We’ve followed a play against San Diego that demonstrated what Lou Tepper considered the essential skill of a linebacker - the shed (sometimes called stack-and-shed) maneuver. Today we’ll see new options in using it that saved the Broncos’ game.
The run goes right at DE Elvis Dumervil and will swing either inside or outside, depending on what the blocking gives to the running back. Doom is hand-fighting with TE Randy McMichael and trying to hold his position, while you can see above that McMichael is trying to turn Doom to the outside. It’s McMichael’s job to get and keep his helmet between Doom and the play.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1684356-film-room-the-shed-maneuv... Rolando McClain is coming through the C gap, isolated right on LB Wesley Woodyard. The right guard (then-Bolt Louis Vasquez, #65) and tackle (Jeromey Clary, #66) have double-teamed DT Kevin Vickerson (99) out of the play.
Woodyard isn’t attacking—he’s biding his time in the C gap with McClain in front of him. At this point, all the Broncos are covered. You’d expect a decent gain on the play.
Here’s where it all goes wrong. The fullback, McClain, goes directly at Woodyard, but shaded to the inside (to Woodyard’s right, toward the center). Wesley uses a basic shed technique—he lets McClain get into his body, then sheds him by extending his arms, not unlike a standing version of the bench press.
MLB Keith Brooking’s experience has him moving smoothly behind the LOS, out of the ‘trash’, and towards the ball-carrier, while Woodyard’s technique against McClain clogs the C gap and forces RB Jackie Battle to move outside Doom to get any yardage.
Above, Woodyard absorbs the impact of McClain’s attempted block with the right side of his body and will push off of him with his right arm, jumping into the C gap. A linebacker always tries to keep his outer arm free, so this is excellent technique by Woodyard. His leg is already partially blocking the gap, and the runner sees that happening.
Doom himself has used the force meant to turn him away from the RB and has turned McMichael like a steering wheel, forcing him to stand flat-footed and bent over to the right. McMichael has zero functional strength in that posture. Dumervil’s is shedding the TE by forcing him back onto his heels and bending him to the right—right out of the play.
Look at the running back’s feet above. He’s got to get around the right edge and in theory, being right on his blocker’s hip is exactly where he wants to be. That’s the problem with theory, though - it doesn’t always account for what really happens. In this case, Dumervil slides off of the TE’s block to the outside, Woodyard sheds McClain almost effortlessly, and Brooking crashes downhill to get in on the tackle.
I added the above screengrab because this is a small point, but it makes a big difference. Battle had to choose his lane, but was forced outside when McMichael couldn’t get his helmet between the RB and Doom. That means that the potential yardage from the play has just disappeared. Although the TE is still in contact with him, Doom’s left hand is already grasping at Battle’s right knee, and he’s moving in.
Also, McClain can’t get his helmet between Woodyard and Battle, in part because he tried to make the block on Woodyard’s wrong side. He should instead attack on Woodyard’s offensive right, not his left. As long has his helmet is in Woodyard’s way, Battle still has a chance. It’s impossible for McClain to stop the shed, recover, and get his helmet between the RB and the defender.
Brooking never has a blocker—and his run/pass recognition is perfect. The three Broncos that converge on Battle are quickly joined by safety Mike Adams. Adams opened his hips and back-pedaled to cover in case of play-action, then attacked the ball carrier. It’s no fun for Battle, as he is swarmed under with only a one-yard gain.
What drew me to this single play is that four major principles are demonstrated within it:
1. If you’re a linebacker, you want to keep your outside arm free (inside is the side toward the center). Woodyard is faultless on that one. You’ll often see players in college who always either block on one side, tackle on one side, or who take on blocks one-sided as McClain did. They don’t do well in the NFL unless they’re coached out of that tendency. Every pro player has to be effective bilaterally.
2. As a blocker, you have to keep your helmet between the ballcarrier and the defender. If you don’t, you’re much easier to shed, and you won’t be able to keep your ball carrier's uniform clean.
3. On a running play, the Mike (or any LB who’s backed off the LOS) should always shuffle his feet quickly without crossing them, parallel to the RB, until he’s sure of the RB’s route. At that point, he opens his hips and sprints toward the spot where his angle intersects the ball (presses). He’ll usually stop and square up right before contact to avoid being juked, but that’s unimportant if two other players are already coming into contact with the RB. Brooking’s quickness in reading run/pass makes him a part of this play—if others are blocked, he is ready to stop the run.
4.Leverage is essential to every player—Woodyard uses it on his shed technique, while Doom uses his shed in a different, but equally effective way.
Keeping the outer arm free, using your shuffle to key in on the ball-carrier, knowing how to keep your helmet between the defender and ballcarrier, and knowing and applying leverage are the keys to this play.
I hope that you got something useful out of it. Hold on until training camp starts!
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