None of the Denver Broncos starting offensive lineman played against the Los Angeles Rams in the final preseason game, so the backups were on full display. This final game was their chance at cementing their spot on the roster, or at least get some good film out for other teams.
We would learn on Tuesday that fringe-players Quinn Bailey and Luke Wattenburg would make the final 53, while Kyle Fuller would be cut. He still stands a chance at making the practice squad though.
For today’s film breakdown, we will be taking a look at the first drive of the game against the Rams and see how well or how poorly the backups performed.
Broncos vs Rams film breakdown
The 11-play opening drive consisted of six passes (two screens) and five runs. Denver would average 3.4 yards per carry, but take into consideration there was one three yard carry that was called back due to holding, a three yard run from the four yard line, and a rushing touchdown from the one yard line.
They would average 11.8 yards per pass with one completion going for over 20 yards.
The offensive line would provide a clean pocket on all three designed drop-backs by Stidham. The only times he was pressured was on designed rollouts where the last man on the line of scrimmage would be unblocked, and on screens.
Let’s take a look at some of the good and some of the bad.
One of the cleanest pockets that you can hope for as a quarterback. Undrafted free agent Alex Palczewski does a solid job of seeing the DE stunt here and doesn’t follow him, but works back inside to help out Wattenburg.
Fleming doesn’t look completely clean but does a better job than others on this roster of staying square to the LOS, he sees the backer step up pre snap, keeps his inside leverage and takes the blitzer up field and past the QB.
I think the best pass protection on this play comes from Quinn Bailey. He has a good initial pass set and aligns himself properly, his hands end up a little high but it’s still good to have control of the inner chest protector on the shoulder pads (and a hand on the throat isn’t too bad either). You see the the DT fight the hands but Bailey does a good job at re-setting them and completing the block.
The run play we have here is just a simple inside zone. The offensive line will all be taking a zone or ‘L’ step to the right (besides the playside tackle). This is a step that moves them laterally (about six to eight inches) while keeping their shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. The goal of this zone block is to essentially prevent the defender from shooting your playside gap and to displace the defender vertically. The playside tackle’s job on this play is to block the defensive end out.
Let’s see if they do that.
Palczewski does exactly what he needs to. But there’s a problem here. Look at that massive false-step he takes. A false-step, for those that don’t know, is when the lineman takes a step backwards, or really any step that doesn’t gain them ground when they need to be. In this case, Palczewski absolutely has to gain ground on his first step, and really he’s kind of lucky this block worked out. If I were him, I would’ve taken a left ‘I’ step (or a step straight forward) and then work inside out of the DE.
Everyone else here does a pretty good job. You can see Wattenburg and Fuller with a good double team block. Bailey and Fleming also do a good job on the backside, but Bailey does fail to come off the double team and pick up the inside linebacker, but luckily Fuller ends up being able to pick that backer up as the playside linebacker decides to not shoot the gap.
This run play is all about misdirection. You have the offensive line block as if it was outside zone left with the slot receiver coming on a motion from the backside. So, let’s see how effective the offensive line does their job here.
The thing that stands out the most is RG Wattenburg completely whiffing on his block and effectively screws Fuller up. It is a tough play for the guard as he is taking a step to the right and the DT slants to the offense’s left, but he has to at least chip the DT. You can see him realize his mistake when his pauses for a moment before attempting to block a linebacker.
Both Fleming and Bailey do a good job of capturing the defensive lineman’s side and drives them to the right. You can see Fleming get an effective downblock and then try to pick up a linebacker. This is good stuff on the playside.
The last play we’re going to look at is the second play of the game. This play appears to be Power Left. In Power, the backside guard typically is supposed to pull up through either the A or B gap, but Wattenburg ends up doing almost a kick out block.
Honestly, this could have been the designed play, but personally I am unfamiliar with a play where there is only a guard kickout block. Typically a kickout block by a guard is followed by another puller that pulls up through the line and onto backer. This can be a Counter or HAT (wing and tackle pull) where the backside tackle, tight end, or wing pulls up to backer.
Assuming that Wattenburg is supposed to pull up through A or B gap, then obviously this is a fail on this end. I also think that Fleming does a poor job on the playside and leaves the TE out to dry on this one. The rule is to block first level first, and typically TE’s aren’t good enough to block most defensive lineman on their own.
The positive is that the downblocks by Bailey and Fuller are pretty good.
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