Ever since Matt LaFleur has come to Green Bay we knew that the tight end position was going to be an important part of his offense.
Before 2019, Packer fans became numb to seeing so many 11 personnel looks every drive. Since LaFleur came to Green Bay, he decided to flip the script and take the game back a couple of decades and start running multiple tight end sets and incorporate a fullback almost every drive.
Surprisingly, LaFleur isn’t the only coach in the league following this trend. If you watch the 49ers, Raiders, and Bears, then you’ll notice that they do a lot of the same things that Matt LaFleur is wanting to establish in Green Bay. It seems like the league is starting to revert back to its origins, and I love it.
After I did my initial film breakdown to get a feel for LaFleur’s offense, I knew a blocking tight end would be an integral part of what he likes to run. Graham was a decent threat in the passing game, but when it came to squaring up defensive lineman and linebackers, I was a little leery if he could get the job done.
This is where Marcedes Lewis comes in to play.
Lewis came to Green Bay in 2018 but it seems like we are finally getting to see what he is capable of this year and what he brings to the team. Part of that could be because McCarthy didn’t run many multiple tight end sets; not like LaFleur does anyway. With a run blocker like Lewis, Matt LaFleur can start to establish some of the run concepts that he prefers and have a tight end who he can count on down after down.
One run concept that is crucial to have good blocking by the tight end is the toss play. LaFleur has stated that he really wants to make a commitment to running more outside zone, stretch and toss plays. With a player like Aaron Jones, this is no surprise. He has great vision and thus can see the cutback and hit it, or he can accelerate to the boundary and beat the defense.
The reason the block by the tight end is so important is that he is the player who can make or break the toss play. Here is an example of that out of the I formation in this 21 personnel look.
The first step by Lewis is one of the most important aspects when it comes to run blocking. If he takes too short of step he will get beat by the defensive lineman or outside linebacker. Too long of step could allow the defender to slip inside and make the play in the backfield.
Lewis’ goal on this play is to hook the EMOL (end man on line) and give Jones a clear path to the edge. As you can see, he takes a flat step and works to the playside shoulder of the EMOL. He doesn’t get his entire body around the EMOL but its just enough to spring Jones to the edge. His aim point, as I mentioned earlier, is the outside shoulder. Whether he gets his body all the way around him doesn’t particularly matter, just as long as he works to get to that shoulder. If he can do that, he can cut off the EMOL from making the play.
Here is an example of Lewis hooking the EMOL out of this 12 personnel formation. Again, he takes a nice first step and wins the battle right from the snap. Jones reads the run nicely and cuts right off of Lewis’ block. Hand placement is another key factor in winning these blocks. Lewis’ goal is to get a punch with his inside arm on the middle of the defender’s chest plate and then punch the playside shoulder with his playside arm. That also will help seal off the EMOL and win the battle at the perimeter. It seemed like the Packers did a fine job of winning the outside runs against the Redskins. Blocking like this certainly helps.
Second Level Blocking
Winning the battle at the second level is important not only for offensive tackles but also for the tight end. This is an element of the Packers run blocking that I felt was missing for years. Now with a player like Lewis, I feel like the running game has a better chance running to the tight end’s side because they can rely on him to make that block.
The Packers come out here in their 13 personnel look (1 back, 3 tight ends). Lewis and Tonyan are the tight end’s to the wide side while Graham plays the short side. Washington is in their base personnel and running an okie front, meaning that both defensive ends are in a head-up look. The defense in this look will generally set the strength of the formation to the wide side of the field, which means that many of their slants, stunts, or defensive line twists will be set to that side.
Washington decides not to run any stunts here, rather, they opt to play base defense and fit their gaps. Lewis knows he has a tough block on this toss play. Since Tonyan is the outside tight end, Lewis will have to climb to the second level and seal off the playside linebacker.
Instead of hooking the EMOL, Tonyan turns him out, which works well out of this formation because the Packers have the numbers advantage to the wide side of the field. The second level block from Lewis is key because Linsley has to pick up the nose tackle, Jenkins takes the backside linebacker and Bak plays the end, meaning that Lewis will have to block the linebacker one-on-one. He does a nice job here taking a flat angle to the Mac linebacker and sealing him off, leaving a nice gap for Jones to run through.
Here is the exact same formation and play call as the one shown above, only this time Lewis plays it differently. Sometimes if the inside linebacker has the better angle and the tight end knows he can’t reach him, he will simply turn him out and allow the running back to cut off of that block. It is a simple scenario of “taking him where he wants to go”. The inside linebacker probably anticipated the toss out of this 13 personnel look again but it was no problem for Lewis. He simply would ride out the block and let Jones cut off that block. That’s the sign of a smart tight end.
Let’s look one more time at a big block shown out of this 13 personnel formation.
Lewis again is set as the inside tight end to the wide side, only this time the offense is running an inside zone play. Before the snap, it looks like Lewis and the inside linebacker are pretty well head up. There’s no clear-cut winner as to who has the better angle. Basically, Lewis is going to have to play this on the fly and adjust to the play of the inside linebacker.
At the snap, Lewis takes a nice hard inside step on this zone blocking scheme and the inside linebacker collapses inside. Once the linebacker reacts off of his read, Lewis knows he has the advantage. He again does a technique job of reaching the playside shoulder and allowing Jones to cut off of that block. Lewis does a great job of keeping his body square, getting a strong punch with both hands and driving his feet. These are all little things that he seems to do well with each running play.
It’s refreshing to see some great run blocking out of the Packers tight ends. If Lewis and the tight end position as a whole can continue to play at this high of level week after week, it will open up a number of possibilities to the Packers running attack.
Lewis will have a big-time matchup on his hands next week as the Bears come to Lambeau in what should be a great game.
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