Every team needs to have the depth to spell its starters on the defensive line. Having different skillsets provides variety in sub packages. That’s essential in today’s game.
In free agency, you look for players that seem to fit your scheme. Once they’re in camp, you find out the details of their strengths and weaknesses. You do the same in the draft. You get to test, drill, and interview them with extreme thoroughness. Drafts often turn on how well you match player and scheme. That’s why a failing fourth-rounder with one team can play like a first-rounder with the right team’s approach.
When you play an even front defense, as Denver did until recently, you often look for a squatty, snarling defensive tackle who bathes infrequently and dines on raw meat. That’s your basic nose guard. You want him as large as possible, while still maintaining his footwork.
When you play a Phillips defense, as the Broncos will do again starting in 2015, you tend to focus on footwork, hand-fighting, and quickness. Malcom Brown of Texas can be a monster in any system. It will make him highly sought after in next month's draft.
For Eric Kendricks, it’s been a spring rerun. He’d been through all this years before with his brother, Mychal. Currently with Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles, people doubted Mychal for many of the same reasons that some doubt Eric.
Mychal was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. But he was questioned because he was ‘too short’, at 5’11”. Mychal has recorded 264 total tackles, nine sacks, three interceptions, and five forced fumbles in his three-year career. Eric isn’t shy about mentioning this.
One of John Elway's first draft decisions was to take offensive right tackle Orlando Franklin 46th overall in 2011. One of the key stated reasons, repeated several times, was that Franklin brought nastiness to his run blocking. It was contagious, and it helped the whole line. His later-developing skills in pass blocking were often missed. It was a testament to how effective his run-mauling was.
That’s one of the factors for whichever team takes on Florida's D.J. Humphries next month. Humphries has shown himself to be one of the toughest tackles in this year’s draft. He measured in at 6'5" and 307 lb. at the combine - those are pretty standard measurements for tackles. Most years, someone will argue whether arm length matters. If you think it does, his is 33 5/8 inches.
Every new coach brings along a few players and coaches that he trusts. He trusts them to do their job, but knows that it goes both ways. Jack Del Rio was the fire under Terrance Knighton, who turned into a leader.
Owen Daniels has spent all nine of his NFL seasons under Gary Kubiak. They were together for eight years in Houston before spending 2014 in Baltimore. They have a relationship of trust. Every new head coach needs a guy to help teach and motivate the other players at his position. Kubiak feels he can count on Daniels to help fill that role for him.
Daniels came out of the University of Wisconsin in 2006. He’s played in the full zone blocking scheme in both college and in the pros. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 Draft, 98th overall. Kubiak found in him a dependable, intelligent, and focused player.
Denver has set out to develop, rather than draft, All-Pros. Louis Vasquez did most of his developing in San Diego, but excelled as the Broncos' All-Pro right guard.
It’s a delicate balance. You need to have stars and players in development. You need enough of them ready to play today. That includes both starters and rotational players.
When you talk about a developmental offensive lineman, Ali Marpet might be the best 2015 draft OG you’ve never heard of. Or, by now, maybe you have.
With the zone blocking scheme installation coming in OTAs, Denver continues on their drive to improve the offensive line. Today, let's discuss former Oregon Ducks left tackle Jake Fisher.
He’s not related to Eric Fisher, the left tackle taken #1 overall in 2013 by Kansas City. Like Eric, though, he was a tight end before converting to tackle. The questions for Denver are whether he can develop the power that he’ll need for right tackle and the balance that he’ll need for the left side.
Usually, you want a power player at right tackle. Fisher uses technique rather than raw power. He does it so well, that I think he could come in and play right tackle as a rookie. If he adds enough power, he could also take over at left tackle when Ryan Clady’s contract runs out.
Last week, I discussed a few offensive prospects who'd stood out to me during the college all star games, for better or worse. Today, let's do the same for the year's defensive prospects:
Nick Marshall, CB, Auburn - Marshall has a fun story. He showed up at the Senior Bowl, to which he had been invited as a quarterback, went to the first positional meeting, and then went to the powers that be. He told them that he wanted to switch to cornerback, and they agreed to it. He’s 6-1, 207, and he showed a lot of skill at the position.
He seems to prefer press man. That makes him even more attractive as a pro. A long player who isn’t uncomfortable mixing it up and going for the high point should attract plenty of attention. He’s also able to play safety.
Over the last couple of weeks, I spent time watching practice and game film from the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, and Senior Bowl. Some players stood out, for reasons good and bad. I haven’t gone back and watched their regular season film yet. I didn’t see more than the usual number of college games last year. Southeastern North Dakota vs. Cuttlefish Tech just doesn’t grab me for some reason.
The all-star games themselves were the icing on the season’s cake. Most scouts have moved on. They’re back home. They’ve cued up the software, prepping for combine. They’re watching film of the players they thought highly of in practice.
The issues of zone blocking itself and the personnel for it are now well covered. The next step is considering the personnel that will be carrying the ball. These were David Hooper’s preferred qualities of running backs for the zone blocking scheme: