For Chance Warmack, this is next-level stuff on … well, multiple levels.
The Tennessee Titans’ first-round draft pick already has learned that blocking schemes in the NFL are a step up from what they were in college. But it’s the ability of the 10th overall selection to get off the line of scrimmage at the snap and block a linebacker at what is considered the second level of the defense that figures to help make those schemes work this season.
“Since I’ve been here, I’m starting to understand that there are certain weeks where the guards are going to be responsible for covering the linebackers, and that’s what I pride myself on,” Warmack told The Nashville Post on Thursday. “It was good to hit a few linebackers [in the first two preseason games] and start to get the technique again.
“It’s fun once you get it. It’s like solving a puzzle. I did some good things [Thursday] at practice and I felt happy about it.”
Logic dictates that someone the size of Warmack – he is 6-foot-2, 323 pounds – would find it difficult to operate amidst so many other big players along the line. However, because of his bulk the Titans’ starting right guard actually has certain advantages over left guard Andy Levitre, Tennessee’s highest-priced free agent of the offseason who is 6-2, 303.
“[Warmack is] a big man, so it’s hard for defensive linemen to knock him off his course,” coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, said. “… It’s harder to grab someone his size [and] keep him there. He does a good job when he’s pushing off to climb to the next level.”
Of course, getting there is just half the battle.
Then he has to get in the way of a linebacker, who typically is 50 pounds or more lighter and has a running start. Or maybe his job is to find a defensive back.
Regardless of who it is, it’s not as if anyone waves him over and invites him to wipe them out.
“Last week [against Cincinnati] he chased the wrong guy a couple times, but it happened to be plays where it actually helped us rather than hurt us by accident,” Munchak said. “That’s part of it with him identifying who he’s working to so he doesn’t chase people he doesn’t need to. But, he’s done a good job. He’s getting better every time out there, and we’ve been running a lot and that’s been more to his strength.”
The idea is know and to locate the intended target before the ball is snapped. Yet even that is not as simple as it sounds.
Warmack said at the University of Alabama, he and his fellow offensive linemen each pointed out the player for whom they were responsible once they got into position along the line. When the ball was snapped, that was who they blocked.
That becomes more complicated in the NFL as defenses change their personnel and their fronts and try to outnumber – and overwhelm – the blockers.
Those blockers, at the same time, engage in a certain amount of deception as well. Warmack, for example, might identify a player pre-snap but the action might immediately dictate that he let that player go for the fullback to block. Other times, he’ll simply engage the man in front of him and let the fullback go find a linebacker.
“You have to check who’s in the box, whether it’s three guys or two guys,” Warmack said. “From there, you’ve got your number count. That’s basically what I’ve been going over in my head because we’re getting crisper on that. When you understand who you have after the snap, the faster you can move.
“I think I’m starting to understand who we have better than I did the first two preseason games. I think [Saturday against Atlanta] I’m going to be moving a lot quicker because I’m understanding the concept better. … [Identifying] who we have on the second level is the second most important thing to do.”
Winning right at the line of scrimmage, which allows him to get to the next level, is the most important.
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