The Ravens inside linebacker foils the best in the business with his work on Monday night.
Albert McClellan is not an NFL star. He won’t run down scat backs sideline-to-sideline and stuff them for losses. He’s not a gifted pass rusher
He’s a solid contributor on a good defense. It makes him an ideal choice for a series like the NFL Lens.
Despite the marketing campaigns for draft programming that inundate us with the idea that professional success equates to stardom, most NFL players don’t fit this glamorous portrait. Good football is often about doing your job with consistent details.
It’s what McClellan does on this pass drop against the Patriots on Monday Night Football.
Athletic ability is a minimal factor in the success of this play. What matters most is details—multiple minor details.
There’s McClellan’s sale of the rush: the body lean before the snap, the quick flinch of his body just before the snap to tip off the line and quarterback that he’s blitzing, and being the first to engage as he approaches the left tackle.
These three things make his rush believable. Although it can’t be seen in the video, Tom Brady is looking to his right as he drops from center. McCellan’s initial sale of the rush is probably something Brady caught pre-snap.
It’s this sell of the rush that sets up the drop and ultimately interrupts Brady’s rhythm with the crossing route to Julian Edelman. Before that happens, the details of McClellan’s drop are equally important.
His head is up, his eyes remain on the quarterback during the drop, and his steps are well spaced so he remains balanced and on his toes so he can react to the release of the ball.
Most of all the depth of the drop reaches the first down marker and McClellan never has to turn his head from Brady to gauge that depth. It’s this control of his body, eye contact with Brady, and depth of his drop that forces the quarterback to lead Edelman a little more than planned—and it’s enough to generate an inaccurate throw.
Even the trajectory of the pass is off-kilter. If you look close enough, the release is a bit off, too.
The details matter when scouting players. Sometimes we can get too wrapped up in them and lose sight of what matters most, but when I see a player that has command of the details in a process, it’s an encouraging sign that he works at his craft, he’s likely consistent, and there’s promise for additional growth.