Name: Justin Hollins
Hollins is a versatile, moveable piece who shined at the East-West Shrine Game, ultimately earning MVP honors. His stock may have been boosted by a strong combine, though much will come down to how teams view his raw pass rushing ability.
Hollins’ length makes him an appealing prospect, and it helps that he measured over 6-foot-5 at the combine with arms at 33 3/8 inches. Some outlets have projected him closer to 6-foot-4. He is also heavier than other listed weights, at just under 250 pounds. That should ease some concerns that his lanky frame would not hold up as a consistent edge rusher. Whether Hollins ends up as an off-ball linebacker or a stand-up rusher, his frame should match up reasonably well.
Hollins’ combine numbers indicate solid explosion and power in both his upper and lower body, but the tape tells a slightly different story. He posted good scores in the broad and vertical jumps, and his 25 bench reps were tied for sixth among edge rushers and linebackers. However, Hollins does not play quite as strong, as he has a tendency to get pushed back at the point of attack. His ability to separate is solid, but his base and anchor need a bit of work.
Smooth and explosive are the best words to describe Hollins. Only Montez Sweat posted a better 40 time among edge rushers at the combine. But more importantly, his three-cone drill was solid at around seven seconds and he showed off his fluid athleticism during on-field drills. Hollins upfield burst off the snap is excellent, and that is typically how he likes to get his pass rush advantage. He is quick in tight spaces, allowing him to set up in-cuts and stunts as a pass rusher. Hollins is not much of a bender when turning corners though, more wont to dart by tackles than sink around them.
Hollins potential as an off-ball linebacker comes down to his rangy athleticism and his time moving in and out at Oregon. As far as his nose for the football, however, Hollins is somewhat laissez faire. His engage, separate and discard is solid, as he uses his length to get strong positioning to find the ball. He sheds blocks well, typically with a two-handed push-pull, but he is often a step slow getting to the ball. Sometimes it is due to a slow read, but more often, he seems passive. He does not take chances as a run stopper. On the one hand, that is good, as Hollins rarely loses contain. But on the the other hand, one would like an athlete like Hollins to get his nose in and make plays more often. Too often he waits for the finishing tackle, rather than the initial one.
Backside run defense in particular is an area of frustration. With Hollins quickness and long speed, finishing plays from the backside should be his bread-and-butter. But there are reps like this, where he lacks the punch to fly in and finish a play. This one was particularly disastrous, as all the passive white jerseys allowed a bad touchdown.
Still, despite those mental flaws in his game, Hollins racked up 14.5 tackles for loss in 2018. His athleticism and length are his greatest attributes, and a solid canvas to develop upon.
Hollins’ pass rushing comes down to two strategies: upfield burst into bull rush or quick-twitch stop and start moves. He gets off the ball well, though he is a frequent early starter, leaning and stumbling before the snap. He most often prefers to engage and bull rush tackles, followed sometimes by a two-handed push-pull to turn the corner. That push-pull opens him up to find the football for the sack-fumble; he forced five fumbles in 2018. Hollins’ other move is a straight upfield sprint, followed by a quick stem, hesitation or stutter step to set up his next cut. This does wonders for him on inside cuts, as his stutter step sets up his quick explosion across face. Hollins showed off how lethal this move can be at the East-West Shrine Game.
His lack of bend inhibits his ability to turn corners, so the deception and quickness is often what gets him by tackles. Improved hand usage, a club, rip or swim would benefit him greatly. Right now, his hands are more for engaging and manipulating his opponent than anything else.
Hollins is a late round guy with a lot of raw ability. His athleticism will aid him as a strong special teams guy early on, but with his length and quick-twitch pass rushing skills, the hope would be that he could develop into a consistent contributor on defense. He brings versatility as a guy with experience off ball, and his pass rushing style lends itself to working as a blitzer if need be. However, his best bet at first, should the Vikings select him, is as a Tashawn Bower type. That is, developing a niche as the pass rush depth guy early on, and eventually working into the rotation.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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