Reggie Gilbert's time has finally come to an end at Arizona. Players always joke that he's been here for eight-plus years and is the old man of the group after he was successfully awarded his fifth year of eligibility due to a medical hardship waiver. Both Rich Rodriguez and Gilbert himself had no doubt in their mind that the fifth year would be granted, but they still had to go through the formal process after Gilbert missed nine games his freshman season due to an injury.
Now, he's been in the mix to get picked up by an NFL squad. It’s unlikely that Reggie Gilbert gets drafted and maybe he isn’t even a priority free agent, but he’s likely to land an invite to a rookie mini-camp to progress through the summer with the hopes of finding his new home.
We saw Dan Pettinato make it to the final day of cuts for the Houston Texans, eventually signing with the practice squad with the hopes of being pulled up to the 53-man roster. Reggie Gilbert seems to find himself in the same situation.
Production at Arizona
Gilbert was a five-year contributor for the Arizona Wildcats and one of the last Mike Stoops products to play. He only played in four games his freshman year due to an injury, allowing him to apply for that fifth year of eligibility. His senior season, he stepped up as the leader on the defensive line, racking up 41 tackles -- 8.5 for loss -- and 3.5 sacks.
The bulk of his production came in his final two years at Arizona. In his junior campaign, he accumulated 49 tackles -- 5.5 for loss -- and three sacks. Gilbert really started to come to form in 2013, with the help of Tevin Hood and Sione Tuihalamaka, which was easily Arizona's biggest defensive line as a whole since Rich Rodriguez came to town.
Stats via sports-reference.com
Reggie has great size on the edge, checking in at 6-foot-3, 261 pounds. That size allows him to change up between a defensive end or outside linebacker at the next level. And versatility is king when it comes to the NFL these days. Gilbert is also pretty fast for his size and position, running a 4.79 40-yard dash at Arizona's pro day. He also had 24 reps on the bench press and a 33.5-inch vertical jump.
I think he excels in lateral speed when the play goes out to the edge. He was able to force the play to go back inside or have the ball carrier backtrack to try and round the outside. When the play is going to the opposite side, Gilbert was still able to track down the ball and get the stop.
His clear weakness has to be his lack of experience as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. Scouts like his size, but the question comes down to whether he can adjust to the learning curve. It’s hard to say that his talents or time were wasted in a 3-3-5 scheme because that allowed him to refine one part of his game that could still help him going forward, but that’s his clear knock as of now.
While some might call the 3-3-5 defense unconventional, it’s a trend we’re starting to see in the NFL with the passing game elevating to an entirely new level. This is where you even start seeing those hybrid safeties play linebackers. So this could potentially help Gilbert out in the long run if he does get a chance at a 3-3-5 defensive end spot.
He's a little bit of a tweener when it comes to the pass rush. He never really dropped back in coverage, so that's out of the question. And he's not exactly the speed rush guy nor a power move guy. With Gilbert, I think you get a raw outside linebacker that can fill up space and take a play away.
I actually like Brandon Graham as his comparison, someone who also played under Rich Rodriguez at Michigan. He played his collegiate career at defensive end, in a 3-3-5 defense as well, but has converted into a 3-4 outside linebacker and has found himself a nice role with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Graham was a top defensive end in the college ranks, so it’s hard to compare him to Gilbert in that aspect, but Gilbert has the size and defensive end technique to help him transition.
This is an odd situation because I don’t think Gilbert’s talents were utilized nearly as well as they could have been, operating in a 3-3-5 defense his entire career. Teams are working him out as a linebacker and defensive end, moreso of a hybrid, with the opportunity to change into a 3-4 outside linebacker to attack off the edge.
I felt like he was underappreciated at Arizona and he will be a better pro if he gets the chance to show off his skills.
The Houston Texans could very much be in play, operating in a 3-4 front, and we know they're already fond of Arizona’s talent by keeping Dan Pettinato around. There are currently 15 teams in the NFL running a 3-4 front, including the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, who could all be suitors for Gilbert.