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Film Room: Quenton Nelson run blocking vs. San Francisco 49ers, Preseason Week 3

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

In what is known as the regular season dress rehearsal game, Quenton Nelson continued to hold down his starting spot at left guard. He played for the entire first half and spent time with Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. He played next to Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark at left tackle. Starting center Ryan Kelly played to his inside for the entire half.

As we have throughout the preseason, we took a look at Nelson’s performance in both phases of the offense. We start with the running game and move from the weakest plays to the strongest.

Honestly, Nelson didn’t have a weak snap as a run blocker. This is the best I could pull out from the film as a potential opportunity.

His initial chip is on a defender to the back side of the play who otherwise doesn’t have a chance to make a play on the ball carrier. Nelson gets to the second level but fails to find anyone to block until after the play is essentially over.

In reality, there was no one for him to block. It’s sort of impressive that he crossed to the opposite side of the field in an attempt to seal a lane before Christine Michael made his way past the line of scrimmage.

While this isn’t a particularly spectacular play, Nelson is able to gain inside leverage on the defender with some help from Ryan Kelly. They move the left side of the defensive line and open up a huge lane behind them. Unfortunately, J’Marcus Webb and Darrell Daniels fail miserably to effectively block on the back side of the play so there is very little room for Michael to run.

What I like about plays like this is that Nelson quickly recognizes what he needs to do. He chips the defensive tackle directly into Kelly’s grasp and moves to the second level. Joe Haeg is unable to seal the end, which collapses the lane that Nelson just created.

It is also worth noting that Marlon Mack might have taken this play for a touchdown. There is a massive lane to the outside of Haeg and for some reason the running back doesn’t even see it. Mack’s “bounce it outside” tendencies will abuse the crap out of defenses who attempt to squeeze and send linebackers on run blitzes to the inside.

This is one of the most important blocks an offensive lineman can make on a run to the opposite side. Nelson is able to gain leverage on the defensive lineman and throw his hips to the play side. He has effectively sealed the backside of the run, which would have otherwise opened a nice running lane.

Unfortunately for Nyheim Hines, Webb doesn’t seal the linebacker and Braden Smith doesn’t gain outside leverage on the play-side defensive tackle.

This play should come right into the hole Quenton Nelson creates when he blows the defender off of the line of scrimmage. As fans have learned to expect of Nelson, once he gets the defender off balance he doesn’t stop until he is eating turf.

This is a safety run blitz that blew up the play with no chance. This was not the fault of the offensive line — at least not a player on the offensive line. This is a schematic limitation to single-back offenses. Ebron whiffs on his “block” on Reuben Foster as well so it likely would have failed for more than one reason.

In the regular season, when the offensive play-calling isn’t as vanilla, play-action becomes a much bigger threat. Try this blitz and guess wrong? You give up an easy touchdown to Chester Rogers on a seam route.

This is another example of how Nelson will have a positive impact on the running game. He chips the defensive tackle into Kelly and gets to the next level. For some reason, Hines just runs into a pile and fails to recognize the clean running lane off left tackle. Ryan Grant was playing patty-cake with the corner in this case but you have to think Mack running the ball here results in a big gain.

One of the biggest challenges for offensive linemen when they get to the second level is having the agility to be effective in space. In this case, Nelson moves quickly to the second level and punishes the safety, forcing him inside. He rolls off of that block to drive the linebacker three or four yards downfield.

If Chester Rogers throws a block on the corner, instead of crashing down, there could be a nice running lane down the left sideline.

While this play is stopped at the line of scrimmage in a mess of bodies, primarily due to the failure of Eric Ebron to seal the end, watch Nelson go to work here. If you can imagine a situation where the right end/outside linebacker isn’t allowed to get all the way into the running lane, you have a chance to run into a three-yard-wide gap with Quenton Nelson driving the bus at the second level.

These plays are really close to being big gain opportunities for the running backs.


When Anthony Castonzo and Marlon Mack return to the football field, there will be chances for some electric plays on the ground. It is truly stunning how the preseason can be a mirage when you start looking at the film and see why and how plays break down. This isn’t to suggest that the regular season will start and everything will be perfect, but it is to suggest that relatively minor fixes can have a massive result on the outcome of the play.

Quenton Nelson had another impressive performance and looked very comfortable playing next to Ryan Kelly. This game, more than the previous two, showed some chemistry between the two interior offensive lineman that should inspire cautious optimism from Colts faithful.