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Zone blocking troubles tackles Packers

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Heatherthepackgirl, Oct 27, 2007.

  1. Heatherthepackgirl

    Heatherthepackgirl Cheesehead

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    By BOB McGINN
    bmcginn@journalsentinel.com
    Posted: Oct. 26, 2007

    Green Bay - Pass protection is and probably always will be the most important part of the job for an offensive tackle in the National Football League.

    Packers tackles Mark Tauscher, left, and Chad Clifton have dealt with a change in blocking philosophy under coach Mike McCarthy.
    Bedard: Packers hope self-scouting can fix the run game

    Left tackle Chad Clifton and right tackle Mark Tauscher have protected and still do protect Brett Favre very well since they moved into the Green Bay Packers' lineup as rookies in 2000.

    Coach Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and line coach James Campen know that, value that and factor that into any evaluation of their two veteran tackles.

    But when a team's running game ranks dead last in the NFL and every day brings more questions, it gets harder and harder for coaches to remember what Clifton and Tauscher do in protection and ignore their shortcomings as run blockers.

    On Monday night, the Packers will play in Denver, the birthplace of the zone run game that they installed in 2006. Despite losing two starting offensive linemen, the Broncos still rush for 130.7 yards each week behind a unit led by left tackle Matt Lepsis.

    "Very good, very active," Campen said when asked about Lepsis. "He gets flat down the line on the back side and makes cuts. He's quick to the aiming point. Not a real overly powerful guy but he busts his butt and he finishes."

    Lepsis, 33, started at right tackle from 1999-2003 before moving to the left side in '04. At 6 feet 5 inches and 290 pounds, he epitomizes the long, lean blockers that retired line coach Alex Gibbs built his zone scheme around in Denver.

    Clifton (6-5, 319) and Tauscher (6-3½, 316) were drafted at a time when the Packers' ground game under Mike Sherman was based on power. The tackle would block down and the guard would pull around to clear a lane for Ahman Green.

    Neither Clifton nor Tauscher ever was regarded as an elite run blocker. Still, they more than held their own.

    For a year and a half, McCarthy and his coaches have preached how wonderful the zone scheme would be. But it didn't work last year with Green and it hasn't come close to working this year with much lesser backs.

    The linemen basically were the same last year and this year. Also the same is their unacceptable performance as run blockers.

    "Everyone on the line is just OK," Campen said. "None of us are executing it the way we want it to be done. You have to do your techniques and execute it and win and finish."

    As was the case in 2005, the major problem has been at guard. Daryn Colledge has been responsible for a team-high 10 "bad" runs, and Junius Coston is next with seven. Clifton has four. Tauscher and center Scott Wells, rated by Campen as the club's most consistent blocker, have 2½ each.

    The Packers are so bad on third and 1 that McCarthy has called passes on six of 10 attempts. Three of the four carries by running backs have failed, each time because guards broke down.

    Clifton, 31, continues to be a liability on back-side cut blocks. Despite Clifton's bad knees, Philbin says there's nothing wrong with his quickness or flexibility, and Campen insists he's stronger than ever before.

    "I think it's more a mental thing than lack of quickness to get from A to B," Philbin said. "It's a little bit of confidence. Then sometimes you don't like to work on your weaknesses."

    Clifton has been blessed with amazing physical gifts. No one ever described him as passionate or physical.

    "I've been here five years and I don't know that Chad has lost any ability to generate movement at the point of attack," Philbin said. "Has Chad been a bulldozer in the five years I've been here? I wouldn't say that's accurate, either, at any time in his career.

    "One of the things that has plagued our running game, not just Chad, is the overall inability to finish blocks and finish runs. We're still searching for an identity in the run game."

    In a direct comparison with Clifton, Tauscher probably has been the more effective run blocker over the years. But Tauscher also plays the more heavy-duty of the two positions and pales in comparison to some of the mammoth right tackles who can engulf defenders.

    Although Tauscher is 30, Campen said he detected no slippage in his strength, horsepower or flexibility.

    "He can (get push) at times," Philbin said. "He's physically big enough. If you examined his career in the last five years, he's a guy that stays on his feet well and kind of covers guys up. You've never going to say he's a guy who can take his guy and move him 10 yards down the field."

    After a shaky opener, Tauscher said he had played "fairly well."

    "As far as point of attack, I feel like I cover people up and don't allow a lot of penetration," he said. "Am I the most dominant run blocker in the world? No. But I do feel like I do my job."

    It's just that the job, at least as far as the run game, changed for Tauscher and Clifton with the arrival of McCarthy.

    That meant that, in their seventh seasons, the tackles had to learn the art of cutting a defender's legs out from underneath him. It also meant that the Packers' only two proven linemen entering '06 weren't cut from the classic linear mold of the master, Alex Gibbs.

    "It's something that's definitely acquired," Tauscher said. "It's not just a one step and cut. You need to get around him and read it. A lot of times, if a guy plays it soft, it's going to be very difficult to cut him."

    Despite the Packers' 5-1 record, McCarthy and his coaches have been stung, if not embarrassed, by their rushing numbers of 65.67 yards per game and 3.26 yards per carry. Maybe their No. 1 objective during the bye was doing something about it.

    Denver, with the NFL's worst run defense, couldn't appear on the schedule at a more opportune time.
     
  2. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    It isnt the line!! its the RB cuz TEd didnt go an get any big time FA...


    ** end of sarcasm***
     
  3. dhpackr

    dhpackr Cheesehead

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    Clifton & Tauch are drive blockers, not cut blockers.
    scrap the ZBS, it does not fit this o-line.
    Colledge is a drive blocking T, not a cut blocking G
    TT tried to replace an excellent pulling G, with a drive blocking T.
    I never bought into it, never , ever thought colledge was in the same class as wahle, and the running game has suffered ever since TT let an excellent offensive linemen out of GB!
    it is really easy, but hey GB is 5-1 so who really cares!
     
  4. dhpackr

    dhpackr Cheesehead

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    it is not the line, it is the wrong scheme, for the players that make up the o-line.

    it is a drive blocking o-line, not a cut blocking line
    end of story
    thanks TT
     
  5. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    to play devil's advocate, my response would be "scrap the linemen, they don't fit the scheme." growing pains are going to happen.
     
  6. yooperfan

    yooperfan Cheesehead

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    Sack the ZBS------next year!
     
  7. millertime

    millertime Cheesehead

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    My faith in the ZBS is definitely fading. It been a year and a half and thing haven't clicked.

    The idea of the ZBS held a lot of promise. I loved the idea of teaming Favre with a powerful running game like the ones that were seen in Denver and Atlanta. I also loved the idea of a system where any back was supposed to be able to succeed.

    The player get a lot of blame, but there has to be some serious coahing problems since ALL of our guys our struggling. There is one thing that a lot of people ignore. I think the departure of Jeff Jagodzinski has really hurt our offensive linemen (He is tearing it up with Boston College right now!)

    Unless we can lure Alex Gibbs out of retirement, scrapping the ZBS might not be a bad idea.

    Colledge and Spitz were both drive blockers in college. Taush and Cliffy both know how to drive block. Wells was drafted when we were still drive blocking. Barbre has the size and strength to drive block. The only o-linemen who might be not fit drive blocking would be Coston and Moll.

    I am willing to wait until the end of the season to see if our guys can finally "get" the ZBS. We'll need to start running in those home games in December and January.
     
  8. dhpackr

    dhpackr Cheesehead

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    why wait till Dec?
    change the running scheme now.
     
  9. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    Ahman and his 1000+ yards last year might disagree.

    The difference is Clifton and Tauscher are playing like ****.
     
  10. millertime

    millertime Cheesehead

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    I don't think 1000 yard seasons are that impressive anymore now that the season is 16 games long.

    That's only averaging 62.5 yards per game. Besides, it just seemed like last year we could not run when we really needed to.

    Clifton and Tauscher and Wells and Spitz and Coston and Colledge are all playing like like **** (while run blocking).
     
  11. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

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    Haven't the seasons been 16 games long for a couple decades? I mean, 'anymore now'? It's not like it was just changed last year or anything.
     
  12. all about da packers

    all about da packers Cheesehead

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    To add to that, Ahman didn't play all 16 games last year (he played 14).


    ...


    I'm starting to hope more and more that the Packers are able to get someone with solid experience teaching (and having subsequent success) in a ZB scheme.

    I'd love someone who has had a solid 3-4 years in a system where the cut blocks have been executed nicely and the running game has been strong.

    Someone from Denver, or Atlanta, or the guru Alex Gibbs himself.

    I wonder what Jags has to say about our run blocking execution right now... I'd love to hear his insight into just why our line is dreadful in run blocking.
     
  13. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    i guess only time will tell, when clifton is gone,etc.

    till then....lets nitpick and not focus on being 5-1.
     
  14. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    I agree on all points, especially the Jagodzinski thing, and I also agree on your later point about 1,000 yard rushers. If a RB gains 1,000 yards it basically means he started for an entire season or nearly all of a season.

    It would probably be hard to scrap that ZBS in midseason, especially when the team is doing so well overall, but they could at least mix in some conventional running plays. They even did that a bit toward the end of last season, running the occasional sweep, but it's been all ZBS--and all crap--so far this season.
     
  15. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    I like the idea of mixing it in..But would that make the true ZB even more confusing?

    Last year w/o Green the team ( well just VM and Heron) averaged 4.4 yards per carry, that is not bad at all..

    so what has changed?? Jags is gone as others have mentioned.

    could the team legally call Jags up and say what the hell is going on?
     
  16. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    that's a really good question.
     

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