One of the neat things about being part of SB Nation is the access we have to their various experts throughout the network. If we want more details about the Chicago Bears' next opponent, we'll talk to one of our sister sites. If we want the skinny on the NFL Draft, we'll hit up our draft editor. And if we want some insight on the latest rookie class for the Chicago Bears, we'll go straight to the site that has covered their entire collegiate career.
Recently we had the chance to talk with Eric Smith, head football writer for the House Of Sparky, which covers the Arizona State Sun Devils about defensive tackle Will Sutton.
Windy City Gridiron - Aaron Donald was a very popular prospect on our message boards the last couple of months and the consistent knock on him was his height. Sutton is an inch shorter than Donald at an even 6' tall. Was he engulfed in the interior of the line or was he able to get inside and use leverage to win at the point of attack?
Eric Smith - It's easy to think Sutton's height is a cause for concern but it really doesn't affect him as badly as you might think. He is good at using leverage and also has very active hands to disengage blockers. If you watch some of his game tape you can see he has a very quick swim move and effective rip move as well. He occasionally struggles against double-teams but the fact he commanded a double-team most of the time opens up opportunities for other linemen and linebackers to make plays. He may not be the tallest defensive tackle but it didn't hold him back in college and I don't think it will in the NFL.
Windy City Gridiron - Sutton was asked to bulk up for the 2013 season, one season after winning the PAC 12 Defensive Player of the Year award, so I'm wondering why his coaches asked him to alter his weight?
Eric Smith - I'm not so sure it was the coaches asking him to gain weight as it was his own decision to get bigger to try and improve his draft stock. The coaches understood why he wanted to bulk up but I don't think it was strictly a coaching decision. At 6 feet tall and 270 pounds he would have been noticeably undersized for an NFL defensive tackle so he wanted to get bigger.
Windy City Gridiron - Speaking of the much hyped Donald, some Bears fans may not know that Sutton's junior year (2012) numbers were very comparable to Donald's 2013 season. Was that just the extra weight that hurt Sutton's overall game, or was there anything else going on that affected his play?
Ed.: In 2012 Will Sutton had 63 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Last season Aaron Donald had 59 tackles, 28.5 TFL and 11 sacks.
Eric Smith - Part of what makes Donald so disruptive is how quick he is off the snap of the ball. In 2012, that was the same case with Sutton. He was so quick with his first step that he was often able to get past blockers before they had a chance to get their hands on him. When Sutton gained the weight he lost that first-step quickness and, as a result, his production suffered. Sure the weight helped him anchor against the run better but it kept him from being as disruptive behind the line of scrimmage. The weight was the main thing that held Sutton back.
Windy City Gridiron - Sutton projects to a three technique defensive tackle in the Bears' scheme, what positions did he play during his four years at Arizona State?
Eric Smith - Sutton mostly played the three-technique in his fist two years at Arizona State and the "Tiger" position on the defensive line in his two years in coach Todd Graham's defensive scheme in 2012 and 2013. The Tiger is very similar to a three-technique in the sense that their job is to wreak havoc in the backfield. Graham's scheme is the kind of scheme that combines many different fronts and Sutton can play them all so he should be more than comfortable in whatever position the Bears put him in.
Windy City Gridiron - Bears fans are pretty excited about the potential of Sutton, do you share that optimism about his transition to the pro game?
Eric Smith - I definitely am optimistic about Sutton's potential in the NFL. He has all of the tools to be an effective three-technique tackle: active hands, plays with good pad level, and, most importantly, an instinct for getting in the backfield and giving offensive linemen headaches. Like most rookies he's going to need a little bit of time to adjust to the speed of the NFL game. He'll also need to adjust to the size and strength of NFL offensive linemen but he's a quick learner and even if he doesn't start right away, he has a good chance to be a solid player in the NFL.
Thanks again to Eric Smith of House Of Sparky!