Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines Derrick Henry’s technical and conceptual challenges with pass protection assignments.
Twice this month, I’ve seen my colleague Turron Davenport post videos featuring pass protection drills for Titans running backs. Neither of them prepared the runners to diagnose assignments or handle linemen. This is not an indictment of the Titans coaches; most pass protection drills for running backs are woefully inadequate.
They teach players to square, punch, and move their feet but there are no details that happen under live fire. What happens when you have to face a lineman when the drills are always pairing them with opponents the size a linebacker or smaller? How do they diagnose a green dog blitz? What if they’re supposed to run a shallow route and they notice an unblocked blitzer? How do they move their feet to quickly set a base when the pressure is accelerated into the pocket as they’re working through a play-action exchange.
Cover these contingencies all you want in a classroom, but most athletes are physical learners. That’s why we always hear about the exceptional cases of great classroom learners from personnel directors during draft season.
Derrick Henry must improve his pass protection and the drills aren’t helping him. His footwork, angles, and diagnosis are all question marks. So is the effort in this first clip.
While possible that Henry needed to finish this route in the video below, it raises the question about a running back’s responsibilities, how it’s covered, and whether more should be done.
If these exposures are indicative of Henry’s pass protection this year, don’t be surprised if Dion Lewis earns even more time at Henry’s expense or the Titans draft another running back in 2019.
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