Michael Bennett Can’t Rely on Athleticism in NFL


Michael Bennett is one of the rare athletes in the world who has found his sport come easily to him. It isn’t something he had to work hard at in the college ranks, assuming a standout role with the Ohio State Buckeyes based largely on athleticism.

It worked for the new Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle through college but he saw it bite him in the butt during the 2015 NFL Draft when he kept slipping through rounds before landing with the Jags in the sixth round. There’s no doubt he’s talented, but whether he can work beyond his base athleticism remains to be seen.

Now, Michael Bennett knows that weakness and knows he needs to work on it or risk not finding success in the NFL.

Bennett will have to work hard to get time playing on a crowded defensive line with the Jags. There are a multitude of playmakers in the interior defensive line and guys like Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, and Jared Odrick aren’t accustomed to letting young players eat into their reps. Marks and Miller are the two big foundation stones for the Jags defense going forward and Bennett will have to show he can succeed when he gets limited reps if he hopes to be successful. That means he can’t just rely on his athleticism and must instead work on showing the dedication and hustle that head coach Gus Bradley wants from his stout defensive linemen.

Fortunately it appears that Bennett has learned his lesson quickly, telling the Florida Times Union “Now I feel like it’s, ‘Go get the ball at all costs, go get that play, run it down from 40 yards.’ This is your livelihood. That’s what you need to do.” The Jaguars are expecting big things from Bennett (especially early in the season with injuries in the defensive line) when he does see the field. So far, it sounds like he has the right mindset and knows that he needs to improve in a few specific areas. Chief among those areas of improvement are his motor and increased maturity.

To me, Bennett may shake out to be the steal of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has the skills to be something special in the NFL and if he manages to buckle down – which is what it sounds like he is doing – then the Jaguars could have snagged a top defensive tackle for a song. He’ll be learning behind some of the best defensive tackles in the NFL, putting him in a great place to absorb the game and put it all into practice with his exceptional understanding of the game and athleticism.

I’m excited to see what Bennett can do, but we’ll have to keep an eye on him through the year to see if he keeps bringing it on every play and can consistently put up big plays.

Next: Is James Jones an Option for the Jags?

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