When the Steelers signed Flozell Adams, fans seemed to be of two entirely different mindsets. Some (like me) breathed a sigh of relief that Pittsburgh had added a competent veteran to fill a position that looked completely barren.
Others quickly started asking, wasn’t Adams the old guy who kept getting beaten for the Cowboys last year?
Both sides of the Adams’ argument have some kernels of truth in their statements, but to get a better idea of what Pittsburgh is getting, lets look back to 2009.
We’ll start with a look at Adams at his worst. Lets look through all of Adams’ sacks from last year. I’ve included links whenever possible to NFL.com’s video of the sack, so you can see it for yourself.
Sack #1: Adams gets confused. He starts to block Thomas Davis, then decides to let him go, which is clearly a poor decision, as Davis bags Romo for the sack.
Sack # 2: Elvis Dumervil tries to beat Adams to the outside, but then cuts back to the inside. Adams isn’t badly out of position, but he gets outfoxed by Dumervil’s cutback.
Sack #3: Vonnie Holliday just runs past Adams, as Flozell fails to get a good punch to slow down Holliday’s rush.
Sack #4: Unfortunately NFL.com doesn’t have video of this one, but Trent Cole beats Adams with a speed rush. Adams wasn’t helped by Tony Romo’s decision to hold the ball for 3.1 seconds.
Sack #5: A worse version of sack No. 3. Adams gets a slow start out of his stance and by the time he’s in blocking position, Clay Matthews is on his way to the quarterback. It’s the worst sack Adams gives up all year.
Sack #6: The same problem keeps cropping up. Adams fires off the snap slowly, and Will Smith is quickly around him for the sack.
Sack #7: Adams takes Mike Patterson to the ground, but pressure elsewhere forces Romo to step up which allows Patterson to grab him. Hard to completely blame this on Adams.
If you ask a Cowboys’ fan what they remember about Adams in recent years, it’s the all-too-many penalties he’s picked up. It’s a very fair complaint. In 2010, Adams was called for:
* six false starts
* three holding penalties
* one tripping penalty
* one unnecessary roughness
* one personal foul
The false starts also help explain some of Adams’ sacks. Five of his seven sacks came on the road, and four of his sacks allowed came when he didn’t get the the corner quickly enough against a speed rush. It’s easy to blame that at least in part on his worries of picking up false start penalties. Or to put it the other way, you could blame Adams’ false starts on his worries that he’s not quick enough to beat a speed rusher to the corner.
But let’s not just focus on the bad. Adams is also a very solid run blocker with the strength to generate good push. Here are some examples of Adams at his best.
Marion Barber 27-yard run: It doesn’t look flashy, but Adams does a good job of kicking out the defensive end to set up Barber’s run.
Felix Jones’ 56-yard run: Again Adams lets a defensive end’s momentum work against him, this time by driving him inside, opening a big hole for Jones to the outside.
Unfortunately NFL.com’s highlights don’t really focus on pulling out great blocks by left tackles, so I gave up searching for other examples after 15 minutes or so. But there are other sources for breakdowns of Adams’ 2009 play. Blogging The Boys is an excellent Dallas Cowboys’ blog, and they wrote plenty about Adams’ final season in Dallas.
On the downside, the ’09 Adams showed us a tackle who could no longer ride speed rushers around the edge on a consistent basis. He was slow to recover on stunts and began taking personal foul flags in addition to his off-sides. Dallas had been able to tolerate his five-yard flags as the price for his effective pass protection and run blocking, but the cons pulled past Flozell’s good points last season.
On the strength side, I saw a guy who could run block from the minute he joined the team until the minute he left Valley Ranch. If there’s one area where I feel Doug Free represents an almost certain downgrade next season, it’s run blocking on off-tackle calls. The Cowboys have not been a straight-ahead power team in recent years, but Flozell tried. The ’09 Cowboys ranked 4th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards category for runs behind left tackle and 5th on runs wide of Adams, a testament to his power and the Cowboys’ tight ends’ effectiveness as edge blockers.
That’s a pretty good summary of Adams’ game at this point in his career. He should be a very solid run blocker for the Steelers, but there will be concerns about his ability to pass block. Hopefully a move to the right side, and away from some of the game’s best pass rushers, will help his pass blocking.