Focus On The Line

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.

joe-thomas-camp

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.

  • Johnny P.

    At times in shotgun Quinn had to reach out and snatch the ball because it was snapped so weak. It was costing him an extra second that he doesn’t have!

  • mgbode

    Hines Ward blocks LBs every week….he even breaks their jaws when necessary.

    Edwards and MoMass have shown they can get the upper edge on LBs when they go all out at them….

    Furrey, on the other hand, might not want to try that with his 160lb frame (I’m guessing the 180 they have him listed at includes full pads and a 20lb brick)

  • Tron

    If only we could clone Joe Thomas 4 more times and just put him everywhere along the line. Then we’d be set. I’d actually clone him a 5th and 6th time too and make him our FB and RB to run over people all day! I’m always proud to wear my JT jersey, dude has a motor that never quits.

  • http://www.nologoneeded.com Don_NoLogoNeeded.com

    I was glad to see JT play as well as he did in this game especially. Consider the report before the Vikings game that the Browns debated and, some thought, missed by taking Thomas over Peterson.

    To win in the NFL you have to have a decent offensive line and Thomas is the cornerstone. For that, I’m not bummed No. 28 is not wearing orange and brown.

  • Isis

    How long will Porkfat Womat remain starting on the right side? Anyone ever see a weaker, less athletic, out of shape NFL guard? What are they paying him?

  • bobby

    When Hadnot gets back everything points to him starting at RG. The RT position worries me. I agree that St. Clair doesnt seem like any kind of upgrade, but we seem to be stuck with him for the season.

    As a whole though I would say this was a good performance by the OL. they had the 4 DL in check for most of the game causing the Vikings to have to blitz to get pressure (at least according to the announcers).

  • Isis

    bobby-how many lauded the Porkfat and St. Clair signings that I said were journeymen garbage at the time? Now you want to throw them off the line after one start?

  • JD

    @ #7 –

    They seemed like good depth moves at the time, of course that assumed that everyone else would be healthy and able to contribute (like Hadnot & Tucker).

    Now that they’re both starting on the line? Yeesh.

  • B-bo

    If you’re scoring at home, it’s now

    Isis: 1,000,000,000 the rest of humanity: 2

    in the “being right” game. The 2, by the way, are being disputed.

  • kevin

    B-bo,

    You’re right, so I guess that gives humanity one more.

  • mgbode

    Womack is not the problem. He had a good preseason. Bad first game, but let’s hope that was just having to go against Williams.

    we won’t face another 4-3 DL like that again this year, so that is the good news.

  • mgbode

    also, St. Clair was merely the best of what was available. Shaffer isn’t even starting in Chicago (where he was supposed to replace St. Clair).

    And Loadholt, who many wanted at the draft, struggled as much with our DL as St. Clair did with Minny’s DL. He’s young, so he can improve, but still.

  • bobby

    I dont think anyone was praising the signings of those two OL, at least I wasnt really enthused. Porkchop I think is the better of the 2, but everything that Ive read says that Hadnot was outperforming him, and was the starter before he was hurt, so Im taking that as once he’s healthy he’ll be in there. St. Clair is obviously not in the long term plans since he’s something like 34 years old. jeez isis, for once i was pretty much agreeing with you, guess your just really against everything.

  • Notorious C.H.A.C.E.

    S.T. Claire needs to play S.T. Elsewhere

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