Something has been different for the Alabama Crimson Tide over the past few seasons. Their pass rushers aren’t racking up the production we’ve become accustomed to.
But on Saturday against a ranked Ole Miss team in a close game late, Dallas Turner showed exactly why he’s viewed as one of the best defensive prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.
In 2021, as a freshman, Turner produced 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 11 games. That same year, Will Anderson set the world on fire with 17.5 sacks and 31 tackles for loss. While 17 TFLs and 10 sacks are still a good season, 2022 had folks questioning Anderson’s true abilities. The fools.
Crimson Tide EDGEs pin their ears back less now. Many of their reps are focused first and foremost on attacking the edge with their length and then countering as a pass rusher instead of being proactive.
Turner only produced 4 sacks a season ago. He has 4.5 through four games so far in 2023 as he takes over Anderson’s role.
Dallas Turner’s Big Day Against Mississippi
But Saturday’s Ole Miss game showed what Turner can be when he’s let out of his cage. While his first sack was a hustle sack facilitated by a Jaxson Dart retreat and escape out the right hatch, his second showed the high-caliber skill set of an NFL rusher.
Although T.J. Watt would tell you those hustle sacks are a skill themselves.
Turner finished the day with 3.5 TFLs and 2 sacks. How good has he been so far in 2023?
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 26, 2023
The Burst and Bend
Mr. Brugler has the video above that we’d highlight to show Turner’s physical gifts. That play, in particular, shows the good, bad, and ugly of his game. For as athletic as he is, he is often a bit slow off of the ball. Additionally, he’s sometimes surprised by the snap, not quite set in his stance when the play begins.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Turner almost always begins his rush and moves into the chest. Because of that, the left tackle is trying to anchor here, and it causes him to bend at the waist and get too far out over his skis.
This wasn’t necessarily the cleanest cross-chop and rip-through. Turner would likely enjoy being a bit more accurate with his left hand and getting better control of the tackle’s outside strike hand with his right hand.
But despite being shoved back initially, he displays his high-caliber ankle flexion and outstanding burst to flatten the corner. His first two steps were all it took to compromise any angle the tackle had on him.
He simply slid underneath the table and took the shortest distance between himself and the QB — a straight line.
Doing the Dirty Work
TFLs are never boring, and this is no exception. After jumping down to defend the gap left of him at the snap, Turner quickly recognizes the motion and hand-off to the wide receiver on the jet.
All it took was some slight assignment confusing from the play-side guard to give Turner an angle. But it’s the next play that is a nice example of where he’s improved from a season ago.
The above play is boring, and Turner isn’t necessarily part of the action, but he’s the reason this wasn’t a big play. He’s playing much more physically in 2023. His length has always been a natural weapon for him, but he often lacked the pure violence necessary to maximize his length.
But he’s thriving as an edge-setter this season, showing off a well-rounded game like the last highly-drafted EDGE donning crimson. Not only is he keeping space between himself and the blocker, but he’s also able to anchor on the outside foot to disallow a rush lane to form in the B gap.
Coverage Prowess Makes Him a Versatile Weapon
He won’t look like Patrick Surtain or Kool-Aid McKinstry out there, but he holds his own in coverage. He did it nearly 100 times in 2022 and has done it over 30 times through four games in 2023.
His responsibilities are mostly limited to spot drop zone coverage at the second level. But even then, he’s shown some savvy route recognition.
Is that a hold? Probably. But the coverage responsibility here is solely his, and too often, rushers see they’re unblocked and ditch that responsibility like a shark with chum in the waters.
MORE: 2024 NFL Draft Big Board
But we want to highlight the impressive change of direction Turner shows here off of the play fake. Even with the potential hold to keep in the same zip code as the back here is an accomplishment when you’re 250 or so pounds.
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