A name like Woodrow Hamilton is hard to overlook. But the same could be said of the 23-year-old defensive tackle’s play on Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns. Hamilton, an undrafted rookie by way of Ole Miss, had been promoted from the New England Patriots’ practice squad the day prior, as third-rounder Vincent Valentine was ruled out with a back injury.
Over the course of 22 snaps, the 6’3 1/2, 315 pound Hamilton picked up 1 solo tackle and 1 assisted tackle, but his contributions went far beyond the stat sheet. According to Pro Football Focus, Hamilton was just as good as DT Alan Branch and LB Jamie Collins as the 3rd best defender on the field, with an extremely high score in defending against the run.
“We played the run with good consistency all day,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “We defeated blocks. This [the Browns] is a very good double-team, downhill running game with a great back and those guys did a good job on the double-team blocks. We did a good job of staying on blocks and not creating space in gaps for the backs to attack. We tackled well but the linebackers played well, too. Again, run defense is team defense. No one guy can stop the running game. Everybody's got to have control of their area of the line of scrimmage or a good back like [Isaiah] Crowell is going to find it. It was good team effort from the running game.”
Cleveland running back Isaiah Crowell ranked second in the league with 394 rushing yards and had averaged 6.4 yards per carry heading into week 5. Crowell would be restricted to 22 yards on 13 carries versus New England, however. And while that run support was very much collective in the 33-13 rout – and while Hamilton wasn’t the only off-the-radar rookie to leave a mark – he accounted well for himself in the opportunities he earned.
Here’s how Hamilton had an impact in the run game:
Q1-1-10-CLV 27 (14:57) I.Crowell right guard to CLV 30 for 3 yards (M.Brown).
On the very first play of the game, Hamilton’s impact on run defense was apparent. The Browns likely wanted to test the undrafted rookie on his first play and Hamilton passed with flying colors. The Browns asked their right guard and center to double team Hamilton, which left DT Malcom Brown against All Pro LG Joel Bitonio and LB Dont’a Hightower against All Pro LT Joe Thomas.
Hamilton does a great job of holding his ground against the Browns double team, which forces Browns RB Isaiah Crowell to run one step too close to Brown, who makes the tackle. Hamilton doesn’t register a stat here, but he deserves a major assist.
Q3-1-10-CLV 24 (12:20) I.Crowell right guard to CLV 26 for 2 yards (W.Hamilton).
Hamilton is lined up across from the right guard in the 2-technique, which is how the Patriots managed to control the line of scrimmage. As Belichick said, the Browns love running downhill and the best way to make sure there are no open lanes is to control the linemen.
Browns RB Isaiah Crowell is just following the fullback, who runs between the right guard and right tackle. Patriots LB Elandon Roberts meets the fullback in the hole, plugging up the running lane, while Hamilton sheds his blocker to make the tackle.
Hamilton’s anchor is very impressive, as is his ability to use his hands to disengage from his blocker.
Q3-1-10-CLV 20 (2:27) I.Crowell left guard to CLV 20 for no gain (W.Hamilton; M.Brown).
Hamilton gets skinny (somehow) and slices between the center and right guard. He also knocks the right guard to the ground. This looks like a design counter play by the Browns, but both Hamilton and Brown end this play before it even begins.
Hamilton does more than Brown on this play, but Brown flashes some athleticism to get back into the lane. Hamilton, however, shows strength to knock over the guard, quickness to get through the line, and explosion to trip up the runner in the backfield.
And that’s Hamilton in a nutshell. He’s stout and can hold up against double teams, he’s strong enough to shed individual blockers, and he’s quick enough to make plays in the backfield.
He finished having been asked to work up and down the line, playing 11 snaps at the two-technique, six snaps at the three-technique, two snaps at the five-tech and even three snaps redirecting traffic at the nose.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder did not log a third-down snap in his regular-season debut, nor did he particularly stick out in passing situations. Yet Hamilton served a necessary purpose on a thinned depth chart last Sunday.
Hamilton exceeded all of our expectations in his first game of 2016 and it would be a good idea to keep him around the active roster for the rest of the year. He looks like he could be a really good running down defender and he’ll get better with experience.