Today, we continue our analysis of first round rookie left guard Quenton Nelson. He has immediately stepped into a starting spot and his development will play a significant role in offensive line’s improvement in 2018.
Nelson had a strong debut against the Seattle Seahawks, particularly against the run. This week he was on the field for 14 running plays and was neutral or strong on 11 of them. We highlight six plays below, including 3 strong and 3 weak.
Nelson comes out of his stance and is unable to square up the defender across from him. Instead, the defender slips outside and into the backfield. While he doesn’t make the tackle for a loss, he forces Christine Michael to side-step and take the play to his right. It is also worth noting that Jack Doyle didn’t put a body on the edge defender, forcing Michael to stay inside and pick up yards instead of bouncing the run to the outside.
While right guard Matt Slauson is more to blame for the failure of the run on this play, Nelson doesn’t win against his defender either. He is immediately driven back at the snap and is playing catch-up with the defender laterally the whole way. Michael has no cut-back lane because Nelson never gains an advantage.
It is hard to knock Nelson too hard on this run as the defender recognized the play direction and beat him to the outside. It would be extremely impressive if Nelson was able to beat the defender to the spot and gain leverage but the play is too far outside for the defender to make a play on the ball anyway.
To this point in the season, Nelson has looked best in two scenarios. The first, when he is pulling on an outside run to the right. The second, anytime the Colts call an inside run.
Here, Nelson dominates his man at the point of attack and controls him from the snap to the whistle. It is an easy decision for Michael to run right off of the backside of Nelson to gains four yards.
Unlike the earlier play, Nelson is able to gain outside leverage on a run to the right here. His ability to seal the interior defender creates a lane for Michael to gain three yards.
Here, Nelson again dominates the defender at the line of scrimmage and controls him through the whistle. It allows Jordan Wilkins to run to the inside and pickup seven yards on first down.
Nelson’s dominance also allow Ryan Kelly to quickly release to the second level, getting a body on a linebacker and allowing Wilkins to gain extra yards.
Even against a tough interior defensive line that features three players over 320 pounds, including well-respected interior defender Brandon Williams, Nelson had a solid game. He didn’t dominate quite as much against the Ravens as he did against the Seahawks on the ground but the run calls were also more vanilla — as were most of the active running backs. He wasn’t asked to pull and seal for his backs in this game and spent more time in a phone booth.
His primary issue continues to be occasionally giving up leverage outside of his frame. If he can consistently play with better balance as he engages a defender, he will get even better. For now, we’ll keep nit-picking.