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New Chief Bennie Logan film review: New Man Logan

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“Hey, the Chiefs did something in free agency! And I’ve heard of that guy!”

That was the general reaction from Chiefs fans yesterday after John Dorsey and company signed noted Large Man Bennie Logan to a (reported) one-year, $8 million contract.

(Quick side note: the fact that Logan’s one-year deal is reportedly more than the Chiefs reportedly had in cap room should tell us once and for all that seriously, we have no idea what’s going on with the salary cap)

Many people were quite happy with the signing, considering that the Chiefs don’t appear to even be in the running to sign Dontari Poe and they had issues against the run last year. Of course, without looking at the film, I can never say anything because I’m weird like that. So I went back and reviewed four games from 2016 to try and determine what the Chiefs have in Logan.

Here’s how this work: we (well, actually me, but I like to be inclusive) watch every snap on all-22 (which includes a great Madden cam view), tracking wins against the pass and the run, as well as losses, neutral plays, pressures/hits/sacks, and effective double teams. What do all those terms mean? Well, that’s explained in more detail here, since I’d rather not spend 400 words on the subject right now, but they mean pretty much exactly what they sound like. It’s worth noting that for defensive linemen, wins are going to be significantly rarer than losses/neutral plays. And if that weren’t the case, NFL offenses would average about 10 points a game or less.

For some context, here is a link to Dontari Poe’s film review, where I tracked all of the same things and discussed Poe’s strengths and weaknesses. For the sake of comparison, I reviewed Logan against Pittsburgh and Atlanta (both teams I reviewed Poe against). I then reviewed him against Detroit (not sure why, really) and Dallas (to see him matched up against Frederick). Let’s dive into the numbers, then talk about what Logan showed on film.

Now, before we discuss the film, I want to make a few notes about the numbers Logan came back with vs the numbers Poe came back with. But let’s look at a quick run defense GIF to break up all this text and number stuff.

First, it’s worth noting that Logan played in a penetrating one-gap scheme as a 4-3 tackle (though he was often still lined up in a similar spot to Poe as a nose tackle in that scheme, which is much more important than a guy’s label). BUT ... Logan was often brought off the field on obvious passing downs, which wasn’t the case with Poe. As a result, Poe had more opportunities to pin his ears back and rush the passer by a fair amount.

Again, here’s the article about Poe. There are a couple of things that leap right off the page to you when comparing the numbers:

  1. Poe played 312 snaps in six games (52 per game), whereas Logan played 136 snaps in four games (34 per game). The Eagles clearly had a more defined role for Logan, whereas Poe was asked to be a bit of everything as a run defender and a passer. Of course, it also means (as I’ve said) that Poe had a lot more chances to rush the passer and rack up effective double teams.
  2. Logan handily beats Poe when it comes to win percentage (by almost seven percent), and absolutely CRUSHES Poe in loss percentage (Poe losing twice as often as Logan on a snap-by-snap basis). That is a massive difference, and one we’ll talk about in more depth shortly.
  3. Despite having way, way fewer chances to rush the quarterback, Logan racked up the same number of pressures (seven) and hits (two) as Poe, with one more sack. Considering people view Logan as strictly a two-down player and Poe as a three-down player, that’s definitely surprising. It’s also worth noting Logan compiled only four fewer pass rush wins despite many fewer opportunities.
  4. While Poe had more effective double teams per game (4.67 to 3.75), it’s hardly by a landslide.

All right, so what do those numbers mean? Again, there needs to be some accounting for schematic difference here, as well as the fact that Logan played next to Fletcher Cox all season. However...

Look, I like Dontari Poe. He’s been a solid defensive lineman (and at times a very, very good one) who was asked to do it all since being drafted. But there’s no doubt in my mind that he had a pretty average year for a defensive lineman last year, and the soft free agency market he’s experienced (it went from rumors of him asking for $10 million a year to him just trying to find a team) reflects that.

To put it bluntly, Logan was (based on the stats compiled) significantly better than Poe last season, not only as a run defender, but as a pass rusher as well. He lost at a lower rate in both categories, and the difference in run defense is absolutely striking. Poe had more run defense losses in three separate games than Bennie Logan did in all four games I reviewed COMBINED.

And keep in mind, I went out of my way to review Logan against similar opponents (ATL and PIT) as well as a great run blocking line (DAL). And still Logan crushed it. Most specifically, his ability to not lose as a run defender is a massive, massive upgrade over Poe. When you’re a defender, not losing is often more important than winning, because it at least holds the line well enough to prevent a weakness from being exploited.

Which, as well as anything, brings us to the film portion. What does Logan do well? Of course, principally, he’s a very good run defender. Very, very good. And this is the result of him having exceptional upper body strength to ward off blockers.

In watching 136 snaps of Logan, I can count on one hand (and not using every finger on that hand) the number of snaps in run defense he got completed plowed aside. He’s extremely difficult to move, even for double teams. That’s exactly what I want to see from a nose tackle in Bob Sutton’s system. All too often last year, Poe had some difficulty being consistent at the point of attack, getting washed out by double teams and (against solid centers and guards) even individually linemen. He ran hot and cold against the run. Logan, on the other hand, is consistently good in that area.

Logan, in addition to being a strong man, also shows awareness as to where the ball carrier is going and how to correctly adapt where he is relative to the blocker. He consistently keeps his head up and doesn’t get lost in the trench fight.

That ability is crucial against the run, as without it you may end up beating your blocker but in the complete wrong direction. Offensive linemen are happy to funnel defensive players to the wrong place. If I were to gauge Chris Jones’ primary weakness as a player right now (and he’s a stud, make no mistake), it’s that he at times fails to locate the ball in his attempt to beat his blocker. Logan is clearly more of a vet in that regard, and it’s another reason he rarely loses against the run.

Logan’s awareness against the run is aided by his (seemingly) very strong arms and upper body, which allow him to consistently keep linemen away from him while searching to locate the ball.

In short, Logan is an extremely strong tackle who is very, very difficult to move and is also capable of shedding blocker to make plays on the ball carrier before he has an opportunity to get up the field. He’s an ideal fit as a nose tackle in Sutton’s defense because blocking him one on one rarely went well for ANYONE in the running game, including Pouncey and Frederick, who are two of the best run-blocking centers in the entire NFL.

You can see why Sutton would covet a guy like that for his nose tackle: being hard to move is essentially job No. 1 for that guy. Additionally, it’s worth noting that literally every single person I’ve spoken with about Logan (whether an Eagles fan, Philly local like AP’s own RamX21, or national analyst) has said that Logan’s film as a 3-4 nose tackle is significantly BETTER than what he did last year. Considering I walked away from his film thinking it was quite good, that’s saying something.

BUT ... what about third down? Doesn’t this change the entire character of the Chiefs’ defense? After all, Poe’s ability to be whatever the Chiefs needed him to be allowed them to morph into a nickel defense at will. With Logan on the field, won’t the Chiefs suffer when teams pass on first and second down, or when they aren’t able to rotate him off the field in obvious passing situations?

Well...

I wouldn’t go that far.

Look, I’m not here to tell you that Bennie Logan is a great pass rusher. He’s not, based on my review of his snaps. But you know what he IS? He’s more productive on a per-snap basis as a pass rusher than Poe was in 2016, and it’s actually not particularly close (as reflected in the numbers we discussed). And when I say productive, I’m talking about his ability to beat blockers one on one.

Poe is certainly much more athletic than Logan. He also has a larger variety of pass rush moves that he uses to beat blockers (he uses a club and swim very effectively at times). However, for whatever reason, Poe didn’t use his arsenal of moves all that often last year and instead consistently resorted to bull rushing. Unfortunately, despite his massive size, Poe just isn’t much of a bull rusher. Whether it’s short arms or lack of upper body strength (the latter seems unlikely) or whatever else, Poe wasn’t able to consistently push the pocket with brute strength.

Logan? That’s his jam.

I’m not sure I saw Logan use a single move rushing the passer in four full games. Instead, when other teams dropped back to pass, Logan just tries to go all Bald Bull and bulldoze his way to the quarterback. And while it’s not consistently successful enough to call Logan a good pass rusher on the interior, he’s able to crush the pocket and prevent the QB from stepping up when he’s blocked one on one and, at times like what you see above, just shove the offensive lineman back into the quarterback’s lap to create pressure.

Logan seems to know exactly who he is: a big, strong dude who is capable of running over other big, strong dudes. He stays in his lane as a pass rusher and as a result is able to help the overall rush more than I expected. Again, he’s not really a “plus” as a pass rusher, but calling him some kind of weakness isn’t accurate in my opinion. He’s able to make teams pay for leaving him alone against individual linemen because most of them can’t stop him from just walking them towards the QB. That’s enough, in my mind, and it’s more than Poe provided (on a consistent basis) last season.

And honestly, it’s not like Logan is some kind of Vince Wilfork.

I don’t expect (or want) Sutton to use Logan to run stunts and twists the way he could with Poe (who really is freakishly athletic), but at times Logan is capable of making a good show of it. He seems to lack Poe’s iron man durability (at least, he was off the field a lot more than Poe), but again, this idea of some kinda of liability against the pass just doesn’t present itself.

So what is Logan? Well, unless the games I watched just happened to be his best games and Poe’s games happened to be his worst, he’s an upgrade against the run and actually an upgrade from what Poe provided as a pass rusher last season, at least with regards to beating individual blockers (to be fair, that has more to do with Poe struggling than Logan being anything more than average in that area). He’s also a guy who, according to everyone who has watched him over the years, is absolutely at his best in the type of defense the Chiefs run and is on a prove it deal while in his absolute prime.

Run defense was a problem for the Chiefs last year for a variety of reasons (many of them having to do with injury). Getting Logan on board should go a long way towards making that issue go away in 2017.