Note: The analysis you’ll find in this blog post and other posts on RB David Wilson, WR Kendall Wright, and Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill are merely snapshots of plays I have compiled from game study. These spotlights focus on a subset of the individual’s talents or deficiencies and are not an overall report on the player. My comprehensive analysis of the player will be available April 1 in the 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – now in its seventh year of publication.
Funny what keeps you up at night. Saturday, I watched two backs in pass protection and their successes and failures got me so fired up that I discovered I had an offensive line coach inside me after all. I nearly burst a blood vessel yelling at the TV. The adrenaline kept me awake until 4 a.m.
The longer I study film the more I enjoy the skill of blocking. Yesterday, I watched Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen put on a blocking clinic. The fact that Allen has the physical skills and hands to become a productive move-tight end or hybrid player already places him atop most teams’ positional boards. The fact that he demonstrated the skill to execute a full complement of blocks gives him star potential.
The plays in this analysis are from the 2011 ACC Championship versus Virginia Tech. None of them involve a route, a reception, or a run. And yet, I think these are some of the more fascinating highlights of his performance. So will NFL teams in need of a tight end. If Allen can do this in the NFL, he’ll never have to leave the field due to variations of scheme.
Allen’s first assignment comes on 1st and 10 with 14:55 in the first quarter from a 21-personnel pistol set with a single receiver strong side and Allen on the wing over the right tackle. Virginia Tech’s defense is in a 4-3 with weak side linebacker just outside the defensive end.
Clemson sets up this run to left end by motioning the FB to the backfield. The Va.Tech DB motions into the defensive backfield, which creates a good weak side run opportunity – especially when the offensive has a tight end with Allen’s speed to reach the corner.
The RB Ellington gets a nice alley from this roadwork courtesy of the Greenville Department of Transportation. By the way, the player in black is the CB taken out of the flat from the FB’s motion to the backfield (just in case you wondered what happened to him).
Here’s what it looks like frame by frame:
Beating a MLB to the point of attack when pulling from the opposite side of where the assignment takes place requires quickness on a play like this one. However, finesse only gets a tight end so far if he wants to become an every down tight end.
Standing Up Your Date: The One Time It’s OK
The next play is literally, the next play. Allen is the TE on the twin receiver side of a 12- personnel pistol set with the line balanced against a 4-3 with 14:39 in the first quarter.
Allen does a good job of getting under the pads of the DE taking an outside step and moving that defender’s momentum further outside to the slot receiver who helps double team.
This generated a push a couple of yards off the ball so the RB could gain three yards. Allen showed a good punch and drive under the pads of the the DE off the strong side of an 11 personnel, strong side trips formation.
As the RB runs towards Allen’s corner. The flat back and initial drive under the pads of the DE to stand up the opponent begins to pay off as the flow of the play comes their way.
pushing him away from the flow of the play four yards into the backfield as the RB was already into the flat. Excellent block.
Another facet of Allen’s game that might have limited his collegiate production is his skill in pass protection. Clemson’s strength – at least in this game – was run blocking. Pass protection struggled and Allen was repeatedly called upon to stay on the line and block.
On 2nd and 11 with 6:12 in the first quarter, Allen moves like a tackle against the strong side DE pass rushing off the edge.
At the snap Allen sets up quickly with his hands ready to deliver a punch.
As Allen moves with the defender to the outside, he delivers a strong punch into the end’s body.
Granted this defender appears smaller than Allen, but he’s actually 6-4, 252 pounds. That’s three pounds lighter and maybe an inch shorter than Allen. However in the picture, Allen looks like a LT that’s 290 pounds. The reason is he in a balanced position and the DE is off balance.
If the QB climbs the pocket rather than rolls right, Allen will continue to dominate the DE, but that’s not what happens here. The QB rolls right and this allows the DE to slide outside and get pressure on the QB. Still, Allen’s block provided the QB enough time to find his WR Watkins on a 10-yard comeback to set up a 3rd and 1. In the NFL, the ball would have been long gone in most situations where the passer’s name wasn’t Roethlisberger or Newton.
Old Fashioned Way: Laying It On The Line
Thus far, Allen has displayed the ability to pull across the line and hook a defender like a fullback or move tight end. He has kicked out a defensive end and with the help of a wide receiver to close the angle to the outside, Allen has pushed the opponent four yards off the line of scrimmage. And he’s pass protected a defensive end off the edge long enough for Peyton Manning to deliver the ball one and a half times. Now here’s a play of Allen executing a perfect cut block after pulling across the formation. This might be the most impressive block I saw from him.
The play is a 2nd and 1 with 5:09 in the first quarter from an 11 personnel, 2×1 receiver personnel set with Allen on the wing between right guard and right tackle.
The outcome of this play isn’t a big gain, but the reason has more to do with the RB (and arguably a penalty that the officials could have assessed the DE) than the block that leads the way. Allen sprints across the formation as the DE comes free at the edge and stays true to his gap responsibility.
As Allen reaches the edge, he throws his body across the legs of the DE. This is something that someone needs to teach about 75 percent of the FBS running backs I’ve seen on film this year.
This afternoon I watched Utah State’s Robert Turbin repeatedly try cut blocking a defender by leading with his shoulder and diving through the defender’s legs. At least once, he literally tried to crawl through the defender’s legs when he fell shy of the mark. Usually the defender could simply avoid the block because this kind of technique involves lowering the head and tipping off the opponent.
Allen’s cut block chops the defender to the ground where he stood and it gives the RB a chance to get the corner.
If not for the runner lacking the patience to work around the fallen mass of DE, this play likely goes for a bigger gain. Instead the runner he tries to hurdle the defender and the defender raises his legs to trip the ball carrier. It doesn’t detract from admiring the excellent play Allen made to set the edge.
I could show you more, including a fourth-quarter play where Allen leads the way on a 23-yard gain by blocking the SS on the edge of a jet sweep to right end. The Clemson tight end closes the gap two yards past the line and drives the defender backwards literally 10 yards down field before turning the opponent’s back to the sideline just as the RB runs past for another 13 yards to the Virginia Tech 17.
I could also show the red zone play on a QB draw where Allen is visibly upset with himself because he let the linebacker get away from him and make the tackle on the ball carrier that limits the run to a seven-yard gain – a run Allen opens to that side by sealing that defender inside. But I think I’ve shown you that Allen cares about blocking because he does the dirty work in a variety of ways.
Just as an side, Allen had three targets, two catches, and two touchdowns on the night. Pretty good for a player whose best work came in a “complementary role” on this December night in Charlotte.
Next: Robert Griffin, LaMichael James, and Brock Osweiller. I haven’t determined the order.
For more analysis like this at every skill position, purchase the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Pre-order the 2012 RSP and buy past RSPs (2006-2011) here.