I thought I’d do a weekly piece breaking down the play of the Browns’ offensive or defensive line. I had a chance to review Sunday’s game last night, and thought I would share some thoughts about the offensive line today.
The line as a group played decently, particularly when you consider their opponents. The Vikings have been effective putting pressure on the QB with just their front four because of the quality of their line. When they choose to blitz, they are generally effective, again because of the studs that are up front.
I know that it has been said already this week, but Joe Thomas was outstanding this week. Jared Allen is an outstanding defensive end, and he was completely neutralized by Thomas. Allen recorded one tackle, but was nowhere near the play when Thomas was responsible for him. In fact, several times when the Vikings got pressure on Quinn Jared Allen was the only defender not even close to the QB. I would go so far as to say Thomas played better Sunday than he did all last season.
The interior linemen (Steinbach, Mack and Womack) basically were blocking 3 on 2 the whole game. That happens quite frequently against a 4-3. It was obvious to me that the group needs time to work together. There is a comfort level that happens when you block next to a guy for an extended period of time. For example, on the Browns third drive of the game (1st drive of the second quarter) Brady Quinn was sacked by Williams on third and 5. He went to the outside shoulder of Womack and just beat him to the spot breaking through and getting a hard shot on Quinn. The announcer made a comment that Womack was perhaps expecting an inside stunt, which Minnesota occasionally does. Here’s the problem. Womack had help to the inside. There was nobody else in A gap for Mack to block, in fact he turned towards Williams hoping to help with the block. Let’s assume for a second that Womack was expecting an inside move. He had help inside. But there is a difference between knowing that you are supposed to have help inside, and having the confidence that Mack is going to be there. In that split second of indecision a player like Williams is already around you, unless you are a superior lineman. Which Womack is not.
I am concerned about St. Clair. It doesn’t appear to me that we have solved the right tackle problem at all. I hope that I am wrong, but it seems like our new tackle is a lot like the old one (Shaffer) in that he will struggle against the speed rush from the edge. Again, considering the quality of opponent we will keep our eye on the situation and give him the benefit of the doubt.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two things here. First, Mack’s snaps were somewhat erratic especially early in the game. This shouldn’t be a tendancy. I would imagine that nerves and adrenaline had much to do with this. If it happens in a few more games we will call it a trend and be disturbed. The second thing is the number of times Robert Royal and the Wide Receivers were called on to block at the point of attack. It was disturbing. Should Royal be able to take on a defensive end? Probably. Should Mike Furrey be asked to block a strong side linebacker so that Jamal Lewis should get to the edge? I don’t think so. Yet that was the design on some of our running plays. I expect Furrey, Cribbs and Edwards to block defensive backs (and not from behind Braylon) but not linebackers.