Posted Wed Jun 9th by Jonathan Douglas
This fall, as football gets underway, there is one contest I will be watching very closely. No, I’m not talking about Kyle vs Brady vs Tim (although I’ve now publicly admitted my man-crush on Tebow). No, I’m not talking about WR or Safety or TE. I’m talking about the virtual race between McDaniels and Shanahan over the implementation of their respective O-line schemes.
As we all know, Mike Shanahan has made his career perfecting the Zone Blocking scheme. That scheme has produced a series of +1000 yard rushers unmatched in the NFL. Now, he’s in Washington where he’s trying to improve a very weak unit (Jason Campbell was sacked 43 times last season – third most in the league). In addition to adding a rookie first round pick (Trent Williams) at Left Tackle, Shanahan will be shuffling the team’s veterans in an attempt to transition the O-line into a Zone Blocking scheme. This is his first year with the unit and players, but he’s got decades of experience to relay on.
In Denver, Josh McDaniels took over a Zone Blocking powerhouse that allowed only 11 sacks in 2008 (second fewest in the league). Half way through the year, we now know that he began transitioning our O-line from a Zone to Power scheme. In 2009, Orton was sacked 29 times (and our total yards per game dropped by 14%). Now, McDaniels will need to replace veteran Center Casey Weigmann with Dustin Fry or rookie J.D. Walton (who has been taking first team reps recently). This is a part of his move toward players that fit his Power system more than the smaller more mobile players needed for Zone.
Given we have two coaches that will be linked for some time, I’m totally jazzed to see which one comes out on top. By that I mean, which coach can get their players and system into place and efficiently running before the other.
In fairness, McDaniels has a pro-bowl Left Tackle in Ryan Clady, while Shanahan only has an unproven first round draft pick at his LT position. McDaniels is in his second year in Denver, while Shanahan is just entering his first season with the Redskins. Josh also has a better statistical unit than Shanahan has in DC (thanks mostly to Shanahan drafting and training Clady, Kuper and Harris before he left).
However… I think I’ll spot McDaniels those advantages. Shanahan has experience and a proven track record with ZBS, so we’ll let the young guy get away with the head start and see what happens from here. :)
Maybe this is very football-geek thing to be watching, but I’ve always been fascinated by the inner-workings of the O-line and this parallel is just too interesting not to watch.
Feel free to chime in and give your predictions. I’m very interested in which O-line you think will do better this season and then also in 2011 (the final test). Also, I’m interested in whether or not you’ve followed our ZBS in the past and what you think about McD’s move away from it. Let me know what you think!