This summer, I enrolled in The Scouting Academy in an attempt to learn how to evaluate players and refine my knowledge of the game. Over the course of the 16-week semester, you can learn as many position groups as you can handle, although each position group usually takes approximately four weeks to complete. The first position group I undertook was linebackers, and I completed the module about a week ago after being assessed by the program’s director, Dan Hatman.
Since then, I’ve taken an interest in Zach Orr, the 2nd team All-Pro LB the Lions have been courting since his un-retirement. I did a film study of Orr, and subsequently wrote a scouting summary profiling him. On Twitter, I did a GIF thread that captured some of the traits that make Orr successful, as well as some of his problem areas. In order to further profile him, I am publishing this revised scouting summary as a companion resource, the first of hopefully many I’ll write for DetroitLionsPodcast.com.
The report, in its original form, is terse and monotonous, and doesn’t lend itself well to digital consumption. Therefore, I have editorialized parts of it, which can potentially impact clarity of meaning. If anybody would like a copy of the original, I can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or on Twitter @btrossler.
Name: Orr, Zach
School: North Texas
Experience: 3 years
Position: ILB, OLB
DOB: 6/9/1992 (25 yo)
Team: free agent (previously Baltimore)
Weight: 237 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.73s
10-yard split: 1.7s
Bench press: 14 reps
Games played: 46
Games started: 15
Games won (win percentage): 23 (50%)
Team captain: no
Defensive scheme: Orr has played all three years in Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 base scheme. Baltimore used two-gapping principles against the run, blitzed heavily, and used a lot of exotic looks and pre-snap disguises.
Injuries: Was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury in Week 17 of the 2016 season that was ultimately revealed to be a congenital spine/neck condition. Orr retired in January upon discovery of the condition, but is attempting a comeback after getting a second opinion. No listed injuries in 2015 or 2014.
Key stats: Was named 2nd team All-Pro in 2016, his first season as starter. Recorded 130 tackles, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble.
Best of: play speed, instincts, gap leverage, outside run support
Worst of: play strength, stack and shed, physical toughness, pass rush moves
Mental processing: 6/7
Athletic ability: 5/7
Play speed: 6/7
Play strength: 3/7
Competitive toughness: 4/7
Inside run/POA/tackling: 6/7
Outside run: 6/7
Zone coverage: 5/7
Man coverage: 4/7
Ball skills: 5/7
2016: 9/11 vs. BUF, 9/25 at JAX (targeted passes) 10/2 vs. OAK, 10/23 at NYJ, 11/20 at DAL, 12/12 at NE, 12/18 vs. PHI (targeted passes), 12/25 at PIT (targeted passes)
Zach Orr is one of the finest young examples of the modern NFL linebacker. In the days of yesteryear, slow, hulking brutes dominated the position. No longer. Two-down players are at risk of extinction in the league’s current climate, while faster, quicker linebackers are thriving. Orr was named a 2nd team All-Pro in 2016 (his first season as a starter) just under three years removed from being an undrafted free agent out of North Texas. Since 2007, only sixteen different players – not including fullbacks and special teamers – have made All-Pro teams since going undrafted. Just four of them earned All-Pro honors within their first three seasons, and only two did so in their first season as a starter – Arian Foster and, who else, Zach Orr.
The 6-foot, 240-pounder has very good speed and lateral quickness and is able to change direction quickly. He’s very instinctive and stalks ballcarriers through the trash around the line of scrimmage. He prefers to elude blockers rather than engage them, and dodges blocks like a basketball player slithering around a pick. Orr demonstrates a very good understanding of blocking schemes, and often beats pulling and climbing linemen to the spot. Orr is also disciplined and patient, and he maintains gap responsibility very well. He’s a good, wrap-up tackler and can be relied upon to bring runners down in the open field. Futhermore, he does a good job of supporting the outside run, and takes smart angles to ballcarriers in space. He gives consistent effort throughout games and plays until the whistle.
He’s not as good in coverage as he is at defending the run, but he’s by no means a liability in the passing game. Orr is a savvy zone defender that reads the quarterback’s eyes and breaks on the ball before it’s even out. Furthermore, he’s capable in man coverage, and possesses the short-area quickness to mirror most targets in short areas. He battles receivers at the catchpoint, and has good enough hands to make plays on the ball when an opportunity presents itself.
Orr is not without his faults, though. The biggest knock on him is his size and below average play strength. When blockers get their hands on him, he can get taken for a ride. He doesn’t carry a lot of pop behind his pads, and bigger backs can fall forward a bit when he tackles them. As a first year starter, he also stands to improve some of his coverage techniques.
He doesn’t consistently maintain proper leverage while defending routes, and receivers can generate enough separation out of their breaks to prevent him from using his athleticism to recover. While in coverage, he will also occasionally take aggressive angles towards targets in front of him and miss out on opportunities to both prevent YAC and make tackles, in part due to his smaller tackling radius. Similarly, he’ll take inferior angles by undercutting blockers to avoid close combat with them. While he’s a solid competitor, he doesn’t possess the physical, aggressive mentality you’d like to see. As a blitzer, he demonstrates good timing, but lacks a Plan B if he’s unable to win with pure athleticism. Additionaly, pass-rushing arsenal itself is limited, as well.
In conclusion, Orr is a very good linebacker that would represent an upgrade for most teams. His speed, quickness, and smarts make him scheme-versatile, and he can likely play any linebacker spot with the exception of a 3-4 OLB, a role which he doesn’t have the length or power to fulfill. Ultimately, Orr is just 25, so if his congenital neck/spine condition don’t slow him down, he’ll be an elite linebacker within a few years, and will make many more All-Pro teams to come.