Monday, August 13, 2018

Two Chiefs players that stood out on the tape from Thursday night

Demarcus Robinson and Ben Niemann were standouts from preseason Week 1 down in the film lab.

By Matt Lane
August 10, 2018

Ben Niemann

Niemann got on the field with most of the second-team defense to start the second half, and from that point on, he seemed to be literally everywhere.

As a jumping-off point, Niemann showed fantastic instincts
(mental processing, reads the field well, whatever you wanna call it) like many other Iowa linebackers currently in the league. He isn’t hesitant to act on what he sees and is always working downhill.

He wasn’t put in a lot of positions to test his overall athleticism, which is probably what needs to be seen the most, but playing ahead in the snap thanks to his mental ability can help overcome any deficiencies there.

Outside of the quick reads, Niemann showcased fantastic textbook tackling that is even perfect for the new rules. He didn’t get an opportunity to lay any big hits, but he was engaging with a low center of gravity and had his chest up while wrapping up the ball carrier every time he could.

Niemann open field tackle

This was a good read on a tight end working downfield on a play designed to fool second-level players on the defense.

Niemann opens up to play his coverage responsibilities but reads the tight end like a book and is working back to the LoS quickly. His engagement of the tight end is quite impressive as well, quickly works laterally around the tight end’s block attempt to force the running back to cut back inside. Not being content with just changing the running back’s path, Niemann is able to work outside-in and get back around the tight end to make a textbook tackle.

Niemann 4th and 1 stuff

Again with the good reads, Niemann plays the three reads perfectly here.

The nearest offensive guard chops forward to indicate run, and the nearest running back works to the far outside triggering Niemann to flow with him. As soon as Niemann sees the ball, in the running back’s hands as he tries to cut up through an open lane, it’s up to only him to make the stop.

Niemann does a great job covering all the space but doing so with power and aggression. It’s hard to not overcommit but Niemann is able to get the angle he wants. He comes downhill hard, gets low and stays square resulting not only in a tackle but also a tackle that allows no forward momentum to carry for the first down.

Flex on ‘em all you want after that one young man; you deserved it.

Niemann TFL

Niemann, an undrafted rookie, was not perfect in this game (everyone panic).

But seriously, plays like this happen to veterans all the time, so seeing a young guy overcommit to a run play because he was playing overly aggressive and trusting what he saw is not something to overreact to.

Come film time, someone will sit down with him and make sure he goes over reading the interior offensive lineman first, then the nearest running back, then the ball, that way you get sucked up on plays like this.

Niemann appears to be tracking just the running back on this play and comes up to play it aggressively but doesn’t recognize the pass play until it’s too late and the ball is tossed just over his fingertips. He’ll live and learn, but this is a good experience for him on things to trigger that aggressive attacking style that inside linebackers need to have in the NFL.

This is why you have to trust your reads as a linebacker, even if they are wrong occasionally.

The previous clip shows Niemann reading the play wrong and getting pulled out of position, but on this play, that same quick trigger based on what he saw results in a tackle for loss.

The moment that offensive lineman fired out of his stance low and forward, Niemann is coming downhill and he shoots right off the center’s back hip into the backfield.

This was the best display of athleticism from Niemann and it’s promising, good burst into the backfield and even a little flexibility to make that turn at that speed to chase the running back down. I’m in no way comparing him to Derrick Johnson, but this is a classic example of why DJ was good when he was at his best.

He was aggressive to act on his reads and when they were right, he cleaned up. It’s a big change from some other LBs we’ve seen in KC over the past few years (Kevin Pierre-Louis, Ramik Wilson, Terrance Smith, DJ Alexander, etc..) and seems to be a theme with all of the Chiefs current linebackers.

It’s great to see a young guy outclass lesser competition, that’s what they have to do, but there may not be a ton more to learn about him if he continues to outmatch lesser tiered players with fantastic mental processing and controlled aggression.

After his first game, Ben Niemann should have earned himself some snaps with the next team up because, quite simply, he was better than the offensive players he was playing against.

It’s great to see a young guy outclass lesser competition. That’s what they have to do, but there may not be a ton more to learn about him if he continues to outmatch lesser-tiered players with fantastic mental processing and controlled aggression.

It’s going to be hard with Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland returning sometime this preseason, but hopefully, we’ll get to see him steal some first or true second-team snaps with Ukeme Eligwe here pretty soon. Two areas to monitor for Niemann going forward (not weaknesses, just things that need to be judged more thoroughly) are his overall athleticism compared to NFL starters and his ability in coverage whether in hook/curl zones or in man-to-man.

Niemann is already playing nearly every special teams snap and looking like a competent player there. If he can prove that he’s not deficient in either of those two areas, he would be making it very hard for a front office to not put him on the final roster.

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