Theater of Operations, Florida Gators Season Review: The Defensive Line, Part One

Previous editions: Quarterbacks (parts one, two, three), running backs (parts one, two, three), tight ends (one part), wide receivers (parts one, two) and offensive line (part one, two).

Today begins our look at the defensive side of the ball as Theater of Operations makes the switch from offense to defense. In accordance to the adage that "great teams are built from the lines, out" we'll go ahead and begin with a look at the defensive line, in two-parts of course (maybe three), starting with Dominique Easley and Jaye Howard.

The defensive line, as we all know, was supposed to be a strength of not only just the defense, but for the team as a whole. Granted there were some depth issues on the line, but for the most part, the rotation used by the coaches worked fairly well. The two best players, at least from a statistical standpoint, were Easley and Howard.

Easley, he finished the year with one and a half sacks, seven and half tackles for loss and thirty-seven total tackles. Howard, playing the year mostly as a defensive tackle, ended the 2011 season with five and a half sacks, ten tackles for loss and sixty-five total tackles. Howard was actually the fourth leading tackler on the team.

Oh, and Easley also lead the team in dances with roughly one-hundred and eighty seven.

Play No. 1: Easley's sack on Barrett Trotter of Auburn:

Dl1_medium

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Just a straight up bull-rush by Easley (yellow circle).

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

At this moment, the quarterback is looking for an open receiver, but they are covered pretty well (green squares). Meanwhile, Easley (yellow square) is pushing back his blocker.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As Trotter begins to throw, Easley is about to be all over him (yellow square). The coverage downfield, from the best we can tell, is still great.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Easley pushes the center (yellow square) right into Trotter (green circle).

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Down goes Trotter (green circle)! Just an unbelievable play by Easley.

Play No. 2: Easley's half-sack on E.J. Manuel of Florida State:

Dl6_medium

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Talk about not getting blocked at all. Easley (yellow circle) has a very clear lane.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Yeah, everyone but Easley (yellow circle) gets blocked and Garrett Faircloth (green circle) is the reason why.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Easley gets his man (yellow square) with some assistance by Lerentee McCray.

From another angle:

Dl9_medium

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Not even close.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

That's got to be a scary feeling, right?

Play No. 3: Howard's sack on Manuel of Florida State:

Dl11_medium

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Howard (yellow circle) trusts his teammates to cover the receivers, and just rushes the quarterback.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As the running back breaks left, Howard (yellow circle) begins his pursuit of Manuel.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

You can see that Manuel wants to throw the ball to the running back, but he is covered (green square) by Ronald Powell.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As Manuel decides to try and run, Powell also breaks off his coverage of the running back. But he's got back-up just in case. Howard (yellow circle) is still in pursuit.

Dl15_medium

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Howard finally catches up with Manuel for the sack (yellow square

Play No. 4: Howard's sack on Braxton Miller of Ohio State:

Dl16_medium

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Remember when I said that if you could find a play in college football where any defensive linemen got through the offensive line faster than Howard (yellow circle) does on this play, that you'd get a prize? Not surprisingly, the Gators koozie went unclaimed.

Dl17_medium

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Howard (yellow circle) is already through the line.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

They try to hold Howard (yellow square) and Miller (green circle) has nowhere to go.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Got'em.

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(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Good distance on the toss as well.

Looking back on things, I think you could say that both Howard and Easley has successful seasons. Aside from the usual struggles against top notch teams, they both played fairly well all season. Though at certain times I think Howard was a disappointment.

As for Easley, hopefully he recovers fully from his ACL tear and comes back better than he was.

Please keep in mind that Theater of Operations will be taking a scheduled day off, on Wednesday (February 1) due to the national sports holiday that occurs on that day. In case you were wondering or somehow forgot to mark your calenders, that holiday is of course ... National Signing Day!

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