Part two of our look at how to scout an offensive lineman.
Scouting 101: Offensive Linemen Part 2 of 2
Hand Placement: Hand placement is extremely important for every offensive lineman, on every play. Hand placement dictates leverage, angling and even penalties. If a lineman’s hands are too wide, it’s holding. If he doesn’t have the proper placement on the chest of the defender, a holding penalty can be called, or the blocker can lose the battle that happens on every play up front.
Ideally, the blocker will place both hands on the chest plate of the defender in a run blocking situation. Outside pass blockers are taught to punch, instead of initiating contact and trying to control the rusher.
Scouting Points: Look for a lineman that has quick hands and doesn’t get too wide in his placement. Ideally, the lineman will control the defender by keeping his hands inside the shoulder and most likely on the chest plate of the defender. A lineman should have a wide base and a thin top when blocking. His hands should be up, almost like a boxer, when he comes out of the snap. Most lineman are taught to fire out of their stance and actually clap their hands together in an effort to teach them to keep their arms in.
Vision: An offensive lineman must be able to see the rush coming, or see the defender he’s assigned to, on every play. Having exceptional peripheral and straight-line vision are important for a lineman. Tackles must excel at seeing blitzers coming off the edge, while guards and centers must be able to quickly spot and react to stunts, twists and zone drops.
Scouting Points: Short of giving an eye exam, there’s not much we can do here other than watch. Most offensive tackles in college will be asked to block one-on-one with defensive ends, especially the good ones. A pro-level blocker will be able to recognize line stunts, twists and drops; but he must also be able to see the blitz coming off the edge and quickly react to it. This can be tested well in one-on-one situations.
Toughness: Every play is a literal fight for an offensive lineman. A lineman must have the mental and physical toughness to withstand a battle 60-75 times a game. Players are hit, kicked, gouged and slammed in to repeatedly. Injuries will happen almost every week. For a NFL team, a lineman must be able to stay in the game, every game, without losing his composure.
Pass Blocking Technique: This has been touched on in many of the sub-topics, but it all boils down to how well a lineman can actually block. An ideal pass block begins with a quick first step off the ball. When pass blocking, the first step is always back and usually with the outside leg. This gives the lineman leverage and balance. A tackle’s first move is going to be to center himself with the rusher and to punch with his inside or outside hand, depending on the move the defender is making. A guard or center is going to also center himself, but instead of punching, he will actually make contact with the defender in an effort to control him. The lineman should have their knees bent and be taking small steps in order to control their balance and any leverage they have.
Scouting Points: Here we are breaking down every move the blocker makes. Does he have a quick outside step? How is his punch? Does he have the strength to over-power defenders? Every play you must look at the subjects listed here and evaluate the player.
Run Blocking Technique: Much like pass blocking, the first step is the key here. The run blocker will take a short step off the line of scrimmage and towards his defender or zone. The lineman will be looking to engage the defender and lock on with his hands on the sternum. This gives the lineman an area of contact to drive block the defender. It’s key for the blocker to keep his head up, feet moving and hands in contast contact when drive blocking.
Scouting Points: Quickness off the ball, vision, strength and hand placement are the key here. We want the lineman to have a low pad level and to roll through his block, keeping his feet moving at all times.