I don't know, you guys. I mean, I really have no clue. Why do you think I saved this particular Houston Texans rookie profile until the very end of our series (on drafted rookies, that is)? The reaction to the pick has been one of a bit of confusion because no one knew how Sam Montgomery was on the draft board and where he fits on the field. With a little time, we can figure it all out.
First, I think Montgomery's personality is just quirky. He's an interesting cat with a lot of things on his mind. I don't think he's a quitter nor do I think he doesn't love football. In this case, I think Houston has the perfect locker room for this guy. Arian Foster writes poems and ponders philosophy, Antonio Smith is a self-proclaimed Ninja Assassin (part-time Cowboy), Ben Jones eats turf, and Brian Cushing is an all-around lunatic (in a good, charming way), just to name a few.
As for Montgomery, the pick is one with a ton of value. The pre-draft consensus was that Sonic Sam was a second round talent, meaning immediately capable of contributing, be it starting or rotational, next season. If you want to go a step further, a Mr. Mel Kiper, Jr. once had Montgomery as a top-five talent as recently as one calendar year ago. Let's see that talent on display. Here's an ESPN highlight video, and I'll link a game video below.
Sam Montgomery vs Alabama 2012 (via JPDraftJedi)
You'll notice a huge knock on Montgomery from the get-go. He has a lot of work to do on improving his snap recognition and reaction times. There are times where he clearly is the last man to move onscreen. As one scouting report guesses, it's almost as if Sonic Sam is watching the tackle and not the ball. It's a game of inches and Montgomery's reaction could be all the time a professional tackle needs to engage and keep him occupied.
It's hard to judge how he plays and translates because LSU has him more as a defensive end in tight and more on the tackle than outside him, as opposed to how Houston will use him as a strong-side linebacker who will set the edge. What'll help Montgomery there are his long arms, his ability to get underneath and fight with this bigger tackles, and a very competitive spirit. You'll see that all on display perfectly at 3:10. That's exactly what Wade Phillips will look for him to do on run plays. I strongly don't buy into the "quitter" or "lazy" talks. Sure, he may not have been amped up to play creampuffs, but he definitely rises to the occasion against competitive teams. He wasn't an All-American and All-SEC player for nothing.
The ESPN video shows the exciting part more than the in-game footage, but Montgomery can flat out move after the snap. His speed, his quickness, his ability to run down plays across the field at 262 pounds is phenomenal. This is his speed before he drops down into the 250s to play linebacker for Houston. Dropping weight and converting fat into muscle should help Montgomery become quicker and move a bit more fluidly. He doesn't look like a naturally big man, so I think his work with Strength and Conditioning Coach Cedric Smith will be a big help to Montgomery's game.
Pass-rushing wise, I like Montgomery's spin move. He could work on tightening the rotation, but it's a good move. His bull rush, despite the slow get-off, isn't bad. As lanky as Sonic Sam is, there's a lot of strength there. It's rare to see him washed aside. He does do a good job of trying to fight for interior hand position, but I'm not seeing a lot of hand use on shedding blocks, a common rookie problem. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of a more athletic, not-quite-as-strong Brooks Reed rushing the passer.
The big question mark is whether Montgomery do anything in space, particularly dropping into the flats. It's not like he'll be a coverage specialist, but the Texans have used their outside linebackers to cover running backs in the past, most notably Baltimore's Ray Rice. Apparently, Montgomery was not too bad during rookie camp, but this will be a skill that'll need to be developed sooner rather than later.
I think the more time you spend on Montgomery, the more you find to like about him. His personality is just different, and that's cool, plus I think his comments were more twisted than an actual problem. I think it's great for him to be in this locker room, especially with D.J. Swearinger, a friend and former high school teammate. With guys like J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith, and Brian Cushing around him, I've no doubt that Montgomery will be focused and motivated to 'hang with the big dogs.'
On the field, I do expect Montgomery to lock down the starting outside linebacker gig, which allows Brooks Reed to move inside and gets the best 11 defenders on the field in base sets. I think Montgomery can handle the base requirements on the strong-side which are setting the edge, handling the flats, and getting after the passer when asked. I think he also brings a lot of speed to the defense.
Long term, I think the talent is there. I do. I can see why people had him rated so highly. There's athleticism that shouldn't exist in a man his size. The things he needs to work on are all technique and can be fixed. Heck, just getting him to turn his head and go off the ball movement would be a significant leap. There's no reason why Montgomery couldn't be a stud on the strong-side. He has all the tools. He just has to want it.
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Battle Red Blog on the 2013 Houston Texans Rookies: Film Room: Breaking Down First Round Pick DeAndre Hopkins | Looking At New Texans Safety D.J. Swearinger | Scouting OT Brennan Williams | Collin Klein To Get A Shot At Quarterback | A Better Look At WR Alan Bonner | Looking At TE Ryan Griffin | Scouting Trevardo Williams | Is Chris Jones The Answer At Nose Tackle? | Examining OT David Quessenberry
From Around The Network: Shakin' The Southland (Clemson) on DeAndre Hopkins | Garnet & Black Attack (South Carolina) on D.J. Swearinger | Hustle Belt (Mid-American Conference a.k.a. #MACtion) on Chris Jones | Hustle Belt on Chris Jones, Houston Texan