Word of Muth: Trent Williams' Debut

Word of Muth: Trent Williams' Debut
Word of Muth: Trent Williams' Debut
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ben Muth

(Ed. Note: Word of Muth is our new column where former Stanford left tackle Ben Muth will look at offensive line play, rotating his coverage between Dallas, Washington, and Arizona. If you missed the introduction that explored these teams and the goals of the column, you can read it here.)

Sunday night's Dallas-Washington opener was a defensive battle that ended up in a 13-7 Washington victory, but the Redskins' line played much better than the final score might indicate. Perhaps the biggest surprise was rookie left tackle Trent Williams and his very solid performance against DeMarcus Ware.

Williams did a lot of things very well. He was great at the second level, and in space. He seems to have a very a natural talent of locking onto defenders off the line of scrimmage, a skill that very few offensive lineman really have. The most obvious example of this was on the screen pass to Chris Cooley in the first quarter where he pulled outside, locked onto a safety and drove him straight to the sideline. For the most part, he also did a tremendous job in pass protection. He gave up a hit on an inside up-and-under move early in the game, and he gave up the sack to Ware in the second half, but the sack actually wasn't as bad of a play as it probably seemed. Donovan McNabb was in the shotgun, and then took a FULL five-step drop. His back foot hit at 11 yards deep in the backfield. That is really deep, and usually, as a quarterback, when you get that deep you either let the ball go as soon as the back foot hits, or you step up (or climb) in the pocket. On this play however, the Cowboys sent both linebackers inside and got a great push up the middle, collapsing the pocket. Because of that, McNabb couldn't step up and was a sitting duck for DeMarcus Ware. So, while Williams did get his hands knocked down and actually give up the sack, it wasn't a one-man effort from Ware.

Otherwise, Williams was very impressive in not only containing Ware, but doing so within the offensive scheme without needing any extra help, such as running back chips or protections where the tight end stayed in to double-team. He wasn't as effective run blocking against the Cowboys' down defensive linemen or Ware, but he certainly wasn't liability in that department by any means. He didn't really get beat in these situations, but he also didn't get any real movement, usually stalemating with a defender on the line of scrimmage. The false start on Washington's final drive was poor timing and a drive-killer, but luckily for Williams, another dumb penalty by a different player would overshadow it. Overall, Washington fans have to be really excited about what they saw.

Trent Williams wasn't the only offensive tackle to make an impressive debut for Washington on Sunday night. Jammal Brown, acquired from the Saints this offseason, had a very similar game in his first start at right tackle. He was very good on the second level all night, and even better in his pass set. The thing that impressed me most was how patient he was with his hands. He kept his hands in tight to his chest, out of a defender's reach, until the guy was at a perfect distance for him to snap a punch. By doing this, he protects his hands from a move like a chop or rip, and he also does a good job of creating enough space to allow himself time to react. It's much more difficult than it sounds, trust me. One thing worth noting is that Chris Cooley was kept in to block on his side a lot. I'm not sure if this was to protect Brown from Anthony Spencer, or so they could slide the protection towards DeMarcus Ware. Perhaps Kyle Shanahan was playing against Cooley in fantasy and wanted to keep him out of pass routes. For some reason, Cooley was used in pass protection more usual for a tight end, and it's definitely something to keep an eye on in future games.

Of the three interior linemen, newcomer Artis Hicks had the best game. Hicks was the offensive lineman who generated the most movement in the run game. That being said, unlike the two offensive tackles, Hicks really struggled getting off onto the Cowboy linebackers on the second level. The other guard spot was a rotation between Derrick Dockery and Kory Lichtensteiger. Both played about equal time, but I think Dockery clearly outplayed Lichtensteiger. Neither was great by any means, but Dockery was tough to notice when you weren't really focusing on him. This means that the veteran was generally doing at least a passable job. Lichtensteiger, on the other hand, jumped off the tape in a negative way a couple times, most memorably when he ended up about three yards deep in the backfield on a halfback Iso. I predict that as the season progresses we get a lot more Dockery, and a lot less Lichtensteiger.

In the middle, Casey Rabach had his hands full all night with Jay Ratliff. Ratliff looked too quick for Rabach at times in the passing game, and too strong on running plays. There were a couple of snaps where the center looked flat outgunned. However, it should be pointed out that as the game went on, Ratliff became less and less of a factor, and Rabach began to win more individual battles against him. Also, the Redskins were great in their blitz pickups all night, and I'm sure Rabach was a big part of that.

Washington's two best drives of the game were their first and last ones. We're going to focus on the first drive since it was the dawning of a new era in DC. The Redskins decided to open up the Mike Shanahan era with a straight-ahead run. NBC decided to open the Mike Shanahan era by coming back from commercial too late and missing the very beginning of the play, making it really tough for me to see what happened. It looked like Jammal Brown got beat but I couldn't tell why because of the late cut by the camera. That's exactly the kind of analysis Football Outsiders brought me on for.

The Redskins followed with a quick play-action pass to Chris Cooley that ultimately went nowhere. On third-and-long Donovan McNabb found Santana Moss for the first down. This play actually set a tone for the rest of the game. The Cowboys rushed four and got no pressure, thanks in no small part by Williams' ability to handle Ware. When you get zero pressure on an early third-and-long, it usually means you will have to bring extra people in the future, which of course leaves your secondary vulnerable. The Washington Redskins followed up their first first down with two straight zone stretches One of the two zone stretches was actually a variation that some people call Release. It was the play that made Terrell Davis famous, and happens to be my personal favorite football play. At some point during the season, when the Redskins break it for a big play, we'll go into great detail on this version of the stretch play. That's what we in the business call a tease.

However, in this game the Redskins really struggled to run the stretch play and the reason was pretty simple. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer did a phenomenal job setting the edge all night. What I mean by "setting the edge" is that when you are the last guy on the line of scrimmage, as Ware and Spencer usually are, it is your job to keep your outside arm free so you are able to keep contain. Not only that, but since birth, these guys have had it pounded in their heads that losing contain is the eighth deadly sin. I once had a coach who said, "You can either lose contain, or you can play defensive end. You can't do both." (In a 3-4 defense, especially in the Wade Phillips variant, the outside linebackers basically are the defensive ends.) Well, the zone stretch play was introduced to take advantage of that style of coaching. The offensive player, usually a tackle or tight end, attacks the defender's outside shoulder. The defender, fearing he is about to be reached, freaks out and starts working like crazy to get back outside. During this process, the defender will be so worried about getting outside that he won't notice that he has moved eight yards from his original alignment creating a huge seam.

That's the idea, anyway. But Ware and Spencer recognized what that the offense was trying to do, and made sure they never let anyone's helmet get outside of them. By doing that, they were able to hunker down in place, thus setting where the edge of the play would be. That forced the runner to cut back into the line of scrimmage too soon, right into a bunch of defenders.

After the two unsuccessful stretch plays, the Skins faced another third-and-long. This time the Cowboys brought pressure, but the Redskins did a great job of picking it up, and McNabb scrambled for the first down. Washington had on a protection most West Coast offenses call 3 Jet. In 3 Jet the running back, in this case Clinton Portis, is responsible for the linebacker to the left side. The left tackle is responsible for the defensive end directly across from him, and the rest of the offensive line is in a slide protection. Slide protection is the passing game equivalent of zone blocking, in that you are responsible for a gap rather than a man. On 3 Jet each lineman is responsible for the gap to his right. The thing that really made this play was the two offensive players who knocked their defenders out of their rush lanes. When a defense blitzes, it is important that everyone stays in the gap or lane they are assigned. If two defenders end up in the same gap, it creates a lane for the quarterback to run in, and that's what happened here. Clinton Portis came up and really hammered a blitzing Bradie James, knocking him from the left B gap (the gap between tackle and guard) into the left A gap (the gap between the guard and center). The commentators did a great job of pointing this out. What didn't get as much love from the booth was Derrick Dockery rag-dolling Jay Ratliff right at the snap from the left A gap to the right A gap. By displacing those two defenders, the Redskins created a huge alley for McNabb to run through. And because Dallas had blitzed, they were manned up on the back end, meaning no one was able to make a play on McNabb until it was too late.

Washington followed up the scramble with a bootleg on first down that didn't fool anybody and was ultimately an incomplete pass. Up next was the Trent Williams show featuring Chris Cooley. Cooley caught a tight end screen and ran for the first down. But the star of the play was Trent Williams, who pulled and blocked the safety all the way out of bounds. What makes the play so impressive is the fact that it is so hard for an offensive lineman to block defensive backs in open space like that. Usually, a defensive back will give a shoulder fake or simply hop around a big offensive tackle and leave him flailing at air. In fact, that scenario is so common that many offensive line coaches just teach their guys to cut in the open field with the idea being they have a better chance of hitting their defender -- and even if they miss, the defender will at least have to jump over them, or stop his feet to avoid them. But to be athletic enough to lock onto a safety like Williams did without holding is really remarkable.

It was here where the Redskins drive stalled. Kyle Shanahan called back-to-back running plays, a single-back Power play and another zone stretch, and neither really went anywhere. On third down, the Cowboys blitzed again and this time the Redskins weren't able to pick it up. Washington ran a scat protection (a scheme with no running backs or tight ends in blocking). It's hard to tell who messed up on a play like this, since all teams change how they want to block scat protections on a weekly basis. A lot of the time the offensive line will take the four down linemen and the Mike (middle) linebacker. It looks like that's what the Redskins wanted to do here. If that was the case, then the guards and tackles would each be responsible for the man right across from him, and the center (Rabach) would be responsible for the Mike. In this scenario, that would leave Keith Brooking free off the edge. Williams saw a guy coming free and in a case of natural reaction slid out to pick him up, leaving DeMarcus Ware unblocked, which would be a mistake. But as I said before, it's impossible to be positive about a play like this and any analysis is more theory than fact. McNabb threw it away, and the Redskins settled for a field goal.

Let's move from the first drive to the final one, and from Washington to Dallas, as I feel obligated to talk about the last play of the game. What Alex Barron did on that last play was holding. It was pretty obvious to anyone who's watched even a little bit of football. What was more obvious is that Alex Barron was struggling in that game. He had already been called for holding twice in the second half and was generally having a hard time in pass protection. Why would the coaches leave him on an island on the most critical play of the game? What makes it even more baffling is that there were a lot of ways to protect him, and America's Team had just called a timeout. The Cowboys' protection was 2 Jet (2 Jet is just like 3 Jet, except the back goes to the right and the line slides to the left). The Cowboys could have very easily had the exact same route combination but with 3 Jet, so that the line would slide to Barron and he would know that all he had to do was not get beat around the edge because of his inside help. Or, if you really want to slide left for whatever reason, during the timeout you go to Marion Barber and say, "If your man doesn't blitz, help out Alex." When Marion Barber got to the line of scrimmage he would have seen that his man was six yards off the line of scrimmage and was no threat at all to blitz. Then he could have focused his attention to helping Barron with Orakpo.

The whole situation in Dallas with Alex Barron reminds of the old fable about the fox and the snake (or the frog and the scorpion, if that's your cup of tea). The Cowboys did nothing to help the weakest link on their offensive line, and in the end Alex Barron did what Alex Barron does and the Cowboys lost the game.


59 comments, Last at 29 Sep 2010, 2:55pm

#1 by Doug Farrar // Sep 16, 2010 - 11:43am

Awesome stuff, Ben. I love the viewpoint of my favorite aspect of football from a guy who played the game at the level you have, and it's very well-expressed. Totally agreed on Williams' performance. For a guy who started just one season at left tackle in college, he's really taken to the position.

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#2 by nat // Sep 16, 2010 - 11:56am

Wow. Excellent work, Ben. The detail on the interplay between "setting the edge" and the zone stretch play is very nicely done.

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#3 by ammek // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:11pm

Very nice. So clear that it doesn't need diagrams. Coaching jargon well explained. This is a great addition to the site.

Maybe in a future column, you can look at (and explain) defensive linemen's moves such as 'chops' and 'rips', and how to anticipate them. But it would have clustered this column.

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#25 by Dean // Sep 16, 2010 - 2:28pm

I'd agree that it doesn't need diagrams. But imagery would still be great. Even if we didn't have video for bandwidth reasons, still photos of this stuff would re-enforce what he means.

It's definitely written very clearly but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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#4 by Dean // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:20pm

In your opinion, did it seem like Donovan's 11 yard drop was an exception? Or is this something to watch in the future? I don't recall the specific play, but was there an opening outside where he could have scrambled even if the apex of the pocket had collapsed?

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#32 by Ben Muth // Sep 16, 2010 - 3:54pm

The 11 yard drop seemed to be an exception, it was a third and long and the Redskins needed to get the ball down the field so they took a deeper drop from the gun than normal. If the Cowboys hadn't brought the middle pressure than McNabb could've stepped up. It was just a combination of things going poorly and is a good example of why you try to stay out of third and long.

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#36 by the cat in the… (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 4:46pm

As a long-time Eagles fan, that deep drop from the Shotgun is something McNabb tends to do a fair bit. I'd say that either it's something he's prone to doing, or something they put into the gameplan to play to a strength of his? Just speculation on my part, though.

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#39 by alien1rock // Sep 16, 2010 - 6:16pm

I recall Williams allowing a sack in the preseason where he seemed to steer the guy around the pocket, giving McNabb room to step up, but McNabb stayed at the end of his drop. Basically Williams guided the end in a big circle right to McNabb. Seemed to me like McNabb's mistake, but I really wasn't sure. Will be something to watch for going forward.

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#5 by Dan Waechter (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:36pm

Fantastic addition to the FO lineup... it's generally hard(though not impossible) to find line play breakdowns like this so having it alongside all of the other FO content in one place is more than welcome. Actually, I'd love to see this type of feature for every position group. What's more common to find is general film breakdown guys who try to cover the most "appealing" matchups in a certain game, but having people who have the position specific knowledge and can go more in depth with their analysis is nice to see.

Great analysis Ben, and I'm excited to see how your writing takes shape over the course of the season.

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#6 by Dome (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:42pm

This guy loves ball.

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#7 by Micranot (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:43pm

Great article, this series might be my new favorite to FO. Linking this around everywhere I can.

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#8 by justanothersteve // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:47pm

This was great. I learned even more about my favorite sport and in an area rarely covered in the media. Agree with Dan that it would even be cooler with other position groups, even special teams.

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#9 by Danny Snyder (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:54pm

Probably the best analysis I've ever read! You obviously know your stuff and it was an interesting read. Thanks for the effort.

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#10 by Danny Snyder (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:55pm

Nice job!

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#11 by dbostedo // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:57pm

Can someone explain the term "ragdoll"? I think I get it from context, but I'm not sure.

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#12 by Will Allen // Sep 16, 2010 - 12:59pm

This column is a huge addition to FO. Congratulations to everyone involved. A couple of observations....

Artis Hicks has been a player who adds significant value to a roster, especially given his ability to man four spots, without ever being close to being a star, for some time now. Guys like this are critical to building a successful team.

Pass blocking guys who are quicker than you is really, really, really, hard. Really.

The passage about setting the edge, made me flash back to my high school coach, who played the defensive line in the Canadian league for about five years. I remember, like it was this morning, sitting in a darkened film room, old school projector clicking away, as he, clicker in hand allowing him to forward and reverse, in slow motion, over and over, screaming me at me, "Allen, you have been hooked!!! (reverse film in slo-mo, and then back again forward)........YOU!.....HAVE!!......BEEN!!!........HOOOOOOOOKED!!!!!! Yeah, I imagine you get a bit paranoid about the issue if you make it to the NFL, and coaches have been yelling this at you for 15 years.

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#20 by Dean // Sep 16, 2010 - 1:43pm

I guess it depends on your perspective.

In Philly, Artis Hicks was a free agent who made it because he was a cheap backup with potential. Then they actually had to play him and figured out that while he wasn't awful, he wasn't going to ever be a full-time starter. Time to find a more cap friendly option.

Reid valued him so much that he shipped him off to MN in exchange for moving up a dozen or so spots. In the 4th round.

Of course, you saw him in his prime. The role you describe (swing tackle +) is pretty important. That 6th guy usually doesn't find himself lacking in playing time. A guy like that can carve out a nice career if he's a good locker room guy.

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#21 by Will Allen // Sep 16, 2010 - 1:57pm

That's what I mean. A guy who can play multiple positions, and not go all Barron on you when somebody gets nicked, has significant value.

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#13 by Quincy // Sep 16, 2010 - 1:05pm

Just wanted to add to the chorus. This is fantastic analysis and well written. Love the new column.

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#14 by Jeff Fogle // Sep 16, 2010 - 1:10pm

Agree with all the great comments about this piece and what it adds to the site. Extremely educational. I was hoping you might have a chance to answer a few quick questions.

*I'm not sure what expectations were for the line coming in, so it's hard to know if the positive comments reflect a "many expected the Washington line would grade out at a "D," but it was more of a B-minus" angle, or if you thought this was much closer to a B-plus or even an A. What grade would you give the Washington line as a unit for the night?

*Given the generally positive reviews in the article, why did Washington fail to score an offensive TD? Six of their nine non-kneeldown drives had 5 plays or less and ended with punts. Is the Dallas defense fantastic? Were there clearly major problems in particular non-line areas with the Skins in your view? No TD's and 3 of 13 on third downs was one of the poorer outputs of the weekend.

*To the degree that Ware and Spencer's ability to "set the edge" for the Dallas defense played a role, is that something we should look for in the future with the Skins? They're going to have trouble moving the ball vs. defenders who do a very good job of this, but might dominate defenders who can't?

Thanks in advance if you get a chance to answer...

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#31 by Ben Muth // Sep 16, 2010 - 3:49pm

1) Whenever there's a lot of turnover on an O-Line you never know what to expect, especially when the tackles are one guy who's never played a snap in the NFL and another guy who missed an entire year. Overall I thought they were solid, especially in pass protection, and if I had to give them a grade it would be a B.
2) I think they failed to score because of the reliance on stretch early in the game. Their tight ends and fullbacks weren't able to handle Ware and Spencer and that left a lot of 2nd and 8's. On the last drive they went to more of an inside zone scheme and were much more effective. Also, they protected well, but they didn't throw the ball great. It didn't look like McNabb was missing a lot of open people so I'm guessing the receivers were having trouble getting seperation. It takes all 11 to score.
3) It's definately going to be interesting to see whether or not the Redskins struggled to run the stretch because Spencer and Ware are really good at defending it, or because the Redskins aren't any good at running it. Right now I'd lean towards the Cowboys D being good, but only time will tell

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#16 by smutsboy // Sep 16, 2010 - 1:19pm

Well done. This post did more to help me understand zone blocking, and especially the stretch play, better than I think anything else I've ever read.

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#17 by qed // Sep 16, 2010 - 1:27pm

I really like the concept and execution of this new feature, is there any reasonably easy way to add video clips of some of the plays in question? I agree with the above comment that play diagrams don't seem necessary but it would be really nice to be able to watch some of the plays described.

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#18 by smutsboy // Sep 16, 2010 - 1:35pm

Am I dumb - is there a permalink?

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#19 by cardroo // Sep 16, 2010 - 1:37pm

You big tease. Can't wait for someone to go for a big play on the Release so you can break it down for us.

Must have been a good weekend for you, Arizona Cardinals win their season opener and Stanford beats the mess out of UCLA.

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#23 by diddlypoo // Sep 16, 2010 - 2:09pm

I'll add to the chorus here: I'm really enjoying this column! Thanks.

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#24 by Fred Klauke (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 2:14pm

I've read a lot of "serious" football analysis in my life and this is one of the best columns I've ever read. Can't wait for next week.... Keep up the good work (& thanks to FO for giving this type of analysis a home)

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#26 by The Shooto (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 2:57pm

Ben, why do you sound so surprised that the Washington center had a good game? Obviously a movie connoisseur such as yourself should know that a Casey Ryback, star of Under Siege and Under Siege 2, would not only have quick hands, but has a nasty chop and the ability to take on multiple foes at one time.

Clearly he has changed the spelling of his last name to keep the bad guys away.

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#28 by Will Allen // Sep 16, 2010 - 3:17pm

I just wish William Stranix would wear his cool beaded leather jacket while coaching the Redskins!

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#52 by Mr Shush // Sep 17, 2010 - 12:03pm

Does anyone know how he feels about that hairy fat dude drunkenly Knocking Up his neice?

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#27 by speedegg // Sep 16, 2010 - 3:08pm

Awesome stuff! Can't wait to see the next article.

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#29 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 16, 2010 - 3:34pm

Just adding to the praise, wonderful article, I really learned a lot. Possible more than I have from any single football article.

More generally, I really love FO's lineup this year. Under the Cap, Walkthrough, Cover 3, and Word of Muth are all excellent. Make as many deals with the devil--I mean ESPN--as you need to in order to produce these.

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#33 by Micranot (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 4:16pm

+1, Under the Cap was a great niche to fill with someone who has been in the business.

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#30 by piratefreedom (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 3:46pm

Let me join the chorus of people expressing appreciation for this look at a vital but widely ignored part of football.

I think it will make a fascinating sport even more interesting to watch if I can gain a better understanding of what the OLine is doing (or at least trying to do ;)

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#35 by Loose On The Lead // Sep 16, 2010 - 4:44pm

Great article, but why no mention of Stephon Heyer, who got a fair amount of playing time?

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#37 by Mountain Time … // Sep 16, 2010 - 5:09pm

WOOHOO! I've been looking forward to this article since Sunday night! I'll pull a Raiderjor and edit to add any insight after I've read the thing.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

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#38 by Tim Wilson // Sep 16, 2010 - 5:14pm

Ware did log 3 hurries, 1 hit, and 1 sack. Combine that with his dominance in the run game, which was chronicled in the post, and I guess I wouldn't hand Williams such a total victory, as the post seems to do? I understand it was a good performance from a rookie LT in his first start, just thought that Ware still ended up having a strong game.

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#41 by Joseph // Sep 16, 2010 - 9:37pm

But Tim, I think that the Redskins would be glad with that performance from their rookie 1st rounder in his first game. Ware is one of the best RDE/ROLB's in the NFL, and Williams will only get better. In fact, I would say, based on this performance, that by next year he will stalemate Ware, and in 2 years from now shut him down. That seems like an average night from Ware, and against a rookie in his first game, Ware should do better than that, IMO. (And this comes from a Saints fan who has no dog in this fight.)

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#43 by Tim Wilson // Sep 17, 2010 - 12:33am

I think it's a big leap to say that he'll be stalemating Ware in 2 years. Again, Ware's performance in the run game was EXCELLENT. He shut down everything to his side (Washington's only significant run of the night, the 16 yarder, came with Ware out of the game due to a neck strain in the 4th quarter). And Ware clearly pressured McNabb at times during the game and led to hurried throws.

So yes, I get that Williams had a promising game, and I'm not trying to denigrate him or argue that the Redskins shouldn't be pleased. I just thought that the All-Pro across from him played excellently and was getting sold a bit short.

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#40 by edswood (not verified) // Sep 16, 2010 - 8:12pm

Very nice job. Agreed that FO has really stepped up its game with its recent additions like this and Under the Cap. What many of us are looking for, same thing that makes Playbook so exciting to watch on NFL Network. If this is what the result of having the ESPN money brings in, then I am all for as someone else said the deal with the devil. Of course having a Stanford graduate write it only helps in the excellent way it was written for us average Joe's to understand.

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#44 by EZG (not verified) // Sep 17, 2010 - 1:31am

Continuing Education, Thanks Muth!

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#45 by BJR // Sep 17, 2010 - 6:08am

Nice article. Trent figures to have another severe test this week when he goes up against Mario Williams. Will we get an update on how he fares during this matchup?

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#47 by Mr Shush // Sep 17, 2010 - 6:41am

I'm hoping so too, although bear in mind that he won't be going against Williams on anything like every down: the Texans move him around a lot. Also that Williams, for all his wonderful talent and considerable effectiveness, is decidedly inconsistent game-to-game, and having brought his A+ game last week may simply pull a disappearing act this.

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#46 by yogi // Sep 17, 2010 - 6:18am

What a great addition to FO - great analysis, crystal clear writing
and also a sense of humor - what more can we ask for?

Welcome and thank you, Ben.

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#48 by Lebo // Sep 17, 2010 - 8:02am

I, like everybody else, really enjoyed the article. Cheers Ben.

As someone who has never played the sport (but for some reason enjoys watching it on TV and has a seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge about it), I love articles like this.

My only suggestion would be to break up your next piece into sections. That was a whole lot of text you wrote there. Good text, but a little daunting without headings.

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#49 by Tri Shanku (not verified) // Sep 17, 2010 - 9:01am

Like Lebo, I never played football at any level, but I enjoy watching it tremendously, and your article did a fantastic job of explaining things that are often overlooked. Great job. Looking forward to the next installment.

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#50 by Jimmy // Sep 17, 2010 - 9:26am

Os next week the Cowboys line versus the Bears' front seven? Because that would be awesome.

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#53 by MarkGo (not verified) // Sep 17, 2010 - 1:42pm

Although I don't see it happening, explaining line play this well would be a wonderful addition to TV broadcasts. Much more interesting that the usual chalk-talk where they don't really say anything that any idiot can't see for themselves. And far more enjoyable than the pointless sideline reporter gabfest.

Really great column. Putting it on my weekly reading list right after TMQ.

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#54 by JPS (not verified) // Sep 17, 2010 - 1:56pm

Wow! Just wow!

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#55 by bubqr // Sep 17, 2010 - 3:28pm

The current content in FO is something I would pay for, that's a statement to the quality of recruiting by the FO staff, and work by the new people.

As for anyone who played the game a bit, that was one of the first article ever that actually taught me some stuff about line play. And with some fine humour too.

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#56 by BigRedSpear (not verified) // Sep 17, 2010 - 3:51pm

I was turned on to this article by Matt Terl, the official Redskins blogger, who strongly suggested reading it. Absolutely impressed by your style. I think you could make an analysis of Delhomme's throwing motion worth reading.

I now see that many readers have already posted about this, but I am sick and tired of the "analysis" we suffer through at the hands of the major networks. Let's leave the "how unhappy is Haynesworth" daily breaking news to them. Beating a dead horse, propping it back up and beating it some more from the other side is where they shine. Meanwhile, I will be getting the X and O perspective I'm actually looking for from articles and web sites like this.

There's no chance you guys want to take this show on television, do you? Think of what you could do with help from IBM and Madden! It would put ESPN to shame.

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#57 by BGNoMore (not verified) // Sep 17, 2010 - 9:13pm

An auspicious debut (well, second effort, really; the actual debut was very good as well). How refreshing to read a member of the media (yes, you now technically qualify) who writes about football and actually understands the game. Even better that you focus on OL play, one of my two football passions. While I never played at your level, I was a blocking grunt and appreciate the plight of the Big Uglies.

As positive as the feedback here is, you will get better. As you keep writing, you will find you own voice, and combined with your football knowledge and overall intelligence, you can be a terrific analyst. Keep at it, and I look forward to future installments.

Points: 0

#58 by taxistan // Sep 22, 2010 - 5:29am


For Aaron: Sign Ben up for an ironclad contract to write this stuff for a minimum five [5] years. He obviously loves football so much that his work won't slack off with the "big" money.

For Ben: I hope you are so butt ugly that women run screaming from you. So ugly that ESPN and the networks will never dare to put you on TV and ruin you.

Wonderful article!!!!!

Points: 0

#59 by Bethell (not verified) // Sep 29, 2010 - 2:55pm

Knowing Muth personally, and enjoying his writing as much as I do, I regret to say that he is no where near ugly enough to be barred from ESPN (The bar was set pretty low for by the network, and Muth is nowhere NEAR "John Clayton Ugly.") He has the face not unlike a young Chris Jericho - exceedingly jolly and youthful, with a air of wit and sophistication - and the body of an the current Chris Jericho, athletic, yet profusely pudgy. Think Mario Batali.

Though I admire his humor and voice thus far in "Word of Muth," they are markedly tempered in comparison to the "Big Rig's" personality in person. Passionate and opinionated about all sports, he could be characterized as possessing the likability of Tony Cornheiser, but with a more expert knowledge in football specifically. That being said, if one were to ever talk trash on say, Tim Salmon, you might see shades of Jim Rome come to the surface.

In aggregate, I foresee, unfortunately for some, a move to broadcasting in the future. The result would be as entertaining as it is informative.

Points: 0

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