As a precursor to evaluating offensive linemen for the 2015 NFL Draft, I'd like to set a basis for comparison by grading some current Browns offensive linemen on the same criteria and scale I will be using on the draft prospects. First up: Michael Bowie, a player who was acquired by the Browns when he was waived/injured by the Seahawks at the beginning of August in an attempt to put him on their injured reserve list.
Position = OT
Feet = 8
Flexibility = 5
Balance = 5
Anchor = 6
Power = 6
Hands = 10
Recovery = 7
Agility = 8
Range = 6
Quickness = 8
Vs. Speed = 9
Vs. Power = 7
Vs. Counter = 6
NFL Readiness = 8
* Flexibility refers to the ability to bend and, consequently, to get good leverage. (Not position or scheme versatility.)
* Recovery refers to the ability to regain ones balance after losing it.
* Range is the player's ability to cover distances, not necessarily the same as speed or motor.
* Vs Speed/Power/Counter are how well player handles various types of pass rush moves.
* NFL Readiness includes knowledge, awareness, technique, etc.
In the images below, Michael Bowie is #73 and playing the right tackle position.
Bowie gives up pressure to Robert Mathis here, but still manages to widen and lengthen the arc to the quarterback against arguably the league's best rusher at dipping and bending around the corner.
He has a much easier time against a blitzing linebacker, displaying the footwork and quickness to cut off the rusher with his kick slide.
Here's another look at his typical kick slide and use of his hands versus a speed rush.
This play might not have been much of a challenge due to tight end help, but it's still a fine demonstration of his quickness and fluid movement skills:
He's quick enough to catch this free rusher and shove him beyond the quarterback:
Flips his hips and changes direction very well for a 330-pound man.
Shows off his agility, quickness, and foot speed coming off a chip on the defensive end and still being able to catch up to the blitzing defensive back and ride him out of the play.
Bowie has rather poor balance but good turning ability.
Leans to get leverage when blocking the 3-4 defensive end rather than bending. He just doesn't have the flexibility to get as low as the defender. He still has an opportunity to win this engagement due to getting both hands into the defender's chest, but he needs to deliver a shove to stall the DE's momentum before the end shoves him.
He fails. The end shoves his outside shoulder first and Bowie pitches forward because he was leaning into his block rather than sinking his hips and keeping his feet under him.
Here he is versus power again, this time out on the edge against an outside linebacker. He gets to his spot on time and is in good position to make the block. He manages to stall the rusher's momentum but is thrown off balance himself in the attempt. This is once again an issue of flexibility and, as a result, leverage. He's far more than a turnstile or even a speed bump against power on the edge but he's also nothing close to hitting a brick wall.
Again facing power, Bowie displays his anchor. It's unimpressive but often adequate.
When Michael Bowie fails to get good hand placement, he can be walked back into the backfield with relative ease. On this play, his hands end up on the rusher's shoulder pads and he gives up his chest to the defender.
The pass rusher starts with an outside rush and then counters inside and across Bowie's face. He loses his balance and gives up pressure to the inside. Dealing with counter moves is his biggest weakness. This is due to his poor balance which is caused by his habit of leaning into blocks to get leverage to make up for poor flexibility.
His balance limitations also show up against secondary rushes. If a defender gets 5 or 6 seconds or more to continue his rush, Bowie won't be able to prevent the coverage sack. He just can't keep up with his man for that long, he'll lose him in space.
And here's an example of Bowie's greatest strength: using his quick and strong hands in pass protection versus speed rushes. The outside linebacker gets a hand to his chest. Bowie hits his upper arm with both hands causing the defender's hand to slip. Then Bowie buries him in the turf.
Again he chops the rusher's arm away and stalls his speed rush:
More chop and drop, this time on the forearm before the rusher can touch him:
He also likes to place his hands on the defender's shoulder pads, just touching them for a split second (and not long enough to draw a holding flag), and then rake away along his upper arms in an attempt to make him pitch forward. (The image below is slowed down a bit to make viewing easier.)
He fails to notice the blitzing linebacker here, though this was a rare occurrence with him.
Here on the backside of an outside zone read play, he locks on to the backside end and the running back cuts in behind him.
He's not quick enough off the snap to make this backside cut block:
He does a little better on this one but is still unable to take out the tackle.
This time they go back to making use of what Bowie can do on backside, the back makes a backside cut in behind him.
On the following two plays, he makes his backside blocks.
He looks a lot better out on the playside. He gets out on the edge and takes his man out of the play.
Again on the playside of an outside zone run, he gets a nice push to take out the edge contain defender.
The end beats him in space on the playside this time. The defender gets his hands on Bowie's shoulder pads and pushes off to release at the ballcarrier.
He turns the end out of the play on the playside of an inside zone run, springing the back for a nice gain. He attacks the defensive end, shoving him wide and upfield with his heavy hands.
This time on the playside, Bowie releases to the second level and takes out the inside linebacker. He brings the same agility, violent hands, and aggression he displays in pass protection.
What is special about this player?
- Hands - He has an excellent punch to stall rusher's momentum and then lock them out. He also has a variety of chop, rake, and shove moves to gain the advantage against rushers.
- Agility, Feet, Turning Ability - He is well-coordinated, very athletic, and light on his feet for a player over 330 pounds.
- Very Active Hands - Not only does he have good hands but he has quicker reactions and much more active hands than most offensive linemen. Instead of just delivering a single punch or shove, he has a habit of delivering series of chops, shoves, and punches in tight combos.
Does he have any glaring weaknesses?
- Flexibility, Bend, Leverage, Leaning, Balance - He has poor flexibility and bends at the waist to compensate. He can be caught leaning and get shoved aside. When he doesn't lean, he is susceptible to being driven back.
- Facing Counter Moves - Directly related to the above problem, he can be caught selling out to defend one move and leave himself vulnerable to a counter.
- Range - Bowie has good quickness in a short area but low top speed. This limits his ability to get into the second level or out to the sideline.
Plan for his development?
- Work on discipline and patience to cut down on his lunging and leaning to make contact.
- Encourage him to trust his technique and play within his limitations.
- Work on his leverage to improve his anchor and functional strength.
- Improve snap anticipation. He's a little slow off the ball.
How does he fit in with the Browns?
- He could compete for the starting right tackle job.
- If he does see action at right tackle, he should be expected to fare well for the most part in pass protection, give up the occasional pressure versus counter moves, struggle some to reach his blocking assignments on outside zone runs, and excel on inside zone (and other related plays).
- He has not fared well at guard (struggled mightily in 1-on-1 pass protection against defensive tackles) and should not be counted on as depth at that position.