Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich had a bittersweet performance in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Fact: Winovich was a man possessed. With his trademark hair flowing in the night, Winovich at times seemed like the only defender aware that Notre Dame’s quarterback…gasp!…might keep the ball and run with it.
Also fact: Winovich’s 3rd and goal roughing the passer penalty was a killer for the Wolverines. Michigan clung onto life support all game after falling behind early, so gifting the Irish an additional four points was a brutal mistake.
But from an NFL perspective, this was a wonderful showing for the Michigan defensive end. With several strong performances of this nature, Winovich has an opportunity to remold his narrative and the expectations around his game.
Sure, the box score was friendly. Any time a player logs six tackles, a sack and three and a half tackles for loss it’s a good thing. But as always with player evaluation, the process outweighs the results.
Entering the 2018 season, I had scored Winovich as a potential Day 2 prospect and ranked him as my third best EDGE Defender in the Big Ten. Nick Bosa isn’t going anywhere, but challenging Iowa’s Anthony Nelson is certainly on the table with more performances like Week 1.
Why? Chase’s play on the field in 2017 was an illustration of how hard work and football IQ can lead you places, even without a dominant trait. There was apprehension regarding his mobility in space, his hand power as a rusher and his first step explosiveness. Pretty much any trump card an EDGE could have, Winovich had questions around.
Without one of those dominating traits, projection to success in the NFL is a difficult assumption to be making.
Against Notre Dame, Winovich was able to illustrate some improvement with his hands, a promising development. Seeing a collapsed right tackle immediately after contact was refreshing. So, too, was the pace of which hands were moving to continuously keep a clean chest.
From a technique perspective, this performance was probably better than any Michigan game I viewed last season.
But where can things go from here? What is the ceiling? First and foremost, the team needs to re-group. The tackling efforts all around, Winovich aside, were horrendous. The team has time, as does Winovich. The next big date on Winovich’s personal slate of match-ups comes on October 13th, when the Wolverines head to Wisconsin.
A date with Tackle David Edwards will be the ultimate litmus test of just how far Winovich’s hand power as come. If he’s able to collapse Edwards, or even quickly transition his hands and stay clear of contact, it’s a huge win for his stock.
Doing so would force evaluations and expectations of his game to go back to the drawing board, assuming he’s playing at the same level against the likes of SMU, Western Michigan and Nebraska in between.
Opportunities to reshape one’s image in the eye of scouts is a key motivator of returning to school. After a successful showing against the Fighting Irish, Winovich can do just that with strong play into the heart of the schedule.