Jackie Shipp became Arizona State's defensive line coach last season, and he helped Will Sutton, the Bears' new third-round defensive tackle, repeat as Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Shipp was the Miami Dolphins' first-round pick in 1984. He played five NFL seasons before embarking on a coaching career that includes stops at Alabama and Oklahoma.
In a recent phone conversation, Shipp discussed how Sutton's skills fit the Bears' one-gap scheme and the affects of Sutton's weight gain last season.
The full Q&A:
Q: What type of player are the Bears getting in Will?
JS: “He’s a guy that can really hit gaps, attack gaps, attack the line of scrimmage. On run plays, make tackles for loss. Be disruptive on blocking schemes. And also he’s a good pass rusher.”
Q: What makes him so good in a one-gap system, which the Bears run?
JS: “I think it’s just a combination of, basically, he understands leverage very well. He has a good first step. He understands blocking angles. He’s a very smart football player. If you look at how he’s built, he’s about 6-1 (he measured 6-feet at the combine) and about 290 pounds now, which he should be. And he has a very good first step, very good quickness, very good penetrator understanding leverage. And he just fits that attack-style front, has a way of getting on a block, getting off a block. Has a way of sliding blocks. Has a way of taking on a block physically and getting rid of the block. But he can also slide, and he’s very good at movements and stunts, and he can just torque his body certain ways and come free, and to get off blocks and make a play.”
Q: What about his hands? How does he use those to get off blocks and penetrate?
JS: "In pass rush, he uses his hands very well. I think in playing the run, he would need to get a little better using his hands, but I think he’ll get that done."
Q: Anything in particular he can improve with his hands against the run?
JS: “It’s just about technique, technique and placement right there.”
Q: He talked to Bears reporters about the difference in weight his junior year and senior year. He said it was bad. How did that affect him, and did you get a sense that as the year went on he got more comfortable?
JS: “He did put on all that weight, and it was not good weight. He shouldn’t have put on that weight. I think he was at least being honest with you. He was listening to people that ... don’t have any idea, and he’s trying to put on weight to show them he can be a big guy, and it affected his game. That is not his style of play. That weight he put on was more being like a two-technique guy.
"Y’all had a heck of a three-technique in Henry Melton. I remember my years at Oklahoma when he first came to Texas as a running back. If you watched him move and change direction, you’re talking a guy that comes about 285, 295. I don’t know what he weighs now , but he’s probably about somewhere in that range. (The Dallas Cowboys list Melton at 6-foot-3, 295.) That’s just that style of play they play.
"But yeah, (Will) listened to the wrong people, wouldn’t listen to the correct people, and it affected him, and it hurt him. And now he’s back to that weight, which is good for the Bears and good for him."
Q: Is his potential higher because of the adjustment he made with the weight?
JS: “Yeah, that weight did hurt him, being that heavy trying to play four quarters and a guy who could play every snap. I think he will drop that weight, and then he’ll add some good weight. It wouldn’t surprise me here in about two or three years he’s playing at 300 as that body matures and that type of thing. But I think he’s going to be a way better player, and he’s going to improve himself better by being at the lighter weight.”
Q: What about off the field? What kind of player are the Bears getting?
JS: “I think a good kid, a very good kid, a family-oriented kid. Very close with his family. I always noticed that about him. Good teammate with his teammates, that type of thing. I think he’s a good person. There’s no doubt about it.”
Q: Does anything stand out about his preparation?
JS: “I think you’re going to get a defensive lineman that is a very smart football player, that I think will not only know his position, but he’ll know what the other guys are doing. That’s one thing that stood out with me. He picks up defenses and schemes very well.”
Q: You mentioned his ability to move and torque his body in order to get off blocks. Where does that come from?
JS: “I guess he’s God-blessed on some things. The good Lord has blessed him, I guess.”
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