The East-West Shrine Bowl, more commonly known as the lesser of the two preparatory games leading up to the NFL Draft, is a glimmer into prospect’s transition into the league. For some, it’s a coming of age exhibition of talent and skill. For others, it’s an exposé of their weaknesses and pitfalls.
Thomas Booker was drafted by the Texans in the fifth round of this past draft. The Texans traded up for him and banked on his renowned intelligence, versatility, and experience. Booker along with Texans selections RT Austin Deculus and TE Teagan Quitoriano played in the East-West Shrine Bowl. All of which will be seen in this first play breakdown.
Booker is #95 for the East team and rotated in at defensive tackle. He primarily played between the guards, but occasionally lined up between the guard and tackle.
On this first goal line play, you’ll see our sixth round pick, Deculus from LSU combo-block Booker five yards into the defense. Booker is at the point of attack on this play and was removed from the defensive line like a booger being excavated from a nose.
His technique leaves a lot to be desired.
- Too high when making first contact
- Doesn’t “feel” the secondary block from Deculus
- No true counter move after losing momentum
- Shoulders get turned, which doesn’t permit him to reestablish his hips and redirect the tackle’s momentum.
The first play was relatively harsh, so you’d imagine I’d follow it up with a more amicable play right? Well, the next play isn’t much better.
On this goal line play, Thomas Booker. is playing a 2i technique. He’s responsible for occupying the A gap and ensuring the center and guard don’t get to the linebacker. The offensive line are utilizing a power scheme, focusing on the lineman in front of them then sliding to the linebacker when they approach the line of scrimmage.
Booker gets double-teamed off the snap and is pushed back a yard, which is too much ground on the goal line. He does a better job hinging from his hips and stopping the block than last play. Booker has been sealed back when the RB cuts back into his lane. The linebacker doesn’t do him any favors trying to go over the top, but our draft pick is the furthest back of the four DL on this play. Not a fantastic look.
Much of today’s analysis will be his run blocking. Booker does not possess many pass rush skills, but we will get to that later. This next play features him as the nose guard in a standard 4-3 defense that he’ll play in Houston. The West offense ran a traditional run scheme with everyone blocking down and the wing back sealing the opposite side end.
The defensive line forms a crescent shape in two seconds. Booker is downright exploitable at the point of attack. There simply lacks an “oh ****” moment when he’s being combo-blocked. It’s as if he doesn’t acknowledge he’s being moved. No sense of urgency. No counter.
Here is some video from practice early in the week. One-on-one he’s dominating these two guards and uses his hands effectively. This was not displayed during the game and raises more questions about his in-game mentality. Is he over thinking everything?
Oh, I’m being too harsh? I present to you the justification:
Booker gets shoved back seven yards. Yes, the rest of the team rally to the ball and stop the run, but this is borderline undraftable film here.
Booker had an impressive combine and grades out as probably the smartest player in the draft, but he needs to be trained in the art of combat. We can’t continue to discuss hand positioning, leverage, and other tactical nuances until these types of plays disappear.
Pass rushing. Fine, let’s get into it. Booker did have a better fourth quarter in this game getting after the QB. He draws a holding call on this second and long.
I enjoy the forceful nature he attacks the guard’s outside shoulder with. He essentially cuts the player in half and presses his full weight against half of the guard’s weight. A strong up and under rip technique paired with an effective leg drive wedges himself between the lineman and into the backfield. He doesn’t stray too wide to open a crease for the QB to escape either.
To finish off with a positive, Booker recorded a sack late in the game. The guard’s technique here was putrid. He launched at Booker, who was head up on him, and exposed his chest.
Booker straight up bullied this guard and collapsed the pocket.
- Strong and active base
- Attacked his chest plate with both hands, then worked up to the guard’s shoulders with his hands.
- Ripped guard’s hands to escape the block and free up his arm to wrap up the QB
Look there’s a lot of work that needs to be done here. Sure, this is the soccer equivalent of a “friendly”, but my guy your NFL career is on the line and this is the tape we get?
Some prospects need to be cradled and developed before stepping onto the field. Booker is too experienced and knowledgeable about the game for that. The Texans must throw him into the fire while it’s early in his career and see if he’s got what it takes. Booker will be a boom or bust prospect in the league and we’ll know fairly quickly which direction he’s going.