Let's face it, we didn't have much of a pass rush last year. When we did, it came from other parts of the defense rather than the line, e.g. Roman Harper coming in to leave a hole in the secondary. The few times that the defensive line did get close to the quarterback, it felt like the pursuer ran out of gas before delivering a game changing sack. (And sacks are game-changing; something like 80% of drives with a sack sputter out before putting points on the board). While our boys did a good job of holding the line most of the time, they seemed to lack the explosion needed to get to the quarterback and seal the deal. I can't even count how many times I watched Will Smith huff and puff off to the bench after chasing a quarterback who made it safely out of his reach. Our line is full of solid, but similar sized, players who never seem to have that extra umpf it takes to reach the other team's signal caller.
Insert Greg Romeus, our seventh-round steal of a defensive end. His combination of size and speed doesn't come around very often. Don't get me wrong, Romeus was a risk in that he is coming of ACL and back surgery, but he is a gamble the Saints can afford to take after getting the gap-closing Golden bear Cameron Jordan in the first. Once he is fully healthy, Romeus will provide the explosiveness that our D-Line has lacked. I don't have any combine numbers since he was still injured at the time, but if you want an idea of how fast he hits the point of attack look at the number of extra point attempts he blocked his sophomore year of at Pittsburgh: 3. In one year, he hit the hole so hard and fast that he could block the easiest kick in football on three separate occasions.
Of course, it helps that Romeus stands at 6'6'' with arms that seem to stretch to unrealistic proportions. Romeus uses these arms well as he seems to constantly bat down passes, especially on screen plays. Screens ate our defense alive last year because we lacked sideline to sideline speed in our linebacking corps. Romeus should be able to have offensive coordinators second guessing screens with that kind of wingspan.
The Panther alum also uses his arms well to rush the passer with what I call "the long arm of the law" move. This is basically a bullrush with the offensive tackle kept helplessly at bay with a long stiffarm while the end runs around them. Effective in college, NFL offensive lineman are bigger with faster feet. This move won't work on a smart tackle who will use angles and fast feet to make Romeus's staple rush move obsolete. He started to pick up a pretty solid swim move towards the end of his career which could be used well in the NFL. He'll need to learn a wider repertoire to be the elite pass rusher I believe he can be. His strong bullrush suggests that perhaps down the line he might develop an effective Dwight Freeney spin move. The Pittsburgh prospect seems to be overly reliant on his athletic and 270 pound frame, often sacrificing pad level and balance for a raw bullrush. Captain Will Smith should be able to show the boy a few moves to polish his talent with technical skill.
His gap responsibility seems flawed at times, but his arms are so strong that he slows down (or takes down) running backs with only one arm stretched out to make the move. Pure power allows him to make tackles that are usually broken.
The only other fault I can find in his game is the tendency to give up when he is clearly double-teamed. He half-heartedly goes after the quarterback when it seems clear that the odds are stacked against him. One good old-fashioned Greg Williams chew out should clear this problem. In fact, I really hope this moment is televised.
Greg Romeus seems to be the answer to many of our blessed boys' pass rush problems. If he can stay healthy (which is a big "if"), we have All-Pro talent here. (sidenote: The Pro-Bowl is a joke). Even if Romeus spends his rookie year rehabbing and learning the game at the pro-level, I have no doubt that he will become a common name that quarterbacks associate with fear and pain. Glad to see a roll of the dice on a player with tremendous upside. In his three healthy years of college, Greg Romeus was named to three different All-American teams; I can't wait to see what he does wearing black and gold.