Welcome to Offensive Line Tips… we’re going to touch-on the skills, abilities, and techniques that NFL scouts tend to look for when they’re scouting offensive guards.
The skills and abilities that we’re going to look at will come from some extremely credible sources; a 3-time Super Bowl Champion head coach, a gentleman with nearly 30 years of scouting experience at the NFL level, and a man with 17 years experience as an assistant coach at Ohio State.
I’m speaking of the late-great Bill Walsh, Greg Gabriel from the National Football Post, and Bill Conley, from Scouts Inc.
Size. Coach Walsh said his ideal guard stood 6-3, and weighs 300 lbs.
Gabriel’s ideal guard stands between 6-3 and 6-5 and weighs between 305 and 320.
Body control. As Gabriel points out in his article, it takes great body control to pull and trap against the speed and agility NFL-caliber players.
Ability to pull and trap. Gabriel on guards and trapping:
Another trait a guard needs to have in many offenses is the ability to pull. He has to be able to get out of his stance, turn, run and adjust on the move to a moving target.
Strength. When analyzing a guard’s strength, scouts pay attention to whether the guard plays with leverage, if they can anchor in pass protection, if they can move the pile in the running game.
Gabriel on why guards have to be strong:
In many of the defensive schemes in the NFL, the defensive tackles are huge men that are run stoppers first. Because of that, a guard has to be a powerful man who can get off the ball quickly and explode into his opponent.
Lateral movement/agility. Scouts look for agile guards that can change
A guard’s duties make being agile an important trait. Coach Walsh explains:
…the guard… is used on many blocking combinations where he must get from point A to point B, pulling through a hole, trapping, pulling on sweeps, coming inside-out on a linebacker blitzing…
Knee bend. Regardless of whether you’re talking about run or pass blocking, scouts look for natural knee benders. Being labeled a waist bender is a guaranteed way to drop your draft stock. Gabriel what he looks for in a natural knee bender, and why it’s so important:
Straight-legged players have a tendency to bend at the waist and fall off of blocks. A good knee bender will keep his back straight and have a very good base and balance.
Run blocking technique. Run-blocking is the guard’s main duty. When it comes to run blocking, scouts want to see the guard’s back flat, with low pad level.
Scouts also want to see guards consistently control defenders at the point of attack, and maintain leverage, control, and balance throughout the block.
In his article, Bill Conley breaks the analysis of a guard’s explosion down to two simple questions:
Do they (the center) finish their blocks? Do they play low and show some pop at the point of attack?
Gabriel on what he looks for in explosion out of guards:
…you look for natural hip roll. A player who has that has good balance, keeps his weight well distributed and can snap his hips on contact while keeping his back straight…
Pass-blocking technique.When analyzing pass-blocking technique, Bill Conley says that he pays attention to how quickly a guard gets into their pass
blocking setup after the ball is snapped, along with their footwork and ability to adjust and mirror the pass-rusher.
Pass blocking ability isn’t as important for guards as it is for o-tackles. Coach Walsh on why:
As a pass protector, the guard usually can get help. He just has to have enough power not to get knocked back. He will be helped just by the sheer number of people inside. So he can get away with a shortfall as a pass blocker as long as he has the girth so the defensive tackle cannot pick him up and move him.
Instincts. In the NFL, you don’t have time to think and be a robot. Blitzes and d-line stunts happen way too fast to think. You’ll find that the best guards can apply the right techniques and make the right decisions seemingly on-the-fly.
Balance. Gabriel’s take on the importance of balance:
Balance is extremely important. You can’t play the game on the ground. When I am scouting an offensive lineman that is one of the first things I look for. If he is on the ground a lot I refer to him as a “ground hog” and really lower his grade.
Ability to Sustain. Scouts look for guards that have the agility, knee bend, and strength to finish blocks. I’ve heard some coaches say that offensive linemen should try to hold their blocks for at least six seconds.
Hands. Scouts want to see quick, violent hands that are consistently placed on the breastplate, inside the hands of the d-lineman.When it comes to battles at the line of scrimmage, the first player to get his hands on the other usually gains a big advantage, so quick hands are critical for guards.
Footwork. Proper footwork and foot placement is vital for offensive guards.
Bill Conley simplifies what scouts look for when it comes to hand usage down to three questions:
Do they get separation? Can they keep defenders away from them? Do they play with good leverage?
Quickness. Bill Conley on the three questions he asks when analyzing a center’s quickness:
Are they quick when coming off the ball? Do they have good footwork? Are they faster than the defensive line?
Click below for part 2
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Bill Walsh’s How I Evaluate Each Position: Guard
Greg Gabriel’s Scouting the Offensive Line