Joey Bosa’s dominance is unmatched

Bosa is able to both rush the passer and destroy the run -- and may have a case for the best player in college football.

| 1 year ago
Joey Bosa

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Joey Bosa’s dominance is unmatched

Joey Bosa is one of the best players in the nation, and was one of the best players in the nation a year ago as well. He will be one of the top picks when he declares for the NFL draft and has been one of the most consistently dominant players in the college landscape over the last year and a half (since PFF has been grading the FBS).

If the Heisman Trophy had not become an award typically granted to quarterbacks and running backs, then there would be a very good argument that Bosa should already have one to his name and be gunning for a second.

But what makes him so dominant? What does Bosa do well and how does he do it? Let’s take a look at the tape.

Edge rush

If you’re going to be a high-level edge rusher in college and then the NFL, you need to be able to actually win around the edge. Luckily Bosa can do exactly that. You don’t need to look far into his most recent outing against Rutgers to see a perfect example of it.


Here Bosa wins around the right tackle with speed and excellent work with his hands, and then has the quickness and strength to turn the corner and beat the guard trying to get over to help before taking down the quarterback. The speed is impressive enough, but the use of his hands to swat away the attempted block by the right tackle and then the dip to get around that block is high-level technique. Some players get by at the college level with athleticism alone and struggle against superior competition at the next level before they develop the technique side of their game, but Bosa already shows impressive technique on a regular basis in the Big T.

So far this season he has 38 total pressures and 16 of them have been pressure to the outside of his blocker, showing his speed and ability to bring the heat around the edge.

Power and technique

Bosa isn’t just a speed guy though, and what is most exciting about his game is his ability to play with power just as readily as he does with speed and quickness. It also gives him the versatility that makes him so exciting as a prospect. Take this play against Penn State the week before (and yes, I went for a play in this game largely just for those black Ohio State uniforms..):


Again, it’s a sack from Bosa, but this time he is working inside at defensive tackle, playing the 3-technique spot. That is the traditional pass-rushing alignment for defensive tackles and is the kind of spot you’ll find JJ Watt or Michael Bennett occupying on pass-rushing downs. Not any edge rusher can survive inside at defensive tackle on a regular basis. The speed they possess is obviously beneficial when dealing with slower, interior linemen, but they also need the strength to be able to fight through tighter confines where there is less space to exploit.

Bosa wins on this play from start to finish, rocking the right guard back and extending his arms and then powering through on the inside and enveloping the quarterback. At no point was the guard even close to gaining control of this block and was simply overwhelmed by Bosa’s strength and surge. Once again we see a perfect blend of physical skill and technique as he uses his arms to get in to the blocker’s pads, extend him away from his own body and control the encounter from start to finish. Plays like the one below are exactly why people talk about length being such an important trait for battles in the trenches:


If Bosa hadn’t had the length he possesses he may not have been able to keep the blocker away from his frame and this would have become simply a battle of mass and inertia against a guy who outweighs him by 15 pounds.

Run game

As you might imagine from somebody who can win as a pass rusher using both speed and quickness, technique and power, Bosa can dominate in the run game as well.

He has the highest grade among edge defenders in the nation against the run, and a grade that almost matches his pass-rushing figure. This is an area of his game that appears to have improved even more from a year ago, but a look at the tape shows him again killing blockers in a variety of different ways. He is too strong to be left to backs and tight ends and too quick and skilled to be left to lone linemen.


Take this play against Rutgers. Bosa, again lined up at defensive tackle, just destroys the left guard on an island, swimming inside him using a move that JJ Watt has made famous in the NFL and extinguishing the run in the backfield for a loss.


In short, the only way teams can prevent Bosa from wreaking havoc against their run game or quarterback is to double team him, or somehow assign extra help to his assigned blocker. Left one on one, Bosa will defeat the man tasked with blocking him more often than not.

Bosa may have had a slow start to the year, but don’t be fooled by his sack total. He has been a one-man mountain slide, steaming through offensive lines and laying waste to whatever was in his path for more than a year now. He is a complete defender, able to rush the passer and destroy the run with equal dexterity. He is physically gifted, but also shows extremely advanced technique and an exceptional grasp of fundamentals. This is a man who has a good case to be known as the best player in college football, and will be coming to a field near you in the NFL sooner rather than later — possibly as the first overall pick of the draft.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Tim Edell

    Great article!!