We are all waiting on the three wise men who will decide if the stay is lifted and the lockout ends so football can proceed and the lawyers can head to court for litigation and hammer out a 2011 CBA (collective bargaining agreement).
When that does happen, when the NFL opens back up for business, what will the rules be? Your guess is as good as mine and setting some rules will affect the future cap, trades and how the NFL goes about doing business. One thing to keep in mind is the actual dollar amount of the salary cap can’t and won’t be less than the actual dollar amount of any salary cap for the preceding year.
Free agency has been put on the backburner for the moment. When the rules come out, they must include UFA – unrestricted free agents and RFA – restricted free agents, and depending on what rules the NFL institutes will effect both of these categories which are controlled by accrued seasons in order to become a UFA and RFA.
What all offensive coordinators in both the college and professional levels of football covet when they mention guards is that they dominate run blocking skills. These big men hit someone on every play and the success of the offense starts with the big boys up front. The cream of the crop is tough, competitive and aggressive with a relentless motor and a passion for the game. Arm length 34 inches or longer is preferred. Here is what the coaches are looking for.
Good initial quickness, strength, explosion and strong use of hands to grab/steer defenders. Good angle blocking skills to cut off, reach, hook, seal and scoop. Short-yardage and goal-line drive blocking to maintain pad level with flat back, ability to sink hips and explode with strength and power. Second-level blocking production to locate with change of direction to defeat linebackers in space. Ability to re-position and sustain with dominating finish. Pull/Trap with short area quickness, ability to change direction, restart with collision to attack target inline and in space with production.
Good initial quickness out of stance to pass set with bent knees and stout use of hands positioned numbers high. Good anchor base to sink hips and maintain leverage. Foot quickness to slide laterally and remain frontal, regain and maintain inside position attacking the defender’s breast plate vs. movement with mirror and use of hands to punch and recoil.
Downfield and inline thumper to pin and pancake the defender with corkscrew production and nasty attitude. Good football instincts and awareness to defeat stunts and blitz
When you talk about top interior offensive linemen, two elite guards that have set the bar high are Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots (franchised by the club) and Carl Nicks of the New Orleans Saints (a restricted free agent tendered by Saints). Here are some other players and my thoughts on them.
Harvey Dahl, G, Falcons, Age 30
A tough and nasty player that plays through the whistle. Good run blocking skills with finish production. An accomplished pass blocker and leader to set the tone for the Falcons’ offensive line. Age is a slight negative and has some injury history missing time the last couple seasons.
Justin Blalock, G, Falcons Age 27
A good starter to play either the right or left guard spots. A solid overall performer with good production in both pass and run blocking skills. A great fit for the Rams.
Adam Goldberg, G/T, Rams Age 31
This competitive and tough football player is best suited for the tackle position and is the Rams’ current swing man outside with versatility to play both right and left tackle positions. Has started at right guard the last several seasons for the Rams. Despite a giant heart he lacks the girth and explosion for an interior lineman. Goldberg has played through injuries and is one of the leaders in the locker room. A security blanket for head coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive line coach Steve Loney.
Richie Incognito, G, Dolphins Age 28
Incognito re-signed with Dolphins for three years. I must give credit where credit is due. Incognito is the best interior lineman on the Dolphins, and was the best on the Rams as well. Despite Loney’s ability to coach Incognito, been there done that.
Davin Joseph, G, Buccaneers Age 27
Good run blocker with attitude and good finish. Has size, strength and explosion with good finish. Would start for the Rams at either guard position.
David Baas, G/C 49ers Age 29
A swing man to align and play both center and guard positions. His versatility would upgrade the Rams’ depth while he competes for a starting position. Solid performer in both run and pass blocking skill set.
Deuce Lutui, G, Cardinals Age: 28
Interior blocker that lost mindset in 2010, but has the athletic ability and nasty attitude to compete like a Pro Bowler when focused and is what the Rams need leading the way for Steven Jackson.
Evan Mathis, G, Bengals Age 29
I helped draft this player as the college scouting director for the Carolina Panthers. He is tough, aggressive and has the attitude and work ethic that Spagnuolo is looking for. Has some injury history that needs investigating.
Pork Chop Womack, G, Browns Age 32
I liked this player when he was a Seahawk as both a run and pass blocker. Overall performance hit a valley in 2009 and 2010, and age might have something to do with it. This is not an upgrade as a starter, but improves depth.
Max Jean-Gilles, G, Eagles Age 27
A large body player with very good blocking skills. He works great with tackles and is a finisher. Pass blocking and read reaction vs. stunts and blitz needs work, but I like big-bodied interior linemen that can get a push in the run blocking category.
John Greco, G, Rams Age 26 (tendered by Rams)
I was the vice president for the Rams when we drafted Greco. A former tackle in college that lacks foot quickness and athletic ability to play on the edge in the NFL. The natural progression was to move him inside, but he lacks consistent toughness and aggression level along with power and explosion to play on the interior. He has been given many opportunities to become the starter and I feel despite being a great person with no off-the-field issues, Greco lacks the passion for the game and the ability to stay healthy. The Rams need to cut ties and move on.
Zach Hurd, G, Connecticut Age 22 (2010 college street free agent)
Nate Garner, G, Dolphins Age 26 (restricted free agent/tendered by Dolphins)
Daniel Loper, G, Raiders Age 29 (re-signed with Raiders)
Nate Livings, G, Bengals Age 29 (restricted free agent)
Will Montgomery, G, Redskins Age 28
Leroy Harris, G, Titans Age 27
Trai Essex, G, Steelers Age 28
Doug Legursky, G, Steelers Age 25
Pat McQuistan, G, Dolphins. Age 28
Nick Cole, G/C, Eagles Age 27
Kevin Boothe, G, Giants. Age: 28.
Steve Vallos, G, Browns. Age: 27.
Bryan Mattison, G, Ravens. Age: 27.