O-Back: Integration, Football Style

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Ball carriers and offensive linemen have different jobs. They have independent skill sets that are needed to help a football team succeed. Although these skill sets are independent of each other, they don’t have to remain mutually exclusive to each group.

Walter Jones, a former offensive lineman with the Seattle Seahawks, will probably be in the NFL Football Hall of Fame. He was one of the best offense lineman with his combination of size, power, and speed. Marshawn Lynch, a running back presently with the Seattle Seahawks, is a beast because he brings size, power, and speed to his position. I am not sure if Marshawn will become a hall of famer, but I am certain that he will be in the Seahawks Ring of Honor.

Walter Jones is a big powerful man. These attributes are typical and needed to be a dominant offensive lineman in the NFL. However, what is not typical about Walter are his quick precise feet. His feet help him put his defensive assignment in complete lock-down. Marshawn Lynch has great speed, quickness, and vision like most exceptional running backs in the NFL. What sets Marshawn apart from most other elite running backs is his formidable power. He is able to consistently move the pile several yards after defensive contact has been made. He has established himself as a genuine beast on the football field.

Ball carriers are trained to be shifty and elusive. The good ones can anticipate a defender’s movements and use the defender’s body weight against him whether contact had been made with him or not. Most ball carriers work best in an open space where the running lanes are larger and more accessible. Only a small number of ball carriers deal well with tight crowded area running situations where the running lanes are narrow and less accessible.

Marshawn’s wide base helps him establish a firm center of gravity and maintain great balance in tight spots. An offensive lineman has to move and / or maintain control of his defensive assignment. His job requires a combination of power and speed. Power is important in the process, but speed is essential in order to maintain control. Superior foot speed made Walter Jones special. He could maintain control of his defensive assignment for a longer period of time than other lineman. The defensive player who cannot disengage from a lineman like Walter Jones, who could push a Cadillac up a steep hill, would have problems doing his job well.

Offensive linemen and ball carriers should cross train with another at least once a week, because each group has a skill set that would benefit the other group. Ball carriers would benefit from training with offensive linemen because they would attain more power by pushing sleds and going head-to-head against bigger stronger offensive lineman in controlled practice drills. The desired result would be that ball carriers develop wider bases like offensive linemen and Marshawn Lynch. It would help them run powerfully in tight crowded spaces on the field. Ball carriers could simply readjust to a typical narrow base once they got into the open field. In addition, ball carriers asked to block larger defensive linemen. Wouldn’t it be great if these ball carriers had some of the requisite training to block them effectively? It would sure make some quarterbacks happier.

Offensive linemen would benefit from cross training, because their feet would become quicker. Ladder and quick-cut ball carrier drills would help the linemen control their defensive assignments better. Linemen could stay engaged with defensive players for longer periods of time. Just like the ball carriers, the linemen would learn to anticipate where their defensive assignments are going and to perfect the footwork needed to beat them to the spot. In addition, coaches might discover a linemen with legitimate ball carrying skills who could be used in a jumbo package situation.

At times, I am tempted to yell out, ” Coaches, coaches, please don’t wait. You need to integrate. Linemen can learn to fully anticipate and ball carriers can use a wider gate.” Sure, linemen and ball carrier skills are separate but not equal; however, a little integration, here and there, is needed to win football championships.

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