Word of Muth

Dive into the details of offensive line play with a former all-PAC-10 left tackle

Word of Muth: Super Bowl Wrap-Up

by Ben Muth

With Sunday's win over the Panthers, the Broncos are officially world champions. It feels weird for me to say that, because they had by far the worst offensive line of the teams I covered this year, and the other two teams (Dallas and Cleveland) will be picking in the top five of this year's draft. That's not to say that the Broncos are undeserving or any nonsense like that, it's just weird having watched a pretty mediocre unit (and you could throw in the backfield and tight ends along with the offensive line in that assessment) so often and then seeing them walk away with the Lombardi Trophy.

I will say this for the game itself: if you hadn't seen much of Denver during the season, Sunday's game was a pretty good microcosm of who they were as a team. Not just the dominating defense, but I thought the Super Bowl was a pretty good example of what their offensive line was this season as well.

At center, Matt Paradis was OK overall, but he had a rough start. This is exactly how I would describe Paradis' 2015, his first as a starter. The second-year player really struggled with the physicality and strength of nose guards early in the year. Speaking plainly, he just got pushed around too much.

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This is the play that killed Denver's first drive of the game. The Broncos are running outside zone, and Star Lotulelei (98) knocks Paradis into the hole, right into running back Ronnie Hillman, who ends up tripping. I think the big issue is that Paradis seems to step underneath himself with his first step. As a result, he never threatens Lotulelei's gap, so the big defensive tackle can press upfield right away. The other issue is that Lotulelei is just stronger.

But much like he did over the course of the season, Paradis overcame an early setback and got better as the game went along. There are plays later in the game where Paradis gets a good first step and handles the defensive tackle well, sometimes outright hooking him.

Giving up penetration in the running game is still Paradis' biggest weakness, but he's getting better at it and has developed in other areas. He's an above-average pass blocker for the position and moves pretty well laterally. He also is pretty good at the second level against linebackers. (He struggled a bit on Sunday, but I chalk that up more to the Panthers' linebackers being studs than Paradis regressing.) Overall, I think the Broncos have an effective center for at least the next few years.

Another theme from Sunday's game that plays in well with the Broncos season overall is that Michael Schofield was bad, but he was still a lot better in the postseason than he was in the regular season. In my final regular-season column I said that Schofield was the worst player I have ever covered in this column to start multiple games for his team. Based of his OK performance in the playoffs and merely bad performance in the Super Bowl, I think I'm ready to walk that statement back. Like Paradis, Schofield did get better as the year went along.

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This isn't good, but it's better than the sacks that Schofield (right tackle, 79) was giving up in the regular season. He is playing with some aggression (which is even better since it's play-action), and his punch actually knocks the defender off course. Considering that he never seemed to punch earlier in the year, this is a big improvement. His feet and hips are still a trainwreck though. When he punches, he takes a false step inside with his outside foot and it takes forever for him to get moving again. The result is a sack.

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The improvement from Schofield and Paradis has me more excited for offensive line coach Clancy Barone than I am for Schofield. The big offensive tackle's feet issues look to be too much to overcome, and even his improved punch still isn't very good. I imagine he'll be on the roster next year (he was a third-round pick two years ago and started in the Super Bowl), but I can't imagine the Broncos will enter training camp planning on starting him.

The last thing I want to point out is that Denver's guards played pretty well. At left guard Evan Mathis was damn good, and aside from a holding penalty Louis Vasquez was pretty good as well. Mathis started off the season poorly but once he got his sea legs back under him (after joining the team in camp) he played well. Vasquez was more consistent throughout the year but Mathis was the better player by the end of the season and certainly outplayed him on Sunday.

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This was the Broncos' best offensive play of the game. Both guards are good here, but Mathis (left guard, 69) is fantastic. He's getting a little help from Paradis, but to hook a head-up nose tackle on an outside zone away is a GREAT block. His hat placement is perfect, and I love how he works his feet after contact. Vasquez (right guard, 65) isn't as good, but he still does a nice job of covering up his man. Really good stuff from two guys I expect will be back in the starting lineup next year (unless they decide Max Garcia can come close to replicating their play at a lower cost).

Before we wrap up this column and the 2015 season, I want to show the Broncos' only offensive touchdown. It's a strange play that kind of fits the champs perfectly in a way.

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Both linebackers, and a safety who is essentially playing linebacker, go completely unblocked. At left tackle, Ryan Harris (66) completely whiffs on his block. The play still resulted in a touchdown. Sometimes you don't have to block everyone to win. I wouldn't put that on the 2015 Broncos highlights DVD, but they certainly proved that you can win a Super Bowl with a middling offensive line.

Comments

20 comments, Last at 24 Feb 2016, 7:53pm

7 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Wrap-Up

Good question. Where the heck is that play supposed to be going? Vasquez at right guard is pulling to the left, but both of the Harris and Polumbus (76, lined up as a sixth lineman on the left) go for what appears to be chop blocks. I can't tell if that's a miscommunication on the line, or just a poorly executed trap.

15 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Wrap-Up

It looks like the confused blocking confused the defense. The LB getting penetration up the middle misses the tackle because he expectss the play to go to the right and he can't recover to the middle fast enough. The DB who misses the tackle near the goal line reads the play as going to the left and can't recover back to the middle fast enough and misses the tackle. Number 99 figures it out but can't make the stop soon enough, good leg drive by the RB. Not sure if this is design or a FUBAR situation working out

18 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Wrap-Up

Harris is going for the linebacker (Klein) thus necessitating the pull from vasquez. Unfortunately, Klein doesn't wait for the play to do develop and Harris tries to immediately change direction as he goes by and slips on the bad turf. Also when Klein came in, Vasquez hesitates just a bit because he knows that's not supposed to happen, and is late to his pull.

As designed the play is supposed to run left off of Mathis.

3 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Wrap-Up

You expect Mathis and Vasquez to be back in the starting lineup next year? Scuttlebutt I've heard is that Mathis will walk and Vasquez might be out the door as well. I suppose everything depends on the Von Miller deal and, of course, the QB decision.

17 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Wrap-Up

Lecharles bentley writes good stuff. Matt bowen does great work analyzing coverage concepts. His work on the detroit hail mary was great.

If Peyton Manning could take some writing lessons, I'm sure he'd have some awesome insights. Take this article for instance - http://espn.go.com/espn/magazine/archives/news/story?page=magazine-20061204-article38

12 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Wrap-Up

What a great and amazing block from #69 at the second to last run, but if was Kuechly who overshot the man, and with delivering a wrong angle gave away a long run.

I was impressed by #98, but on that play he played neither A-gap.

Had Kuechly remained disciplined, he'd meet the guy at his cutback for a 2 yard gain and this play would end up here at the 'look at the lineman, but ah well the linebacker did his job so there's that' column.

13 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Wrap-Up

Really enjoyed Word of Muth again this year, but just a little disappointed that "The X of Great Shame" appears to have retired.
Is it in the FO Ring of Honour?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.