Analyzing the Offensive Line: Flozell Adams Takes a Big Step

There were enough ugly memories from the Steelers’ preseason Week 3 loss to the Broncos to keep Steelers fans worrying for weeks.

But when I fired up the DVR and went back to rewatching the offensive line play, I  found something surprising and absolutely encouraging. Whether you believe it or not, Flozell Adams looked like the player the Steelers were hoping they got when they signed him.

In the first two games of the preseason, Adams had some pretty disastrous moments. He was fine in run blocking, but if the Steelers called a pass play, Byron Leftwich or Ben Roethlisberger needed to always keep an eye on what Adams was doing (or not doing).

Against Denver Adams was able to work without supervision. Play after play he handled his man without help, and every now then he flashed signs that he can punish people in the run game.

I plan to have a breakdown of the remaining offensive linemen who are battling for roster spots on Wednesday or Thursday, but I wanted to get the look at Adams as soon as possible since right tackle is the one position among the starters where the Steelers still have some uncertainty.

In watching Adams’ work on Sunday night, it’s hard to find a lot to complain about. He did get flagged for one false start penalty and he was beaten once (although Mewelde Moore was partly to blame) on a quarterback pressure. But otherwise, in 44 snaps he was outstanding. By my rough grades of whether it was an effective block or not, I had Adams succeeding on 41 of 44 plays (93 percent). As I try to mention every time, I’m not looking at technique, just results, and there is a slight chance that a result could be misinterpreted because we don’t know the play call, but I try to err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt to the offensive lineman.

I make that disclaimer every week, but here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Feel free to fire up your own DVR to see. On the first play of the third quarter Adams’ man quickly beat him. It looks like a blown block, but considering the play was a run to the other side of the field with a fake bootleg back to the right, it’s highly possible that Adams was told to let his man take himself out of the play. In that case, we call that a successful block because whether Adams shoved him or just let him by, his man was running completely away from the ball carrier.

In pass blocking, Adams showed few of the problems with speed rushers or counter moves back to the inside. It’s hard not to think that part of that can be explained by the Broncos’ lack of pass-rushing talent — with Pro Bowler Elvis Dumervil injured, Jarvis Moss and others do no look capable of stepping up. Moss in particular tried several times to run over Adams with a bull rush. One look at Moss’ relatively skinny frame compared to Adams’ mammoth girth explains why that won’t work. On another play Adams did allow a big hole to his inside because of his worries about a speed rush. But unlike last week, he was able to recover with a well-timed pop that stopped the rusher in his tracks.

But what really helped Adams out was the good use of his hands. There were several plays where a pass rusher had a half-step on him on a race to the corner. But a well-timed shove sent the rusher flying well past the quarterback. One time Adams used his strength to particularly devastating effect — check out the block he laid on Trai Essex’s man with 9:57 to go in the third quarter. With one shove, Adams knocked D.J. Williams to the ground like he was a blocking dummy. If there was any question on if Adams will be starting Game 1, his effort against the Broncos should erase that question.

Play No. Results Good Block?
1 Solid block, sets a little wide but slides inside well to pick up OLB on Wallace’s catch and run Yes
2 Helps out Essex on DE, then tries to pick someone else up, but finds no one to block Yes
3 Kind of plodding. Helps Essex then picks up LB. But while he looks slow, once he gets hands on LB, he tosses him aside like a blocking dummy Yes
4 DE loops outside. Adams swallows him up easily Yes
5 Does good job blocking left on run. Seals corner allowing Mendenhall to cut back Yes
6 Looks around. No one to block Yes
7 On run up middle, Adams drives his man to the right Yes
8 The DT/slide to pick up LB again. Pulls off both parts of the two-fer Yes
9 Not much to do, pass other way. Does hustle downfield Yes
10 Quick pass, blocks down effectively Yes
11 Good job of 1-on-1 pass blocking of LB Yes
12 Dominates his man in pass blocking—stuffs him at line Yes
13 Only an OK job. Locks up his man, but doesn’t keep him from flowing down line to help on tackle Yes
14 Wow. Got the LB to give a Duran-esque No Mas. Just engulfed him until he stopped rushing. Yes
15 DT slide to LB works again. Good job of handling LBs tonight Yes
16 Flawless again in pass blocking. Yes
17 Picks up LB, drives him outside Yes
18 Takes DE out of the play. Eventually helps put him on ground Yes
19 Again walls off DE in pass blocking Yes
20 Helps Essex on DE. Easy block Yes
21 Gets decent push on run up middle Yes
22 Initial pass block is good, but loses his man as Dixon rolls out Yes
23 False start No
24 Gets to corner well which allows him to easily handle OLB in pass rush Yes
25 OLB’s spin move causes him to stumble, Adams in good position Yes
26 First time he almost gets beat, sets wide, but gets his left arm on OLB’s inside move and stops him Yes
27 Excellent arm over to throw DE outside on draw. Then picks up CB downfield (although he shows mercy) Yes
28 Destroys bull rush. Don’t bull rush Flozell Yes
29 Same thing—straight ahead rush against him goes nowhere Yes
30 Is destroying Jarvis Moss play-after-play. For some reason Moss tries to use power again Yes
31 With DE taking very wide set, helps out Spaeth on pass block Yes
32 Almost beaten but recovers to maintain position with excellent punch Yes
33 Adams’ worst block of the night. Mewelde Moore helps chip #52 on speed rush, but that only seems to help #52 get around Adams for QB pressure No
34 Lets his man go by, although it’s fake bootleg, so could be by plan Yes
35 Shoves CB blitzing outside Yes
36 Fires off ball, finds LB and seals him inside Yes
37 DT with Essex than knocks LB back Yes
38 Making it look easy in pass block. Why would anyone try to run over Flozell? Yes
39 Destroys DE again. Eventually puts him on ground Yes
40 Excellent job of turning his man on run his way Yes
41 Not so good. Loses his man on run outside. No
42 WOW. Punches Essex’s man, he drops like he’s been shot Yes
43 Excellent job driving blitzing DB way to outside Yes
44 Throws his man onto ground on fourth and 1 Yes
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  • Randy Steele

    Thank you for the excellent breakdown, Mr. Cooper. I was getting more and more pessimistic about the Steelers’ O-line as the pre-season wore on, especially about Adams, but obviously I was wrong.

    Thank goodness.

    I doubt Thursday night will tell us much more, so this, for better or worse, will be our starting and back-up units for the 2010 campaign.

  • RoB D

    I hesitate to make any judgements on players in pre-season because I usually don’t have my game face on yet and its easy to make snap judgements based on the 3 or 4 plays I actually paid attention to. I usually have a roomful of friends over and its all too distracting

    So I always look forward to your breakdowns.

    This is wonderful news as so much of our year is riding on him coming in and playing at a high level.It sounds like the Steelers watched a lot of tape on this guy and felt he was still capable of being pretty dominant. Looks like they guessed right.

    He didn’t make all those Pro Bowls for nothing, I guess.