I knew he played left guard and right tackle. I asked for some opinions of him from Broncos fans. Football Outsiders offensive line rankings have Denver as the 4th-best team in the NFL when they run from guard to guard. PFF has him as the 13th-highest rated guard.
Even with all of this, I still felt like have no idea who Franklin is, or what he brings to the table. So I watched film. I wanted to see how he handles the best of the best, how he handles speed, how he handles power, how he is on the move, and how he is in space. Playing against the best exposes flaws, so I watched Franklin against Arizona (Calais Campbell), the Jets — who have an extremely talented defensive line — Corey Liuget, the Rams (Aaron Donald/Robert Quinn), and the Chiefs (Dontari Poe).
Here's what I learned.
Over and over with Franklin, I see the same thing: he wins with his natural gifts instead of good technique. Specifically, his hand placement is pretty bad and worries the hell out of me. Franklin was flagged for the 3rd–most penalties out of all guards in the NFL and it very well could've been 5-6 more. Even on blocks where he drives defenders to the ground, his hands are outside on their shoulder pads, just asking for the referee to flag him for a penalty.
I say "bench press" as a visual illustration. He should cock his hands and arms back slightly and fire them into the linebackers chest plate. Instead, it looks like he's trying to tackle 52. Again, it's not leading to him getting beat, but it's something that needs to be fixed. His hands are continuously outside of the defender's numbers and that's an issue that Joe D'Alessandris will need to fix.
Let's say the defender tries to counter, then it looks like a hold on Franklin. Liuget was able to walk him back into the QB a couple times just by having his hands inside of him. It limits how powerful of a player he is. His hand usage is my biggest issue with him.
Footwork and blocking in space
One thing Chad Rinehart and Johnnie Troutman really struggled with this last year is being able to "reach" defensive lineman and pull without falling. That really limited what the Chargers could do in the run game and that's a big reason why you saw "that stupid draw play" time and time again.
For a 6'7, 320–pound offensive lineman, Franklin puts himself in a great position to execute his assignment. The intent of the "reach block" is to get outside of the defender lined up across and seal him long enough to create a running lane for the running back to get through. Last year's guards either weren't quick enough to get there, strong/balanced enough to hold the block long enough, or both.
Franklin is all of the above.
Franklin's quickness out of his stance and proper footwork help him execute this block. This block is pivotal for a team that wants to run outside or stretch zone. This shouldn't be a problem moving forward for the Chargers.
Franklin can also get to the 2nd level and seal linebackers or move lateral when pulling, all something that's a nesscity for a guard in this scheme, and it's all something Franklin can do comfortably.
Knowing Your assignment
Let's look at a few numbers and try to add a little context.
|Snaps||Player||Blown Block(R)||Blown Block(P)||QB Hit||Sack|
Natural instinct is to look at the 6 games of common opponents and see that Franklin has 1 more blown block than Rinehart and .5 less than Troutman. Then you realize that he did this in a full game of snaps more than Rinehart and 2 more than Troutman.
Let me be clear, I'd say about 75% of Franklin's blown blocks were because of his lack of awareness whereas the other 2 where simply getting beat 1-on-1. I would also say Franklin's "minus plays" didn't have a direct result on the outcome of the play and anyone reading this knows that when Rinehart/Troutman would get beat, it's a lock to be a loss for the offense.
Franklin had communication issues on who to block at times, which led to hesitation, which led to him blocking nobody, which led to a linebacker making a tackle. Franklin can execute a pull block just fine, when he locates who he's blocking. There were occasions when he would pull and be late to locate his assignment.
Against the Jets, he pulled twice in a row and the first time he didn't locate the play–side linebacker quick enough and the second time he blocked a defender that was already being blocked.
Franklin was beaten on plays that happen to even the best offensive lineman. Going against stud defenders I didn't have a problem with him looking silly a couple times versus a Kyle Williams, Campbell or Liuget. I did have an issue with his awareness on the move and that is my second biggest issue that I'm looking for improvement next year. Franklin needs to do a better job of locating the 1st threat.
Pancakes for Everyone
Franklin is fun to watch like D.J. Fluker is fun to watch because he will take grown men and drive them into the dirt repeatedly. I keep track of "drive blocks" and "knockdowns" to see what kind of natural power guys have. A drive block is exactly how it sounds, you drive the defender at least 2-3 yards and create a hole. Same with knockdown, meaning the defender ends up on his back.
In the 6 games I watched, Franklin finished with 9 drive blocks and 13 knockdowns. These aren't accounting majors that will be car salesmen next year, these were some of the best interior defenders in football, and Franklin couldn't care less.
Dan Williams? No problem
Out of respect I won't show the pancake on 94 from the Chargers.
Franklin got beat on an arm–over by Williams, and the next play he learned from his mistake, caught Williams mid move and drove him into the ground. Below he works to the 2nd level and provides free transportation for David Harris.
How much of an upgrade is Franklin?
Here's how I have Franklin graded out compared to the other lineman on the team including Rinehart.
|Player||Score Category||Score||Size||Strength||Athleticism||Power Run||Space Blocking||Speed Rush||Power Rush||Versatility||Experience||Health/Durability|
This may read as if I'm a little skeptical on Franklin. I don't like his hand usage, I think it leads to poor technique like him dropping his head and getting beat or negates his strength advantage at times.
That said, he was extremely productive.
Of the 437 snaps he had 37 "minus" plays. So his success rate in the games I watched was 84%. That makes him the best offensive lineman on the team pretty comfortably. He gives the team positional versatility and will allow Frank Reich to have diversity in the run game because he's able to execute numerous blocks at a high level. I don't know who will be the leading rusher next year, but there will be some long runs and I can't wait to finally see it.
The Chargers not only got a massive upgrade at left guard, they signed their new best offensive lineman.