There were a few things I noticed while watching the first string offensive line as they were blocking for the rather impressive Eddie Lacy. I mentioned a few in my “First Impressions” post, where I give my initial observations without rewinding. It’s a little game I like to play, a way of testing if my perception of what is happening during the game is accurate or not.
I normally get the answers when I go back and watch the game a second time, this time with the benefit of rewind at will.
Time permitting, I’m going to try to pick one or two of those first impressions and look at them together with you, in video form, every week.
Today’s topic is the offensive line’s run blocking. Although Eddie Lacy had some impressive gains, I was noticing Packers offensive linemen getting pushed into the backfield on several occasions, especially Evan Dietrich Smith and TJ Lang.
In this first video, Lacy breaks off an 8 yard run, but no thanks to Evan Dietrich-Smith (EDS), who can not handle the speed of the gap-shooting DL. Lacy. Matthew Mulligan is also beat badly, and Lacy is confronted with two ST. Louis DL in his path, two yards deep in the backfield. For another running back, this is a loss of a few yards. But thanks to his much-renowned spin move, Lacy gets away from that trouble, breaks a tackle past the line of scrimmage and then plows through a few more defenders for some extra yards. It’s good to have a real running back, isn’t it?
(Note: I slowed the play down in the second part of this video. I also recommend using the pause button to stop the action at various points to get a better idea of what is happening.)
On this next play, EDS does pretty much the same thing. his time the DL is face up on him, but he goes past EDS like he’s a statue. Over on the far left, DJ Wlliams give a beautiful “ole” block on the defensive end, then pretends to go after a linebacker with nothing more than a light tap. Again, there are two DL in Lacy’s face in the backfield, yet he split the two, gave a small spin to get one guy off his leg, but then he runs into a wall of other defenders that haven’t been blocked very well. One was the linebacker Williams showed no interest in blocking, the others were there because Josh Sitton takes a poor angle going after a linebacker, missing him completely, and Bakhtiari fans on his attempt at a downfield block. End result is a wall of tacklers not even Lacy can get away from. TJ Lang does a “good enough” job on his man, who actually takes a few steps back as if he has coverage responsibilities. Don Barclay is the only OL who gets an “A” on the play, keeping the defensive end from joining the gang tackling fun.
Not wanting to be left out, Josh Sitton takes a few back steps in this video, almost getting stepped on by Lacy and forcing Lacy to make a split-second cut to the left. (Pause the video and look at Lacy’s feet as he avoids Sitton – it’s impressive). It might have worked, if DJ Williams could actually block someone. Instead, his man zeroes in on Lacy and helps make the tackle.
In this next video we see that every interior offensive lineman struggled that evening. Here TJ Lang gets knocked backwards 2 yards before getting some double-team help from EDS. Meanwhile, Josh Sitton is easily shed, turned around and then knocked to the ground by his man. Matthew Mulligan (not a good night for him) barely gets a touch on the defensive end, who penetrates to meet lead blocker John Kuhn head on, forcing Lacy to turn inside, but there’s nowhere to go beacause of the EDS, Lang and Sitton failure to execute. Bakhtiari misses his attempt at a downfield block, but it doesn’t affect the play. RT Marshall Newhouse gets an “A” for getting to the next level and executing a solid block on a linebacker.
Lest you all think we are doomed, I have to be fair, it wasn’t all bad. There were some good moments, too. So here’s a video that shows the line executing perfectly (even DJ Williams makes a key block).
I didn’t realize this until after I had pulled these clips and started writing about them, but I find it interesting that this last clip is the only one that is not a Zone Blocking Scheme. Both guards are pulling (not that they look good doing it), but the play works. Can we read anything into that? My initial reaction is no, just coincidence.
What I’m more concerned with is continually seeing Packers offensive linemen in their own backfield, and not because they are trying to be there. There is little to no push from the interior linemen, which is not normally a huge deal in a ZBS, but getting knocked back into the path of your running back is bad regardless of what type of blocking scheme you’re trying to run.
What I see on these videos has made me appreciate Eddie Lacy even more. It’s good to have a real running back, isn’t it?——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.