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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Evolution of the Offensive lineman part 1

The evolution of the Offensive Lineman Pt. 1-The Basics

Offensive linemen face the un-glorious task of hitting their opposition - whether it's the defensive line or a pass rushing linebacker - at least 80 times a game. Despite all of the changes in offensive schemes, the lineman's job has always been the constant. That is not to say that the prototypical size and training regiment remain unchanged. The evolution of football has enacted changes in the ideal height, weight, and athleticism of the ideal offensive lineman. And because of different pass and run blocking techniques, there is a split over what defines ideal size and weight. Some linemen, who weigh as much as 350 pounds, are able to run a 40-yard dash in under 5 seconds. Other linemen may be as light as 285 to 300 pounds and may be quick enough to keep pace with some linebackers.

Not all offensive linemen start out "in the pit." Many linemen start out at other positions and get converted either in high school or early in college. Some offensive linemen start out as defensive line players or sometimes as tight ends. Then, at some point, a position coach notices the player's size or how he comes out of his stance. Certain physical attributes could lead the coach to believe that the player has an aptitude toward the type of techniques and the physical ability to withstand the contact to make a stellar offensive lineman. That type of selectiveness was not always thought necessary when it came to the offensive line. In the "golden" days of the game, the bigger you were the more likely you were selected to play "in the pit."

Until the late 1970's, most offensive linemen topped out around 250 to 265 pounds. In fact one player from the early 60's, Giants offensive guard Darrell Dess once remarked he would be fined $25 for every pound he was over the limit. Dess remarked that in those days, his weight limit was 257 pounds. He would regularly report to training camp over his assigned weight.

As athletic training evolved, trainers learned how to condition large players to have excellent strength, quickness and stamina without necessarily losing their mass. In order to match up physically with progressively bigger and bigger defenders, offensive linemen had to get bigger as well. As blitz packages and base defensive schemes grew more complex, and linemen facing more multiple assignments, linemen had to get bigger but had to stay quick as well. These days 285 pounds is considered the absolute minimum weight for an offensive lineman, with most playing well above 320 pounds at the pro level. An example of this trend is Raiders offensive tackle Robert Gallery who measures 6'7-1/2" and currently tips the scale at 332 pounds.

In the college ranks, many linemen are somewhat smaller. A typical lineman at a smaller college might weigh 265 pounds as a freshman, and maybe 275-285 as a senior, while at the bigger colleges, linemen are closer to pro weights. One example of a successful lineman at a smaller College is Columbia's left tackle Matt Barsamian , who is 6'5" and weighs in at 278 pounds. His eventual successor, freshman Moose Veldman, is 6'3" and 300 pounds. The current trend in the college ranks is to recruit heavier linemen whenever possible. Some current linemen in the NFL may tip the scales at less then 300 pounds, but this is very rare. Many college coaches are instructed not to scout or recruit offensive linemen weighing less then 290 pounds during their recruiting trips.

The recruiting practices employed by these colleges are not necessarily a direct translation to the requirements of the pro game. For example, the lightest linemen on the Dallas Cowboys current roster are listed at about 305 pounds: guard Cory Procter and tackle Kyle Kosier. Yet the Denver Broncos have only three offensive linemen that check in at over 300 pounds. Broncos guard Cooper Carlisle is 6'5" and only 295 pounds. The center lined up next to Carlisle, Tom Nalen, is 6'4" but weighs only 286 pounds. While it appears that Denver has linemen of insufficient size, the difference between Denver and Dallas illustrates the aforementioned split in the ideal size.


The style of line play each team employs dictates the ideal size and quickness required of their respective players. The Broncos are more of a pulling and trap blocking team in their running game. In other words, the linemen are sometimes called upon to pull back from their position on the line and run a sweep around the end of the line to clear room for the running back. This scheme requires faster linemen who are lighter on their feet. The Cowboys are more of a straight-ahead drive blocking team, which would require larger players at the position since they block down (inside) more often then they block up (outside).

In the next installment, we will look at how we got from a 1960's lineman like Darrell
Dess at 6'2" and 257 pounds, to today's Robert Gallery, and the Coaches who train Football's Largest Players to move like Dancers. We will also talk about some of the up and coming offensive linemen from the last three draft classes, and why it takes 3 to 5 seasons for an Offensive lineman to fully mature in the NFL.

Matt Leinart Comes Of Age On Monday Night Football

Way ahead of schedule and on a course to play against Titans QB Vince Young in the Super Bowl one day, Matt Leinart -- no stranger to big games, was impressive against the Bears.

Leinart strutted stuff in heartbreaking loss
Paola Boivin

The Arizona Republic
Oct. 17, 2006 12:00 AM

Ashton Kutcher is sitting in Bill Bidwill's private suite, the Cardinals are beating up on the Chicago Bears and all you can think is, "We've been Punk'd!"

Turns out, we were. Once again, the Cardinals muffed a golden opportunity. After coughing up a lead to the Bears on a Monday Night Football stage, Cardinals players filed out of the locker room, glassy-eyed and in disbelief. Their coach pounded the press conference podium and screamed after an innocuous question about the Bears.

"Surreal," receiver Anquan Boldin said after the 24-23 loss. "Unbelievable."

The sun that filtered through the open University of Phoenix Stadium roof reflected a national spotlight that focused heaviest on rookie Matt Leinart.

Even though his team disappointed, Leinart didn't. He efficiently ran an offense facing a defense ranked third overall in the NFL and became the first rookie in league history to throw two first-quarter touchdown passes in his first two starts.

Leinart received a call earlier in the day from his Southern California coach, Pete Carroll, who told him to not overthink the game, to not do too much. It was a game plan he executed well. If he wasn't handing off to Edgerrin James, he was throwing a variety of screen passes.

Most impressive was his awareness during the final drive, when the Cardinals tried to eat up the clock and put themselves in position to kick a game-winning field goal. Before each snap, it was obvious he was aware of both the defensive formation and the time on the play clock. His efforts were for nothing because Neil Rackers missed a 40-yard field goal with 52 seconds left.

"We just have to learn how to finish," Leinart said. "Confidence is a huge part of it. In college, when we stepped on the field we expected to win and knew we would win."

He completed 24 of 42 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His mobility has opened up options for the offense, and he seemed to benefit from the starting lineup addition of Nick Leckey, who replaced center Alex Stepanovich.

The play he'll remember most came with two seconds left in the third quarter, when a breakdown on the line helped Mark Anderson sack Leinart from behind. He fumbled, and safety Mike Brown scooped up the ball and ran into the end zone.

"(The line) screwed up the pass protection, and he got hit on the side," coach Dennis Green said. "He expects everyone to do their jobs, and they didn't."

Of Leinart, Bears coach Lovie Smith said: "He's a good player. He's a scholarship guy."

Many in the stadium wore Leinart's No. 7 jersey, and he frequently waved his arms to encourage more noise.

Thanks to the quarterback, the scene near the luxury suites at halftime was very un-Cardinals-like.

Several invited guests of Leinart's, including actors Kutcher, Demi Moore and Wilmer Valderrama, watched the game from Bidwill's suite. Charles Barkley was signing autographs for fans when Monday Night Football host Mike Tirico walked by.

"See, I told you," Barkley said of his on-air prediction of a Cardinals victory.

Wonder if Barkley stayed until the end.

No one was more supportive of Leinart during the game than Kurt Warner, who frequently was seen offering the rookie words of encouragement, despite knowing very well what time it is.

It's Leinart's time. Even if it's still not the Cardinals'.

Video: Dennis Green Goes Off After Monday Night Choke v. Chicago Bears

After the Cardinals lost in shocking fashion to the Chicago Bears on ESPN's Monday Night Football, Cards Head Coach Dennis Green came to the press conference and lost his composure. It was an unfortunate display, but also one that was appropriate for the situation. The Cardinals had a 20-point lead and simply blew it.

Here's the video

Oakland Raiders WR Jerry Porter Challenges Suspension - AP and CNNSI

The silly way the Raiders treat star Wide Receiver Jerry Porter goes on.

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -- The NFL Players Association on Monday appealed Oakland receiver Jerry Porter's four-game suspension by the team for insubordination, calling the punishment "excessive."

Porter, who has been inactive all season, was suspended by the Raiders on Saturday, a day after being kicked out of practice by coach Art Shell.

"We believe that a four-game suspension is far too excessive at this point," NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis said.

The appeal would be heard by an independent arbitrator. Porter, in the second year of a five-year contract worth $20 million, will be docked about $235,000 in pay if the suspension is upheld.

Shell said Monday he had bigger concerns than whether the suspension would be upheld on appeal, mostly turning the season around for the NFL's only winless team.

"I'm not worried about that right now," Shell said. "That will take care of itself in due time. The only thing I'm concerned about right now is with our football team here."

Shell said last week that Porter was working and "doing what he's asked to do" but admitted Sunday that he wasn't being truthful, saying you don't tell people "everything that's going on in your house."

"So when I said everything, it wasn't necessarily everything," Shell said. "He was doing some things. There were some things he wasn't doing."

Shell and Porter clashed almost immediately after the coach was hired in February over Porter's offseason workout plans. Porter made public a trade demand at the start of training camp and was inactive for the four games before the suspension.

Porter, the team's leading receiver a year ago, has been working with the scout team in practice as Alvis Whitted took his starting job.

The Raiders have struggled mightily without Porter, scoring just 50 points in losing their first five games. Even though Whitted has just eight catches for 96 yards, Shell has said the receivers aren't the problem with the offense.

Shell kicked Porter out of practice Friday, the final straw before the suspension, which Shell said was for being disruptive and insubordinate. Shell said he consulted with receivers coach Fred Biletnikoff, the front office and owner Al Davis before making the decision.

"It was a culmination of things," Shell said. "There was a couple of things that happened during the course of the week, and some things that happened through time."

Defensive tackle Warren Sapp said the four-game suspension was "overboard."

A phone message left with Porter's agent, Joel Segal, was not returned.

Porter led the Raiders with 76 catches last season and had 942 yards receiving and five touchdown receptions in 2005.

Porter, a second-round pick out of West Virginia in 2000, has 239 catches for 3,215 yards and 24 touchdowns in six seasons with the Raiders. He has never reached 1,000 yards receiving in a season, missing the mark narrowly last season and with 998 yards in 2004.

The Raiders do not expect to trade Porter or their other disgruntled receiver, Randy Moss, before Tuesday's deadline.

"There's always talk, whether a move is being made or will be made," Shell said. "That remains to be seen. It takes two parties to make it happen, but right now I don't know of any movement coming about."

Profootballtalk.com Reporting Argument Between Falcons Coaches Ed Donatell and Greg Knapp



Given Profootballtalk.com's habit of trying to call out African American players and coaches, I wonder how much of this matter regarding Greg Knapp's alledged comments about "Michael Vick's limited passing skills" is true. Any observer of the Falcons must note that their receivers don't catch the ball in critical situations.

When Vick puts the ball where it should be, it's not caught, and this was glaringly obvious in the game against the New York Giants. Even Atlanta's star receiver, Tight End Algie Crumpler, is not always reliable. For example he had four dropped passes in the Monday night game marking the reopened Superdome, against the Saints. That's not Vick's fault, yet some unintelligent "experts" seem bent on ignoring this fact.

Moreover, any failure of Vick must fall squarely on Knapp, who's supposed to be a teacher of the passing game to Vick and his receivers. But I don;t think any of this is Vick's fault; the Falcons need to install incentives to make their receivers playmakers. Rewards for catching the ball in important scenarios should be established and right now.

Read on:




FRACAS AT FLOWERY BRANCH

We're hearing that there was a huge blowup in Falcon-land after Sunday's loss to the Giants, and that the problems spilled over into Monday.

The issue arose shortly after the 27-14 loss to the Giants, when defensive coordinator Ed Donatell got in offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's face regarding the inability of the offense to sustain drives, which resulted in the defense being on the field for too long.

Word is that Donatell blamed several injuries sustained by his troops on the poor play of the offense, because the defensive players were exhausted late in the game.

We're also told that, on Monday, owner Arthur Blank summoned Donatell and Knapp to his office, and that Blank wouldn't allow head coach Jim Mora inside the room until Blank had a chance to talk with them. After the four men met, Knapp was angry -- and word is that Knapp is openly blaming the performance of the offense on the limited passing skills of quarterback Michael Vick.

Stay tuned, folks. This one could get very ugly, and the Falcons have a big decision to make, especially since backup Matt Schaub will be eligible for restricted free agency after the season.

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