Initially, I promised myself I wouldn't start the thread until I got the whole thing done, but 2 games in I worry if I don't commit it to server my interest in the project will wain and I won't finish it. By posting it I'm forcing myself to see it through. Tomorrow I'm going to post at least the Panthers game, and possibly the Eagles. Sometime next week I'll get the Superbowl done, along with any final thoughts.
Along the way I'm asking for advice, thoughts, and observations from anyone who wants to chime in, I know we've got a ton of people with O-line experience, both playing and coaching, so if I've missed something I need you to correct me. We're here to learn, right?
It's a long one, so pace yourself. Unlike DCR's stellar line breakdown of days-gone-by I'm just highlighting what really stood out, good or bad.
After Action Review
Find out how much, if any improvement, was made by RG Deuce Lutui
and RT Levi Brown
, who struggled in both facets of the game during the regular season.
Final game of the regular season (SEA @ AZ), plus all playoff games, including the Super Bowl.
What we know:
Levi Brown- The upside is that even in the NFL he looks like he’s got good speed to get upfield. And he usually gets great position on screen passes. He’s got a wide frame and he has shown he can be effective, especially in run blocks where he’s always trying to get to the second level. The downside is that he struggles to get into the backfield in pass protection. Speeder rushers don’t have much trouble setting him up on the outside on long drops.
Deuce Lutui- The upside is that he’s got hooks and heart. When he gets a good hold of a defender he doesn’t let go. The downside is that he struggles to get his hooks on anyone. He’s got concrete feet and in pass protection can be easy to beat in a number of different ways.
What I recognize:
Is that I don’t know the protection schemes from play-to-play and that the viewing angle games are shot at, even in HD, makes it hard to break down what’s going on at all times.
What I hope to learn:
How much, if any, these two improved in the most important games of their lives. I also hope to find that these guys are as driven and dedicated run-blockers as everyone hopes they would become when drafted. It’s easy to see why they struggled when the team was working in complete opposite of their strongest skill sets. I’m hoping the balance found in the playoffs makes them look more complete.
Week 17 SEA @ AZ:
An especially odd play with 6:03 left in the first. SEA brings 4 on a rush, no stunts, etc. Brown chips the DT, and goes 4 yards upfield to flop in front of a LB(horrible block). Watching Brown I’m thinking screen pass… it’s a playaction to Edge. Pope has DE. Deuce has #99 after the chip. 99 works D’s outside shoulder then shoves inside, beating the protection. Warner throws incomplete… a couple of times a game Brown does some stuff that’s independent of every other player on the line, it’s so apart from the others that either Grimm and Haley are playing some sort of super-chess with the defensive line or Brown gets confused a lot (12:03 in the 3rd is another good example).
On the next play Deuce does a great job of sliding outside to pick up a stunt.
Both Deuce and Levi end up making a handful or good and bad blocks.
Early, I’m seeing a trend I hope goes away fast. It seems like Brown stops moving one part of his body to move another. He gets his hands up so his feet stop. He moves his feet and drops his arms.
With :09 sec left in the 1st, SEA is in a three down lineman set. #99 is on Brown. He gives Brown a quick step to his outside and gets under Brown’s shoulder. He then half turns Brown and gets and angle on Warner. Warner feels this and releases the ball, only to have it batted away.
The Cardinals first play of the 2nd quarter (7:10) is a great example of how to set up a playaction. On a couple of the runs I didn’t break down the Cards have Brown driving up and into the LB and Deuce (and Wells) pulling to his left. On this play the defense flows toward the pull and Warner drops a 50 yard bomb to Fitz. Brown did a very good job sealing his side. Special shout out to Ben Patrick, who stood #55 up at the line.
The play with Larry’s one-handed grab feature Brown again struggling against the spin move. It’s the second time this game in which he’s been beaten by it. Dwight Freeney’s made a career out of it and has schooled some of the best (remember Jonathan Ogden?) using it, so I’m not sure how I feel about Levi struggling against it.
Two plays in a row SEA has overloaded the A-Gap and it’s paid off. Deuce is late getting to help Sendlein with the blitz or the inside move.
On the 3rd and 30 draw to JJ (next to last play of the half) Deuce gets his hooks up and under #99 and drive him up and out, Brown allows the rusher outside before sealing and there’s a huge hole for JJ to scat through.
With 12:40 left in the 3rd, the Cardinals run a strong counter play out of the I formation. This play works well because Brown pushes outside on the DE and Sendlein gets the DT. Deuce wiggles across the formation to block down on MLB, but an over pursing SLB meets Deuce instead. This works out even better because MLB loses sight of RB James. James then bounces outside the TE and cruises to the second level.
In the 3rd quarter both Brown and Lutui really settled down, handling all kinds of pressure early. This quarter Sendlein stood out as abused, being overpowered in single matchups on a handful of plays.
Brown displays some especially quick feet on screen passes. He’s also very quick in getting to the second level. Effectively blocking someone when he gets there is a work-in-progress.
In the 4th after Leinart came in, there was the same balance of good and bad. When Deuce is good, he deserves a mauler label, but those victories are rarer then they should be. When he fails it’s fairly spectacular. He overextends, or trips. When Brown fails it’s often the little things that do him in. Deuce’s consistency is his biggest problem in this game. He plays pretty wild and it shows. Brown just needs to continue to work and concentrate. He’s close enough that for as young as he is there’s plenty of upside and if he can finish more plays he’ll be worth the draft pick.
Wildcard round ATL @ AZ:
First play out of the gate the Cardinals come out in an empty backfield set. A blitzing LB shoots the gap between Deuce and Levi. Ut oh.
On the next play Deuce tries to one arm a stunting DT. It works about as well as you’d think. Side note: on this play DRC is in as a WR and was the target of the pass. Do Collinsworth or Tom Hammond even mention this? Nah.
On an Edge run with 11:00 in the 1st Brown single handedly seals the right side of the line for a big gainer. Deuce falls to his knees, off balance.
On the flea-flicker with 10:34 in the 1st Deuce and Levi wall off a DT. Congratulations to Spach, who had the DE Anderson all by himself and held him long enough for the TD.
With 2:50 left in the 1st the Falcons run an overload blitz on the right side. Defenders shoot the B gap again and almost kill Warner. Deuce and Levi can’t block 4 guys, so this one is just a good defensive call.
With 8:34 left in the 3rd James takes a handoff up the right side. Brown is caught flat after his DT crosses his outside. Brown stops moving his feet and look around… just in time for Edge to run up his backside.
With 2:52 left in the 3rd Hightower has his TD run off Wells, who pulls outside. On this play Brown blocked down hard, taking down multiple defenders with the low blow. Great execution from the side the play is away from.
With 14:49 left in the 4th, Patrick goes in motion, landing in the FB spot. This gives the offense a strong-I look. Deuce does a great job blocking the DT inside and Brown pins his man outside. This allows Wells to pull from LG and block down on the WLB who’s flowed over. Patrick hits the hole and blocks MLB, but the LB reaches out and facemasks James, limiting what was a very well blocked play.
With 12:57 left in the 4th, Warner sets up in the shotgun, the Falcons bring 6 rushers, 4 down linemen and Mike and Will. Sendlein passes his DT to Wells, and blocks Mike. Deuce has responsibility for Will, Brown for the DE. The picture is a pretty good example of when things go wrong for Deuce. We also see one of Levi’s massive paws enveloping the face of John Abrahams.
Brown’s pass protection looks better this game, but he really needs to work on finishing his run blocks. He lets up soon too often when there may be yards to still gain. He also has the bad habit of putting his hat down and charging. He’d block better in the cases he can see where he’s going. Deuce was what I’m starting to think of as his ‘wildman’ self early, but calmed down late. He’s still the more inconsistent of the two, but does occasionally flash with the ability that has his starting.
On “the drive” they were both rock solid in pass protection and capable in run blocking. Big players make big plays when it counts. On this drive they were big players.