Anyone who has read me in the last year or who has followed me on Twitter (@Marcus_Mosher) knows my opinion of DeVonte Holloman. I’ve loved his game since the pre-draft process at South Carolina. I liked what he showed me in pre-season and the types of plays he was involved in . And now, I can say that I really love what he has shown in the NFL, despite limited action. But his most impressive performance to me came in the final week of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles when he started at middle linebacker, but we will get to that in a bit.
But what should we really expect from DeVonte Holloman in 2014? Most experts and pundits expect Holloman to battle for the strong-side linebacker (SLB) job with Kyle Wilber and for him to be Sean Lee’s primary backup. But I have even higher expectations. Not only do I expect Holloman to win the SLB job with ease, I also think he will be the second best linebacker on the team by next season’s end. Sounds like a pretty bold prediction, right? I believe he is that talented and I will show you why.
But before we get into the game film, lets take a look at DeVonte Holloman’s measurables as compared to the other Cowboys linebackers:
As you can see, Holloman is not a great athlete. In fact, he might be the least athletic linebacker on the team outside of Orie Lemon and Cameron Lawrence, who are both special teams players. And typically, I prefer guys who have a solid vertical, broad jump and 20 yard shuttle. And Holloman doesn’t stand out in any of these three areas. But in this case, it isn’t as big a deal because his game isn’t fully dependent on athleticism.
What I love about DeVonte Holloman is that he is a gambler. I have shown this play before on Twitter, but I think it’s important to show again. This is a play against the Cardinals in pre-season where Holloman has a straight shot at the quarterback. Most players would go for the body of the quarterback, taking the easy sack. But Holloman wants to make plays. He goes right for the arm of the quarterback, not worrying about getting the sack. He forces the quarterback to lose control of the ball and causes a fumble. I love that mentality of “going to get what’s yours” from my rookie linebacker.He will take chances on plays to force a potential game-turning turnover.
Holloman has the perfect chance at a sack, but he gambles and goes for the ball. I love that in my linebackers. His “all-or-nothing” style of play is what made me fall in love with him at South Carolina. And he showed that he has the ability to blitz and cover in the NFL.
But my biggest concern about Holloman coming into the NFL was his ability to stop the run. And after re-watching all of his snaps in 2013, I am no longer worried. Let’s take a look:
This is something that I didn’t see from Holloman earlier this year and even back to college. Holloman is a former safety and at times, you can see why. He would be late to diagnosis running plays and would be a step behind the development.
Holloman diagnosis the play and is responsible for stopping LeSean McCoy. Not an easy task. The first frame shows that McCoy has two running lanes on either side of the center. McCoy actually takes the lane on the right side of the center, which was a mistake by him.
Holloman beats the left tackle who just came off a combination block and squares up McCoy to make the tackle for no gain. This seems like such a simple, elementary play, but if Holloman were to miss, this may have been a huge gain for the Eagles. Phildelphia has designed their offense so that defenders are in one-on-one situations and they bank on their players winning. However, Holloman won this one.
Obviously, these were just a few plays in which Holloman stood out. But every time Holloman gets on the field, he makes plays. And if we are being honest with ourselves, the Cowboy defense is still likely going to be a work in progress in 2014. And like in 2013, the defense is going to have to rely on creating turnovers to slow team’s down. And that is what Holloman does best. If DeVonte Holloman can stay healthy (and that is a big “if” for all Cowboy defenders) I expect him to clearly be the Cowboys second best linebacker in 2014. I know it is very early to say this, but I believe the Cowboys may have stolen a future star player in the sixth round of the NFL draft last year.