Cowboys vs. Raiders: A Look at George Selvie’s Decline

Cowboys vs. Raiders: A Look at George Selvie’s Decline

Credit: Getty Images

George Selvie #99 of the Dallas Cowboys looks over the offense during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 27, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Cowboys 31-30. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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by JONATHAN BALES

WFAA Sports

Posted on December 2, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 3 at 5:10 AM

In the preseason, I wrote an article called “Signs Point to George Selvie Being Special” in which I proposed three reasons I’ve been very bullish on Selvie as a starting defensive end. One reason is that he was a dominant player at South Florida; he actually still has the most tackles for loss for any NCAA player since 2000.

Another reason is that Selvie is currently at the peak age of production for defensive ends.

The primary reason for my Selvie love, though, is his arm length.

If Selvie were coming out of college as a rookie, he’d represent the perfect opportunity to acquire value by exploiting a marketplace inefficiency. See, Selvie is “short” for a defensive end at just 6-3, and NFL teams as a whole still seem to “pay” for height; they draft tall pass-rushers because they’re tall, not (always) because they have long arms. But if you’re paying for a trait in height that doesn’t actually help in the NFL, you’ll eventually be disappointed with the results.

Teams should search for defensive ends who are actually slightly undersized but have the same trait that allows taller players to thrive: long arms. At just 6-3, Selvie doesn’t have what NFL teams consider to be “ideal” height. But he does have incredibly long 34.5-inch arms.

When I saw a relatively young pass-rusher with incredible past success and ridiculously long arms, it wasn’t difficult for me to project a breakout from Selvie in 2013. I predicted 12 sacks for Selvie. Although he’s on pace for just eight sacks this year, that’s still a number that would have surprised many people in the preseason.

Lately, though, Selvie has slowed down.

Against Oakland, Pro Football Focus tracked Selvie as recording zero pressures for the first time this season. I re-watched all of his snaps and I thought he had one quarterback hurry on a play-action pass, but there’s no doubt that Selvie isn’t playing as well as he did to start the year.

Breaking Down Selvie vs. Oakland

One of the reasons that Selvie hasn’t been dominant of late is that he’s not an extremely quick player, so he needs to get a good jump off of the ball. I’ve found arm length to be far more important than quickness or straight-line speed for pass-rushers, but Selvie has been too slow off of the ball at times.

That happened early in the game against the Raiders. Selvie was lined up on the right side of the line—a position from which he rarely rushes.

Selvie was the last lineman off of the ball for Dallas. You can see DeMarcus Ware two steps ahead of Selvie on the opposite side of the line.

Selvie will win more battles with his length than his quickness, but he needs to get off of the ball faster to at least put himself in a position to utilize those long arms.

Even when he gets off of the snap adequately, though, Selvie has been letting defenders get into his body.

On the Raiders’ final drive, Selvie was rushing from a stand-up position. He got off of the ball well, but didn’t use his length advantage to fend off the right tackle.

As I’ve watched Selvie this season, it seems as though he struggles when he fails to capitalize on his distinct advantage. Again, he’s not an incredibly quick player, so if Selvie doesn’t utilize his long arms, he’s not going to be effective.

However, I have a feeling Selvie will break out this week against the Bears. Chicago right tackle Jordan Mills has allowed the most pressures in the NFL by a wide margin. He’ll be matched up primarily with Selvie, so look for the defensive end to get back on track in Week 14.

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