One of the most highly contested position groups for the Indianapolis Colts is the offensive line. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been under duress far too much during his young career and he is without a doubt the most important piece of the team’s chances to succeed.
After numerous signings and attempts to fix the offensive line primarily through free agency, former General Manager Ryan Grigson finally got serious about addressing the problem in the 2016 NFL Draft. He drafted four offensive linemen and three of those offensive linemen were starting by the end of the year.
One year earlier, Grigson added a project offensive lineman with the second to last pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Denzelle Good was a “Grigson special,” in that no one covering the draft had any notes to share on the Mars Hill prospect. Grigson referred to him as a “dancing bear” who had the attributes that could lead him to have success in the NFL.
Unsurprisingly, he didn’t have many opportunities in his rookie season. In 2016, however, he split the majority of snaps at right guard with Joe Haeg. In fact, when he was healthy, he got the start with Haeg or Joe Reitz starting on his outside.
Heading into his third season in the NFL, Good will once again have an opportunity to fight for a starting spot. Before he gets that chance, we will take a look at his performance.
A common theme in much of our analysis of the offensive line has been on showing strength, anchor, and getting push. We’ve seen Joe Haeg and Anthony Castonzo struggle to anchor a bit and Jack Mewhort stand out in this area.
If you’re looking for a guard who is very difficult to move off of his spot and who displays professional level strength and power, Good (#71) is your guy.
The player lined up across from him? Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe (#92). Good handles Poe one-on-one and keeps him from making any meaningful progress into the pocket.
If simply holding Poe from penetrating is a sight to see, watch Good deliver an initial blow on this play that gets Poe on his heels, followed by an aggressive push that leaves Poe finding himself 3 yards off of the line.
Of course, while strength and anchor are important, it is equally important to show vision and agility as a part of as offensive line unit. On this play, Good does a great job of mirroring Poe and passing him to Reitz (#76) before moving back to his inside to pick up Jaye Howard (#96).
Another important part of offensive line play is using your hands properly and countering the player across from you. In this play Good shows something that was consistent on his film, when he gets his hands on a player and wins on initial contact, he does a fine job controlling the rest of the engagement.
Here, Jaye Howard attempts to spin to the outside but he gets too far into Good’s body before he makes his move. Good stays engaged and pushes Howard away from the pocket.
The counter to a player with Good’s size and strength is to use speed off of the snap to stay away from his body. In this case, Poe quickly swats away Good’s reach and rips through to get a hit on Luck.
If Good wishes to be an NFL starter he will need to work on plays like this one. At 6’5”, 355 lbs he has the anchor to deal with the biggest and strongest defensive tackles in the league. The question is, can he learn the technique that he requires to combat athletic moves like this one?
This play demonstrates another weakness. Too often Good gets off balance against athletic players.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches (#95) gets his hands outside of Good and starts to gain traction. Good’s response is to kick his legs back in an attempt to regain leverage. When he does this, he gets off balance as his upper body is leaning too far forward.
Nunez-Roches simply stops driving forward and uses his hands to help Good continue falling forward. Good is left to grab at his ankles and is called for holding. This negates a touchdown pass.
On the next drive, Good again faces Nunez-Roches and loses on initial contact. Learning a bit from getting off balance as he did on the previous play, he attempts to reset his anchor but his shoulders get back over his heels and his again loses balance.
Nunez-Roches finishes off his push and tosses Good aside for a sack. It is worth noting that he started this game in dominant fashion but appeared to wear down later in the game.
Another area where it is likely Good will struggle is in space. Here Good puts all of his attention into Nunez-Roches and fails to pass off the block to Reitz early enough. The result is a stunt by Dee Ford in the wide gap left by Good who is too late to recover.
The final attribute that Good showed a few times is that he will disengage from his block a little too soon. There is no doubt that Derrick Morgan (#91) is an athletic defender who is capable of winning with his pass rush moves. Still, you can’t help but think that if Good was stronger at initial contact he could have kept Morgan in front of him.
Good shows really solid attributes that he can build upon as he heads into his third season. If you’re looking for a brutish blocker who shows the ability to anchor against the biggest and strongest interior linemen in the NFL, Good is your man.
Importantly, his best attributes are ones that cannot be taught. He is noticeably bigger and stronger than any other lineman on the Colts roster.
If he can work on his technique against athletic defenders; if he can improve his balance and maybe drop a little weight to be more agile; and if he can continue working on his ability to recognize when to pass a block off to his teammates so he can knock pass rushers off of their pursuit on stunts, he can make a strong case for a starting spot.
If not, if he only manages to improve in a couple of those areas, he can still develop into solid depth.
Pre-Draft Look at Colts Offensive Line Series: