Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Theory #287 why the Vikings can't run the ball

Our offensive linemen are too big.

You'll hear it at least once per broadcast, the announcers' open astonishment at the mammoth sizes of Minnesota's tackles. Bryant McKinnie is 6'8", 335 lbs. Phil Loadholt is 6'8", 343 lbs. Toss in Steve Hutchinson (6'5", 313), John Sullivan (6'4", 301), and Anthony Herrera (6'2", 315) and that's an average of 6'5 1/2" and 321 pounds per lineman -- and that' s not taking Artis Hicks' 6'4", 335 lbs. into account. Guys this big should be able to move mountains or, failing that, defensive lineman.

But they're not. And it took this video for me to figure out why.

Chris Johnson is having a spectacular year. Talent-wise, you'd have to think Adrian Peterson is at least on par with him -- perhaps a little slower, but also a little stronger. But where Peterson is struggling, Johnson is thriving. Watch the play that starts at the 0:58 mark. Johnson takes a screen pass and starts running downfield with the ball. Admittedly, he doesn't turn on the jets right away (as he shouldn't), but even so, two of his lineman run downfield with him for about 30 yards! For the record, that's #54 Eugene Amano (6'3", 310 lbs.) and #68 Kevin Mawae (6'4", 289 lbs.) running with him.

Now, name any of the Vikings' linemen -- much less two -- who could even remotely run downfield with Adrian Peterson. (Maybe this is why we don't call may screen passes.) Granted, Kevin Mawae's a future Hall-of-Famer, but, along with Amano (LG) and Mawae (C), the Titans starters include LT Michael Roos (315 lbs.), RG Jake Scott (295 lbs.), and RT David Stewart (318 lbs.). That's an average of 305 lbs. per lineman, or about 16 pounds lighter per player than the Vikings' line. And not only is Chris Johnson on his way to 2,000 yards, but Titans quarterbacks have only been sacked 14 times this year (and only 12 times last year), fewer than half of the 31 sacks Brett Favre has endured in 2009. All this with a line whose heaviest member (Stewart) would be about two missed meals away from being the second-lightest member of the Vikings' line.

I'm no offensive line coach, but I'm thinking it's true that bigger isn't always better. Clearly, there have been some huge lineman, tackles in particular, who have had very long and productive careers (Johnathan Ogden comes to mind), but once you tip the scales over 330 or so, you might be treading a fine line between power and agility. And even the biggest offensive lineman needs agility to react to blitzing linebackers and to move the pile downfield.

Or at least not to get completely owned by Julius Peppers for 60 minutes.

1 comment:

SupaFan said...

The Titans line looks a lot like the Line that the Denver Broncos had back when they were creating great running backs out of other teams cast offs. They were undersized overly athletic men. That is what Shannahan used when he created his zone blocking scheme. The Vikings offensive line look more like the Dallas Cowboys of the '90 with some of the biggest men in football. They used straight ahead and a cloud of dust method. Witch got Emmit Smith 3 rings, the all time rushing record and into the HOF.
So my question is this, Why are the Vikings Using a zone Blocking Scheme?