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Johnny Utah
03-30-2006, 10:56 AM
Decent little read from Draft Daddy on Zone Blocking and the offensive lineman coming out in the draft this year.


Zone Blocking in the NFL


& the Effect on 2006 Offensive Linemen Draft Boards

Writen by J. Hanley


last updated: 03/29/06


There are several teams in the NFL who use the zone-blocking scheme exclusively, and several more that use some elements of it. This can have a big impact on those team's draft boards, as it relates to offensive linemen. Denver, Atlanta, Houston and Washington use this scheme either exclusively or predominantly. There are other teams that use it as well, but in situational circumstances, or at least use some elements of it. Then there are teams like Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Seattle who use a man, power blocking scheme very successfully. In short, man blocking relies on a power game, and often power running backs will be successful in it. It is a very week to week, game plan oriented scheme that adjusts to that week's opponent.
Zone blocking is a system that changes little from week to week, and uses faster, more athletic offensive linemen. In a zone blocking scheme, the entire unit slants, or moves in one direction on a given play. As the offensive line moves laterally, the defense tries to move with it, with each defensive linemen attempting to stay in his gap assignment. The offensive linemen will then block whatever defender is in his zone, be it a lineman, linebacker, or even a safety that has moved into the box. These O linemen most often use the cut back block, which basically means going low on the defender, and the hook block, getting under the defender's pads to get him off balance. Quickness is more important than brute power. On a running play, the RB looks for a gap to open, and often cuts back against the flow of the offensive line when it appears. Cutback RB's like Dunn do well in this system, while power RB's like Duckett tend to struggle more, not having the agility to take advantage of hitting an opening when it appears. In a power blocking man scheme, the RB runs to the hole that should be there, based on the play call. This tends to suit the power RB's better.

This is a gross oversimplification of zone blocking, but is a needed precursor to understand why zone blocking teams need faster, more athletic, quick on their feet linemen, as opposed to the traditional "road grader" types. Size, while hardly being the only consideration, plays a big part. Generally, the bigger the O linemen, the less agile and athletic he is. Comparing four teams, two that use zone, and two that use a power man scheme, the average size of the Denver and Atlanta offensive lines are 298 and 301 pounds, respectively. Pittsburgh and Kansas City's offensive lines come in at 314 and 311. Don't expect Marcus McNiell or Max Jean-Gilles to be at the top of Denver's draft board, but a player like Greg Eslinger, who played in a zone scheme at Minnesota could be higher on their draft board than Nick Mangold, and can plan their draft accordingly.

When looking for players to fit a zone blocking scheme, some workout numbers become more important: the short shuttle and 3 cone drills. Faster, more agile and athletic linemen are what teams like Denver look for. Taking some combine and pro day numbers into account, we attempt to separate the power man blockers from the pure zone blockers and note which prospects we see as "tweeners…. those who have the tools to play in either system.

DD.com Editor's note: There are variations of OL draft strategy across the league - certain teams such as San Diego, Denver, Tampa Bay and Atlanta (who has legendary OL coach Alex Gibbs) tend to take OL late in the draft and prefer to do so as it lowers expectations as the players develop. Other teams often use first day picks on the position, such as Philadelphia, Seattle and Pittsburgh.

Based on their college performances and some measurables from the combine and pro day workouts, this is where the offensive linemen in the 2006 would fit best, scheme-wise into the NFL.

The POWER Linemen:

Marcus McNeill, Auburn, 6-8/336, Tackle: The classic road grader tackle. His 5.07 short shuttle says he is a bad fit for zone blocking, but for power running teams, he's at the top of the list of RT's.

Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia, 6-4/343, Guard: His combine agility numbers were poor, but he had 31 reps on the bench. Some say he's out of shape we are talking about a player who has been over 320 pounds since he was 18. The closest thing to Larry Allen since Larry Allen.

Duece Latui, USC, 6-4/334, Guard: Like Gilles, poor agility numbers, but I would not want to be between him and a buffet. Road grader, power blocker.

Charles Spencer, Pitt, 6-5/352, Guard: This draft is deep with power blocking guards. Three of them to be exact. Many zone blocking guards tend to be mobile, with the ability to pull and go outside. Spencer is not one of those, set him up and let him go, he will dominate his man.

Ryan Cook, New Mexico, 6-7/318, Center: He may end up as a Tackle in the NFL. He isn't real good at pulling, but he is a mauler.

Ryan O'Callaghan, Cal, 6-7, 344, Tackle: His pro day short shuttle was 4.83. Agile for a big man, but still not suited for the zone.

Andrew Whitworth, Louisiana State, 6-7/334, Tackle: A great college player durable and tough, has great straight line speed (5.15 40 yard-dash) but his three cone numbers (7.68) may limit him to being a pure power lineman.

The ZONE Blockers

Fred Matua, Southern Cal, 6-3/305, Guard: Explosive puller who has the mobility to slide laterally and focus on a target before taking him out. Attacks in both run and pass blocking and very agile.

Greg Eslinger, Minnesota, 6-3/290, Center: Eslinger played in a zone scheme at Minnesota, and may be ill equipped for even that in the NFL, with a three cone time of 7.59 at the combine. Don't be surprised to see him fall into the second day.

Rashad Butler, Miami, 6-5/293, Tackle: Extremely quick times and athleticism make him a solid bet for mid to late round clubs in need of a swing (left or right) tackle project with NFL caliber skill-set and pedigree.

Daryn Colledge, Boise St, 6-4/299, Tackle: His character, pass blocking technique and 4.58 in the short shuttle makes him an attractive pick for zone blocking teams in the NFL.

The "Tweeners"

Quite a few offensive line prospects have the tools for either zone or man blocking.

Here, we will just list those players, with the notable exception of D'Brick, who deserves further commentary.

Tackles: Winston Justice, USC, 6-6/300, Joe Toledo, Washington, 6-5/337 Eric Winston, Miami (FL) 6-7/310, Jon Scott, Texas, 6-6/305

Centers and Guards: Nick Mangold, Ohio State, 6-4/300, Davin Joseph, Oklahoma, 6-3/311

D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia, 6-5/305, Left Tackle: Due to the demands on LT's in the NFL (with right handed QB's), agility is a must, and athleticism is a requirement, his ability to pass protect is unsurpassed in this draft, but the part of D'Brick's game that often gets over looked is his run blocking ability, and how well he can hold up to bull rushes in the NFL. Reportedly, he slipped on both the 3 cone and short shuttle drills, but the numbers still remain….. 4.89 in the short shuttle is not good. Compare that to the 344 pound O'Callaghan at 4.83, and the 4.53 of Winston Justice still raises eyebrows here. Differences in track surface speed aside, in this writer's opinion, the comparisons to Ogden and Pace are premature. His upside is more along the lines of Walter Jones with Seattle.

There will always be players who surprise, and disappoint. Some can make adjustments to the NFL with good coaching, and others who seem like sure-fire hits can miss. The draft is often about the fit between player and program, more than it is about purely evaluating the player's attributes in a vacuum.

http://www.draftdaddy.com/prospects/OLSchemes.cfm

nunusguy
03-30-2006, 01:29 PM
"Rashad Butler, Miami, 6-5/293, Tackle: Extremely quick times and athleticism make him a solid bet for mid to late round clubs in need of a swing (left or right) tackle project with NFL caliber skill-set and pedigree.
......
Daryn Colledge, Boise St, 6-4/299, Tackle: His character, pass blocking technique and 4.58 in the short shuttle makes him an attractive pick for zone blocking teams in the NFL.
************************************************** ****
Excellent article Utah, enjoyed the read.
The 2 tackles above could both still be available in the 3rd round. And add
Texas tackle Jonathan Scott to the list. I dunno.....but I think there's an
excellent chance we take one of these guys who are well suited for ZB.

humbleone
03-30-2006, 01:48 PM
Nice post Utah...thanks! These are the kind that make the board worthwhile and interesting.

Glad to see you mentioned Joseph...I hope things work out to see him in a Texan's uniform.:redtowel:

Johnny Utah
03-30-2006, 02:50 PM
I like this part of the article as well...

"On a running play, the RB looks for a gap to open, and often cuts back against the flow of the offensive line when it appears. Cutback RB's like Dunn do well in this system, while power RB's like Duckett tend to struggle more, not having the agility to take advantage of hitting an opening when it appears. In a power blocking man scheme, the RB runs to the hole that should be there, based on the play call. This tends to suit the power RB's better. "

Sounds like a certain RB will be perfect for the Texans.

humbleone
03-30-2006, 02:56 PM
I like this part of the article as well...

"On a running play, the RB looks for a gap to open, and often cuts back against the flow of the offensive line when it appears. Cutback RB's like Dunn do well in this system, while power RB's like Duckett tend to struggle more, not having the agility to take advantage of hitting an opening when it appears. In a power blocking man scheme, the RB runs to the hole that should be there, based on the play call. This tends to suit the power RB's better. "

Sounds like a certain RB will be perfect for the Texans.

I would say we have one like that already (DD) and looks like one more on his way soon.

Texans_Chick
03-30-2006, 05:06 PM
Thanks for posting this article. Nice read.

CoastalTexan
03-30-2006, 09:04 PM
I agree with you Nunusguy, we are going to get one of those 2 guys, maybe a gaurd as well. I've seen Colledge play and he seems to play very smart, outsmarting the DE and faking him out on screens/draws etc... I have not watched butler play though, anyone has?

Frank_The_Tank
03-30-2006, 09:21 PM
Great post man, I think people can see we are moving in the right direction by bringing in Flanagan. I hope Winston falls to the 2nd. He was really getting after it on the combine footage. We need some full speed kinda guys on our OL. I think that lack of mobility ot the OL is probably why the zone scheme has not been working for us. That, and the fact that we have been told every offseason that OL would be sought for and Charley/Capers never did anything about it. Kinda Ironic since the first Texan selected during the expansion draft was a OL! Wierd, oh and my spelling sucks, sorry I was watching Oiler Football when other kids were learning their grammer lessons! :fieldgoal