The Running of the Bulls

On Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine, offensive linemen will run the 40-yard dash in front of NFL coaches and GMs. But how important are the times in evaluating their ability to succeed at the pro level? Former pro scout Tom Marino shares his insight on that topic inside...

On the eve of the first group of runners — offensive linemen — to participate in this year's NFL Scouting Combine, I'm often reminded of a exchange that took place between former New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Mora and his offensive line coach Paul Boudreau on the importance of 40-speed for offensive linemen.

After injuries to the offensive line, the Saints brought in a number of free agent hopefuls — from which Boudreau decided to recommend an undersized center recently let go by the Denver Broncos by the name of Brad Leggett. After reviewing his workout evaluation, Mora turned quizzically in the direction of Boudreau and said, "Paul, how are we going to line up this Sunday against the 49ers with a guy who just ran 5.86 in the 40?"

Boudreau, who was never at a loss for words, was seated at the far end of the table. He looked up over his reading glasses, and with little or no emotion stated, "No problem Jim. Just don't send him deep."

Which brings us to the reason for relating this story to you. It doesn't matter, people.

Sure, in a perfect world we would like for all of our offensive linemen to be 6-foot-5 or taller, weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 325 pounds, and run a sub-5.00-second 40-yard dash and rep 225 pounds 35-plus times.  But when evaluating offensive linemen, what truly matters are the following five critical factors:

· Short area quickness (the ability to get from point A to point B quickly)

· Flexibility in the hips, knees and ankles (waist-benders need not apply)

· Footwork, agility, balance (top offensive linemen are seldom on the ground)

· Strength and explosiveness (particularly in their hands and hips)

· Intelligence (ability to recognize fronts and make quick decisions on the move)

Many of today's modern professional offensive line coaches would include body mass and arm length into the equation.  And although I don't disagree with their thinking, I would conclude by saying it is virtually impossible for any of these big Clydesdales to play (and win) without satisfying the coaches, scouts and executives in attendance unless they attain a passing grade in all of the five critical factors listed above.

So if your favorite offensive linemen fails to run what the pundits reporting from the Combine view as a satisfactory time, don't despair.  Instead, think about the five critical factors — and maybe even smile and think about a long forgotten journeyman center by the name of Brad Leggett.

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