I'm losing my religion when it comes to what we’re doing on the line. Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool. I think I thought I saw you try...but it was just a dream. Just a Dream.
We abandoned an aerial attack game and jettisoned the bodies needed for one. We switched to a WCO/ZBS so we could have more of a smash mouth offense. Slowly roll down the field on short passes, then hit intermediate or deep ones when defenders creep forward. Loosen them up for the run and then tire them out. Plunge the knife in.
The only plunging I'm seeing, is my heart.
Here's a question I'd like answered: why isn't our ZBS acting like one? On more plays than not, there's no movement. No pulling to the right or left. We're seeing standard OL play of attempting to push forward or dropping back to form a pocket around Siemian. Very few rollouts, boots, etc that have the QB, RB and line moving together.
Why? We have agile guys. We have the best Center in the league so he knows what calls to make. Siemian isn't the most mobile of QBs, but he's not a rock, either. In the play below, the line did exactly what we should be doing and Trevor was able to get a pass off. Making the case that they can move.
Our OL may be having trouble because they're not running plays designed to address their strengths. This is fixable. What's not is if they're not running stretch plays, etc because there's no team work, no communication or worse, lacking the talent and the knowledge.
The Guards, Max Garcia and Michael Schofield need to be in tune to not just Matt Paradis, but also their tackles. Before RT Donald Stephenson got hurt, he and Scho were acting like a duo. While our run game wasn't sizzling, it was building towards something.
Is this the real issue? We haven't had ten weeks of one OL building chemistry? Building communication with not just each other, but with the RBs, FB and QB?
CJ Anderson was a juke RB. Devontae Booker is a straight line runner. This may be compounding the problem. CJ could run sweeps, he could act like he was going one direction, but cut back towards another. He could often see where a play was going, especially when he and Jano clicked.
Defenses weren't sure where he was going and the OL was helping. Now we just have a mess.
We have an OL ready to see another change since it appears Kubiak wants more Ty Sambraillo. Go back to the Atlanta game. We saw eight changes. It featured very little Andy Janovich, had no Virgil Green and that line was the worst we saw all year. Sure, having a rookie QB didn't help, but he also had an OL with no cohesion and back-up talent.
That's why players are kept out there longer than fans want to see. ZBS depends on communication and the skill to recognize what the defense is doing. A traditional lineman focuses on one guy to block. Their assignment is simple. Drop back to form a pocket if a pass play, push forward if it's a run and create a hole for the back. It's easier to replace these guys than on a ZBS line.
ZBS don't have specific assignments. It’s why it's harder to draw up plays, because offensive lineman often don't know who to block until they’re set. The good side is that it lets them know where to open a lane for the rush based on the defensive alignment.
Do we have the physical talent? LT Russell Okung has the speed and strength to swing around for the right angle, he for sure knows which block technique to use and how to help his guard. He played for the Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson weren't playing on an island.
Max Garcia needs to improve his cut blocking and situational awareness. That is apparent. Okung and Don have played long enough to read the defense to know which guys to block. I don't know enough to tell if Garcia and Scho are consistently getting this, though. All indications point to Scho improving. He and Garcia (and Ty) are young and it takes time to develop the ability to read a defense, know who to block, who doesn't, who your partner needs help with.
That’s where missing CJ may be more than just his running ability, but to know where to run. Remember, the OC can send in any play he wants, but if the defense isn't giving the line what they need, it doesn't mean squat. That's where a veteran RB can help. QB, too.
We have a new QB, a rookie RB, rookie FB, rookie TE, plus four OL new to this team and/or their position. That's a lot of new. Kind of the blind leading the blind.
Siemian doesn't have the ability to read a defense and change out of a play because he can’t see it's not going to work. He doesn't have Anderson in there to know and I'm not sure exactly what kind of procedure Kubiak has in place for Paradis and/or Okung to indicate, Houston, we have a problem. Or, what kind of communication skills this line has to change out of a play and get everyone on the same page.
While we won't be seeing (hopefully) that much of a disjointed OL again, as we saw in the Atlanta game, we might be seeing yet another change. I’m optimistic that during this bye, we could see both Okung and Stephenson get some much needed down time, which may stop any more change. That they come back refreshed and rejuvenated. Please.
We have had a perfect storm of trouble. A QB who doesn't have good pocket presence, is slow in getting rid of the ball, plays that aren't calling for him to move (except Sunday, Hallelujah!), a back-up rookie RB and an OL too often being manhandled because of it.
Some of these issues can be addressed.
- Call more stretch plays. Just calling one means that one of the tackles, depending on the direction of the play, can help his guard since "his guy” doesn’t need to be blocked. Of course, does Ty have this knowledge? Don may be lacking physically because of injury, but is Ty a better choice? Lets be optimistic and say, yes. This gang up approach could help. We do know runs to the right were working more. Until Don got hurt. Booker is a straight runner, but Kapri isn't. Going to a stretch and using him more would offset each other. This includes employing more sweeps, too.
- Make Trevor move more. It could be that he's hurting, so his tendency is to avoid plays that send him closer to rushers. Or he doesn't have the mindset/talent. We may have seen him use his legs more because he or the coaches heard the drums of angry fans. Watching a QB play with no heart is disappointing. We want Tebow passion, not Orton passiveness. Using Trevor to extend plays, get third downs, must continue. When he does have a pocket, he needs to move up into.
- Use the FB and TEs more. Jano should be inching closer to having the club removed and AJ Derby seems to be getting up to speed. Use Virgil Green as the blocking TE. I know he wants to be more, but it doesn't appear to be the case. These guys can help plug holes in any linemen technique.
I’m hoping that it's just a matter of time and health. Two weeks of healing, combined with two weeks of the OL gelling with each other and with Book, Jano & Derby will help. Allowing the coaches to play call to the strengths of a ZBS.
Two weeks of rest needs to help Trevor play better because he's on a downward slope and has been since September. Depending on which metric you use, he's ranked between 26 and 30. He can help the OL and vice versa. Moving lateral would be a start. Drifting in the pocket wouldn’t be as much of an issue if he wasn't in the pocket. ZBS guys aren’t built to be walls. They’re built to team up and slide guys away from where they want to go. There’s a big difference. Our guys are often getting flags trying to be a wall.
Speaking of that, when there is a pocket, he needs to use it. He seems to have a 15 yard accuracy range. Throwing from 11 yards back, is already putting him behind his curve if he wants to throw 5 yards out, plus 5 yards to the left or right. That's not even addressing being outside the cone of protection.
He needs to read defenses better. Also have to wonder what kind of communication he has with the line? Is he going forth with plays that have no hope or not grasping in time that the line has changed a play? Two weeks to work on that.
Two weeks of Book, Bibbs and Jano refining their chemistry should help, too. If they're going to use any two back sets, this is crucial. Not just in trusting each other, but with the QB, too. Add in communication.
ZBS needs the talent and the communication (broken record) to pull it off. It starts with the play call and ends with the execution. Let's hope that two weeks is a start to curing many woes. KC defense is no joke and Trevor is going to need all cylinders firing.