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The Future of the Offensive Line
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Dallas94Ware


Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 4575
Location: Queens, NY
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A large part of big, beefy offensive line players doing well in the NFL has to do with the blocking scheme they are utilized in.

A heavy, tough offensive line depends heavily on a man-blocking schematic that revolves around manhandling DLs at the point of attack to open up running lanes for downhill runners. As the NFL has shifted to fancying shiftier, off-tackle types of runners, the need for more athletic and nimble OLs begins to rise - they help seal the ends, or pull out to block in space on tosses, cracks, sweeps, outside counters, etc.

And in the passing game, a change in formula across the NFL has also began to phase out the big, beefy OLs. As the NFL becomes a pass first league (since the harsher enforcement of the 5yard chuck rule and hits to defenseless receivers make passing much easier in todays NFL), offensive linemen are asked to pass protect more often than not. Pass protection requires different skills than run blocking; manhandling a DL isn't going to get it done in pass protection. Instead, you need fast hips, quick hands and agile footwork to keep in front of those rushers and keep your QB upright. Big, strong OLs are usually slower to set up in pass protection, slower to set up their hips, and tend to be too slow to adjust to today's complex blitzing patterns.

Furthermore, zone blocking for the run has become a staple in todays running game across the league. Stretch plays and one cut speed rushers have begun to dominate many of the run heavy offensive schemes. Made popular by Mike Shannahan in Denver, zone blocking requires a unique blend of athleticism and size. Shannahan made a killing off of drafting, what was at the time, players considered to be undersized for OLs. But these undersized OL had the foot movement and hip speed needed to set up a good block in a zone block scheme; hence guys with half the mass of the usual OLs of the time, such as Mark Schlereth, become probowl caliber players chopping down bigger men on the defensive line after using their speed advantage to set up, take the better angle, and get under those who enter their zone.

Now, these formerly 'undersized' OLs are in higher demand and get drafted much earlier, as zone blocking has seen wider use. Some of the higher draft picks at the OL position over the last 6 or 7 years have been the classic zone blocker type; these picks have actually done well and came into the league playing well. While the older fashioned, beefy man blocking road graters who are drafted early have had struggles, especially early on.

Then you have what I call the 'tweener' types. Guys like Dallas' Tyron Smith, who have enough body mass and upperbody power to man handle the common pass rusher in the running game, but aren't so oversized that they struggle to set up in pass protection and work their hips. Many of these types have had some hot and cold streaks, as they often don't fit either zone or man blocking perfectly, nor have the full-on finesse of top flight pass protectors.

As a side note, yo ucould compare these new 'tweener' OLs to the influx of 'tweener' DE/OLB we saw in the early 2000s. Prior, there were clear cut lines between a DE and a OLB. Then with the wider use of the 34 defensive front, the searches began for the pass rushing LBs - which required tracking down 43 pass rushing ends who also had the versatility as a player to help in coverage, run stopping and shadowing tailbacks out of the backfield. The task wasn't easy for many teams who swapped to a 34 - with guys like Manny Lawson and Larry English being only 2 of many names I can name to explain how difficult the task became.

Searching for those 'tweeners' at OL is much the same as searching for those 'tweener' DE/OLBs. Figuring out exactly what a player will be capable of when asked to play the role of two separate styles on any given down is difficult. Most players are a clear cut this, or a clear cut that. But the change in offensive schemes in the NFL make these types of players at OL a high demand product, and teams will continue to search for them with high round draft picks - expect a lot of busts at OL the next few seasons as the changes continue to take shape.
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DKDALfan


Joined: 18 Mar 2011
Posts: 2403
Location: Denmark
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Matts4313 wrote:
Desperado82 wrote:
Northland wrote:
Desperado82 wrote:
Seems as though Jake Long may be leaving Miami...but I don't think he'd fit our new scheme.


Any source on that?


Just appears to be the general consensus among Dolphin fans.

They are moving away from a man blocking scheme, and combined with Long's injury issues and struggles in their new system...Miami appears to be ready to move on from him.


Id bring him in and move Free to OG...


I really don't get why people want Free as a guard? He never played that position before as far as I know which means that he doesnt have the experience as he has on the outside. Also, IMO he simply does not fit as a guard. He is too tall for what you like which combined with him being slow out of his stance and being pretty damn weak = being beat with bull rushes regulary. To succeed at guard Free needs to do his initial punch better, but that is also what he needs to do for him to be a top 20 tackle in the NFL where his body and skill set translates the best. I have no believe in Free beating DT's which is stronger then the DE's, he will either get beat by bullrushes or get pushed back in the rungame as well. I don't believe that Free has the potential to be a top 40 guard in the NFL.
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buckwild


Joined: 25 Jan 2011
Posts: 1916
Location: Ft Worth, Tx
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Desperado82 wrote:
Lighter, quicker, stronger offensive lineman. Laughing

Garrett is trying to get those types of players in here. Look at Smith, Kowalski and Arkin. I suppose Livings could be used as an example as well.


How do we look at Arkin he is never on the game day roster!
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Dallas94Ware


Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 4575
Location: Queens, NY
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DKDALfan wrote:
Matts4313 wrote:
Desperado82 wrote:
Northland wrote:
Desperado82 wrote:
Seems as though Jake Long may be leaving Miami...but I don't think he'd fit our new scheme.


Any source on that?


Just appears to be the general consensus among Dolphin fans.

They are moving away from a man blocking scheme, and combined with Long's injury issues and struggles in their new system...Miami appears to be ready to move on from him.


Id bring him in and move Free to OG...


I really don't get why people want Free as a guard? He never played that position before as far as I know which means that he doesnt have the experience as he has on the outside. Also, IMO he simply does not fit as a guard. He is too tall for what you like which combined with him being slow out of his stance and being pretty damn weak = being beat with bull rushes regulary. To succeed at guard Free needs to do his initial punch better, but that is also what he needs to do for him to be a top 20 tackle in the NFL where his body and skill set translates the best. I have no believe in Free beating DT's which is stronger then the DE's, he will either get beat by bullrushes or get pushed back in the rungame as well. I don't believe that Free has the potential to be a top 40 guard in the NFL.


Free's footwork is the major problem for him at offensive tackle. He's slow to adjust when the end has a good jump off the snap, and he keeps his hips too narrow. At offensive guard, footwork and hips are less of a problem. Instead of arching your body to keep in front of an outside rusher, you can set up in pass protection by dropping straight back to protect against inside rushers; it tends to be easier for the less nimble offensive linemen to pass protect in that way rather than from the outside.

However, Free does not have the push off the snap in run blocking that you need to be effective consistently in the inside of the OL. He lacks that man moving power that opens up lanes - remember, you aren't just pushing against someone in a sumo-style pushing match when you're run blocking; you are trying open up running lanes by getting some push and creating a gap between your man and the guy next to him. Otherwise you're just creating a wall for your runner to run into...remember Julius Jones? Yeah, it'd be like that.

Guess what I'm saying is, Free's gotta go. He's serviceable as a backup tackle who can get in there for some spot duty, but he's not the guy you want protecting Romo long term. And moving him inside would just hide the shortcomings we see every game, and highlight another set of shortcomings.
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