In our final film room breakdown of the week, we take a look at Ryan Kelly’s ability to block at the second level. To this point, we’ve examined his performance as a pass blocker, as an inside run blocker, and in pulling situations. Each of these skills is important but one of the most challenging requirements for linemen, and potentially one of the most valuable, is the ability to place an effective block at the second level.
It is one thing to place a block when pulling down the line, it is another to enter open space against smaller, more agile and more athletic players at the second level. Let’s take a look at how Kelly did in this aspect of the game against the Raiders.
As with each of our film room pieces, I start with the worst and most ineffective snaps. Here, Kelly explodes into space but overshoots his mark and finds himself out of position. This gave the linebackers a clean lane to hit Marlon Mack as he burst through the line.
Kelly does a better job of getting to an appropriate depth downfield before he pivots to get a block at the second level. He does enough to re-route and otherwise occupy the defenders for Marlon Mack to get into the secondary. If Anthony Castonzo and Jack Doyle do a better job on the edge, Mack would have only a safety to beat with a lot of green in front of him.
As with pulling blocks, it is easy for fans to create an unrealistic expectation in their heads. Kelly doesn’t need to pancake a defender or lock on to shove a player completely out of the play. He needs to re-route, slow down, or impede the flow of the defense long enough for the ball carrier to move freely to the next level.
This play is a prime example of doing what needs to be done. He re-routes the linebacker just enough for Hines to squeeze through without being meaningfully bothered by the defender.
While much of the work on this play is done on the left side of the offensive line, and by Jack Doyle who gets an excellent outside kick to open up a massive running lane, Kelly does his job to the inside. He gets to the second level, impedes the flow of the linebacker toward the running lane, and gets two shots on him to keep him from having any chance to impact the play.
This play breaks down because rookie left guard Quenton Nelson is unable to gain outside leverage on P.J. Hall (#92) when the ball is snapped. However, Kelly does an excellent job of reading the linebackers and quickly dipping his hips only a couple of yards down the field.
He acts as a wall that keeps Marquel Lee (#55) and Clinton McDonald (#97) from having any chance to make a play. If Nelson wins here and Mack doesn’t have to jump over 600 pounds of football player, he could have been into the secondary with a ton of space to cut the run back to the inside.
You would like to see Kelly stay on his feet on this play. He took a great angle to get a body on Jason Cabinda (#53) (by the way, what in the sweet lord has Jon Gruden done to this team — who are these guys?) but losing his balance allows Cabinda to release and get back into pursuit. Mark Glowinsi (#64) is unable to maintain outside leverage on Hall (#92) who again disrupts an outside run. Kelly’s block didn’t make or break the play.
This clip shows the challenge for massive linemen engaging players in space. If the linebacker is patient, like Tahir Whitehead (#59) on this play, it is difficult to sustain a block in space. There is so much room to the right and left for Whitehead to escape that the best you can hope to do here is slow him down long enough for the play to get past him.
A number of failures occur on this play. Mark Glowinski’s inability to redirect Lee (#55) impacts the flow of the play and forces the ball carrier to bounce the play to the outside. Eric Ebron gets completely blown up by Johnathan Hankins (#90), no surprise, and that closes the hole where the play was supposed to go. This was supposed to be a run inside of right tackle Braden Smith but it is bounced outside because the play broke down.
Ryan Kelly put together an impressive performance in each phase of the game against the Oakland Raiders. He does a good job of putting himself in proper position to give the ball carrier an advantage on the ground and has been a big part of leading an offensive line that has not allowed a sack in over three games. After taking at look at his tape, it isn’t hard to understand why offensive line coach Dave Deguglielmo thinks so highly of him.