While keeping Andrew Luck upright will always be priority one for the offensive line, one of the ways to help keep pressure off of him is to establish a running game. A balanced offense will make it harder for defensive coordinators to dial up pressure and will take advantage of players who are too quick to get upfield and attack the pocket.
One of the best ways to establish a running game is to physically dominate in the trenches. Chris Ballard drafted rookie guard Quenton Nelson sixth overall to do just that. Today, we take a look at Nelson’s impact on the running game.
While Nelson gives a yard or two on initial contact on this designed play to the right, he stays ahead of the defender down the line of scrimmage and ultimately seals him off from making a play on Marlon Mack.
This is what Nelson does best. When he pulls down the line on a run, I have pity on the poor soul who is tasked with holding the edge. He blows up the defender and opens up a nice hole for Mack.
This is beautiful. This play is the kind of play that bodes well for the running game in 2018. Speed to the outside is what the Colts should have in spades. Even Robert Turbin looks quick when he has a huge lane to the outside to hit full stride. Every blocker on the left side of the line wins. Nelson and Haeg create a wall and Doyle passes off his defender to Haeg to move to the next level. This is how you draw it up.
On third and one, Robert Turbin goes off left guard and allows Nelson to win inside. He ends up getting three or four yards and finds the least resistance behind Nelson. It should be noted that Haeg does a very nice job sealing his man to the outside as well.
Here we go again, like the juggernaut, Nelson gets moving on a pull to the outside. Colts running backs are going to absolutely love this all season long. Where Nelson goes, a hole opens and Michael is able to pick up a first down.
The replay shows a better angle and more of a close-up. If I’m Akeem King, this play gives me nightmares for the next week.
In terms of picking our run blocking weaknesses, one thing I noticed is that Nelson’s desire to obliterate a defender can sometimes be detrimental. There is no doubt the Haeg and Nelson absolutely destroy the defensive lineman on this play. However, if Nelson doesn’t get off balance and take the player to the ground he might be able to stay up and get a body on the linebacker at the second level. A two yard run on first down may have gone for four or more yards.
Similar to the first play in this story, Nelson get pushed back a yard or two on a run designed to go to his right. Unlike the first play, he doesn’t get a good seal on the defender and allows him to get in on the tackle.
This screen pass is a bonus play in the series. While screens are passing plays, they get offensive linemen moving in space to clear the road ahead. Nelson wasn’t able to get a body on anyone here but he shows pretty good speed for a guy his size and if he can get four or five yards out ahead of the running back on a screen regularly, there is reason to believe that he’ll play an important role in breaking a long one at some point this season.
Quenton Nelson is going to be a dominant force for the Colts running game. He won’t have to worry about the subtlety or nuance required to be a strong pass protector. He will be able to use his size and brute strength to open up lanes and drive defenders out of the hole.
On more than one occasion, he and Joe Haeg worked well to create a running lane on the left side. There is reason to believe that will be even better when Anthony Castonzo returns. I would grade his first NFL performance as an A for the running game.