Paul Dawson is a 5th year senior from TCU. A converted WR and Junior College transfer, Dawson displays an uncanny ability to intercept and defend passes as well as the instincts to get into the backfield and make plays. Dawson had a breakout season in 2014 and quickly shot up draft boards with his surprising play as a part of TCU’s dominant defense.
|1993 (not known)
|Bench (225 lb)
|20 Yard Shuttle
|3 Cone Drill
|40 Yard Dash (10 yd split)
|4.93 sec (1.69 sec)
|60 Yard Shuttle
Stats and Awards
|Awards and Accolades
|2014 – 136 tackles, 20 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 5 PD, 2 FF, 3 FR, 4 INT
|Consensus First Team All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. (2014)
|2013 – 91 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 3 PD, 1 INT
|2012 – 14 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 FF
|2011 – 47 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 FR
- Fantastic zone coverage linebacker with a keen eye for the ball and an uncanny ability to read and react to throws.
- Has the smarts to know when to break out of his zone and go for the QB.
- Defends his zones with knowledge of his limited athleticism and doesn’t allow himself to get beat deep.
- Reacts quickly to receivers in his zone and stops them before they can get a big gain.
- Punishing tackler that can deliver devastating blows to running backs and QBs.
- Incredible instincts for the ball and always seems to find a way to be around the tackle.
- Easily finds and plugs running lanes and gets into the backfield for the TFL.
- Shows good awareness of his gaps and isn’t fooled by play action.
- Has versatility with his skillset to play any of the three linebacker positions in the 4-3 as well as both ILB positions in the 3-4.
- Well below average athlete.
- Doesn’t have great straight line speed and struggles when changing directions.
- Is very slow to start up and has very little explosion out of his stance.
- Struggles in man coverage due to his limited speed and often draws defensive pass interference flags.
- Doesn’t form tackle opting instead to hit hard and force the ball carrier down with brute force over technique.
- Not much room to grow as a player due to limited athleticism.
- May have already maxed out his frame.
- Questions about his character as numerous sources report he had a poor work ethic at TCU and his Combine performance seemingly confirmed those rumors.
You’ll often hear Dawson referred to as an “instinctive player” or something along those lines. What you won’t hear is exactly what that means. When Dawson is referred to as an instinctive player it means he plays with a high level of intelligence, and correctly reacts to plays on nearly every occasion. I’ll show you some examples.
On this play Dawson reads the motioning wide receiver and blows up the play in the backfield. This is an extremely risky play for two reasons. First, he’s leaving his gap assignment which you see open up as the tackle attempts to block him, and because if the play is a fake, then he’s going to be taken out of the play completely and with the open space created there would likely be a completed pass. However, Dawson is not wrong. He correctly identifies the play and gets a jump on the ball carrier. That’s instinctive play. Taking a risk and being right is what separates instinctive players from overly aggressive players.
On this play Dawson drops back into man coverage at first, but he recognizes the screen and immediately goes after the wide receiver and delivers a punishing blow for the loss. Again, he’s correctly reacting to his own judgement here. Dawson is able to diagnose the offense’s play before the quarterback can even release the ball.
Dawson ran a lot of delayed blitzes at TCU. Essentially, he would sit back and react to the play based on what he read from the offense. If he saw run, then he’d plug his gap and get into the backfield. If he saw pass, then he’d find the seam and go after the quarterback. Dawson showed an elite skill for finding those gaps and was usually the first one in the backfield.
Here’s an example from the Baylor game:
What Dawson does here is he inches forward waiting to get a read on the play, then he finds the gap and explodes through it for a QB hit.
Same concept on this play. Dawson takes a step forward, reads run, and then follows the running back to make a play.
On this play Dawson once again runs a delayed blitz. He waits for the play to develop, sees the QB rolling out to the left, and just takes off at a dead sprint to sack the QB.
On this play Dawson is running the delayed blitz again. He reads run and immediately finds his gap to shoot through and lays a big hit on the running back.
Dawson reads plays extremely well and is seemingly always around the ball carrier. He rarely makes a mistake when he reacts to what he sees and has such a great ability to find the gap and take it.
One of Dawson’s less refined abilities is his tackling. While Dawson does a great job of getting into the backfield, he’s not a great wrap up tackler and will miss tackles that he should make on occasion. However, he does such a great job of finding the ball and “sifting through the trash” so to speak that he more than makes up for his lack of great tackling skill.
Dawson is also fairly adept at shedding his blocks. While he’s not great at it yet, he shows flashes of brilliance at times and does well to get out of his blocks and return to the play.
These two moves are fantastic. The spin is executed perfectly on the first play, and on the second Dawson just throws his blocker away and makes the tackle.
As I said earlier, Dawson makes up for his lack of refinement in tackling and block shedding with a great ability to get into the backfield and blow up plays.
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