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Ask a former NFL player: How hard is it for offensive linemen to switch positions?

Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz answers your questions, including which losing teams from 2018 have the best shot at the playoffs in 2019.

OK, it’s mailbag time! Y’all asked some awesome questions, enough for at least two of these Q&As. I might make this a weekly piece if I continue to get great questions.

Here’s what you asked me this week on Twitter. If you have any questions you’d like answered in the future, hit me up: @geoffschwartz.

What is the most difficult position switch for an offensive lineman to make on the O-line that the majority of people think is easy? (ex: OT to OG or LT to RT etc) @pmeredith77

I get asked this question more than any other. The majority of people believe switching positions is easy because they’ve never done it before. Moving from side to side is easy for some, but most often, it takes a while to adjust. In the immortal words of Josh Sitton, switching from one side to the other is “like wiping your ass with the other hand.”

Everything is awkward and different. I had to switch from the right side to the left side (LG) a couple times in my career. It always went bad. ALWAYS. I was never comfortable at left guard. I’d always punch like I was at right tackle and when I was being bull-rushed, I’d switch my stagger to anchor the bull like a right guard, thus allowing myself to get beat inside.

According to social media, switching from tackle to guard is the “easy” solution for a tackle who’s struggling. Not so fast my friend. If an offensive tackle has good hands, generally has good movement skills but might lack some foot quickness to play tackle, then moving inside could be productive. If an offensive tackle is struggling with his strike and punch location, plus has bad feet, then moving inside is a no-go. Things happen fast at guard. Your hands must be ready for action now. And if you miss with your hands, your base better be good so you’re able to recover.

So in short, moving a struggling OT to OG isn’t easy, and it’s rarely the solution.

During the year, how much attention can position coaches give to determine if/how much a backup or practice squad player is improving if most of that player’s practice time is spent running other teams’ plays on the scout team (which I’m guessing aren’t always done at 100%)?@frmrda

Great question. The coaches grade every practice, even the scout team, and if a player is improving, they notice. And when you run the scout team, you run the other teams’ plays but you use your techniques. That way, the coaches are able to judge your improvement week after week. And yes, not everyone is going hard, but I think seasoned evaluators can notice when someone is improving, even in those conditions.

Lastly, if you’ve made the practice squad, the staff believes you’re close to being ready to play. So if there’s an injury, you’re up.

It feels like every offensive evolution in NFL history is met with a defensive counter that forces the offense to then change again. Do you see any viable defensive counter to the current trend toward spread offenses and short throws? If so, what do you think they are? — @KyleAMadson

I think we’ve seen how defenses are adjusting. You can never have enough pass rush, especially coming from the middle of the formation. If you can get your quarterback off the spot, that’s helpful.

Secondly, teams used to value having one stud cornerback. Now, they are looking for two or three corners, and especially someone who can play in the slot. Linebackers are now more agile (because that’s what college produces) and able to cover running backs or tight ends when called upon. So we’ve seen the shift of defenses already.

What’s one sub-.500 team that will make the playoffs this year and one playoff team to go sub-.500?@Mr618Worldwide

One 2018 playoff team to go sub-.500 in 2019 is easily the Ravens.

The Ravens have decided to build their offense around an inaccurate quarterback and a run game. Last season with Lamar Jackson, they dominated terrible defenses while also having an outstanding defense. They’ve now lost multiple key members of that defense and won’t be the same unit. Also, they have a first-place schedule. I’m down on the Ravens.

I’ll give you two sub-.500 teams from 2018 to make the playoffs this year, and they seem like easy picks. First is the Packers with Aaron Rodgers and his new offense. It might take a while for everything to click, but Rodgers is still supremely talented and highly motivated. The Packers also added, for the first time in forever, some highly paid pass rushers to help on defense.

The second is the Browns. They have talent. Duh. But I’m not as high on them as most. They have a first-year head coach who’s barely been an offensive coordinator, and a large number of outspoken, talented individuals. Also, they have pressure on them to win this season!! Yes, the Browns have pressure to win.

So, add that all together and I’m going to hit pause on the Browns winning the AFC North — even if I think they have a good shot at the postseason.

Will Le’Veon Bell go over or under 10.5 total touchdown on the season?@Mr618Worldwide

I’d pay the juice on the over here. Le’Veon Bell will be the Jets’ offense. Yes, teams know this, but it doesn’t matter. He’s only had over 10.5 touchdowns twice in his career, but now he’s the best option for a team with a young quarterback. Plus, the Jets will want to get the value out of their shiny new player.