What a signing. Slight risk, with a major reward. I lean the latter. Why? He played 97% of the snaps in 2017. Dolphins fans are quick to point out how he never practiced. Allen Iverson would like a word. The hip is only a concern if he’s not consistently in the lineup. Last year Mike Pouncey played 974 snaps for the Dolphins. Russell Okung played 927. You don’t see any of us complaining. Missing 11 games in 2016 likely has some worried. As does an article saying he’ll need a hip replacement by the time he’s 40. The good news is Pouncey is 28. The better news? He’s really freaking good.
To get a good feel for Pouncey I watched him against the AFC West opponents, Tampa Bay(Gerald McCoy) and the Falcons, to see him against speed. I’ll avoid using the Chargers as an example. Here’s our Michael Peterson showing all the run plays from the first drive. This paints a picture for how the game went for Pouncey.
(Sorry for the blips in the action, getting used to a new software)— Michael Peterson (@ChargersLAtely) March 20, 2018
Here are all the run plays on the first drive against the Chargers.
The Dolphins utilized Pouncey's athleticism by getting him to the 2nd level to cut off the Bolts' speed. He made life very hard for Jatavis. pic.twitter.com/gVWg2mI608
As for the 10 plays I’ll use, here we go.
An area that Spencer Pulley really struggled with 1-on-1 last year was with power. Guys would overwhelm him in a hurry and essentially blow up the play before it started. You find out real quick when watching Pouncey that strength is the furthest thing from an issue for him.
Watch the center bury #90. In these games, I don’t recall seeing anyone get the best of Pouncey from a strength standpoint, which is great news. The Chargers were 30th in the league at running in between the guards. That’s going to change next year.
Another area I was interested in was seeing his athleticism. How he works going both forward and side to side. He did not disappoint. The first game I watched was against the Falcons. This was the second play I saw of him.
wanted to see pouncey against speed so i put on the falcons. this is the 2nd play of the game.— KP (@KP_Show) March 19, 2018
he's a magician, apparently. he made 45 disappear pic.twitter.com/CfXpkPOwdL
Good luck topping that first(second?) impression.
That’s one of the best linebackers in the league. He’s certainly one of the fastest. Pouncey gets on him in a hurry and blocks him out of the screen. That’s beautiful.
This play below, Pouncey was called for a hold. You tell me where the hold is.
Speaking of Penalties, Pouncey had 8 all year. 2 false starts, 5 holding calls, and the other is unknown. Guessing a personal foul. Signing a center that has the ability to finish will go a long way for the Chargers.
I don’t want to make it seem like Pouncey is this all-world player who never messes up. He’s quite good. I did notice something consistent, though. On “ace blocks”, which is essentially where Pouncey would chip the defensive tackle to the play-side, and climb to the 2nd level, he had a tendency of getting stuck. Here’s what I mean.
You see how he goes to block 96, but can’t get to 54 in time? That’s what I’ve seen. It’s tough to explain why exactly that happens without actually speaking to him. Ideally, he’d just make sure 96 is sealed, and release to the linebacker a second sooner.
The Broncos have some speedy linebackers, here’s another example.
In this case, he just puts his head down, loses balance, and doesn’t stand a chance. I did see this enough to think it’ll be one of the first things addressed. I know it’s something I’ll be keeping an eye out for.
Doing work on the move
Teams all over the NFL will ask their centers to make impossible blocks. I can’t stand it. The odds your center can get to a linebacker on the other side of the formation or the “3 technique” who is 2 gaps over are about as good as me winning a lotto ticket.
Pouncey “reached” a 3-tech. Against the Chiefs. That’s when I knew we were dealing with a player here. Not just that, one area that really stood out was Pouncey on the move. Last year, the Chargers and short-pulls just didn’t get along. Dan Feeney was the only one of the interior lineman you could trust to execute blocks on the move. Kenny Wiggins was abysmal. Matt Slauson didn’t have the athleticism. Pulley could never get there in time. Pouncey and his athleticism show up when he’s asked to pull.
What makes this so impressive is that the linebacker Pouncey cuts, 57, is already on the play-side. So he has the advantage. Pouncey covers ground and cuts him, completely wiping him out of the play.
This next play, Miami asked Pouncey to kick out the end man on the line of scrimmage. This can be tricky because 54, the guy he blocks, could easily fly upfield. Look how quickly Pouncey gets there. Then, the jolt. He moves the linebacker a good four or five yards.
Ken Whisenhunt loves to pull lineman and get right off tackle. It’s been a struggle the last couple years because his interior lineman hasn’t been able to execute. With Pouncey, that won’t be a problem.
A little aggressive
I saw on a couple occasions where Pouncey would try to jump on a lineman, but because they were slanting one way, he would flat out whiff. He needs to know that, especially with the league trending towards more athletic and smaller lineman, not everyone is just going to fire out straight ahead. Here are two examples against the Raiders:
That’s simple. The nose tackle is shaded over his left eye, so Pouncey steps that way. But because the defensive line is slanting left, he never stood a chance and the play was blown up.
This next one comes against the linebacker. This is where you’d like to see Pouncey be a bit more under control. He loads up on the linebacker going for the kill shot. He’s a strong enough dude where making contact will be more than sufficient. We’ve seen that in the plays above what happens when he gets his hands on you.
If Pouncey slow plays that, he puts the linebacker in a bind. He doesn’t and the backer ducks underneath him and makes the play. Those plays are tough and happen in a split second. Again, something to keep an eye on. You’re never going to tell a guy, “hey, you should be less aggressive.” For all the good, you might just live with these kinds of plays.
Keeping Phil upright
While Pouncey certainly brings value to the run game where he really will make a difference is in pass protection. He’s a stud there. There’s not really much to show. It would be him 1-on-1 with a guy and the play usually ended up how it started, with Pouncey getting his hands on and keeping a guy at bay. McCoy beat him one time. In a 1-on-1 situation, nobody else did. Think about that for a second, the center who just signed for $5 million a year was beaten once over the course of six games in pass protection. That’s nuts. There were clear blown assignments where either he or the guard would step one way and leave a defender unaccounted for, that happened a handful of times. There’s no way for me to know who was at fault, though.
Where I was incredibly impressed was when Pouncey was uncovered. Think of basketball when your man gets beat, there’s a “help defender” to make sure that person doesn’t score. Pouncey was terrific at finding work and ensuring nobody touched the quarterback. He did a good job of keeping his head on a swivel. When he knew he could catch a guy slipping, he attacked.
Richard showed me this after I was done watching. I was wondering if maybe I was watching the wrong games because Pouncey just wasn’t getting beat. Turns out, that was the case in every game. Here are PFF’s pass blocking stats for centers.
1 sack, 3 hits, and 8 pressures in 8 more snaps than Pulley, who had 20 more pressures and 6 more hits allowed. If this doesn’t sell you on how much of an upgrade Pouncey is then there really isn’t any hope. For what he brings to the table, and what the Chargers ask of their lineman, there isn’t a better fit. I was happy about signing Okung last year. This is a better signing than that. Pouncey doesn’t have to outperform any expectations. He just needs to play like he’s always played. The coupon god strikes again.