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

Word of Muth: One Man Gang

Word of Muth: One Man Gang
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ben Muth

The Packers beat the Browns this past Sunday. That isn't really news because the Green Bay Packers are a professional football team that had Cleveland on the schedule, so a win was pretty much guaranteed. Now, it didn't look that way when Green Bay was down two scores in the fourth quarter, but they came back and found a way to win in overtime. With Aaron Rodgers officially cleared to return this week, the Packers are still alive for a playoff spot.

Overall I thought Green Bay's offensive line was good in pass protection but struggled to get much going on the ground (they finished with 85 yards on 27 carries). When I originally chose the Packers to cover this year, it was because I thought they were going to be a good offensive line to keep me sane if things fell apart up front for New York and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, injuries have absolutely decimated the unit, and the result has been a mishmash of guys who probably aren't quite starting caliber players and have also been playing out of position at different times throughout the year. It hasn't been ideal to say the least.

The one guy who has played exactly like I hoped Green Bay would play is David Bakhtiari. Because he plays for the Packers in 2017, Bakhtiari of course missed some time with injury, but when he has played he has been as advertised as an elite left tackle. He is a great pass blocker, very consistent, and is also Green Bay's best run blocker. It has been great to have a chance to watch him this year.

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This is a counter scheme, and that's Bakhtiari (69) at left tackle just absolutely burying a linebacker in a way that looks super unpleasant for the defender. As far as technique goes, this is just all finish by Bakhtiari. He locks onto the linebacker and when he tries to escape the block Bakhtiari just keeps driving his feet until he drives him straight into the core of the earth. Just a phenomenal block, and if you think that's a hold you are reading the wrong column.

This was actually Green Bay's longest run of the game. Lane Taylor (65) does an effective job at left guard of sealing the defensive tackle inside, but I don't love his technique. He's playing kind of high and lets his feet die on contact; he's sort of just leaning on his man.

This is bad defense by a lot of guys for Cleveland. The defensive end, play-side linebacker, and safety are all really bad here. It's almost like they don't know who has what gap. Again, I love what Bakhtiari did, but other than that block this is much more of a case of bad defense than it is good offense.

I thought the Packers offense did a lot more of taking advantage of Cleveland miscues than they did of really taking it to the winless Browns. In fact, Green Bay's first touchdown was a good example of that.

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This column isn't here to break down coverages, but I do know that you should try to cover every eligible receiver, especially ones running 20 yards down the field. The Packers offensive line leaves a guy unblocked here, which is fine because when you go empty protections (meaning no running backs in the backfield) you can't protect everything. Here the Packers are going with a half-slide to the left, so any blitzer coming off the right edge has to be hot.

Brett Hundley doesn't throw hot, but he does get rid of the ball before the linebacker can get there. He pushes it though, and if Cleveland doesn't burn a zone I don't know where Hundley would've gone with it. But he has a big enough arm to get it over the defense's head off his back foot. The Packers actually went with a lot of empty in the game and had some success even if it seemed to be in spite of themselves sometimes.

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This looks like some sort of man protection scheme. Right guard Jahri Evans (73) is responsible for the Mike, and Bakhtiari is responsible for the nickelback who is playing like a 3-4 outside linebacker. If Green Bay would have been in the empty protection they used in the previous GIF, they would have slid right into this and picked it up no problem. Instead the Packers once again have a rusher they can't account for.

Hundley's decision to run right at the unblocked defender is unconventional, but effective. Sometimes when defenses get cute with personnel packages they end up essentially playing a nickel corner at outside linebacker, and those guys aren't very good at things like rush lanes. So even if you get him unblocked, the defense still has to hope he makes a tackle.

Also, this is a nice job by Bakhtiari again taking the most dangerous man. Never slide past a guy you know isn't accounted for to get to the guy that you were supposed to block. Leave the widest guy unblocked since has the furthest to go. I had an offensive line coach who used to always say about empty protections "block the guy that can hurt us the worstest, the fastest," and it's true.

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One last empty play here. Once again, Cleveland has an unblocked guy Green Bay didn't account for. I don't know who sets the Packers empty protections (the quarterback, the center, or a coach who doesn't allow changes at the line of scrimmage) but they were wrong a lot. Again, it's an empty protection, so you can't account for every defender, but you should have a protection that picks up the most likely blitzer most of the time if you know what you're doing pre-snap. Whoever was setting the Packers protections was both bad at reading the defense and unlucky. Someone randomly guessing would have sent the offensive line into the blitz more often than Green Bay did.

This is the same half-slide protection as shown in the second GIF, just going to the right instead of the left. Hundley gets the ball out quickly for a nice gain to beat the blitz. Overall, Hundley probably played well enough over the past two months to keep a gig as a backup quarterback for the foreseeable future. I don't think he did enough to create much trade value from a team looking for a starter though. The numbers were OK after a couple of weeks, but there was a lot of stuff that killed drives.

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Take this fourth-and-1 where Hundley ran the wrong play. You can tell from what Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley do that the play is designed to go outside to the left here. This was a pretty crucial play, and it goes without saying that you can't have your quarterback going the wrong way.

That'll do it for this week. I look forward to writing about the Packers again with Rodgers back under center.


6 comments, Last at 16 Dec 2017, 6:23am

1 Re: Word of Muth: One Man Gang

On the play where Hundley went the wrong way, which I didn't see, the consensus has been that the Packers score easily on that play if he runs it correctly.

3 Re: Word of Muth: One Man Gang

On the first gif, the safety (21) looks like he is trying to make sure he get's blocked. He makes no effort to go toward the ballcarrier, instead making SURE the TE locks him up. If he had contain, he should have gone outside the TE, if he didn't have contain he should go inside. I don't know any scheme where he is supposed to dither then engage the TE who otherwise is out of the play. Yikes.

4 Re: Word of Muth: One Man Gang

He must have been anticipating (or was duped into thinking it was) a play action rollout by Hundley, and went to go cover the TE. The Packers have a lot of slow-developing play action pass plays that show similar action, and you can see the playside DE stay home in case Hundley did keep the ball.