Reason #2 - BIGGER ISN'T ALWAYS BETTER
As I decided to do theses writeups, I thought it important to review some of the other NT's to see what they brought to the table. I decided to use who I thought were the top 9 going into this season and broke them into 2 groups: those over 340 lbs(Ryan Pickett 6'2" 340, Shaun Rogers 6'4" 360, Jamal Williams 6'3" 348, and Kris Jenkins 6'4" 360) and those under 330 (Vince Wilfork 6'2" 325, Casey Hampton 6' 1" 325, Jay Ratliff 6'4" 303, Kelly Gregg 6'0" 315 and Abrauyo Franklin 6'1" 317).
Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I realize that Haloti Ngata is not on this list, and the reason is that he really didn't play alot of NT, at least not last year. Kelly Gregg and Justin Bannan played the Nose and Ngata played LDE. Just look at the film if you don't believe me.
The first thing that jumps out about the list is that evevryone of the +340 players missed significant time last year due to knee injuries(Pickett 3 gms/Rogers 5 gms/Jenkins 10 gms/Williams/15 gms). Now these are all veteran players so you can chalk most of that up to age, but Hampton is a 10 year vet and has missed only 5 games in the last 5, Kelly Gregg is an 11 year vet who has been very durable save the non-playing injury he suffered 2 years ago(bone rubbing against bone), And then Wilfork, Franklin and Ratliff have a combined 21 year of experience and have missed a total of 9 games the past 4 years between them. Again, age is probably the biggest factor, especially in the case of Jamal Williams, but your kidding yourself if you think all that weight does not take a toll. And the reason this relates to Cody is that in his 2 years at Alabama he missed 3 games with...a knee injury.
But let's get back to size vs production. Conventional wisdom is that you need a massive frame in the 3-4 to stop the run, and that is just not the case. Yes, everyone would love to have a player who is the 2nd coming of Ted Washington, but a player can still be a very producitve NT in this league with qualities like a powerful base and strong hands. Gregg, Hampton and Franklin are, by NFL standards, short, squatty type players. But all 3 of them are very powerful players who use their hands very well, and that is the key to their success. Holding the point of attack so that your LB crew can make the plays is what is the key to the success of a productive NT. And their teams numbers (PIT 89.9 YPG + 3.9 YPC) / (BLT 93.3 YPG + 3.4 YPC) (SF 97.0 YPG + 3.6 YPC). bear this out.
And, in the case of Kris Jenkins who was a monster vs the run in 2007(when he weighed 330) and 2008(when he weighed 340) the extra weight certainly cut down on his productivity in 2009(when he weighed 360), and the numbers bear it out:
NYJ 1st 5 games with Jenkins before injury: AVg. 26 carries - 110 yds 4.2 YPC
NYJ last 11 games with Sione Pouha 6''2" 325: Avg 26 carries - 93 yds 3.55 YPC
Again, I think because of his size, let's be generous and say 6'5" 358, people think draft Cody and problem at the NT position is solved. But size and experience will not get you nearly as far as talent, and I will address that in a later post.
One more note about size. Except for 1 player, Wilfork, every other player on this list had to 'grow' into the position as they were not nearly as big when they came out of college as they are now. The point being, just because a guy doesn't look big enough to play NT right now doesn't mean there isn't room to add to a players frame to become big enough. It is much easier to add weight than to lose it. Trust me , I know of what I speak. The following is the players listed above and their physical stats their final year of college compared to today.
Ryan Pickett: 6'2" 290lbs - 6'2" 340lbs
Shaun Rogers 6'4" 320 - 6'4" 360lbs
Casey Hampton 6'1" 310lbs - 6'1" 325lbs
Kris Jenkins 6'4" 292lbs - 6'4" 360lbs
Jay Ratliff 6'4" 278lbs - 6'4" 303lbs
Kelly Gregg 6'0" 285lbs - 6'0" 315lbs
Abrayou Franklin 6'1" 295lbs - 6'1" 317lbs