As a three-year starter, DJ Holt was an absolute fixture in the middle of the Cal defense. By his senior year, he was equally adept at playing the run as well as the pass while also taking charge of helping the younger linebackers get lined up properly.
What do you feel that DJ Holt meant to the Cal defense? What are your favorite memories of DJ as a Bear? Who do you think will be harder to replace: Holt or Kendricks?
Avinash: Holt was plug-and-play in the purest sense of the word. He came in and got lots of tackles. Held his gaps, found the ball-carrier, took him down. He wasn't noticeable or elite, but he was effective, and that's what you need from an ILB on a baseline level. He just went about his business and got the job done.
In terms of our tandem, Kendricks is by far harder to replace. The dude was an athletic freak who could do all the things you want from your every down linebacker, and really gave the top offenses we faced someone to really think about when they lined up at the snap. Holt was a bit more limited (not as good a pass rusher or pass coverer), but in terms of handling the not-so-glamorous work he was solid, perhaps even top-level.
It'll be tough losing those two at the same time, as they really seemed to learn how to play with each other by the middle of the season and the defense didn't miss a beat from there.
Kodiak: As dynamic as Kendricks was, I might argue that Holt was just as valuable to our defense.
He certainly wasn't the flashiest player, but he was very sound from an assignment standpoint. Because Coach Pendergast could rely on Holt to make the right reads, it allowed him to get creative with Kendricks and the other young 'backers.
I'm not film-savvy enough to have caught it, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was Holt's job to plug gaps and take on blockers. This would make sense from a physical standpoint because he was the biggest of all our linebackers.
It'll be interesting who Clancy and Thompson go with as Holt's heir apparent. From a smarts and assignment-driven standpoint, it might be someone like Mullins. But for speed and athleticism, it could be any one of a number of talented youngsters.
Ohio Bear: I fear we will find out how important and underappreciated DJ Holt was in our linebacking corps. It was comforting to have experienced backers like DJ and Kendricks anchoring our unit on the inside. I, too, am not film savvy enough to wax poetic about Holt's contributions, but it seemed to me that he was a guy who could be depended upon to be at the right place and do what he was supposed to do.
Kodiak: Do you remember any big plays or breakout games?
Did DJ remind you of any other Cal linebackers?
Do you think that he has a shot at making the Washington Redskins team?
There's an interesting write-up here:
Do you agree with "An experienced and instinctive inside backer, Holt racked up 168 tackles the past two seasons starting at Cal, 14 for a loss. He also played on special teams, an area he must excel in for any shot at the opening game roster. Along with wide receiver Lance Lewis and corner Chase Minnifeld, SI.com highlighted the trio as potential undrafted free agent finds. Consistency and aggression more than skill dropped Holt in the eyes of draft evaluators. Finishing his senior season without an interception or forced fumble did not help his draft stock either."
or ""Stoutly built and thickly muscled. Secure clear-path tackler. Can drop into short zones. Football smart. Has special-teams experience. Good character...Catches too much contact and is not strong at the point of attack. Pedestrian speed and suddenness. Limited range (can be beat to the perimeter). Struggles to break down in space. Can play with more urgency. Has underachiever traits...Compact, inconsistent inside linebacker who looks the part of a thumper but does not play downhill or with a lot of strength. Intermittent violence, explosion and intensity are concerning."?
Hydrotech: D.J. Holt was a solid linebacker for the Cal Defense. He wasn't a guy that particularly stood out on a play to play basis whether it be for better or for worse. Of the past Cal linebackers he sort of reminded me, I would have to say he sort of reminded me of Worrell Williams. They were both on the shorter side, but had the frame to keep weight. Both were solid players in their careers at Cal.
I think D.J. Holt has a shot at making any NFL team in a special teams role or perhaps as a backup player. He seems like the typical undrafted Cal Football player who usually makes the team due to his resilience, intelligence, and hard work.
Kodiak: Yeah, Holt's stats might not have been as high as they could have been because of his role in the 3-4. I guess you can sort of equate "role players" in the NBA to players in football. In football, everyone has an assignment. If you handle your assignment, often the ball won't go your way and someone else will get the tackle (or other statistic). The perfect person to illustrate this point is probably former Cal safety Nnamdi Asomugha and his NFL career. He doesn't accumulate a ton of stats because so often the ball just doesn't go his way. The same thing happens with linebackers. Offenses can run away from certain defensive players, or linebackers are just plugging up their gap assignments (as they should), and letting the defender to whom the ball carrier runs to make the tackle.
So while that scouting report you quoted above dings Holt for some of his lack of productivity (sacks, INTs, etc.), I wouldn't necessary hold that against him. I don't think Holt was really used as a pass rushing LB in his career at Cal, and I while he also didn't land an INT in his career, to be fair, a lot of LBs don't.