Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Looking at the film of Bud Dupree defending the run in 2019.
In the first two parts of this series we looked at some advanced stats on Bud Dupree and then reviewed most of his sacks from 2019. In the final part of this series we’re going to take a look at what Bud Dupree brings to the team as an edge defender against the run.
Clogging the run lanes
Keith Butler switched the Steelers defensive line scheme from a two-gapping, run stuffing focus to be primarily a one-gap, penetrating and attacking scheme. With that switch, the OLBs took on even more run stopping responsibility than they had under Dick LeBeau. So the first type of play we are going to look at is plays where Bud Dupree had to clog lanes by taking on blockers.
Week 1, 3rd quarter, 1:32, 2nd and 7. Dupree is on the left side of the screen, he pinches in closer to the line right before the snap.
The Steelers ran a lot of run defense plays like this, where Bud Dupree crashes inside to attack the guard, and the LB behind him (in this play Vince Williams) comes outside to make the play. In this particular play Dupree succeeds at holding his ground against a double team, and then the lead blocker adds a third blocker on Dupree, and he isn’t moved backwards until after the RB is forced to run outside where an unblocked Kam Kelly makes the tackle. Dupree’s impact on this play might be best observed in Devin Bush being free to come completely across the play untouched right behind Kelly. No Patriot got to the second level on this play.
Week 11, 2nd quarter, 3:20, 2nd and 10. Bud Dupree is on the line, left side of screen.
Another play where Dupree is crashing inside while the LB (this time Mark Barron) goes outside of him. The Browns are ready for it though, and the guard goes outside Dupree and blocks Barron. Dupree doesn’t just hold his ground with the tackle though, he sheds the block and dives at Nick Chubb, tripping him up as he finds a crease. rarely was a single offensive lineman enough to neutralize Dupree on these run defense stunts, and I can count on one finger the number of times a single lineman got the better of him and moved him out of his spot.
Week 17, 4th quarter, 3rd and 1. Bud Dupree is lined up to the bottom of the screen, over the slot receiver.
This play cracks me up. Bud Dupree doesn’t shed the block of WR Willie Snead, instead he wields Snead as a weapon, pushing him into the outside run lane to force Robert Griffin to either give ground to go around as he runs out of field, or turn up inside. What matters here is that Dupree is able to drive Snead back with just his right arm, his left arm is free, so Dupree is going to be able to make a play to his inside arm. As he sees Minkah Fitzpatrick coming, he drives Snead farther back, forcing Griffin to run into Fitzpatrick for a failed 3rd and 1 run.
Shutting down outside runs
The Steelers were the #1 team in Football Outsider’s adjusted defensive line yards on runs off left end, and Bud Dupree is a big part of that. Dupree uses his size and strength, but mostly he displays excellent fundamentals for defending outside runs.
Week 14, 1st quarter, 2:43, 1st and 10. Bud Dupree is on the line to the bottom of the screen.
The Cardinals try to block Bud Dupree with a TE, and Dupree weaponizes his blocker, driving the TE backwards into the path of the run, and gets his right arm free. Keeping his outside arm free is key to disengaging the blocker to pursue an outside run. With a TE in his run lane and Dupree ready to pursue him outside, the RB is forced to turn up-field and T.J. Watt, coming unblocked from the backside of the play, gets an easy tackle for a loss.
Week 14, 1st quarter, 4:07, 2nd and 10.
On this play Dupree is crashing inside, he takes on the guard, stopping his momentum and driving him backwards. Again you can see Dupree get his right arm free and reach out with his arm, forcing the run flatter and the runner ends up in a foot race with Terrell Edmunds and Devin Bush, and there aren’t many players who will win that.
Week 14, 1st quarter, 13:19, 2nd and 15. Bud Dupree is on the line, bottom of the screen.
In this option play, Bud reacts to the line all blocking right by pinching tight to the play and getting penetration into the backfield. He takes the shot from the TE as he reads that Murray kept the ball. Then he uses his inside hand to get free of the blocker and runs down Kyler Murray to force a long 3rd down.
Arizona was an outside run heavy team, who also made use of Kyler Murray’s athleticism in their passing game. Add to that their lack of any blocker who could handle Dupree 1v1 and it is no surprise that week 14 was largely a Bud Dupree highlight reel, with a sack, a QB hit and 3 tackles for a loss in that game, to go along with many plays where he dominated without collecting a stat, like two of the three plays I just showed.
Destroying power run schemes
With Bud Dupree dominating so many blockers 1v1, and a natural reluctance to double him and leave Cameron Heyward 1v1, teams ran a lot of power concepts, and even incorporated more pulling blockers in zone runs. But Bud Dupree wasn’t bad on those plays.
Week 5, 2nd quarter, 4:33, 1st and 10. Bud Dupree is on the line, to the left of the screen.
That’s a crazy collision with the pulling guard, look at Dupree’s hair at impact. He hits the guard hard enough and quick enough to trap two pulling blockers inside, forcing the run outside minus a lead blocker. He then disengages and runs down the RB. Lamar Jackson did a good job of reading Dupree’s assignment and taking him out of most runs, but Dupree was still able to make a few plays on the runs he was involved in.
Week 11, 4th quarter, 12:11, 3rd and 3. Bud Dupree is #48.
Just because he can put a hit on a pulling guard, doesn’t mean he has to. Here Dupree just dodges his blocker and brings down Kareem Hunt for a 2 yard loss. The Browns used a lot of power runs in their week 11 victory over the Steelers, gaining 104 rushing yards on the day. They gained 31 yards on 15 runs to Bud Dupree’s side (2.07 ypc) and 73 yards on their other 20 runs (3.65 ypc).
Week 11, 3rd quarter, 13:37, 1st and 10. Dupree is on the line, to the left.
Here is a good example of just how well the Browns were clearing lanes for their RBs in week 11, look at the enormous hole that was waiting for Nick Chubb if Dupree isn’t in his face. But Dupree makes a great move on the pulling guard to get this tackle for a loss.
Here’s a different angle in slow motion, Dupree is to the top of the screen, already in the backfield.
You can see Dupree step towards the lineman and lower his head, and the lineman braces for a big hit, right as Dupree cuts, glancing off the tackle and into Nick Chubb.
Dupree led the Steelers, and ranked 5th in the NFL in tackles for a loss in 2019, and as this film room shows, he blew up a lot of plays that didn’t result in him getting any statistical credit.
For this post I watched the 134 runs that were listed as being to the left, from left guard to off left end, and he was dominant on many of them. Even more importantly, he was almost never driven out of a lane. The only disappointing game for Bud was week 3, when George Kittle got the better of him for most of the game, with Dupree beating him only a few times. Other than Kittle, no one could consistently handle Bud Dupree in the run game. The Ravens avoided him (as did several other teams), the Browns tried to power him and failed, and the Cardinals ran their normal game plan like they couldn’t believe he was going to keep wrecking everything they did to his side. The Cardinals gained 4 yards on 9 runs to Dupree’s side (0.44 YPC) , with only three of those gaining positive yards. Their 13 other runs gained 67 yards (5.15 ypc).
I understand that Bud Dupree didn’t impress in his first 4 seasons, but the stats always supported his positive impact to the team, from the team sacks being much higher with him playing than without him, to Dupree’s side of the field being consistently harder to run on, even rushing yards for opposing QBs with and without Dupree playing showed a significant difference.
In 2019, with a full season on the right side behind him, and strong cover LBs in the middle cutting out a lot of preparation work and in-game focus, Dupree finally put up individual stats. He can plant his right foot and turn the corner almost on a dime now, he is finally adding counter moves to his pass rush arsenal, and his dominance in run defense is easy to see.
Bud Dupree isn’t an elite pass rusher, but he might be the perfect compliment to a defensive player of the year caliber pass rusher like T. J. Watt. A Greg Lloyd to Watt’s Kevin Greene. I understand the contracts coming up in future seasons, but this defense is the reason the Steelers are likely a playoff caliber team, and Bud Dupree is a cornerstone of this defense. I would sign him to a longer term deal, and do my best to structure the contract to let the Steelers get out of it with reasonable dead money in two years in case the cap situation doesn’t let the team keep Dupree, Watt and Fitzpatrick.