clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What happens when 26 of the NFL’s best offensive linemen get together?

Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz went behind the scenes at last week’s OL Masterminds conference in Dallas. Here’s what he saw.

Image via Duke Mayweather (https://twitter.com/BigDuke50)

“Your feet will get you into battle, your hands will win the war.”

Offensive lineman are often the forgotten group on a team. Our play is better seen and not heard. We often travel in packs and try to avoid the spotlight. Our play is routinely misunderstood by the masses.

Offensive line masterminds was the brain child of Duke Manyweather and Eagles All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson. It brought together 26 offensive linemen in Dallas with a collective 719 starts to discuss everything related to our special position, as only the guys who have played it truly understand all the intricacies.

I’ve known Duke now for nearly 15 years. We first met in high school playing football. He was a year older than me and took me under his wing. We have been best friends ever since. Duke played offensive line at a small D2 school, while I went to Oregon. When Duke graduated, he went into coaching at small colleges and eventually ended up with his current gig, training NFL offensive lineman, running the offensive line drills at the Nike Opening and doing freelance line scouting for various media outlets.

Think about something you’re truly passionate about, something you love dearly. Duke loves everything related to offensive line play with that kind of passion ... training, nutrition, film study and game planning.

Since he stopped coaching in 2013, he went headlong into the offensive line training and scouting world. He’d send me detailed scouting reports for every opponent, and he’d train me and other lineman each offseason. Slowly Duke started writing offensive line scouting reports for media outlets and training guys on his own. Now he’s got more than 20 guys in the gym with him, and more want in.

As Duke’s business has grown, he’s wanted to have an offensive line summit in the mold of Von Miller’s pass rush summit he’s done the last two offseasons. While watching the NFL Network’s top 100, he heard a comment from Lane Johnson

Duke called Lane and OL Masterminds was born.

Lane told me his idea behind the summit was simple: “There are two different games being played, seven-on-seven and in the trenches. We need to have more focus on our game as a group. We (OL) need to have a game plan how to attack the DL and this summit can help add tools to the arsenal.”

Here is the full list of participants for the three-day summit in Dallas. Veterans mixed with young cats and a total of 719 combined starts.

  • Lane Johnson
  • Jermey Parnell
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Austin Davis
  • LaAdrian Waddle
  • Menelik Watson
  • Brandon Shell
  • D.J. Fluker
  • Isaiah Battle
  • Tristan Nickelson
  • Chaz Green
  • Mitchell Schwartz
  • Jeff Allen
  • Teron Armstead
  • Oday Aboushi
  • Cam Robinson
  • Jordan Roos
  • Brad Lundblade
  • Jermaine Eluemunor
  • Ron Leary
  • Brian Winters
  • A.J. McCann
  • Hugh Thornton
  • Justin McCray
  • Kyle Fuller
  • Dorian Johnson

The summit was broken down into classroom and field work. The classroom time covered a wide range of topics. There were film cutups of the best pass rushers in the business. Duke led the classroom time, but was open to questions and comments. Not surprisingly, the three most veterans tackles in the room were the most vocal.

Mitch Schwartz, Terron Armstead and Lane Johnson were able to share all their trade secrets and answer questions for the younger players. As Mitch put it: “It’s helpful for the younger guys to be able to ask questions, whether it’s about techniques or mindset or even camp with a room full of quality starters able to give their perspective. Everyone sees and thinks about the game a little differently so maybe one guy says something that clicks for player X, but not for player Y.”

On the day I was there, the guys went around the room and shared how they prepare each week. Lineman discussed how to watch film for maximum efficiency. Most of the veterans stressed being able to identify a pass rusher’s one or two go-to moves, then searching for their change up rushes. One lineman in the room watched four or five games, meticulously tallying up each pass rush move in his notebook to determine the go to move(s) of the rusher. Then he’d tell the scout team defender that week he wanted to be rushed this way in practice. If he could take away the most frequently used move early in the game, it would shut down the confidence in that rusher and he’d be ready for all the counter moves.

We discussed the proper techniques for “jumping” a lineman. One tackle shared how he worked to make a defensive end who lined up off his body into a five-technique (the technique where the DE is on is body) by his footwork. If he could quickly move his feet off the snap to jump the DE, he could turn a wider technique into a five-technique and go to work. Every lineman has their unique mental thought processes to execute a block.

Someone asked about stopping a spin move, often the toughest pass rushing moves to defend. I heard an answer I’d never heard before — soften your inside shoulder. It makes sense. The defensive end is trying to spin off that shoulder, and if you soften it by pulling back a bit, you can use that arm to grab the defender in his spin.

The three tackles discussed how they try to stop pass rush moves. For example, the conventional way for a lineman to defend a long arm bull rush is swat that arm down and “splash” the DE into the turf. That move requires a strong, long arm with pressure into the chest. What if the DE more or less just places his hand on your chest plate to execute another move? There is an alternate technique that’s money to stop the “soft” long arm bull rush. That technique, which I’ll keep private (sorry), is extremely hard to master because of the timing and precision required to execute it. It was discussed at length with examples of how to practice it. It was excellent to see all the young guys taking furious notes.

There was a short run game discussion that centered around how to execute blocks in two situations — one, the backside of zone when you don’t have leverage; two, how to avoid holding calls when a defender goes to reach.

After the hour or so discussion we watched cut ups of the best pass rushers in the league and had a lively discussion on what everyone thought is the best to stop them.

I think Mitch best summed up the classroom talks: “It’s always fun to hear how the best at their position do what they do. We all have our own games and styles but you’re always trying to learn and improve. Whether it’s a small tidbit or a completely different idea, any new information is vital to hear and see how it’s utilized.”

After lengthy classroom session the player went on the field to work on some of these new techniques. Duke recorded some of those sessions and they are so awesome to watch. A bunch of like minded lineman who want to teach and be taught. This video is absolutely fantastic video from Duke.

A few other tidbits gathered during the session:

Most of the young players discussed their process for learning how to harness their physicality when they entered the NFL. The pro game in the trenches is played with controlled aggression and playing out of control only ends to getting beat.

I was able to speak to the group and cover two things I’m especially passionate about when it comes to offensive line play. The first is watching film as a unit. With iPad’s being used now, players have veered away from group watching of film to individual watching at home or even in the facility. It’s a trend that’s making us worse. When I entered the NFL, we didn’t have film on iPads. We had to watch film together. We’d all arrive to the facility earlier in the morning, grab breakfast and head into the room to eat and study.

It’s invaluable to watch film with your linemates. Everyone sees the film a tad differently and things are noticed that you don’t see. You can coordinate with the players next to you on how you’d block certain looks. You’re able to study the defense as a unit. That helps with making the proper adjustments to different looks, so when you’re playing on Sunday, those adjustments come easy.

Second, I stressed learning more than your position and the man directly across from you. As lineman, we need to know what all five positions are doing upfront, plus the tight end and running backs.

We must study linebackers and safeties especially. Safeties give away the goods. Where they rotate can show pressure and often overlooked, where the run fits for linebackers will be. For example, when a guard is pulling on power, their linebacker will react to the pull differently depending on the location of the safety. He could spill to play outside arm free. Little details that can make the difference between a decent pull and a great pull. Lineman must get out of their comfort zone to learn everything needed to be successful.

During the session I noticed some of the older veterans just quietly talking together and mimicking different moves as they watched film. It was awesome.

OL Masterminds was an outstanding success, and I look forward to it continuing each and every offseason.