Friday, October 20, 2017

Can Brandon Scherff do something that no Redskins O-lineman has done since 1991?

By Rich Tandler
October 20, 2017

Those who doubted the wisdom of the Redskins drafting a guard with the fifth overall pick in 2015 (yes, I was one of them) should be preparing to eat their words.

On draft day and during the two and a half years since then, there has been plenty of talk that the Redskins would regret taking Brandon Scherff, who played tackle in college but seemed destined to play guard in the NFL, so early. Not that anyone thought that Scherff would be a bad NFL player but given that they left DL Leonard Williams and edge rusher Vic Beasley on the board, he needed to develop into an All-Pro caliber guard to justify such a high pick.

Well, don’t look now but Scherff is making his way towards becoming one of the best guards in the game. Not just Pro Bowl good; he checked that box last year. Scherff could become the first Redskins position player to be named a first-team All-Pro since Darrell Green and Jim Lachey earned the honors in 1991.

Asked about Scherff’s play this year, Jay Gruden was effusive in his praise.

“He’s reacting. He’s anticipating. He’s pulling. He’s pass-blocking. He’s run-blocking. He’s double teaming. He’s doing everything you want him to do out in screens, out in space. He’s the best guard out in space by far in this league. It’s fun to watch him.”

Gruden is not exactly an unbiased observer. But other, more neutral analysts also have been heaping praise on Scherff.

An article on Pro Football Focus said that Scherff had an “elite” game against the 49ers, not allowing any pass rush pressures and dominating as a run blocker.

Two other analysts clipped some plays from the 49ers game to illustrate just how well he was playing.

This one from Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network shows one play, the 49-yard screen pass to Chris Thompson on which Scherff threw a key block.

Brandon Scherff with a key block downfield to spring Chris Thompson

I’m not sure what the scouting credentials Brandon Thorn has but he did put together a nice collection of clips of Scherff making quality blocks both in space and in the interior vs. the 49ers.

Brandon Scherff is playing as well as any RG in football this season. Elite 2nd level/space blocker, puller, and finisher.

Will Scherff earn All-Pro honors? That could depend on how well the team does. While the All-Pro teams are supposed to be individual honors, it’s tough for an offensive lineman to get many votes if he’s not on a winning team, especially on like Scherff who would be trying to break into the club for the first time.

But the Redskins are not really worried about All-Pro votes. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing and he gets no such consideration it will be fine with them.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Brandon Scherff cements himself among elite interior O-linemen

Brandon Scherff was taken fifth in the 2015 NFL Draft by former Washington Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan. He was picked before defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who was available and widely considered the best player in the draft.

By Brandon Thorn
October 18, 2017

Once it was announced that the team would switch Scherff from left tackle (LT) to right guard (RG), people began doubting the logic of drafting an interior offensive lineman (IOL) so highly. The last time an offensive lineman was picked inside the top five of the draft and inserted into the interior as a rookie was Mike Williams in 2002, so naturally the 13-year gap for this scenario raised concerns among most fans and pundits.

Scherff made the transition from the left to the right side of the offensive line, and from tackle to guard from Day 1 of his first training camp… and has not looked back since. Scherff has drastically improved his consistency and technique in each of his first 2.5 seasons, earning a trip to his first-career Pro Bowl in 2016. Through the first six weeks of 2017, Scherff looks well on his way to earning an All-Pro nod, and has cemented himself among the elite IOL in the NFL.

Scherff’s dominance begins with his athletic ability (AA) and mental processing. These two traits, along with taking superior angles in space, combine to create elite play speed. No other IOL plays faster in space on screens or second-level blocks than Scherff. His elite competitive toughness forges an unmatched ability to fit, latch, and finish against second- and third-level defenders.

Through six weeks Scherff has elevated the proficiency in his technique to an elite level, validating his draft slot in the top five and providing the Redskins their second elite OL, joining teammate and LT Trent Williams in this rarefied air. There are no glaring weaknesses to Scherff’s skill set, which possesses the critical factors and position-specific traits I have not seen matched on tape from another RG this season. At just 25 years old and barely into the prime of his career, Scherff has reached a level only Cowboy RG Zack Martin and Raven RG Marshal Yanda have recently matched.

Led by O-line coach Bill Callahan, Washington’s OL continues to elevate itself to rival the best units in the league, largely due to the rapid development of Scherff. I would be surprised to not see Scherff at worst earn his second trip to the Pro Bowl by season’s end, and likely a selection to his first All-Pro team.

Credit assistant Mike Devlin for his work with Texans' offensive line

By Aaron Wilson, Houston Chronicle
October 18, 2017

Quarterbacks kept crashing to the ground during the first game of the season.

Heavy-handed bull-rushes were delivered to the chest and midsections of the Texans' blockers as they were rudely shoved into the backfield.

General chaos ensued as the Texans' offensive line was dominated during a 29-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Since allowing a franchise-record 10 sacks in that defeat, the situation has stabilized and pass protection improved. The Texans have benefited by the upgraded mobility that went along with installing rookie Deshaun Watson as the starting quarterback.

Over the past five games, the Texans have allowed 11 sacks. While they rank 28th in the NFL in that category, the offensive line has improved after opening the season as a major liability when Tom Savage was sacked six times in one half.

"I'm proud of these guys because of the way things started out," Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin said. "We talk about it every week. This is where we started and where do we want to be at the end of this? That's really all you can do as a unit and try to keep progressing every week.

"Every week is a tough matchup. Every week (defenses) have great players. These guys know where they are at. I love coaching them because every week they come out to prepare to try to get better."

Toward that goal, the Texans have relied heavily on Devlin. In his third season with the team, Devlin has drawn praise for his ability to develop linemen and devise strategies to get the most out of his players.

As a former NFL offensive lineman, Devlin relates well to the challenges the line faces each week and has remained patient with the Texans' blockers during games they've struggled in.

"I don't even know where to begin with Mike Devlin," coach Bill O'Brien said. "I think he's one of the best line coaches I've ever been around. I've been around some great line coaches. I've been around Dante Scarnecchia, I've been around Doug Marrone, I've been around Ralph Friedgen, Pat Watson, Mac McWhorter.

"The list of offensive line coaches that I've been around and Mike Devlin's right there at the top. He's a great teacher. He's got a great demeanor. He really creates unity in his room. That's a real brotherhood within that room. They believe in him. I believe in him. I just think he's a very, very vital part of the staff."

No Brown in sight

The Texans have progressed significantly as an offense without their top offensive lineman.

Three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown remains absent due to a contract holdout that has lasted six games and cost him $3.31 million in game checks. Brown already had his $9.65 million base salary reduced to $9.4 million for triggering a de-escalator clause for skipping the offseason. He racked up over $1.5 million in fines for not reporting to training camp.

Just prior to the start of the season, Brown said: "I definitely plan on playing football this year."

However, no compromise is in sight between the Texans and Brown. The former first-round draft pick remains on the reserve-did not report list.

Chris Clark has started at left tackle since the Texans benched Kendall Lamm.

"I coach who's there," Devlin said when asked about Brown. "He's doing what he feels is the best for him. For the team's sake, for my family's sake, for the guys in that room grinding it out, that's what I'm coaching."
The Texans have been adapting to how Watson operates, learning they have to hold their blocks and stay aware he could change directions and take off running at any moment.

"Obviously, he's a special player," center Nick Martin said. "You've got to block to the echo of the whistle."

The Texans believe Martin has the makings of being a special player.

A second-round draft pick from Notre Dame last year, Martin was sidelined for his rookie season when he underwent ankle surgery.

Martin has started every game this season and displayed an aggressive mentality and strong technique and footwork.

"I'm real happy with how he approached, actually started last year when he couldn't play," Devlin said. "Learning the system, his communication and then really being his rookie year, his week-to-week preparation. Really his communication with Deshaun, I think they're really bonding that way, and that's helped."

Allen coming around

A year ago, Texans right offensive guard Jeff Allen had a rough season after signing a four-year, $28 million contract as the replacement for Brandon Brooks. He dealt with an ankle injury that required offseason surgery, dealt with a concussion and had issues adjusting to a new position.

Since returning from a high-ankle sprain and getting shoved around during the Jaguars game, Allen has played much better.

"I feel like he's being more consistent this year, more physical, better on his pulls," Devlin said. "I feel like both him and Clark relative to last year have taken the coaching and the criticism, if you will, and tried to improve on those areas."

Another new starter for the Texans is right tackle Breno Giacomini. Giacomini started for Devlin when he was coaching the New York Jets' offensive line. Giacomini plays with a nasty streak.

"He's old-school," Devlin said. "He's going to defend his own. He's going to fight. He's a brawler type."

That fits right in with Devlin's feisty style.

"Coach Devlin is awesome," Martin said. "He played the game. He really gets it from our point of view."

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