Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set
Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ben Muth

The past two weeks I’ve broken down a few different pass rush moves. I looked at how they give offensive linemen trouble, and what the linemen could’ve done differently to stop them. It was really fun, and I thought both columns turned out well, but there was just too much defensive success for my taste. So, this week, rather than tell you how an offensive lineman can win, I’m going to show you.

I watched the Week 16 game between the Broncos and Browns figuring that between Joe Thomas and Ryan Clady, I would have plenty of plays to choose from. It didn’t take long for me to find a play with Clady putting on a pass-blocking clinic.

The Broncos scored on their opening drive when Peyton Manning found Demaryius Thomas for a 22-yard touchdown. Denver lined up with Manning in the shotgun and no backs in the backfield. The Cleveland defensive line had to know that they were passing, and could probably guess it wasn’t going to be a roll-out. Basically: the Browns defense had to be in full pass-rush mode.

Clady is arrowed in the first frame. The left guard and center are working together on the defensive tackle, so Clady is matched up one-on-one with defensive end Billy Winn.

The first thing that jumps out is how quickly Clady kicks wide to Winn in the second frame. Look at the distance Clady has put between himself and Manning since the snap. Because of his quickness, Clady is able to kick wider and flatter than most offensive tackles without worrying about rushers beating him around the edge.

Also, notice Clady’s hand position in the second frame. They’re not down by his waist, they’re up by his chest and ready to punch as soon Winn gets in range. When you combine that with good knee-bend and a perfect inside-out relationship, Clady has set himself up for success right from the start.

In the third frame you can see Winn start his pass-rush move. He’s going with a swipe/arm-over move. That means he wants to come across his body with his outside arm in a clubbing motion, then follow it with a quick miniature swim move with his inside arm to finish through the blocker.

Because Clady’s initial set was great, Clady’s punch is quick, straight, and lands right in Winn’s chest before Winn can swipe Clady’s hands away. What I love is how much speed and force Clady delivers without any windup. His hands shot straight out from his chest like two cobras striking. Be sure to note Clady’s base: it is wide enough to give him an anchor to punch from, but not too wide that he won’t be able to move after the punch. Really, I just love everything about Clady in frames two and three. Yes, I said love, don’t make it weird.

Winn may not be a household name, but he is an NFL player and isn’t going to curl into the fetal position just because he got stuck in his numbers with a punch. He continues his swipe in frame four and succeeds in knocking Clady’s hands off him.

Still, Clady’s in great shape. He got a nice wide set initially and his punch knocked Winn even wider off his course to Manning. Even though Winn knocked his hands down, Clady has plenty of space to recover. With the initial move stopped, it becomes a race to get your hands on the defender again.

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Clady does that well by using a one-handed punch with his outside arm. It’s obviously not going to be as powerful as a two-handed punch, but it’s quicker and is generally more accurate, which is exactly what you want when you’re replacing your hands after they were knocked down. Clady lands his one hand right on the shoulder pad to try and raise Winn up, so the defender can’t lean into pass rush and shorten the edge.

In frame three, Winn feels that and tries to rip through Clady’s arm so he can keep leaning into him to turn the corner. Clady responds by putting his right hand on Winn’s back so he can turn and drive block him past the quarterback. This is the first time Clady’s head has been past his feet in the duration of this play, which is once again exactly what you want from an offensive tackle.

By the time Manning is releasing the ball in frame four, Winn is two yards deeper than he was in frame three, and Manning has stepped up further into the pocket. Winn tries to spin back inside hoping to get a late pressure on Manning. Like Winn, Clady can’t see Manning throwing the ball, so he has to keep blocking.

When Clady feels Winn stop to spin inside, he continues the clinic. He re-sinks his hips, gets his head out of the block, and bench presses Winn away from his body. Once again, this gives him space so that he can mirror Winn’s move back inside.

It’s a great job by Clady on what turned out to be a long touchdown for the Broncos. Writing about plays like this are why I enjoy working with Football Outsiders so much. Manning’s throw was great, and Thomas’ catch was great, but instead I get to focus exclusively on Ryan Clady’s pass-block technique, which really was just as great. Not every website’s readers have as much appreciation for some of the finer details of the game.

And that’s going to wrap up this week’s column. I’m thinking this is what the column will be like for the rest of the offseason: I’ll pick one or two plays a week and give them an in-depth breakdown. Sometimes it will be individual pass blocking or rushing, other times it will be blitzes or blitz pickups. The goal will just be to just find good football from all around the league. If you have any suggestions for plays, please leave them in the comments, shoot me an e-mail (wordofmuth@gmail.com), or tweet them at me.


24 comments, Last at 02 May 2013, 6:45am

1 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

You know what I'd like to see? How a great one-on-one matchup evolves over the course of a single game - the little adjustments made by the blocker, rusher, and playcallers as the game progresses. I don't have any particular games in mind, but I think that would be interesting.

18 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

This also tops my wishlist!
A thorough analysis of the physical and the mind games between two greats through 4 quarters would be awesome.
And not nescessarily a LT vs DE.

Keep the good stuff rolling so we can get through the offseason in Copenhagen, Denmark as well!

21 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

If you're going to do this, I'd love to see a breakdown of Cameron Wake and his 3 sacks vs. the 49ers O-line in Week 14.

He had 2 on the 49ers first two drives, then another in the 2nd quarter, and didn't have any in the 2nd half (if memory serves).

So a look at the adjustments the 49ers made would be cool to see.

Fire Jeff Ireland.

2 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

It might be cover-your-eyes horror for me, but I'd like to see a breakdown of Bryant McKinnie vs Elvis Dumervil in the playoff game because I'm curious to see if McKinnie's use of his hands were as, um, liberal as I thought they were watching live.

19 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

Check out the hold on Von Miller on the TD to Torrey Smith right before halftime...

Couple that with the phantom hold on Kuper on 3rd and 1 early in the 4th quarter and the game is simply baffling from an officiating perspective...

4 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

Ben, you continue to add great stuff to this site. I have a feeling some teenagers are reading this and one day we'll see a few saying they learned how to play OL in part by reading your column. Thanks.

6 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

How about a few well-executed run blocks broken down, especially with some pulling from the backside guard or something, which I guess would be a simple trap play. I find an offensive lineman's ability to hit a moving target while himself on the move impressive.

7 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

Love the column Ben, yes I used the word love, don't make it weird.

I think you may have done a bit on the matchup between New England and Houston but I'm wondering specifically about the play action that New England uses. I know I've read somewhere that to really sell play action you have to have a guard pull, and in the first NE/Hou game there were several successful play action plays, but I also remember in the playoffs that a play action play got destroyed and ended up forcing a punt, just wondering about maybe the tells that were picked up by Houston the second time around.

11 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

Yes, this is nice, but I'd really like to see something like a matchup between Clady and Freeney or Harrison or Peppers for better demonstration of star player technique.

22 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

Another home run article, Ben! Uh, no, that's not right.... Touchdown! Nah, them's for the glory-boys. It's a prevented sack, with the clock expiring, as your QB throws a 99 yard bomb (dropped by Donnie Avery--but that doesn't make the blocking any less successful). Well, it was really insightful and helpful, anyway. The kind of analysis that sets this site apart.

This article reminds me of, but is much more technical and focused in-depth on one play, a mini-series from about five years ago: Freeney vs Ogden. I think FO first visited the stat line and then a handful of individual plays that didn't show up in stats but affected the game nonetheless. And then repeated it for the playoffs or the following season.

12 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

If this were feasible - I would actually like to see a comparison between the 2012 SF 49ers' o line and one of the vintage chiefs years - say 2002-2006

13 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

Fantastic column, as usual. This work by Clady really brought back memories of Richmond Webb. History tends to distort things, but I recall him being that good every play. Did you ever get a chance to watch Webb play? Or is he before your time?

15 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

As a high school OL coach in Texas, I love this site and it reinforces everything that I have learned and coach about when it comes to Offensive line play. I use some of these same phrases and techniques to teach my kids. I enjoy listening to someone breakdown OL men the same way that I do. I'm jealous that you get to spend your days working and writing about this while I'm teaching classes. I would love to see you column where you show game footage and practice footage if you have access to it so that you can show how the drills worked everyday are used in game situations.

17 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

Biggest, most important offseason move thus far IMHO. Franchise tagging him was smart for Denver. Manning can't throw to the best receiving corps (thanks Welker) if he is on the ground. Clady didn't give up a sack until week 12 (Manning was sacked 21 times last year). Clady is worth every penny.

20 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

I'd be interested in something on TEs blocking, if there were time ever. What can the good blocking TEs really handle? What happens when Jimmy Graham has to block?

23 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

These breakdowns are just excellent. There's a whole other game going on - particularly the O-Line play - that's not understood or appreciated by many fans. This is often where games are won or lost. Keep it up! And yes, tight ends would be an interesting breakdown also.

24 Re: Word of Muth: Examining Clady's Set

It all starts at the Offensive and Defensive line play. Everything else is icing on the cake. Love the column.

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