Triturate: LB Evan Weaver, California

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Weaver may be in his name, but Evan Weaver is not going to the University of California to be a basketweaver. Weaver is actually majoring in American Studies. He went to high school at Gonzaga Prep, and dominated there as an absolute demon. At 6’3″ and 225 pounds, Weaver is a boss on the interior, and has produced massive numbers while he has been in California.

Welcome to the latest edition of Triturate, the column designed to grind through the tape and test the prospect’s strength. Evan Weaver has received a lot of love in the last few weeks, after amassing an astonishing 155 tackles last season. He’s on pace to beat that at the moment, sitting pretty with 83 tackles in the first 6 games of the season. Want to talk about a clean up player?

They say that Evan Weaver is everywhere on the field. Is that true? If it is, then why does he have 309 career tackles and just 18 of those are behind the line of scrimmage? We will allow the triturate to tell us more.

Evan Weaver career brief

Evan Weaver was a top ten prospect out of the state of Washington, a hulking 6’3″ 230 pound defensive end with a lot to prove. He was a three star talent, heavily recruited by Boise State, Oregon, and Washington. Most expected him to stay home, but he chose California, the underdog throughout his entire recruitment process. He was a RB/DE at Gonzaga Prep, an all-state defender and one of four “Blue-chip” prospects as a senior according to the Seattle Times.

He was a monster there too. A three year varsity starter, Weaver compiled 393 tackles, 78 tackles for loss, 45 sacks and 14 forced fumbles. Gonzaga Prep went undefeated in Weavers senior season and won a state championship.

Now, Weaver enters his third season as a full-time starter. He is gathering the attention of respected NFL Draft analysts, such as Dane Brugler of the athletic, and more with his solid play. He’s a senior now. The NFL is in his sights as next.

Enter the Film Room

Evan Weaver has been around the block a little bit. With a full two and a half seasons of experience under his belt, there are certain expectations that we have. For starters, we want to see a smart, heady football player. Weaver needs to be able to read and recognize the play as it is happening, and see things as they roll.

With the sheer number of tackles that Weaver has, it would be assumed that he has range and athleticism. I want to see him dominate the field, and be wherever he wants to be.

Tackle ability and form

Evan Weaver has accumulated a huge number of tackles, including 155 last season alone. His form is clean and solid. When I say clean, I mean disciplined, and not in a vicious way that could potentially draw a penalty.

If you see this play here, Weaver sheds the offensive tackle, dodging underneath him, and hits the running back with his chest while wrapping up. A crushing hit, nonetheless, but a clean hit, one that does not lead with the helmet and potentially draw a targeting call. Weaver appears to pride himself in his ability to wrap up tackles. His form is completely reliant on his ability to wrap up the ball carrier and drop them with his sheer dragging force.

It’s just good, clean technique.

Shortcoming in his pursuit

One of the few weaknesses that Weaver has is his angle’s that he takes to cut off runners. So far, it works in college, but narrowly.

If you see on this play, Weaver is removed from the play by the scheme. He is playing an underneath zone coverage to the right of the field, where there are no receivers. The running back comes out of the backfield and cuts back to the left, running an “in” route across the field.

Technically, this is no longer Weaver’s responsibility because the running back has left his zone. He’s moving to the left side of the field where another linebacker is playing zone underneath as well. However, this linebacker is being distracted by the receiver (#18), and he is not in position to cover the running back underneath. Look closely, and you will see (#59) Jordan Kunaszyk has his hips turned to the opposite direction of the running back’s route. He’s already out of the play.

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Now Weaver makes the read and sees the ball is going to the running back. He immediately makes a B-line to cut him off. However, he get’s cut down by the very same receiver that Kunaszyk is failing to cover. If you look at the angle that Weaver had taken, he would have been reaching to make a shoe-string tackle, which is air in the NFL.

Zone coverage ability

One thing that Evan Weaver does very well is take passing lanes from the opposing quarterback in zone coverage. His recognition of passing concepts is excellent, and his ability to play his zone most effectively is extra-ordinary. This is a trait that transitions well to the modern NFL, mostly for the league becoming more and more passing oriented with each following season.

Take this interception for example. Weaver drops into his coverage lane, which it’s a cover two drop concept. His job is to drop a little bit deeper into the underneath zone and take away the gap in the middle of the field underneath the two safeties playing deep. He baits Jake Browning by getting just enough depth to use his athleticism to leap in the air, intercept the pass, and take it back for a score.

Weaver doesn’t have more interceptions like this one because generally college quarterbacks avoid throwing near him. His recognition trait is solid, and he takes the throws away by positioning himself correctly in his zone.

Inconsistencies as a blitzing linebacker

Evan Weaver has 6.5 career sacks. Obviously, he is capable of getting to the quarterback and getting a sack because he has done it before – multiple times. However, as a blitzing linebacker, a few things are required to be effective. Good timing for one, so as not to be picked up by an offensive lineman. Disguise, so that the offensive line doesn’t account for the blitzer. Speed and athleticism to reach the quarterback before he makes the throw.

Weaver shows a lot of inconsistency as a blitzing linebacker. Sometimes, he gets inside and makes a great play. Other times, he gets caught in the traffic and is removed from the play. This may sound normal, but what makes it a potential issue is the fact that it seems to be a match-up dependent problem. In some games, Weaver in all over the backfield. In other games, he cannot get in the backfield.

When he get’s there, his tackling ability makes him extraordinary. He’s special once he get’s in the backfield, wreaking the play. The problem is getting him into that position. Because of the match-up dependent impact, it makes us question his ability to do this at the next level. Is he succeeding against weaker opponents?

Block Shedding

The data suggests that he isn’t. Most of the reps that I saw him make an impact in the backfield, it was a numbers game. The offense didn’t have enough people to block what California was bringing on defense. Why we see Weaver get caught up in pass protection is that he isn’t good at shedding blocks off of linemen after they are set.

The difference between pass and run blocking is the mentality of the block. In pass protection, linemen are setting back preparing to defend an attack. In run blocking, they are attacking the defender, trying to move him off of his spot. Weaver can shake linemen trying to run block him with ease. His technique shows him take a couple of well aimed punches at the chest of the linemen and he ducks under while they are uncomfortably flinching.

When Weaver gets caught in pass protection, the punches don’t throw off the linemen. The motive of linemen in pass protection is to hold off defenders as long as they can. They are prepared for punches. Weaver struggles because he doesn’t have any other good moves to get around them, possibly a great deal of the reason why California moved Weaver from defensive end to linebacker.

Look at the Production

It’s hard to argue with these stats. Evan Weaver has produced a lot of tackles in college, and his high school stats were just as impressive. There are a lot of traits that the NFL is undoubtedly going to like, and some stuff that limits his instant impact in the league.

The Verdict: PASSED.

Either way, Weaver is a valuable high motor player with a good intensity. NFL teams are going to like his leadership and the intangibles, and that’s going to add value to his stock. Right now, Weaver looks like a day two pick who can really shine in his sophomore season and out. He’s a great player, a great guy, and I look forward to watching him the rest of the season.

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