I've been hearing a lot about Terrence Cody of late. I hadn't really had a chance to make any kind of decision on how I feel about the player and with the onset of a classic SEC LSU/Alabama contest, I thought that this kind of high-stakes matchup would be a perfect chance to find out if this is a player that I'd like the Broncos to consider or not. The week before, I spent some time wandering though the draft sites and the news media to get a little background. These are the things I found.
First, Terrence Cody isn't currently being considered as a first round pick by a surprising number of of websites. The ones that like him seem to only talk about his metrics - there's no question at all that he's a big, big guy. But as too often happens, very few sites that are 'big' on him talked about anything else. That has been the biggest reason that I haven't been on the Cody bandwagon -- that doesn't tell me anything that I didn't know the first time that I read about him. Size is good - sometimes. It certainly can't be taught. But, by itself it's not sufficient. There are 400 lb guys out there, but they can't necessarily play nose tackle. If Denver wants him at all, they'll want him at nose. He really doesn't have any qualities that would let him fill in at DE. I needed to learn about his intellect, motivation, coachability, skillset and effectiveness.
To gain a little more background, I looked up some biographical information. Cody transferred to Alabama as a junior in 2008, coming from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He had also only played two years of high school football - his junior and senior years. I didn't find a reason given, (although a couple of allusions to his poor grades in high school) but Cody's lack of experience may be playing into some of his issues. However - upon transferring to Alabama, he made an immediate impact. In 2007, Cody would go on to achieve first all-SEC team status, and garnered first team All-American status during his first year at Alabama, his junior year. He did miss a few games with a MCL sprain, which is something to watch. The ankles and knees of a man that big take on a huge strain.
So, I spent some time on the sites that have dropped him out of the top round and read about their feelings as to why that's going to happen. I got the same two reasons, over and over. Reason 1 - conditioning. Reason 2 - inner drive. The two are frequently related, and in a big man, they can be a real pain in the neck. Cody is 6'5" and his weight is the stuff of conjecture. That brought back a few players throughout history, and none of them made me very happy.
If you're of a certain age, you might remember an offensive tackle by the name of Bubba Paris. At 6-6 and 300 lb in an era when that weight was rare, he was drafted in 1982 to play left tackle by the San Francisco 49ers. Bubba was going to be the next big reason that the SF 49ers would go to more Super Bowls. When Paris was drafted, Bill Walsh was sure that with a year or so of seasoning, Paris would be a very large, very stout obstacle to any of the players who were going to hit Walsh's quarterbacks. It never happened. Paris sat out a year and the coaches worked with him on his conditioning but he always seemed to regain the weight (it would later turn out to be delivery late night pizzas that were the culprit). He did eventually start at left tackle and he played in a lot of playoff games for a very good SF team.
However, no matter what they did, for some reason Paris just couldn't get himself sufficiently motivated to get and stay in the kind of shape that would let him dominate. He did last for almost a decade, but Paris was just never the player that Walsh wanted or that he could have been. That's happened with a lot of big men. Hearing that about Cody didn't fill me with warmth and excitement, but it was, after all, just draft sites. They aren't exactly gospel to me. I wanted to watch him play, and I did.
In the first quarter, I got a good look at him. He's physically imposing, to be sure. What I didn't see was an explosive first step. Cody doesn't seem to fire off the snap. He's not languid, but he's far from fast. You can say, however, that he gets up a good head of speed over the course of a few steps. Inertia is certainly his friend. True to his pattern, Cody tended to play 2 of three downs. What concerned me about that was that he missed both passing and rushing downs, apparently due to his conditioning issues. Cody has lost some weight, by the way, and is down from almost 390 to 365 to start the season and 358 early this week. I consider that a good sign, but I do wonder at how long it's taken him to get motivated enough to dump the weight, and whether he's gained sufficient endurance enroute. Several sites did mention that the coaches have admitted that motivation isn't always his strong suit. Again - that's just draft sites, and opinions vary.
There were some good things and some less good things that came out right away as the game began. On one of the first plays, I saw him attempt to stunt, weakside, attempting to make his way past Ciron Black, the LSU sophomore LT who will turn pro. Black handled him easily, one on one. That wasn't what I had hopes for. By the way, when Cody tries to run, he almost prances. It's a strange gait for a man of his size, but something tells me that no one makes fun of it. Cody was double teamed at times, and rarely seemed to defeat them. He's tough one on one for the smaller players to handle, though, and that's a start.
During that quarter, Cody got near the QB once but never really pressured him. I will say that LSU often ran 'away' from him, but I'm not going to read a lot into that. They essentially liked to run offtackle and did so a lot with mixed results. They did run past him a couple of times, moving him nicely out of the way. They also threw a lot of screens - WR and RB.
Cody wasn't much of a factor in the passing game. He's not fast enough to catch the QB much, and he's not explosive enough to reach his level often. I saw him on his hands and knees twice. He did make a nice tackle on running back Charles Scott, moving laterally with good control to reach him. On two other plays, the announcers raved over him being in on the tackle, but he had only mopped up after the stop was made.
Play anticipation: I've already noted that I didn't see him exploding off the snap. Just as importantly, I didn't see him having the ability to diagnose the play and to move accordingly. If the play went away from him, it seemed that he wasn't too concerned about pursuit. Cody also doesn't seem to have the knack of using his hands effectively. Blockers too often were able to lock on to him and maintain their blocks.
On an Alabama blitz package at about the 10:50 mark of the second quarter, Cody went for the B gap. The guard took him on and steered him to the outside, leaving a huge opening that the LSU QB Jordan Jefferson used to pick up a first down, running. He was kept helpless in a double team when Jefferson threw the first TD pass of the day. Overall, this isn't what I want to see in a Broncos high round pick. Cody tended to trot when he should have run (or was that running?). He isn't often in on the tackles even in his zone. By the time that the 1st half had ended, I wasn't in Cody's corner.
But I entered the second half willing to be persuaded. It was a good, tight game, with several great performances on both teams. It was the kind of game in which one single big play could swing the victory to one team or the other. LSU went into half time with a 7-3 lead, but Alabama came back on the first drive on the second half to take a 10-7 lead. It was still anyone's game.
3rd quarter, 3rd and 4, 10:34 to go. Cody actually did fire out of his stance very quickly. The only problem was, he was totally off-balance when he did and landed flat on his nose., untouched. Easy play for an LSU 1st and 10. I continued to watch and chart, but eventually lost interest. To be honest, Cody didn't do all that much. The LSU offense was shut down for most of the day, but Cody really wasn't a big part of that. He made a couple of plays, but really didn't do anything that stood up and screamed 'First Round!'. Actually, I left the exercise with the impression that he's going to be a project for someone.
Do you remember BJ Raji? He was the one 'big' prize, the player that teams were supposed to lust over. The Packers got him and he's doing what most 1st year DL players do - sitting on the bench, filling in, impressing no one. If you add to that the fact that Raji at least tended to dominate more often than not in college, you can get a clear picture of how excited I'd be if Cody came to Denver. I've looked forward to dental appointments with that kind of joyous fervor.
Terrence Cody is a very large man. He is relatively inexperienced. He might be teachable, even though he apparently doesn't have a huge intellect, and he may keep his motivation on the weight loss long enough to get in condition. But if you seriously want the Broncos to improve this upcoming offseason, I'd suggest that either he's going to have to improve very quickly, or he's not the player for us. Intellect, first step, ability to diagnose the play, dominating against talent, defeating double teams and showing off skill in big games all mean a certain amount to me in establishing draft desirability for NTs. TC just didn't have it today. Perhaps on other days he will, but I came away sure that he's not the player for the Broncos.