Quenton Nelson has been a force since entering the league via the 2018 NFL draft. Through the first five weeks of 2019, he’s undoubtedly established himself as the best interior offensive lineman in the league.
Nelson had an elite performance in Week 5 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Those who tuned into Sunday Night Football saw the Indianapolis Colts impose their will in the run game. When playing the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s best to keep Patrick Mahomes on the sideline, and running the football effectively can do just that.
According to the Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM), Nelson was in the realm of elite interior linemen play on Sunday. Each position has a specific set of techniques and objectives that they are graded on per play. The purpose of OSM is to determine a player’s contribution to his team. Every player is accountable for what they control on any given play. No longer are we subject to grading methods that speak to the result of the combined efforts of multiple players.
For run blocking, specifically, OSM looks at a player’s feet, upper body, hand placement, post-contact, and finishing blocks. This week’s film study will look at how Nelson uses his quickness, explosiveness, technique, and pure violence to dominate his opponents.
In this first clip, the Colts are running an inside zone concept. Nelson is in at left guard (right for the viewer). Each lineman/tight end is responsible for their play side gap. So Nelson is liable for the defender that plays the “A” gap to his right.
Nelson sees no immediate threat in his gap, so instead, he double teams the defensive lineman on his left before reaching to linebacker.
When speaking to offensive line play, it begins from the ground up. Nelson slides his right foot into his gap just in case the nose shaded weakside-A (#99) decides to cross the center’s face. His second step is the most significant. Nelson must drive his left foot vertical through the defender. If he hadn’t, he runs the risk of getting pushed down the line of scrimmage, which would result in the running back cutting back toward unblocked defenders.
After taking his second step vertical, Nelson must now press the tackle (#91) upfield while sustaining an eye on his gap. He does a great job of getting under the tackle’s pads and uses his left hand to raise the defender. Amid being engaged with the tackle, Nelson sees the middle backer (#56) step toward the play side-A gap, where he immediately reminds us of just how special he is.
How Nelson departs the block at the line is remarkable. He climbs to the second level quickly with a punch that sends the linebacker flying backward. This is a prime example of the swiftness and violence that makes Nelson such a special player.
The clip also highlights why OSM is the most accurate means of measuring an individual’s performance. A casual observer may think that Nelson makes a mistake by passing up on the play-side inside backer (#54). However, his assignment does not call for him to pick that guy up. This linebacker was supposed to be handled by one of the two tight ends to the left side of the offensive line.
This next clip displays a dart concept with ‘dart,’ meaning a tackle pull combined with man blocking assignments. Nelson (LG) and the center are accountable for both “A” gap players. For the given alignment, Nelson is tasked with double-teaming the 1-technique (#91) to the backside backer (#56).
He allows the 1-technique defender to attack the center, which leaves the Chiefs lineman in a compromising position. Nelson then does a great job of “knocking” the tackle over to the opposite “A” gap. By aiming low on the defender’s body (hip to ribs), Nelson can propel him. Then, Nelson’s able to leave the block and reach the linebacker, effectively running his feet on contact and finishes by putting the defender in the dirt.
For this week’s final clip, Nelson lateral steps in his gap and drives his right foot vertical through the defender while playing with great pad level. The center comes off to a filling linebacker. Nelson is able to take the lineman over and fits his hands inside on the defender.
He runs his feet and finishes by putting the defender on his back in the endzone. The rule for offensive lineman on the goal line is if you don’t score (get your feet in the endzone), then the running back won’t either. This was a great job of Nelson setting the tone and establishing his dominance.
As Russ Grimm once said, “There is no greater feeling than moving a man from point A to point B against his will.”
Make sure you’re getting the latest installment of The Trenches as a new offensive line film study drops every Friday with Matt Cannata, a contributor for Pro Football Network’s Film Room. You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Cannata.