 sacks in 48 games as a reserve lineman with the Jets over three seasons in green. This season, he is already on pace to destroy his previous career high in sacks (which is only 2.5, so it’s not exactly a gargantuan leap), amassing 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 3 games.

Arizona Cardinals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Versatility Kills

In a Ryan scheme, multiplicity and deception rule the day. With an athlete like Douzable, who is a high motor player with great intelligence, his ability to understand multiple positions in the defense increases his value. At 6’4” and 284 pounds, he isn’t quite large enough to play a traditional 5 technique at defensive end, but in Ryan’s 3-4 under looks, he is more than sturdy enough to absorb blocks and disrupt the running game. His size also allows him to kick inside, especially on passing downs, which he has done to great success in Dareus’ absence. In fact, Douzable has been one of the most used defensive linemen on the team during the early goings, lagging behind only Kyle Williams and Corbin Bryant in terms of snaps (his 94 total snaps counts for 42% of the defense’s total snaps through three weeks). His knowledge of the scheme certainly contributes to his worth. While technically playing different positions, he has outsnapped Jerel Worthy at a 2.5-to-1 clip (Worthy has played in 17% of the team’s snaps). In the game against Arizona, Worthy played 3 snaps to Douzable’s 26. Again, much of this could have been circumstantial, as Arizona played from behind for most of the game and Worthy is noted mostly for stopping the run; however, Douzable’s strength is also as a run-stuffer, so if the coaching staff believes that he has the edge as a pass-rusher, it could bode well for him to remain on the roster beyond Week 4.

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Can He Stick?

The team is currently carrying five down linemen on the roster, with Jerry Hughes a sixth if Rex and Dennis Thurman decide to run a 4-man line. Six would be a lot, so it is likely that the cut will come down to Worthy and Douzable, unless the team decides to shed at another position of excess, such as the safety position. Admittedly, that is unlikely, especially if the “turbo” package used to great success is here to stay. Gabe Ikard is another possibility to be cut, especially when Cordy Glenn returns to health. Ryan Groy has been serving as the team’s swing tackle on game day in his absence, but he can also play center and guard. With Cyrus Koundjio’s rolled ankle a potential problem, the team added another tackle today as insurance. Michael Ola’s time on the roster could be quite short if the coaching staff wants to keep Douzable and has a healthy compliment of offensive linemen to deploy.

The bottom line? Leger Douzable is off to one heck of a start helping to replace one of Buffalo’s best overall players, and arguably the team’s best player on defense. His strong play has earned him a deeper look.