It’s a story with good and bad news. What’s good is that NFL offensive lineman are doing extra-curricular work to improve. The bad news: they have to go somewhere outside their teams and coaches to find it.
Chicago Bears tackles Kyle Long and Bobby Massie, Titans guard Chance Warmack, and Giants center Weston Richburg told Pete Prisco from CBS Sports about cracks in the game’s foundation, the offensive line. They feel they aren’t well enough coached in their positions’ fundamentals. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/feature/25577288/in-the-line-of-fire.
Long, a contributor to my book, The View from the O-Line—Football According to NFL Offensive Linemen and an Uncommon Coach (scheduled for release September 6, 2016 by Sports Publishing) and his colleagues complain their position coaches aren’t providing the best fundamental training to handle the big, fast, strong, and maniacal athletes they’re charged with blocking. I agree.
The 2015 season led to a rash of serious injuries to quarterbacks. You can trace that to substandard pass protection. But that doesn’t happen because blockers are incapable. It happens because they are ill-trained. And it’s a sad commentary that they have to go to an off-season offensive line camp to improve technical training; training they are not getting from their teams.
So I say good for LeCharles Bentley, the former Browns and Saints center. His academy in Ohio is a destination for NFL offensive linemen who want to improve. That’s great. But players really shouldn’t have to go outside their own teams to learn and sharpen their techniques. There are challenging fundamentals to master on the O-line.
Anyone who thinks playing on the offensive line takes only a large body that need only be placed between the pass rusher and the quarterback knows nothing of what it really takes to play the position.
The term skill position infuriates me. It suggests that only quarterbacks and receivers require skill to play. Blocking techniques grounded in using the legs and hips as levers and fulcrums, and hands and arms when power is transferred from the ground up require skill. And they take years of training and repletion to become proficient. Blocking combines the best fine points from the martial arts, boxing, and wrestling. Anyone who thinks those endeavors don’t require skill, well, the nicest thing I could say about that person is that he or she is ill informed.
There are a lot of reasons O-linemen are less efficient than they could be. Less than competent coaching is but one. There are many others. I’ll stew on those and write about them down the road.