Throughout the preseason, Quenton Nelson has showed some very positive attributes. His biggest pass blocking strengths have been showing a strong anchor and winning battles any time he is able square up a defender. His biggest weakness has been battling lateral quickness, particularly when he doesn’t have a chance to get his paws on the defender immediately.
We will close out our Week 3 look at Nelson’s performance by examining his pass blocking from the weakest to strongest snaps against the 49ers.
This is an example of Nelson’s primary weakness as a pass blocker. When he does not engage a defender early in the snap, he is susceptible to losing against speed. He will need to continue working to improve this area of his game to become an elite pass blocker. There are plenty of starting defensive linemen in the NFL who have the combination of strength and speed needed to exploit this weakness during the regular season.
Here, Nelson is left to simply grab at the defender’s jersey to keep Luck from getting killed.
This is one of the funnier holds I have ever seen breaking down film. The defensive lineman gains leverage with a bull rush right off of the snap. Nelson is able to stymie his progress into the backfield but as he does the defender leaps into the air — in an attempt to potentially bat down a Luck pass. When the defender lands, his legs get tangled up with Nelson, who realizes he is going to go down. Rather than allow the defensive lineman get free, Nelson tackles him to the ground.
There was no holding called on the play but Nelson clearly got away with one here.
One of Nelson’s best pass blocking attributes is his ability to anchor and keep pressure from coming right into the face of the quarterback. He is attempting to do the same on this play but takes a shot from the defender into his face-mask. This is illegal use of the hands, hands to the face and should have been a penalty. It wasn’t though, and the result is Brissett throwing a quick release to Nyheim Hines — who is summarily crushed.
This play demonstrates what you will most often see from Nelson in terms of his anchor and strength on the line. Coming directly into his grasp is almost always a losing proposition. The only effective bull rushes I’ve seen of Nelson have included hands locked out on his shoulder pads or illegal hands to his face.
If you don’t achieve one of those two objectives, you’re going to lose.
This is another example where the defender comes directly into Nelson and then tries to navigate out of the block. This isn’t going to happen. Once Nelson is in a defender’s chest and the initial impact is established, the defender is pretty much done.
As we acknowledged in the ground game, one of Nelson’s best attributes as an offensive lineman is the ability to quickly diagnose how to address oncoming defenders. He efficiently passes off the first defender to Haeg on the outside and moves back to the inside to thwart the stunt.
Here is another example of incredible vision and quick reaction by Nelson. This kind of awareness will make life much easier for Luck in 2018. Nelson dismisses the initial burst from the defensive lineman and pass him inside to Kelly and Braden Smith. He recognizes the stunt and moves back to the outside to take over for Le’Raven Clark, freeing him to slide outside and get a body on the stunting defensive end.
If the offensive line can establish continuity and communicate like this in the regular season, it will bode well for the Colts passing offense.
This is easily my favorite play from Nelson this year. What you’re watching here is All Pro level, rare offensive line play. Note that Nelson identifies that his defender is heading to the inside. He gets a push to pass him off and simultaneously identifies pressure coming from the outside. You can see his head turn at the pause. What makes him a very rare athlete for his size, and such a tremendous offensive line prospect, is what he does next.
Nelson explodes back toward the outside pressure to help Joe Haeg. Good thing he does because Haeg is getting driven back into Luck’s blind side. Braden Smith gets completely demolished on the bull rush to his right, making Luck leave the pocket anyway, but this is a long first down run for Luck that was made possible by Quenton Nelson. If Nelson isn’t on the Colts, this is likely a sack or strip sack.
Quenton Nelson is a phenomenal offensive line prospect. He is not without his flaws and will have areas he needs to improve throughout the early portions of his career but if he can stay healthy, he will be an absolutely dominant force.
Nelson does things that very few offensive linemen do. He does those things because very few offensive linemen are aware enough to even realize they should do those things, and of those that do, even fewer are athletically gifted enough to do them in the first place. This was the best all around film Nelson has put together in his young career, which is a great sign for the Indianapolis Colts as the team prepares to start the regular season.