The Philadelphia Eagles announced their first official 53-man roster for the 2020 season and on it were some names that Eagles fans may be less-than-familiar with. A player among those numbers that may come as a surprise to some is 7th round rookie Casey Toohill out of Stanford.
Now part of a roster with a very active defensive end rotation — shortened due to an injury suffered by Genard Avery — Toohill may all of a sudden be a significant role player in 2020. There will undoubtedly be changes to the roster before the Eagles gear up for their first game against the Washington Football Team (still hate it, always will), but as it stands, there’s no reason not to get excited for Toohill’s opportunity to blossom early.
What to expect
There’s a certain something that Toohill has about his game that had him tagged as a sleeper after the draft. There’s not necessarily one thing that stands out about him, but instead, it’s the culmination of all the things he does well. He was asked to do a lot for the Stanford defense as a 3-4 OLB and has the requisite athleticism to fill multiple roles for the Eagles. In the span of one game he would line up as a 5 through 9-tech, play stand up or with his hand in the grass, run stunts, cover, and play spy on mobile quarterbacks.
Immediately his skill set suggests he’s a very intelligent player. He understands his assignments in conjunction with the rest of the defense and after watching just a bit of his tape it’s evident that he watches a ton of film. The wheels are always turning upstairs and he’s obviously got some above-average play recognition skills. There are very few times he’s caught out of position and always seems to be around the football, even if he isn’t making the play.
In terms of his athletic profile, Toohill is a well-rounded if not special prospect. Transitioning from OLB to DE, he will have the advantage of being quicker and faster than some of the DE homers on the roster. He has some sudden straight-line speed when allowed to attack the edge, even if he doesn’t always burst off the line.
There is some nuance to his pass rush as well. He has some subtle speed variation to his rush package and couples that with some active and well-placed hands. His football IQ is evident when you see how he uses his leverage to win contests against bigger linemen. Casey Toohill a fairly long guy and he will really take advantage of that on occasion. Although he doesn’t really have the bend to square the edge, he makes it very hard to recover when he gets himself underneath his opponent. All in all, it’s not exactly a refined toolbox, but it is an intriguing one.
Adding some stronger inside moves to his game would give him a nice foundation to build off of early in his career. Even early on in the drafting process it seems that Toohill had made an effort to add some to his repertoire:
While he may not have shocking athleticism, there are many times Casey Toohill makes up for it with sheer hustle. His legs are constantly churning and he’ll pursue every play until the whistle is blown.
There is certainly something to build off of as a pass rusher. However, even at 6’4″, 250 lbs, he lacks some of the strength that the other young DE’s have. He may not add significant weight, but some NFL muscle mass would do him well. That shows up a bit as a run defender and when he’s asked to take on interior linemen.
Again, he has a good understanding of how to out-leverage opponents, but he is susceptible to being straight up overpowered. He’ll keep his legs moving, but often does a whole lot of nothing when a bigger lineman latches onto him. There is some growth to be done in that regard, but then again the Eagles may be better off keeping him out of situations where he has to defeat blocks from interior linemen — at least until he can sharpen his tools. That should play fairly seamlessly into Jim Schwartz’ scheme.
There are also some noticeable limitations on Toohill’s suddenness and ability to change direction. He isn’t exactly a burst-y athlete, although he does show it on occasion. From a deeper examination of his film, both of these drawbacks seem like they should get vastly better with experience.
Some of the issue with being such an intelligent player is sometimes Casey Toohill seems to be thinking more than reacting. Certain times it looks as if he doesn’t have a solid rush plan and simply tries to out-think his opponent after he engages. That should improve with a deeper bag of tricks at the line.
In terms of remedies to his COD skills, being able to capitalize on his already impressive play recognition should qualm some of the issue. He may never be the best athlete in the room, but more experience should allow him to translate his Football IQ into on field play. There are so many times it’s obvious that he recognizes what is about to happen and is just a step too late, or can’t gear down in time to stop it.
Why he made the final 53
In years past, it would have been easy enough to say the Eagles see a raw ball of clay that they can mold into a serviceable role player in the future. However, it’s been made obvious by the team parting ways with Shareef Miller that that simply isn’t good enough anymore.
The difference with Toohill seems to be effort. He left no doubt at Stanford that he was a hard-working player and that continued into training camp. Casey Toohill clearly has the intelligence to pick up Jim Schwartz’s playbook and that may translate into early opportunities with Avery out. He won’t make many mistakes and will chase the play down when he does. That’s about as much as you can ask for in such a young developmental player.
Although mostly grouped in the “weaknesses” category, there are some things to like about Toohill’s athleticism. His speed will translate swimmingly to the Eagles’ wide-9 front and his hand technique is already above some of the other rookies in the class. He’s a long guy that hasn’t quite figured out how to take full advantage of that, but has clearly started to piece it together. His ability to do multiple things will also have Jim Schwartz dreaming up ways to get him on the field.
For now, he’ll be a situational rusher, although he won’t likely steal many snaps away from Josh Sweat or Vinny Curry. He’s a solid run defender — mostly because of his positioning and motor — but he doesn’t have the base as a 4-3 end to consistently set the edge. As his body matures and he adds more muscle to his lower half, he profiles as a solid option on early downs as well. Simply put, there’s a lot to like, and the chance at snaps so early in his career bodes well for his future in Philadelphia.
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