clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Can Leo Chenal Man the Middle of the Commanders Defense?

LB help in April

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 06 Wisconsin at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Leo Chenal, LB

School: Wisconsin | Conference: Big Ten

College Experience: Junior | Age: 21

Height / Weight: 6’3” / 250 lbs

Projected Draft Status: 3rd round

Player Comparison: Benardrick McKinney

College Statistics

Player Overview

Wisconsin’s defense led the NCAA in the least yardage allowed by a defense. A lot of people are responsible, but Leo Chenal may have been the most impactful player on that defense. The three-sport starter – football, basketball, and track – and three-star recruit showed is potential by putting up respectable numbers his freshman year despite limited playing time. He became a full-time starter his sophomore season and led the team in sacks and tackles for loss on the way to an All-Big Ten honorable mention. Junior year, Chenal repeated as the team leader in sacks and tackles for loss, increasing his totals from the previous year, and led the team in total tackles. He finished his career Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, All-Big Ten First Team, and an All-American.

Strengths

  • Strong enough to stack and shed blockers and quick enough to elude them
  • Stopping power as a hitter
  • Excellent blitzer and effectively shoots gaps to get in backfield
  • Shows awareness when dropping in zone coverage
  • Quick trigger when he sees play developing

Weaknesses

  • Can lose sight of the ball fighting off blocks
  • A few missed tackles when not squared up on target
  • Not a lot of plays in man coverage
  • Can be manipulated in zone coverage by savvy QBs

Let’s see his work

How He Fits On The Team

It’s pretty clear that Leo Chenal is a superb football player and Wisconsin made the most of his ability. Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard constantly had him watch the ball and chase it. Even when he wasn’t blitzing, Chenal dropped into zone and showed good awareness of his assignments in the zone and passed them off well. My biggest question with him is whether he has the ability to play man coverage against quick, shifty players at the next level. Looking at him play, I’m not sure he once turned his back to the quarterback.

It is no secret the Commanders need an MLB. Jamin Davis didn’t work out at that position his rookie year and looks to be play more weakside linebacker next season. Cole Holcomb can play there, but is best as a strongside linebacker. David Mayo is the only other candidate at the position, but he should not be relied on to start.

Chenal definitely could come in and play on first and second down in at MLB. His play against the run would definitely be an asset. I’m not sure he’s ready for play in subpackages and obvious passing downs unless he’s blitzing, something Jack Del Rio does not do a lot of in his defense. His athletic profile suggests he has the ability to cover players down field, but it’s not a strength of his game now and the team needs help in the middle immediately. While I like Chenal as a player and think he will be a productive pro, I’m not convinced the fit is great in Washington.