This is the second in a five-part series on the Vikings’ young defensive ends vying for the last few spots on the roster. Today, we have Tashawn Bower, a returning member of last year’s Minnesota squad.
Bower, along with Stephen Weatherly, has the distinction of making the roster out of camp a year ago. Though he was a bubble guy, the fact that he separated himself as an undrafted rookie speaks to the talent the Vikings staff sees in him. Just one look and one can see the appeal. Bower has that Danielle Hunter appearance to him: long and lanky with good build. Plus, at only around 250 pounds, Bower theoretically has room to increase mass, like Hunter has done the last few years.
Still, coming out of LSU last year, the questions about Bower primarily concerned his power. Scouts viewed him as a smooth athlete who could move in space, but he struggled to explode off the line or counter once engaged. Plus, a talented LSU line kept Bower from seeing the field a lot in college. As such, there is little about his production that would draw attention.
But he separated himself in camp in 2017 and remained on roster throughout the season. He even saw some garbage time minutes against first-teamers a couple of times. One of those games was against the Rams in week 11. In that one, Bower’s snaps came against Andrew Whitworth, an All-Pro left tackle. That gives us the perfect opportunity to see how Bower can stack up against elite level talent.
First thing you will notice is Bower’s length and how he effectively uses it. Whitworth is a tall man (6-foot-7), yet Bower is able to get his hands in good position for a solid punch and drive. The other thing you may see is that Bower’s power is not the total detriment scouts diagnosed initially. His leverage is good and he actually forces a resetting of anchor from Whitworth. That reset is the only thing that ultimately keeps Bower out of Jared Goff‘s lap.
So the Bower bull rush was moderately successful. How about turning the corner?
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Not quite as productive. Whitworth is a cagey vet with a lot of discipline. Mediocre head fakes are not going to faze him. All Bower’s attempt at a set up move did was give Whitworth more time to get his hands up into Bower and redirect him into the ground as he tried to turn the corner.
This time Bower tries to set up outside and then go across face. Again, Whitworth is ready for it and simply rides him inside to his guard help.
Bower gets his lone sack of the season here. This play stands out as promising not in so much that he beats Whitworth off the ball. On the contrary, Whitworth stands up his initial fake pretty well. No, the encouraging parts are twofold: One, maintaining motor enough to get a good run at Goff and finish the play. Two, the solid rip move that ultimately shakes himself free. Many of Bower’s rushes historically have been one note. When that note fell flat, he had no counter. Here, Bower reacts to the play and pulls out another move when his first failed. It is a little thing, but it indicates development.
So essentially, not unlike Ade Aruna, Bower is an intriguing physical specimen who needs considerable polish as a pass rusher. The greatest difference between the two is that Vikings coaching has already had a full season to work with Bower. And it has shown with some, albeit extremely limited, success. That extra experience could be the difference between being the 53rd and 54th man when final roster cuts come.
At the end of the day, fans want to see young pass rushers come out of camp with the ability to regularly play on Sundays. Raw as he may be, tape shows that Bower has enough talent to do that. How close he gets to that this year is another question, but the possibility exists. And that is enough to make him must-watch come preseason games.