Saturday Slate: Conference Championship Week

Marcus Mariota looks to clinch Oregon's playoff ticket, as well as his Heisman Trophy.

Marcus Mariota looks to clinch Oregon’s playoff ticket, as well as his Heisman Trophy.

NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa

You wait all year, and just like that it’s gone. Another full college football regular season has passed us by, and what a season it was. But no time for reminiscing, we’ll save that for February…or next week. Nonetheless, there’s a huge slate of games on Conference Championship Saturday in college football which will effect who ultimately plays in the four team college football playoff. Let’s quickly highlight where the committee has the top teams ranked in the country.

#1 Alabama – up next #16 Missouri: No brainer here. Alabama has proven all year long that they in fact are the best team in the country with their lone loss coming on the road at then undefeated Ole Miss. The Tide is loaded with NFL prospects, and should hear at least two names come off the board in the top 10 next spring (Amari Cooper & Landon Collins).

#2 Oregon – up next #7 Arizona: Like Alabama, there isn’t much debate about the Ducks. With one of the most explosive offenses in college football (45.9 ppg) the Ducks are capable of beating anyone on any given day. Their Pac 12 title tilt will match them up with Arizona, who’s one of the hottest teams in the country and has already defeated Oregon at the Autzen Zoo 31-24 this season.

#3 TCU – up next Iowa State: Let the arguments begin. TCU jumped undefeated Florida State last week. The committee loves TCU, who has won 6 games in a row (3 vs ranked teams). Their one loss, to Baylor, is of particular interest. Baylor, ranked 6, needs a lot of things to bounce their way to reach the top 4.

#4 Florida State – up next #11 Georgia Tech: They haven’t been pretty, but somehow someway Jimbo Fisher’s bunch is still undefeated. People can moan and groan about an undefeated team being ranked behind TCU and two other 1 loss teams, but it’s pretty simple for FSU: win and you’re in.


On the outside looking in…

#5 Ohio State – up next #13 Wisconsin: Now down to their third string QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State needs to win, prove to the committee that they’re as good of a team as they were with QB J.T. Barrett, AND hope for some help from Arizona or Missouri. Tall task. I don’t see the Buckeye’s playing in the playoffs even if they do beat Wisconsin.

#6 Baylor – up next #9 Kansas State: Lucky for Baylor, they get to play a top 10 team in a last ditch effort to impress the committee. Baylor defeated TCU, which is the spark of the controversy. If Baylor beat TCU, and the records are the same, how can you say TCU is a better team? I personally agree with the committee on this ranking, but even I must admit Baylor has quite the argument.

#7 Arizona – up next #2 Oregon: IF the Wildcats beat Oregon, what happens then? Presumably Arizona would have to be ranked ahead of Oregon after twice defeating the Ducks this year. Ohio State is potentially in a no win situation, which then would place U of A at #5. Could they then jump Baylor even after they get a top 10 win of their own? I say of the teams on the outside looking in, even though they have the most ground to cover, Arizona has the best chance to get to #4.

Pac 12 Championship #2 Oregon vs #7 Arizona Friday Dec. 5 9:00 FOX

You just have to love conference championship games that pit a rematch between two top 10 teams. Since their loss to the Wildcats on October 2, Oregon has rolled through their remaining schedule with ease and are in a prime position for a playoff berth. Win and the Ducks are in. Marcus Mariota had just one single rushing yard in the previous matchup, a key to the Wildcats success on defense. Arizona had an impressive win last week vs arch rival Arizona State, where young stars such as QB Anu Solomon and RB Nick Wilson carried the team to a victory. If Arizona can win, as mentioned earlier, they would have a real chance to crack the top 4 and earn a playoff berth. I just think the Wildcats are a year away from being real championship contenders. I expect it to be a ball game, but Oregon will dance their way into the playoffs Friday night.

Oregon prospects

QB Marcus Mariota: Safe bet that Mariota will win the Heisman, and be the first QB taken off the board come spring. In this game particularly, I’m interested to see the Ducks interest in running Mariota, who was not much of a dual threat when the Ducks lost to Arizona on Oct. 2.

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: Listed at 5’9 195lbs, the talented Oregon corner is considered small for a NFL corner. What if he measures to be even shorter at the combine? I see Ekpre-Olomu as an exclusive slot corner in the NFL, however in this day and age that can prove to be just as valuable. His best game on film in my opinion is the Oregon State game last season, where he did a nice job on first round pick WR Brandin Cooks.

OT Jake Fisher: Was forced into playing LT this season and has delivered for the Ducks. Fisher may be the team’s MVP behind Mariota, as his play patching up the blindside has been crucial to the Ducks’ success this season.

OC Hroniss Grasu: My number 1 in college football. Ideal for a zone blocking scheme. Better at pass blocking then run, but a solid prospect all the way around. Even when the Oregon line has struggled this year, most notably vs Arizona, Grasu was solid up the middle.

Other Prospects: DE/OLB Tony Washington, DE Arik Armstead, RB Byron Marshall, OLB Derrick Malone

Arizona prospects

WR Austin Hill: Had some monster, big time moments in 2012 as a sophomore. However since he’s torn an ACL and has been inconsistent. You have to love the size at 6’3 215 lbs, however he just hasn’t been consistent this season. Hill caught four passes for 45 yards vs the Sun Devils last week, but still hasn’t had that takeover moment we’ve all been waiting for.

RB Nick Wilson*: Talented freshmen running back who is aggressive with his reads and shows a good burst through the hole. Has ran for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns in his freshmen campaign.

LB Scooby Wright*: His 27 TFL’s lead America. He has also racked up 139 tackles with 14 sacks. Easy to see why he was named Pac 12 defensive player of the year. However, Wright has been overlooked for his lack of size/speed. Like him A LOT as a 2016 draft prospect.

SEC Championship: #1 Alabama vs #16 Missouri 4:00 CBS

Hats off to Missouri. Nobody, and I mean not one single soul thought Missouri would be competing for SEC championships only three years removed from the Big 12, let alone making back-to-back appearances in Atlanta. Missouri has been the product of being lucky with the schedule makers, as they astoundingly only have ONE win vs a SEC team with a winning record in the last two years. That should speak volumes. I saw this team live a few weeks back in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Mizzou front 7 led by Shane Ray & Co. is no joke as they might be the best front in the SEC. I’m just not confident in the rest of the team. Alabama survived what was a hard fought Iron Bowl late Saturday night. QB Blake Sims had his struggles with 3 interceptions, and at one point looked as if he was being replaced. However with his back agaisnt the wall Sims led the Tide for five striaght touchdown drives. FIVE. That’s the DNA of a championship football team. Coach Saban will have his team ready, no doubt about it. I see Missouri’s front on defense make it interesting for a half, and then I expect the floodgates to open. Alabama. Big.

Alabama prospects

SS Landon Collins: Was active vs Auburn with 9 tackles from his secondary position. The top defensive back in the class still without question. That being said his tape isn’t perfect and still has room to grow. I do not anticipate him getting past the top 10.

WR Amari Cooper: 13 catches. 224 yards. 3 touchdowns. Wow, what a way to leave your mark on the Iron Bowl. Cooper has proven week in and week out that when moved around the formation he can be deadly to opposing defenses. Top offensive player on my board.

TJ Yeldon: You bet Nick Saban has seen the Missouri/ Georgia film when a Todd Gurley-less Georgia squad ran ramped over Missouri’s front seven. Sometimes the best way through the storm is directly through the eye of it. Missouri’s front seven is the strength of their team no question, but has proven vulnerable against powerful rushing attacks. I expect Yeldon and 2016 draft prospect RB Derrick Henry to both their fair share of touches.

OG Arie Kouandjio: Big, strong, and nasty. A top 5 interior offensive line prospect. A projected late first round pick at the moment.

Other prospects: RB Derrick Henry*, DT Brandon Ivory, OT Austin Sheppard, WR Christion Jones, RB Kenyan Drake (Hurt, possible solid UDFA), C Ryan Kelly, DT Darren Lake, ILB Trey DePriest, ILB Denzel Devall

Missouri prospects:

DE/OLB Shane Ray: Was disappointed with Ray when he committed an almost disastrous personal foul late against Arkansas last week, as you just expect better out of a top 5 NFL talent. That being said, Ray is extremely athletic with rare quickness and has been consistent all season. Still in the top 10 range.

DE/OLB Markus Golden: Has had some injury issues this season, but when healthy shows above average speed off the edge as well as good technique to get through opposing blocks. Has he been the beneficiary of team’s worrying so much about teammate Shane Ray? Probably. Still though, I see Golden as a day 2 guy at the least.

Other prospects: RB Marcus Murphy, OT Mitch Morse, WR Jimmie Hunt

ACC Championship #4 Florida State vs #11 Georgia Tech 8:00 ABC

Interesting, interesting ball game in Charlotte Saturday night as Florida State looks to clinch their ticket into the college football playoff. Florida State continues their walk on the tight rope after just barely defeating Florida last week 24-19. The Seminoles have won their last three games by a combined 12 points. All of those games came against unranked opponents. Georgia Tech on the other hand has bounced back from two midseason losses vs Duke and North Carolina to winning 5 straight, with the only competitive game coming in the thrilling 30-24 overtime win last week in Athens vs Georgia. I truly believe the Seminoles’ luck will run out this week. Anybody who has ever played football knows how difficult it can be to prepare for the option attack, and nobody runs it better then Georgia Tech.   Florida State has two potential first round picks at corner in 2015 and one more in 2016, but none of that matters vs the Ramblin’ Wreck. Florida State has fallen behind this year in almost every game they’ve played. If they do that Saturday, simply by the offense Georgia Tech runs the Noles’ may not have enough time for a heroic comeback. One last key point: Florida State has played Georgia Tech once since 2009. Why does that matter? Simple: most of these guys haven’t played an option team since high school, so they aren’t familiar with that kind of attack. Florida State may be supremely talented on defense, but are they capable of playing sound assignment football for 60 minutes? I think Georgia Tech will win the ACC Championship controlling the clock and getting a clutch timely stop on defense. Give me the Ramblin’ Wreck by a touchdown.

Florida State prospects

QB Jameis Winston: I think it’s fair to say Winston has officially regressed this season. From last season, his completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdowns thrown have all dropped while he’s thrown seven more interceptions then last year with two games still to play. He just has been careless with the football and has been poor in his reads. In college, he has shown the ability to dig his team out of every hole he’s put them in, I just question Winston at the next level when the playing field with other defenders are more balanced.

CB Ronald Darby: Tough game to study Darby or Williams as Georgia Tech won’t be throwing all that much. On film he limits separation by his speed and quickness, but I believe he needs to improve his overall disruptive ability at the line of scrimmage. First round talent.

WR Rashad Greene: Continues to be the most reliable pass catcher on FSU’s roster. He had a solid 86 catch 1,183 yard regular season, while catching 5 touchdowns. I see Greene as a solid, second line kind of receiver at the next level. Very reliable, however lacks size, speed, and acceleration that can be needed at the NFL level.

DE Mario Edwards Jr.: Needs to become more consistent in all phases of the game. He shows flashes, but there are times he simply disappears within the football game. I believe the talent is there, but the motor is not (at least at this point).

CB P.J. Williams: Continuously flip flopping Williams and Michigan State CB Trae Waynes as my #1 corner. Williams is a solid, all around corner with big play capability. Had a clutch interception last year in the National Championship game, he may need to make a play or two vs the Ramblin’ Wreck if given the opportunity.

Other prospects: OT Cameron Erving, TE Nick O’Leary, RB Karlos Williams, OG Tre Jackson, SS Tyler Hunter, DT Desmond Hollin, OG Josue Matias

Georgia Tech prospects

S Isaiah Johnson: Wont jump off the page, but a solid prospect here with upside nonetheless. A reliable tackler who likes to play in the box, Johnson could make his way into the draft as a 6th or 7th round pick. I see him as a special teams / second line type of defender at the next level.

FB/RB Zach Laskey: The senior ran hard against Georgia for 140 yards and 3 touchdowns after falling out of the rotation. I don’t know about his NFL future as he lacks the ideal speed you would like in a prospect, but I expect Laskey to play a big part against FSU.

Big 10 Championship #13 Wisconsin vs #5 Ohio State 8:17 FOX

The hopes and dreams of Buckeye Nation rest on the shoulders of unproven Cardale Jones.

The hopes and dreams of Buckeye Nation rest on the shoulders of unproven Cardale Jones.

The big storyline here is that the Buckeyes will be down to their third QB this season, sophomore Cardale Jones. Coach Urban Meyer has expressed a lot of confidence in the junior, however how much of that is real and how much of that is coach-speak is unknown. Ohio State is in a weird spot. Not only do they have to beat a very good Wisconsin team, they will have to do it convincingly with a third string QB to prove to the committee that they in fact deserve a top 4 spot even without starting QB J.T. Barrett. Wisconsin is averaging 334.3 yards per game on the ground, as well as only giving up 16.8 points per game on defense. That’s a great combination to win some football games, and can make it even tougher on Cardale Jones and Ohio State in limited offensive opportunities. I believe Ohio State’s biggest issue will be stopping Melvin Gordon, rather than producing points with a third string QB. I see a Wisconsin win here, in the 35-20 range.

Ohio State Prospects

WR Devin Smith: After watching tape on Smith throughout his career, I’m either blind or soon will be right on the money. Currently a guy some don’t even think will be drafted, I think Smith can develop into a productive wide receiver at the next level. True 4.4 speed, Smith has been held captive in Ohio State’s style of offense, as well as the Buckeye’s now being down to their third QB. Chances are you haven’t seen a lot of Smith, I’d recommend to take a closer look.

DT Michael Bennett: The versatility to play anywhere on the defensive line, truly a luxury for a defense. Bennett is excellent at shooting gaps and reestablishing the line of scrimmage 3 to 5 yards deep in the backfield at times. A poor man’s Aaron Donald in this class.

CB Doran Grant- He’s been counted on as the go to guy to stop opposing offense’s this year for the Bucks. A tough, physical in your face style of cornerback who just needs to work on better limiting separation on medium to go downs. Mid round pick who can potentially make a team happy in a few years.

Other prospects: DE Adolphus Washington, TE Jeff Heuerman, LB Curtis Grant

Wisconsin Prospects:

RB Melvin Gordon: With Todd Gurley nursing a torn ACL, Melvin Gordon has taken over as the clear number 1 running back in the draft process. Just a stupid good year for Gordon who’s putting up numbers difficult to replicate on an Xbox, as he has ran for 2,260 yards with 26 touchdowns. Fun fact: The ONLY team to hold Gordon under 100 yards this year is….

 

Not LSU, not Minnesota…but Western Illinois? Go ahead, I give you permission to stump your friends. Gordon had 17 carries that day for 38 yards.

OT Tyler Marz: He has a draftable grade on my board, roughly around the 5-6th round area. Good in run blocking, but his pass blocking (especially footwork) has issues.

DT Warren Herring, TE Sam Arneson, OT Rob Havenstein, OG Dallas Lewallen

Potential Patriots

Cameron Erving would be a contributor from day one.

Cameron Erving would be a contributor from day one.

In this new segment I have previewed Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong and UCLA ILB Eric Kendricks as good potential fits in New England. This week, in a move that would address a pressing need, I’m going to highlight Florida State OL Cameron Erving. I list him as an OL rather than his college position of LT because Erving truly can do it all on the offensive line. A converted defensive tackle, Erving is tenacious in the run game as well as solid against edge rushers in pass protection. On film he shows phenomenal strength from the waist down, with the capability of just over powering opposing defenders. His hand placement is above average. My biggest knock on him is at times he can be simply too aggressive. Similar to a running back, sometimes you just have to take what is there on a given play. You can’t ALWAYS go for the breakaway run, or in an offensive linemen’s case, a kill shot block. He ducks his head at times and has allowed some pressure in the past when he lacks his technique to just finish people. Not a horrible problem to have, but definitely needs to get coached up a bit. In New England it’s all about versatility. Erving would step in and start next year on the line. What position? Any of the five (maybe shy away from LT) would work, which is why I believe he is an ideal fit in New England.

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29 Responses to “Saturday Slate: Conference Championship Week”

  1. bobgeiber says:

    I guess Eddie Goldman from FSU isn’t playing?

  2. nick says:

    hey guys, great to be back projecting. steve, i usually am on the same page as you when it comes to this stuff I’ve noticed. however, i disagree with the lsu kid. SLOW. very strong but so slow for this offense. also, how is no one talking about Arie Kouandjio??? this is the guy. pick 1. absolute beast. does not stop till the whistle.

    so far i like

    1. Arie Kouandjio
    2. jordan phillips

    also like the center out of oregon. anyone have a beed on d line rush or lb talent?

    • steve earle says:

      Your right about Alexander nick, he’s not the quickest. My thinking is I want a beast up inside to open the run game and keep brady from getting dirty. Love Arie too but will he be around at bottom of the round #1? If so grab him, sure, no question. Will Alexander? I think so. That’s my reasoning. I may be to paranoid about the o-line right now, I admit, but maybe not? If one of the top linemen isn’t around I’d look to d-line in the 1st. A couple of good DT’s who might be available are Danny Shelton NT/DT Wash and Carl Davis DT Iowa. Intrestingly Russell doesn’t like Davis for some reason. Everything I read about him says he’s a Patriots kind of guy. Played roll of eating up blockers so LB’s could make plays past two years with increased roll this year because all last years LB’s gone. He is reported to have good tech, good mobility for such a big man, gets penatration and inside pressure and makes plays. I mocked him as my 2nd the other day knowing he will probably neve make it beyond a mid 2nd at best. Just a bit of wish and hope. Anyway glad to see your back nick.

      • nick says:

        steve, fair points. i thought carl was a bit on the short end though. check out the kid jordan phillips. 6’6 nose from oklahoma. althetic and huge. i wonder if arie will be there – people have him projected second round. he’s a must pick if so. agree we should double dip on the interior o line as well. where do u project the needs of rb and wr?

        • steve earle says:

          WE have one of, if not the most, prolific off in the NFL in spite of not having stars at WR or RB. If a potential blue chip WR or RB falls to us then yes we consider drafting him but we can’t plan on or expect that. Given that, our best way to improve is by strengthing the o-line. Also think about the need to resign Revis and decide if we can afford to sign a couple high profile skill players and still keep him. Carl Davis is reported to be 6-3 has a strong record. Not sure additional height makes for a better player it’s the individual, nothing against Phillips, just saying. Against GB last Sunday we got very little pressure on the QB so we need to improve our pass rush without giving up our run def. On one play Rogers had seven seconds, couldn’t find an open receiver and got no pressure. So do we really need another RB or WR?

        • nick says:

          steve, gotta be honest, think we do need another wr. most teams are building the offense like basketball lineups. we are still missing that take the top off the d wr. not saying this is a first rd select, but somewhere we need another playmaker. i see biggest needs pass rush and o line. if we can get koundjio and grasu first two rounds and a dynamic d lineman, we are in good shape. crossing my fingers

        • steve earle says:

          Getting a couple top o-linemen meets with my approval, like the idea very much. Our current bunch had trouble with GD and SD moving def off the line and TB was hurried constantly. That said I’m just not sure why we “must have” another WR. LaFell has size and speed plus YAC, Tyms is also tall and fast but can’t break into the starting lineup, Gronk is a match- up- impossable and Edelman moves the chains as well as or better then any other slot guy around. Really which of these three do we sit in favor of a outside WR? Also consider Brady’s game is not so much the long ball as it is finding the mismatch, open receiver. To get the type of receiver you describe we are talking high round draft pick. It’s a matter of prioritys. I’d be fine trying to find a sleeper in the 4th on down but not instead of OL or DL. jmo.

  3. Daniel R. Martin says:

    Would someone please explain to be the differences between a “power-scheme” and a “zone-locking-screen” as it pertains to offensive line play? I’m reading draft prospect scouting reports for OG A. J. Cann and noticed CBS projects he is better suited for a power scheme. With what I hope is the emergence of an effective, power based rushing attack, it seems to my untrained eye that such a player could be well suited to shore up our interior o-line.

    • Russell says:

      OG Cain is a great Prospect, and could start day one for OG Connolly with the Patriots. To my knowlege a Zone Blocking scheme is more about Pass protection, and a Power blocking Scheme is more about Run blocking. Cain comes from what I would call a Pro-style Offence. To compare OG Cain to OG Tomlinson (Duke) from same style Offence, Tomlinson is more of a zone blocking (pass protection) type player 1st, and run blocker second. Cain is more of a run blocker, get to the second level and blocking LB’s type player. Teams Blitzing agaisn’t (S Carolina) blitz into OG Cains gap and have some success. Agains’t Tomlinson, teams blitz away from him always in other gaps, as he is to good at stopping pass rushers. IMO

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        Thanks for breaking that down for me Russ. That makes a lot of sense. So, concerning A. J. Cann, would you say he would be the better fit? I still think Brady is playing at an elite level. Which would suggest the Guard better in pass pro would be the better fit. However, with the emergence of Gray and the resigning of Blount, I think a solid, power blocking interior O-Line would offer a great opportunity for a solid rushing game, and with it, a balanced offensive attack. I like the idea of getting three big bodied, nasty road-graders in the center of the line. I was also looking at the Guard from FSU (possibly Matias.)

        • Russell says:

          I Like Cameron Erving to move to OG, over OG Cain, BUT both grade out very well. If I can’t get Erving I like OC/OG Grasu to play OG, in the Patriots scheme.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          That’s a great recommend on Cameron Erving Russell. That guy is all kinds of athletic and versatile. Excelling as a DT, then transitioning into an immediate starting role at OT, and sometimes starting at center as well. With a second round prospective grade, he could be a steal. I wonder if BB will even look at drafting for the offensive line after reaching for and investing 3 picks on so o-linemen in last year’s draft.

      • MaineMan says:

        As I’ve always understood it, Power-blocking is also referred to as “Drive-blocking” or “Man-blocking”. The last synonym is obviously the most intuitive for illustrating the distinction from Zone-blocking – a distinction that’s basically the same as it applies to coverage schemes in the secondary.

        In Man/Power-blocking, an OL (or FB or TE) has an assigned target defender to block, and in a specific direction, with the intent of creating a running lane in a specific gap, and sometimes a specific cutback lane elsewhere. Man/Power-blocking often features pulls and traps that seek to neutralize specific would-be tacklers at a specific instant and generally to “drive” defenders off the LoS. Man/Power schemes are typically more effectively executed by larger, stronger OL and make more use of FBs and TEs as lead blockers.

        The advantage for RBs in a man/power scheme is that they know where they’re going before the snap. The disadvantage is that opposing LBs can read and fill a pre-designed gap more quickly, so Man/Power schemes often result in more stuffed runs. However, if the RB is sufficiently explosive and elusive/powerful he can beat the LB through the gap and then juke him or power through him, so a man scheme may also yield more long runs (10+) for an RB who can get past the second level.

        With Zone-blocking in the ground game, an OL or other blocker is responsible for any defender in his assigned area. On a zone run, the entire blocking front often shifts laterally which tends to open up natural seams in the defensive front, but *where* the running lane opens on a particular play is variable. Zone-blocking also often features backside cut-blocks by OL and others and zone schemes are typically more effectively executed by smaller, more laterally-agile “technician” OL types.

        Zone schemes require more “anticipatory vision” and decisiveness from RBs since they need to find a running lane on their own, often before it opens, and then hit it quickly. They also need patience to be able to identify any “free blockers” (OL who end up without a defender in their assigned zone) and then set up behind them to make progress at the second level. The advantage to the RB is that opposing LBs *also* need to find the gap before they can fill it. The result is usually a smaller percentage of stuffed runs if the RB is willing to take what he can get, but maybe more often also limits runs to the 3-7 yard range.

        Back in 2005, FO posted a great explanation of zone-blocking and an analysis of the performances of four RBs who ran in both zone and man schemes.

        http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2005/zone-blocking-vs-man-blocking

        Other links comparing schemes:
        http://www.betbigdc.com/power-run-scheme-vs-zone-blocking-scheme-zbs/
        http://www.fieldgulls.com/2012/10/18/3521982/brock-huards-chalk-talk-zone-blocking-vs-power-schemes

        Most pro teams specialize in one scheme or the other, but they usually incorporate some elements of both, at least situationally – short-yardage/goal-line runs are almost always Man/Power blocked, though an outside-stretch-zone can be very effective, too, especially if a good cutback opens.

        IIRC, James White came out of a Man/Power scheme at Wisconsin where he always knew where the running lane was supposed to be. The Pats are still using a lot of zone principles (though they seem to be transitioning to more man/power) which has probably made life difficult for a rookie who now needs to figure out how to read where a lane might open.

    • Alex (freemanator) says:

      Good question on blocking schemes Daniel, and Russell’s answer wasn’t quite right. Here is a quote from Football Outsiders helping explain what a Zone Blocking Scheme is:

      “In a “man” or “drive” blocking scheme the lineman is responsible for an individual, and the play is designed for a running back to hit a particular gap. The zone blocking scheme, on the other hand, has a lineman blocking an area instead of a designated defensive player. If multiple linemen are blocking an area than one can break off and block into the second level.

      The offensive line typically moves as a unit laterally, and the result of their blocks should create some natural seams or gaps in the defensive formation. The running back is responsible for finding a hole, making a cut, and then running upfield. One of the key tenets of the ZBS system is that the running back takes what he can get — he should never dance around waiting for a hole to open. He needs to be agile, authoritative, and possess good instincts. Nothing fancy, just try to gain positive yardage.

      A final element of the zone blocking scheme is the use of the much hated cut block to seal off backside pursuit. This means that any linemen on the backside of the play cut block defensive players in front of them, which drops the defensive players to the turf and, oddly enough, opens up holes for the running back. Note that the cut block is legal in this case, as long as the offensive lineman isn’t hitting the defender from behind and as long as he doesn’t roll up on his legs. But hitting him below the knees near the line of scrimmage is fair game, as much as the NFLPA doesn’t want it to be.

      Obviously getting defenders on the ground is one benefit of the cut block, but an intangible benefit is that defenders start worrying about their knees and ankles. They lose a bit of their aggression and speed since they’re paranoid that some lineman is going to creep up on them and take out their legs. This has the benefit of slowing down the entire defense.”

      And finally a video with ex Ravens SB winning HC Brian Billick and Falcons O-Line coach Pat Hill on the difference between the two: youtube.com/watch?v=NBqXxTwVQYg

      So while a man scheme wants bigger stronger players, to reliably win 1 on 1 match-ups, a ZBS wants nimbler quicker players, who can move well, to seal off plays and get to the second level. This attribute is what also particularly useful in pass protection, hence Russell’s comment, when trying to block fast defensive players trying to turn the corner, or coming on stunts etc.

      • Alex (freemanator) says:

        And as for the Patriots, we’ve typically run a hybrid of both schemes.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          Also, if we traded up to get a better left tackle, could Solder play better at left guard?

        • Freemanator says:

          Solder is a Tackle all the way, and while he may not ever be a top 5 guy, he should be a top 10 guy. I think his struggles have been in part down to dodgy Left Guard play besides him. But either way, you are going to get beat from time to time as an O-lineman, and Solder hasn’t been as bad as the media made out.

          As for why a Tackle, he’s too tall to be a Guard, would struggle with leverage, and couldn’t use his length as an asset like he can on the edge.

      • Russell says:

        Great stuff thanks!!

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          Thanks guys. That makes sense Alex. It is similar in someways to the differences between zone and man coverage at positions in the defensive secondary. I do recognize there are some key differences though. Which scheme are the Patriots using and trending toward using on there O-Line currently? With which philosophy did the team find the most success under Coach Dante Scarnecchia?

          I would welcome your personal opinions on which type of blocking (zone or man/drive) you think the team should employ moving forward.

        • Freemanator says:

          With Scar-Midas we ran a mix, but with a larger Zone blocking element. Since the last draft (at which point he’d left, but given his feedback on the draftable players) we’ve run more power, as well as targeted bigger guys, more suited to man blocking.

  4. Russell says:

    I like Erving very much and have him as the Patriots 1st draft pick, if available on the board. I think Erving starts at RG if Connolly retires, but flexablity, and being a Senior goes along way with BB for the Oline Position.
    I disagree with the report on S Isaiah Johnson. I like him as a Patriot, Highly intelligent player, very good tackler, who worked hard to come back from a knee injury, and I could see him working with FS McCourty in the future. I list him as 3-4th round pick.
    The only other player in this group I like as a Patriot is OT Rob Havenstien 6’7″ 340 lbs. most likely a 7th round pick. He just pain blasts everybody he blocks, and moves well for big man. Not as flexable and likely only a RT prospect.
    My Patriot draft today would be;

    1st -OLineman- Cameron Erving
    2nd- Dlineman- Henry Anderson
    3d- SS – Isaiah Johnson
    4th- OLB- Davis Tull
    4th -WR – Tony Lippett
    6th- MLB-Vince Buhagiar
    7th- WR- Kevin Vereen Jr.

    • Russell says:

      Forgot to Say, OC/G Grasu is my second choice for the 1st round pick if Erving is gone, which maybe very likely. (Colts) The Lions may give Grasu a long look as well. I would also watch, LB McKinney for my 1st if he falls, and I could trade up 4-5 spots to get him. (doubtful)

    • steve earle says:

      Good mock Russell, I like it. Couple questions for you. As you probably know I’m high on Vadal Alexander OG LSU who is a Jr and arguably the top OG prospect but none of the mocks I’ve seen have him on their lists. Has he already said he will come back for his Sr. season and if not why is he being ignored? He would be my #1. Another queston is what do you think of Geremy Davis WR U. Conn? Lastly is Keven Vereen really going to last into the bottom of the 7th?

      • Russell says:

        Hi Steve, I don’t know about OG Alexander, if he’s going into the draft or not. If he does NOT he will be a top ten pick next year. Very good player, not overly fast but powerful! Will look into WR Davis have not seen tape on him. Patriots 7th round pick is (now) a 4th in the 7th round.( from Tampa) I think I will move Kevin Vereen up to my 6th pick, (also early in the round fromTenn.) If BB could get WR’s Vereen and Lippett, then say goodbye to Dobson, and see which one makes the team.
        I like Isaiah johnson to replace Chung, maybe not right-a-way. Where’s your Mock?

        • steve earle says:

          Currently I’m still looking to sort out prospects. I like a couple of your later rd guys and am intreagued by this Rollins highlighted by Mike. How would this look for an early mock?

          1) Vadal Alexander OG LSU
          2) Carl Davis DT Iowa
          3) Kurtis Drummond S Mich St
          4) Quintin Rollins CB Miami O
          4) Terry Williams DT/NT E. Car
          6 Davis Tull OLB Tenn Chat.
          7 consider use in pkg with another pick to move up as I think a couple of my picks may be taken a little higher then I have them going.

        • Russell says:

          I like Alexander, tho I wonder if he is quick enough, pulling for the Patriots system. OLB Tull is a great prospect I would not want to miss, I have him 4th round. Not a big fan off DT Davis, but still early.

        • steve earle says:

          On Alexander pulling you may be right, don’t know, but his positives out weigh that imo. Reasoning that I’d like to see us begin transitioning to a more powerful run orented off. We look to have the RB’s in place and TB is a master of play action passing. Hoping to keep him off the ground and injury free so that should help. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s how I’m thinking. About Davis, He looks to me like a player who can play 3-4 or 4-3, not sure where he stacks up quite yet so he may be to high om paper right now, we’ll see. Tull in 6th because I’m concerned about levelof comp. He could climb into mid rd’s if he does well at all star games and combine but as for now I’m being conserative.

      • Russell says:

        I listed OG Alexander (LSU) in one of my earlier Mocks (to the Patriots) on draftnikcentral.com, and list him in my full 2 round NFL mock (going to Carolina with thier 1st)

      • Russell says:

        Watched some tape on Geremy Davis, great size, average speed, physical after the catch. Needs some work on his route running, does not “break well” out of his cuts. His QB is shakey getting him the ball in good position. Davis seems to have good hands, smart guy with his degree in hand, voted team captain, interviews well. Interesting looking Prospect, a late round pick,or undrafted, from a smaller program, much like Kevin Vereen jr. good eye Steve!

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