MOBILE, Ala. — Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis has broken down tape of every starting defensive end in the NFL and his favorite pass rusher is Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake.
The Dolphins need an injection of youthful defensive ends and Willis should be on their radar, especially if he is available in the second round of April’s NFL Draft.
Willis says he has spent up to five hours in a single day studying the moves of defensive players like Wake, J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
“The reason why I watch those guys is they are always around the football,” Willis said after a Senior Bowl practice. “They’ve got good takeoff. They set up their moves. And they’re explosive.”
Willis creates quarterback pressures but also is a solid run defender. Miami needs more players who can do both.
Willis is a solidly-built 6-feet-3 and 3/4 and 255 pounds. After a good week of practice, Willis helped improve his stock with draft evaluators with two sacks and two forced fumbles in Saturday’s game.
Willis was named South Team Outstanding Player.
Earlier in the week, Willis spoke about how his long strides may make it appear at times that he is not providing the same spark as a player with shorter legs, but that he is capable of making game-turning plays in any system, including the Wide Nine scheme the Dolphin use.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has said Willis is the epitome of what he wants in a player, the ultimate compliment.
“I would say the biggest thing coach (Snyder) taught me was to be consistent,” Willis said. “Once I learned that and brought it into my game, the weight room, the film room, doing extra stuff and then recovering, not being a one-time guy or a one-day guy. I saw it. I saw everything escalate. My play. And everything else. This was my most consistent season.”
Near the end of the season, the Dolphins let go veteran defensive end Jason Jones, who is 6-feet-5, 278 pounds. Before next season, Miami is expected to let go veteran defensive end Mario Williams, who is 6-6, 300 pounds.
Wake turned 35 on Monday. End Andre Branch, who is 6-5, 263 pounds, is an unrestricted free agent.
Willis played almost exclusively at left defensive end (Wake’s position) in his final two seasons of college but is capable of playing the right defensive end, as well.
Miami will need to closely examine any and all available defensive ends in the draft and free agency.
Willis was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. He led the conference with 11.5 regular-season sacks and had 16.5 tackles for loss. In his career, he totaled 26 sacks.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper has given Willis a second-round grade and ranked him as the second-best player participating in the Senior Bowl. According to Pro Football Focus, “Willis uses strong hands and a variety of moves to rank fifth overall (in college football in 2016) as a pass-rusher at 89.5 while posting the top grade against the run at an identical 89.5.”
Here is NFL.com on Willis: “Good eyes vs. zone read; sees mesh point clearly. Quick responder once he diagnoses the action. Excellent change of direction ability to stay in the hunt. Finishes tackles, rarely allowing runners to escape grasp. Pursuit will not stop until the whistle blows…”
Willis is a solid, hard-working, sturdy end who can both rush and is committed to playing the run.
“It’s about stability, technique and fundamentals,” Willis said. “So, getting off the football, taking the proper steps, punching a guy, having a strong inside arm. And just anchoring. And being ready to shed and make the play.”
Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.