Last week, the Jets claimed edge defender Tarell Basham, a former third round pick, on waivers from the Colts. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at his strengths and weaknesses.
The 24-year old Basham is in his second season having been drafted last year. He played in 15 games last year in a reserve role and registered seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He was the MAC defensive player of the year in 2016 and is the all-time leader in sacks for the Ohio Bobcats.
Having been a productive pass rusher in high school, Basham attended military school for a year before attending Ohio University and making an immediate impact as a true freshman. He was eventually a four year starter for the Bobcats, racking up a school record 29.5 sacks. His production improved year on year and he won the MAC defensive player of the year award as a senior in 2016, having recorded career bests in tackles (49) and sacks (11).
Basham had a decent performance at the scouting combine, but it was at the senior bowl where he really boosted his stock as he was dominant in drills all week. The Colts eventually drafted Basham with the 80th overall pick.
As a rookie, Basham saw action as a rotational outside linebacker and on special teams, but struggled to move up the depth chart. He had some positive flashes, including a couple of sacks, but overall his rookie year was considered a disappointment.
In the offseason, Basham was getting plenty of work with the first unit and seemed to be in the mix for a starting role, but a minor knee injury set him back and he got lost in the shuffle following a nondescript preseason.
Basham played in the opener this season, in a situational rusher role, but he only had one pressure and had been inactive ever since. The Jets claimed him off waivers last week.
Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Basham brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
The Colts have switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense this year, which is one of the reasons Henry Anderson was no longer a fit for them. However, this is not the case with Basham.
In college and high school, Basham only ever played in four man fronts with his hand(s) in the dirt, so he wasn’t really a fit for them as a 3-4 outside linebacker, which explains some of his struggles last year and the optimism that he would show progress in 2018.
With the Colts last year, Basham lined up on both sides and played a mixture of linebacker and lineman roles. He didn’t play inside or off the ball very often, but this did happen occasionally.
Basham has also said he mostly lined up on the left in college, so playing on the right was an adjustment for him too.
Basham is listed at 6-foot-4 and 266 pounds and has decent length and big hands. However, he might be lighter than that at the moment, because he told reporters in the offseason that he’d slimmed down from about 270 to 250 since the end of the previous year. The coaching staff praised him for getting into better shape than he had been as a rookie.
At the combine, Basham had some nice numbers with a 4.7 40-yard dash, 4.45 short shuttle and 119-inch broad jump. However, his three cone drill and vertical jump were below average and his bench press was poor (15 reps).
Basham worked out again at his pro day, but didn’t improve on any of his numbers, others than adding an inch to his vertical.
Basham is regarded as having a good motor as he works hard in the trenches to battle for position.
At the NFL level, he’s yet to play 30 snaps in a game, either in preseason or regular season action, but did play over 70 snaps in a game in his senior year, so he’s shown he can handle a good workload.
Basham isn’t known for his run defense and his lack of functional strength would be a concern if playing on the line, especially with the weight he’s lost since last year.
Nevertheless, he showed some development against the run in college. In his first two years, he only had two tackles for loss against the run, but he had 9.5 in his last two years.
In pursuit, Basham can sometimes overpursue or react a beat late and has had issues with not getting upfield far enough when setting the edge in the past. He also needs to work on getting off blocks.
He makes a solid play against the run here as he shows some good hustle in backside pursuit.
Basham took his game to the next level in his senior year, as he almost doubled the amount of total pressure he created. However, at the NFL level, his pressure numbers have been modest at best, even in preseason action.
Basham has good initial burst and converts from speed to power well. In college he showed off some good pass rush moves, strong hands and an ability to bend the edge.
However, at the NFL level, he’s struggled to replicate this success. He seems too eager to engage with his blocker and doesn’t seem to exhibit many counter moves once his initial move is repelled. Of the pressure he has created, much of it has come from being unblocked or beating a tight end.
However, as noted, there have been flashes of potential. On this play, against an experienced starter in Jeremy Parnell, Basham’s speed off the edge is too much for the veteran.
Basham has a pretty good spin move based on his college film, but he hasn’t used this much at the NFL level.
Basham hasn’t been a particularly productive tackler at the NFL level with just 18 tackles in 23 regular and preseason games. However, he racked up 49 in his best season at Ohio.
Missed tackles were sometimes an issue over the years, although he will usually wrap up and finish effectively. However, he will miss the occasional tackle, especially if faced with an elusive player in space.
Basham doesn’t have a lot of experience of dropping into coverage and it shows whenever he’s asked to do it. On this play, a teammate had to tell him to stand up prior to the snap and he made no effort to disrupt the slot receiver’s route while looking very robotic in his backpedal.
He was targeted one other time last year, on a play where he dropped way off the line on 3rd-and-long and was able to get in on the tackle shy of the marker.
Basham had five passes defensed in college, all from batting passes down at the line.
Basham has said he feels most comfortable in an attack-and-react style of defense. There is occasional hesitation in play-action and read-option type situations, but it looks like he did a better job of keeping his eyes up to see the play develop as the season progressed last year.
Basham has shown some ability to get off blocks at the NFL level, but this has mostly been against tight ends.
One thing he does well is extend his arms to get some separation from his blocker, but he doesn’t always translate that into a pass rush move to get off the block.
On this play, however, he extends his arms well and displays some power to drive veteran Andre Smith off his spot, gaining an outside leverage advantage. This time, he does get off the block, using his right hand to free himself from Smith’s outside arm to complete the sack.
Basham displays some good power off the edge and can be an effective bull rusher. However, at times, he will engage his blocker in a battle for leverage rather than making an effort to shed the block.
His only penalty at the NFL level was a neutral zone infraction before a punt (on 4th-and-8).
With Josh Martin on injured reserve, it would be useful if his replacement could show some potential on special teams and Basham has done that.
In his rookie year, he had four special teams tackles in preseason and, although he didn’t carry that production over into the regular season, he did contribute this punt block.
Basham has also fielded one kickoff and generated pressure on a field goal attempt.
Injuries were not an issue for Basham at Ohio, as he played in 50 games over four seasons. In his rookie year with the Colts, the only game he missed was as a healthy scratch, although he did miss a few practices through illness and heat exhaustion.
During preseason, he had a minor knee injury, which was part of the reason he fell down the depth chart.
Basham has admitted that, in college, he relied too much on his athleticism. He has found that, at the NFL level, you also need good technique and preparation to be successful.
General manager Chris Ballard praised the work Basham had put in during the offseason to get in shape and work on his technique, but obviously this wasn’t enough for him to retain his roster spot.
As noted above, Basham is going to be most comfortable in four-man fronts and rushing from the left side with his hand in the dirt. With his struggles against the run, the most obvious use for him would be in subpackages as a situational rusher and that’s how the Colts used him in game one.
Anderson’s own success in the new system could make him a useful sounding board for Basham as he integrates himself in the new scheme.
Basham was an impressive college prospect with excellent tape, but has been slow to develop at the NFL level. The scheme changes in Indianapolis haven’t helped, but his main issue is that he needs to work on and improve his technique and approach.
The Jets can afford to be patient with Basham, whereas the Colts were pretty deep on the edges and already have some development projects with two rookies brought in this year. Ultimately, this should be a fun project for Kevin Greene. However, it might be overly optimistic to expect any immediate success.