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.
As we discussed in Part I of our series breaking down Denzelle Good (#71), he is a brutish blocker. In the ground game, he is the kind of mauler that can open up big holes.
On this play he shows the agility to pull down the line to get a backside seal for Gore up the middle. I’d imagine coming around the edge to see the eclipse that is left by Good is the last thing Texans linebacker Bernardrick McKinney (#55) wants to see.
On this play, Good teams with Ryan Kelly (#78) to blow Dontari Poe (#92) back off of the line and open up a hole for Gore. Even when Kelly comes off of Poe, Good carries his momentum and keeps Poe on skates.
Here is another shot of Good stopping Poe and teaming with Reitz (#76) to blast him backwards. The pull from Haeg (#73) is effective as well and generates a strong push for Gore to gain yards.
After the last couple of plays you might be thinking, “it is great that Good can get push on the ground with help from Kelly and Reitz but what can he do on his own?”
Here he is again one-on-one against Poe and drives him completely out of the play.
The greatest injustice of this entire breakdown for Good as a run blocker is that it doesn’t have nearly enough film from the Colts overtime loss in Houston. In this game, he played a huge role in helping Gore run for 106 yards and averaging 4.8 a carry.
This play shows his strength and ability to own defenders when he comes off of the line. In this case, the defender crumples in front of him.
As you might already know, one of my favorite attributes for offensive linemen in the ground game is to get a seal, especially when the the defensive line is attempting to push laterally to disrupt running lanes. We will find that Good is inconsistent in this area but on this play he is able to push back against Vince Wilfork (#75) enough to allow Gore to get through the hole for a 7 yard run.
On this play, however, Good shows the lack of balance we discussed in our breakdown of his abilities as a pass blocker. His momentum gets moving enough that Al Woods (#96) pushes him right into the hole.
Remember how I mentioned that Good sometimes disengages from his block a little early? This is another example.
Here he does a reasonably good job with his initial push on Poe but it seems like he was either expecting Ryan to stay on the block or for Gore to already be passed him.
Don’t get me wrong, Poe is a strong nose tackle and can beat very good offensive linemen but I still get the impression that if Good drives through Poe off of the snap instead of attempting to just punch and hold him, he could have kept him from getting to Gore from the inside.
Once again, Good has Nunez-Roches (#95) in excellent position. Initially, he gets a strong seal, turns Nunez-Roches out of the play and then simply lets him go. Somehow, despite a very strong start on the block, #95 is in on the tackle.
While this presents fairly balanced view of Good’s abilities as a run blocker, I want to be clear that Good wins more often than not. He is not an agile player and will be more effective on runs inside the tackles than he will be on getting to the second level but he played an important role in helping get the ground game going pretty consistently.
More importantly, I still feel as I did following the analysis of his pass blocking. You cannot teach his size and ability to maul defenders. You can teach him to improve his technique when he is trying to seal on lateral runs and work on getting him to maintain his block to the end of the play — unless he is supposed to disengage to get to the second level.
Good will be will be entering his third season with the chance to continue improving. If he does, he could get the chance to start again in 2017.
Pre-Draft Look at Colts Offensive Line Series: