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NFL wants its linemen big, but not tall

Low man wins
When California beat Colorado last September, the Golden Bears often isolated 5-foot-11, 215-pound linebacker Jarred Price against Solder. Price had a speed advantage on Solder, but there was more to it. On one Price strip-sack, Solder established contact with the linebacker several yards away from quarterback Tyler Hansen and should have flattened him. But Price kept his forearms below Solder’s and delivered a blow to Solder’s midsection and out-leveraged the blocker. As a result, Price steered Solder out of his way, despite a 100+ pound disadvantage.

It was a simple example of “low man wins,” a fundamental principle of the trenches. If you want to control your opponent, keep everything low -- your hands, arms, and most of all your hips/center of gravity. For a man Solder’s size, staying low is easier said than done.

 

One scout I spoke to in Indianapolis said that diminishing returns kick in once an offensive lineman reaches the dimensions of an NBA power forward. “They have to keep working to bend at the knees, to not pop up at the snap,” he said. “They can’t ever let up on their technique.” Popping up is another of Solder’s problems. Against Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith (6-foot-5), he could be seen standing straight up at the snap, allowing Smith to deliver blows to his torso and get inside him for hurries. A tall blocker standing straight-legged is little more than a rag doll for an elite pass rusher.

Several of this year’s tall tackles are not just long, but lean. Castonzo has a classic lineman’s build, with a lot of mass in his thighs and butt, but Carimi and Solder have relatively narrow trunks. Their “high cut” bodies create even more leverage issues. Carimi, in particular, gets too narrow when run blocking: defenders can turn him sideways and slide around him. Carimi is so strong and athletic that teams will be willing to work with him to perfect his technique, but his size may never convert to NFL strength.

 

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