Ever since the 2009 season started the Chiefs have been looking for "the" five offensive lineman that could get the job done. Many KC fans have speculated and debated which five could get it done, never having reached a consensus.
As we venture into the 2009 post season many more fans have discussed new names and new bodies that might be plugged into the line. Some think one particular player should be moved to one location and others think that some other player should be moved or replaced.
But what does a good lineman look like?
This post will attempt to explain what teams look for when it comes to offensive lineman. How guards and tackles might be different. And if you see a tackle coming out of his stance...maybe...just maybe...you might recognize and appreciate quality when it presents itself.
Just the basics on pass protection and the left tackle:
Many of today's NFL left tackles are tall, lean, pass blocking specialist. Teams seem to be trending toward, for the most part, a willingness to sacrifice some run blocking power at this position if the player can handle the QB's blind side.
At the left tackle position a team usually looks for a lineman that has good athleticism and size. He must be able to handle bigger defensive ends that use bull rush moves and at the same time handle the smaller, faster, blitzer off the edge that try and get to the quarterback with shear speed. The left tackle must be the teams best pass blocker.
When watching an offensive lineman you might want to start by noticing how effectively the offensive lineman is coming out of his stance. The best ones make it look smooth, graceful, and appear light on their feet. This is a result of being athletic (relatively speaking) and putting in hours and hours of reps. Then there are those that do not look as graceful. The less athletic offensive lineman, the ones just learning pass protections, or the lineman in a rush because they are over-matched. These lineman might look awkward, "herky-jerky", or seem to labor when moving.
All lineman, and hopefully the left tackle being the best at it, must have the ability to stay balanced. When coming out of the stance and into the slide you want the lineman's weight evenly distributed (center of gravity) between the two feet. This allows them the ability to redirect their weight from the outside foot (thinking speed rush) to the inside foot (for the counter inside move).
A team also might look for the lineman who display good leverage by sinking the hips. Power is a important component of a lineman's tools and most lineman's power will come from leverage. If the lineman gets to high then he loses any advantage he might have previously had. The lineman should sink the hips, keep the back upright as possible, and refrain from lunging or bending at he hips during the slide or punch. Lunging leaves the lineman vulnerable to being off balanced.
The length of the tackle's arms are very important. An offensive lineman with short arms is a big concern. I cannot stress to you enough how important this is in the NFL. The offensive lineman must be able to get good extension with their arms to keep the defender at bay. If the defender can get inside to the lineman's body...the defender can get the advantage.
The punch is also very important for the left tackle, as it is for all lineman. The punch is the first impact the offensive lineman has against the oncoming rusher. The quicker and more well placed punch at the chest can keep the defender at bay longer.
The other offensive lineman by positions:
Size varies from position to position along the offensive line. For the most part however, you will find that most NFL lineman are from 6'4" (on the short side) to 6'7" and weigh around 300lbs to 325lbs. In general, the taller the lineman the longer the lineman's wing span.
OFFENSIVE RIGHT TACKLE:
The right tackle typically has a good balance between his run blocking and pass blocking skills. Like the Left tackle, he must be able to handle bigger defensive ends that use bull rush moves and at the same time handle the smaller, faster, blitzer off the edge that try and get to the quarterback with shear speed.
Teams usually require the right tackle to demonstrate more run blocking power than the left tackle. Although they are not asked to do as much drive blocking as the guards the right tackle must be able to lock onto defenders and "set-the-edge" on outside plays.
The NFL guard is essentially the same size as their NFL tackle counterparts. In fact, the teams are constantly scouting players that play tackle in college for the move to guard in the NFL. It is possible a guard can be a little shorter and weigh more as long as the lineman can play with a lower center of gravity. This small height and bulk difference can be useful when blocking the defensive tackles and nose guards that line up in front of them every game.
Quickness off the line-of-scrimmage is important for all lineman and the offensive guard is no exception. This explosion off the line can create an advantage for the offensive player. For the zone blocking guard explosion is essential for the number of reach blocks and second level assignments they will be asked to do.
It goes without saying that the offensive guard should have good mobility. They are often asked to pull, get outside and down the field to lock up on a second level player.
Ideally, teams want the center to be mobile enough to get to the linebacker at the second level and have enough leverage to handle the big 3-4 nose-tackles in the NFL. What they look for the most depends on what type of blocking scheme the team employs.
Those teams that ask the center to do more pulling (rare) and zone blocking might have a smaller, more atheletic player snapping the ball. Other teams who ask their players to drive block more often might want more power and leverage at the center position.
Hopefully this basic overview helps more fans appreciate a quality lineman when he presents himself. It might also help when attempting to evaluate player improvements during the season.