Tip of the cap to WoodenTaco for pointing out a great article over at Football Outsiders.
Michael Davis Smith writes a weekly column in which he picks a different player each week and watches them on every play in a single game. After Patrick Willis's breakout game for the 49ers on MNF, Smith decided to watch and analyze him during the Rams game this past Sunday. I'm a big fan of that kind of analysis because he can get a better idea of a single player's tendencies and abilities. Smith makes sure to mention that one performance is not an indicator of performance over the season. Of course, Patrick Willis himself is an indicator of full season awesomeness, so no worries there.
Some of the highlights from the article:
Let's start with the negatives. Like a lot of young and athletic linebackers, Willis has work to do in learning how to get off blocks. On a nine-yard run by Steven Jackson in the first quarter, left tackle Alex Barron blocked Willis one-on-one, and Jackson ran right behind Barron's block. Willis didn't read the play quickly enough, and once Barron (who has 75 pounds on Willis) got a body on him, Willis had no chance....Willis will never have the strength to overpower Barron one-on-one, and he might not even have the strength to overpower Klopfenstein. But the 49ers need Willis to learn to use his quickness to avoid needing to overpower bigger players.
The most intriguing question about Willis is what kind of pass rusher he can become. When Willis blitzes, he comes in quickly but a little bit out of control....Willis only rushed from the outside a couple of times, but every offensive coordinator preparing for the 49ers this year will be worried about whether his protection schemes can prevent Willis from doing that to his quarterback.
One of the things I like about Willis is that he's a hitter, but he doesn't think the tackle ends with the hit. He wraps up the player he's trying to tackle and takes him to the ground.
Although the 49ers' defensive schemes are quite a bit different from the Bears', there were times when I watched Willis and thought he could be a similar player to Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, with the speed necessary to fly all over the field, especially in deep pass coverage.
Two games into his NFL career, Willis isn't a great player yet, but all of the elements to achieve greatness are there....With hard work on his part and the right coaching, I could see Willis becoming a staple of the All-Pro teams over the next few years.
I fully expect plenty more articles discussing the greatness of Patrick Willis, but it's nice to get some quality in-depth analysis from the Outsiders.
And remember: Patrick Willis doesn't look both ways before he crosses the street...he just tackles any cars that get too close.