Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines the pre-snap diagnostic skills and post-snap positioning, setup, leverage, and execution of Kennedy Brook’s blitz pickup.
The draft media is too apt to give college running backs a free pass when evaluating their blocking. The underlying reason is that if the running back displays effort and desire to engage, they believe the rest can be taught.
This is true to an extent. Will and desire for action to mix it up in the pocket is something that cannot be taught and if the running back hasn’t developed the motivation to do the work, the rest won’t matter much.
Most coaches place a low bar for pass protection. On Twitter, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah shared Bill Belichick’s handout that he gave to scouts years ago in Cleveland about the type of players he sought at each position.
When it came to running back, Belichick didn’t want to pass on a good runner because the runner wasn’t a capable protector. This likely remains the majority opinion about running backs in the NFL.
However, it’s not the only opinion. There are coaches and personnel directors that value developed pass protectors because their offenses have a heightened reliance on the role.
For all that criticism that Bill Polian earned for his lack of foresight with Lamar Jackson’s quarterbacking potential—and he isn’t alone—he’s one of the better general managers of the modern era. During his tenure with the Bills and Colts, Polian and his staff valued pass protection from its backs.
Thurman Thomas, Edgerrin James, and Joseph Addai were all excellent pass protectors and receivers. While no one has won as many Super Bowls as the architect Belichick, Polian had been the architect of more Super Bowl teams than most.
For teams that have a heightened appreciation for backs that can pass protect, Oklahoma’s Kennedy Brooks will be high on their lists when the 2021 NFL Draft rolls around. Brooks display promise with several details that aren’t ingrained knowledge among the average media member or fan but should be:
- Reading the pre-snap tells of potential blitzes.
- Earning depth in the pocket.
- Cutting off the inside blitz lane to funnel the blitz outside the quarterback.
- Breaking down into a balanced position.
- Framing the chest to the spot where the Blitzer will be when they engage.
- Taking the air out of the interaction to generate optimal leverage.
- Running through the contact.
Brooks’ ability to perform these details as a running back bodes well for his potential to become a reliable pass protector in the NFL. Combined with his savvy and athletic ability as a ballcarrier, and Brooks will be considered a future high-level contributor when selected in the NFL Draft.
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