One of the questions I’ve been hearing is about our running game and why we’ve been struggling. Is it just the OL that’s the problem? Well, the problem is almost all in the OL. The two weakest links on our OL last season are the only two to return this year. It’s just an average at best OL. And the TE/FB blocking hasn’t been as good as in year’s past either.
Run Game Breakdown:
1. There isn’t any push in the combo blocks. For those not familiar with combo blocks, it is when two OLmen block the same DLman to push him back and into a certain LB, then once the LB chooses a side of the combo block to go in the OLman to that side peels off the DLman and blocks the LB. It allows you to get a double team block at the point of attack without sacrificing a blocker to do it. Most blocking schemes employ it somewhere, especially in zone blocking schemes. Unfortunately we get no push on those combo blocks at all. It seems we run block like we pass block, like the goal is to just be a wall between the defender and the backfield instead of attacking.
What I see a lot is DLmen coming off the ball low and using leverage to stalemate the double team. The OLmen doing the double team are standing up straight with the DLmen’s helmet in their stomach (that’s an exaggeration but you get the idea. In addition to giving up leverage I THINK the combo block may be giving the blockers too much confidence and therefore not getting 100% effort from them. They need to attack those double team blocks like their lives depend on moving that defender back.
2. But, even the solo blocks struggle. The blockers are not nimble enough to block the more athletic defenders who go around them. That’s not that unusual to see, but usually you’d see a trade off where the blockers punish the defenders when they DO get their hands on them, due to their size advantage. But, we are not really getting much of that trade off.
3. Another concerning thing is how often defenders are keeping the blockers’ at arms length. Once an OLman gets a defender into their body it’s very difficult for the defender to get off. So, defenders are taught to push the blockers off their body with their hands. If the blocker is at arms length then when the defender needs to pursue the ball carrier he can get off the block pretty easily.
Now, I’m not an OL coach so I’m not sure what you teach OLmen to get into a defender’s body. Presumably it’s driving with the legs so that the defender either gets pushed way back or they allow the space between themselves and the blocker to decrease.
4. Teams are loading the boxes with an extra defender which helps in the passing game, but we should still be able to have success in the blocking and make more yards than we are getting. It’ll just be 5 yard runs instead of 8-10 yard bursts.
5. Another issue is the loss of great blocking from the TE and FB position. Flowers is a good blocker but he’s not to the level that we’ve had the last few years at the position. Knight was put in as a blocking TE in the first couple of games but struggled and didn’t see the field at all this last game and very little (if any) vs Tulsa. Andrews is now the exclusive TE and his blocking hasn’t been stellar.
6. In the 14 running plays run before the game was basically decided, the LT O. Brown missed on 4 blocks, Nila missed on 4 blocks as well. St. John at RT only missed on one block in the running game (but also missed on a block in the passing game). Darlington at Center got beaten once in the running game and twice in the passing game.
7. Mixon still has a little learning to do in his decision making. He’s getting better, but still missed a big play by not cutting back to the backside on a stretch play.