After spending preseason with Cleveland last year, the undrafted Shugarts spent part of last year on the Browns practice squad and, after being released, got added to the Bills practice squad where he remained until the last week of the regular season. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys but was released last week. He played his college football with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
After the jump, I look in detail at footage from last preseason to evaluate some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Who is JB Shugarts?
Shugarts stands an impressive 6-6 and is currently listed at 299 pounds, but weighed in at 308 at his Pro Day just over a year ago. He was a three year starter at right tackle with Ohio State, although some draft experts felt he projected better to guard at the NFL level. His athletic workout numbers are not very impressive (5.54 forty, 85-inch broad jump, 5.02 short shuttle) and he only did 17 bench press reps. He also had some shoulder and foot issues at college.
Having gone undrafted in 2012, he signed with the Cleveland Browns where he worked exclusively at tackle during preseason. He didn't make the final roster and ended up on their practice squad. After being released, he also spent two weeks on Buffalo's practice squad in December.
Ohio State are known for their zone blocking systems and the use of the stretch/zone run to the outside. This should mean he is familiar with the kinds of blocking schemes the Jets are expected to implement.
Shugarts got reps at both left and right tackle with the Browns in preseason last year. He was on the third unit so he didn't play much in the first three games but got to play in the entire second half of the fourth game with both teams resting their starters.
Week 1 – Lions
Entered the game at left tackle halfway through the fourth quarter (11 snaps) in the middle of a drive that had already reached the 30 yard line. The Browns would wind up scoring a touchdown …
- There was one running play where he made an ineffective kickout block and the run was bottled up for a short gain
- They ran a screen pass for 25 yards down to the goal line. Shugarts just about did enough to enable the quarterback to get the throw off, but was moving backwards as his man bullrushed
- Helped to set the edge on a double team block as the runner went around the left side for a short touchdown
- On another passing play, he was again moving backwards as his man bullrushed
- Got beaten outside as his man planted to the inside and then burst outside to beat him with speed. The left guard dropped back to pick his man up and prevent a pressure
- They ran a short yardage play behind him, but it got bottled up
This was a bit of a rude awakening for Shugarts, who clearly found it hard to adjust to the initial speed of the game. He struggled when bullrushed, was beaten badly on a speed rush and didn't make a positive impact in the running game. However, he avoided any serious mistakes and at least got that first game out of the way.
Week 2 – Packers
Entered the game at right tackle in the fourth quarter and the Browns drove 64 yards for a field goal that would prove to be their only possession in the quarter (14 snaps) …
- Shugarts made a couple of effective kick out blocks on the drive
- He peeled off a double team to make a block at the second level, but his man anticipated it and he wasn't able to make a clean block in space. His man got off the block to get in on the tackle
- Trying to make a block on the move, he was unable to sustain it cleanly and his man got in on the tackle after stretching the play out well
- On a short yardage play, he drove his man off the line and turned him to set up the conversion
- He also made a good block to set the edge
- They only passed twice on the drive and he handled his man each time, although the first one was a quick release and the second one saw the QB roll the other way
The Browns had some pretty good success running the ball behind Shugarts on this drive. Although he let a few guys get off his block - the most common deficiency I see in most rookie linemen - he had some positive blocks too and generally got a bit of a surge or at least held his ground. What's most impressive about this is that he was working against an established NFL player; Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove was getting additional reps because he was due to start an eight game suspension once the season began and Shugarts definitely got the better of him at the point of attack.
Week 3 – Eagles
Entered at left tackle in the fourth quarter, but the Browns failed to sustain either of the two drives he was in for (six snaps) …
- On the first play after he entered the game, the QB was intercepted by Cliff Harris (the former Jets player who was arrested during the offseason this year)
- On the next drive, his man got half a step to the outside and leveraged his way into the quarterback, hitting him after the throw
- On another play in pass protection, he was driven back but managed to stay in front to enable the pass to be thrown
- He was then tested with another bullrush, but this time although he starting moving backwards again, he was able to anchor himself and hold up in protection
- A safety came off the edge with a blitz and he did a good job of recognizing this as the Browns shifted their protection, but the safety ran around him easily for a pressure, exposing his poor lateral speed.
Shugarts was tested here in pass protection, but did show some signs that he was making some good adjustments, even though he was beaten a couple of times.
Week 4 – Bears
Played the entire second half at left tackle (24 snaps) ...
- Badly beaten for a sack (where the QB got absolutely nailed) on that same move he was beaten by in the first game - the pass rusher made a jab step to the inside to throw him off balance and then blew by him on the outside. You can actually see this play (and a couple of others from this game) if you go to 1:49 on this YouTube clip. Shugarts is #68.
- Was beaten again on the outside and the QB was flushed from the pocket
- Made an excellent kickout block on a run that ended up going for 64 yards as he drove his man off the line and out of the play. The run was actually bottled up between the tackles but the runner cutback the other way to gain the big yardage, so Shugarts' contribution wasn't integral to the success of the play
- The QB was flushed from the pocket as he was beaten again, this time on the inside
- He tried to push his man upfield where there was a back ready to double team, but the pass rusher split the double and again flushed the quarterback
Although he gave up some pressure during this game, Shugarts seemed to get more comfortable as the game went on and seemed to be handling most of his man's moves towards the end, almost as if he needed to see them a few times before he had them scouted. It was another interesting matchup with Cheta Okougwu who was 2011's Mr. Irrelevant and did see some time on the Bears defense towards the end of last season. While Okougwu got the better of him as a pass rusher, Shugarts had the edge in the running game.
Based on all the footage I watched, here was my take on what Shugarts brings to the table, divided into categories:
Usage - As noted, he played both left and right tackle.
Athletic Ability - Shugarts' athleticism didn't really stand out in any of these games and, as noted, he doesn't have great workout numbers. His lateral mobility let him down at times, so I can see why scouts might project him to work at guard.
Run Blocking - As ever with young players, Shugarts biggest problem is that he doesn't always manage to sustain his block. NFL players are just too good at shedding a block or leveraging themselves into the direction of the ball carrier. Having said that, they had pretty good success running behind him and he did make some good kickout and edge setting blocks. Overall, I'd say he graded out positively as a run blocker on balance. Whether he has the athleticism to play tackle in a Mornhinweg offense is another matter.
Pass Protection - Shugarts definitely got embarrassed on a few occasions here. Ultimately he gave up one sack, one hit and a handful of pressures in 55 snaps, which isn't great, especially when they ran the ball a fair amount. However, he was facing some legitimate NFL level players at times, despite being on the third unit. He seemed to be in the right place, but just underestimated the speed or strength of his opponent at times. I was impressed with how he battled and seemed to make improvements rather than getting beaten by the same move more than once though. What I did not see was any team attempting to stunt or overload and how he would handle that.
Attitude - There wasn't too much I could read into here. He didn't have any penalties or do anything demonstrative on the field and it looked like he was trying really hard. He does have an arrest for "possession of drug paraphernalia" in his past though, although he passed a drug test and was let off.
It seems almost certain that Shugarts is unlikely to challenge for a roster spot this year. However, as we've seen with Austin Howard, players can improve leaps and bounds while on a practice squad, so Shugarts might be more advanced than the player I saw in these games. Admittedly, the fact he was recently cut by the Cowboys does not bode so well though.
I can unequivocally state that Shugarts played better than some of the second and third string linemen the Jets have had through their doors over the past few years, so if he gets a chance for some reps in preseason, it will be interesting to see what kind of progress he has made.
As noted, I can see why some scouts think he could be a better fit at guard and maybe that will be a long-term project the Jets will consider. However, he wasn't too bad at tackle and showed some flashes of ability and also that he is capable of learning, improving and making adjustments, so it's up to him to demonstrate that in camp if he wants to stay in the system.