By Adam Aniba
WIth the heartbreaking news of starting DE Chase Young out for the season with a torn ACL, a defense that has struggled will have to find answers on the fly. The other bookend, DE Montez Sweat, will miss another month+ with a broken jaw. Ron Rivera will have to look in house for more production.
Washington has seen multiple late round draft picks carve out roles over the years, with '20 7th round safety Kamren Curl (selected #266 overall) being the most recent late round gem. Rivera will need another 7th rounder to step up in a big way for the rest of the season.
Washington's 2021 Draft class is still a work in progress, but one late rounder represented great value with Shaka Toney (7th rd #246 overall). With 4 picks in the first 7 rounds being on the defensive side of the ball, many fans were surprised to see Washington select back-to-back defensive linemen in the last round. The selection of the PSU pass rusher, could wind up being the team's most underrated selection when all is said and done
Who is Shaka Toney?
Toney was named to the 2020 All Big Ten- 1st Team and was once viewed as a potential early Day 3 prospect. He finished ranked 4th all-time in PSU's record book with 20.5 sacks, but concerns about his true position on the next level persisted through the draft evaluation process. Complicating matters, Toney contracted COVID in December, leading to a weight drop from 250 lbs to 238 lbs.
Career Stats (57 games) 111 total tackles (57 solo) 28.5 TFL, 2 ints, 20 sacks, 4 PD, 1 FR 4 FF
During Senior Bowl practices, coaches asked Toney to take practice reps at defensive end and outside linebacker. Ironically, while working at linebacker, he was asked to shadow Boise State and Washington 4th rounder TE John Bates on a deep pattern.
Although Toney displayed the ability to have a role as a linebacker with limited coverage ability on the next level, he's still extremely raw, with pass rushing duties being the primary focus while at PSU. Toney finished the week in Mobile earning the 3rd highest graded for a defensive end per PFF. However, some teams reportedly were still on the fence on what role Toney would have on the next level.
*Toney's Pro Day *
40-yard: 4.51 sec, Vertical: 39.0", Short Shuttle: 4.28 sec, 3-Cone: 7.03,
Broad Jump: 10'08" and Bench Press: 24
During Toney's film study, two performances stood out. The first, and most impressive was vs Indiana (10/24/2020) . Toney's performance in that game was notable, but not due to his 7 tackles and 2 sacks., He garnered attention for his 2 passes defended and 1 pass deflection. Toney predominantly lined up on the right edge as customary in this matchup, but on multiple occasions would drop into bail-coverage from the end spot, as if he was a DB. Although PSU would fall short 35-36 against Indiana, Toney displayed the ability to be more than just a sub-package end on the next level
The second matchup (11/2021) would be more one sided with Iowa rolling 41-21. Toney would struggle at times versus the Hawkeye o-lineman, often outmuscling him on run plays.
Although Toney and the Nittany Lions defense had their struggles versus the run, the 7th round pick collected 5 tackles with 2 sacks on the day, displaying an effective stutter-step that that allowed him to get under opposing lineman's pads. It's easy to see what PSU coaches saw in him as a pass rusher versus a superior Iowa squad.
Ready or Not
Toney only participated in 9 snaps vs the Bucs, but that should change for the foreseeable future. The PSU pass rusher will benefit from playing next to Jonathan Allen and the rest of the heralded Washington defensive lineman.
Toney's versatility in coverage is noteworthy, albeit limited during his time at PSU. Toney displayed the ability to cut off route angles, while selling the rush.
Although Toney is currently in concussion protocol, he should be ready to go this week vs Seattle, and his athleticism will be needed against Russell Wilson.
Coaches will need to work more with the 7th rounder on dropping his base as well as continue to work on his overall flexibility. WIth Young out and Sweat gone until mid December, Toney has an opportunity in front of him to gain valuable reps.
A season to observe the defense, while playing special teams would have been ideal for Toney, but his time is now. Toney will get the opportunity to get 30%+ of reps at DE with only James Smith-Williams (B&G Report JSW '20 interview) and Casey Toohill as the only notable ends, but Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen will also see reps in sub-packages.
Washington made a wise investment in selecting the PSU edge rusher. Once viewed as an early Day 3 prospect, Toney has the motor and ability to be an effective pass rusher, but also set the edge against the run. The opportunity to carve out a role in Jack Del Rio's defense is on the table for Toney with 7 games remaining, 5 coming against the NFC East.