Sticking to my theme of guards last week when I profiled Ben Grubbs, this week I decided to have a look at Saints soon-to-be free agent, Carl Nicks. Nicks is a big (6'5", 343 lbs), powerful guard. On paper, when you see a guard that weights in at nearly 350 pounds, then you think he's not going to be light on his feet, which is what is required by a lineman in Mike Shanahans' zone-blocking scheme. But you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, so lets have a look at the film.
The Saints have different aspects to their run game. But when you have powerful guards like Nicks and Jahri Evans, you'll see a lot of power runs.
This is the Saints bread and butter. Power run up the middle. Nicks is going to angle Texans defensive end Antonio Smith (who is going to the pro bowl next week) to the outside and then completely cut him off from making a play.
He leads Smith to the outside with a good initial punch, exactly where he wants him.
Then Nicks fully engages with a big push to create a big hole between himself and the center. The back runs right through the hole and ends up with nine yards on the play.
That's a very good block and the type of thing you'll see regularly from him if you follow the Saints. However, how often have you seen a Redskins guard do that kind of a block? Rarely. There are plenty of examples of Nicks running power type blocks, but I had to search hard to find some zone blocks. I managed to find two against the Giants, just to see how well he can move laterally.
On this play, Nicks manages to maintain the block, despite the defensive lineman getting a lower pad level. This further demonstrates Nicks power.
What I like about this is that Nicks is able to maintain the initial block (with the center ready to take over) while he looks to get onto the next guy. The runner decides to cut back inside, so we don't get to see how well Nicks can get off one block and into another, but he shows he has the ability to move sideline to sideline, rather than just up and down the field.
Here we have a zone stretch toss, very similar to what the Redskins run.
Nicks gets straight up to the second level and has to help seal off the inside to allow the runner to sweep around to the sideline.
This is where I worry about Nicks in a zone scheme. He allows the defender to get into a better position than he should. Nicks has to come back on himself to make the play.
However, on this play Nicks gets away with it and absolutely kills the Giant linebacker.
Once again, Nicks uses his strength and power to help him in pass protection. He gets an amazing first punch that knocks a lot of lineman off balance. He's also very smart and aware of what's going on around him, as we see in this first play.
Nicks keeps the defensive lineman engaged with just one arm while he monitors the situation to his left, ready to pick up a potential blitz.
Once Nicks is sure that Pierre-Paul and others have dropped into coverage, he turns his full attention to the defender at hand. He starts to push him back and cleverly towards traffic.
The defender gets caught in the traffic of other defensive lineman and Drew Brees gets all day to make a throw.
It's not very often Nicks gets beat in pass protection, but he's vulnerable to a quick rush if he fails to land an initial punch.
Back to the Texans game, Smith manages to avoid the first punch, using a swim move to get over it.
The swim move left Smith with his hands free to club through the arms of Nicks and quickly break free.
That picture is just bad news for any quarterback...
As I said, that kind of thing rarely happens to Nicks because his first punch is so good.
Up one on one with Smith again, gets a good initial punch, giving Nicks the advantage.
Nicks takes the advantage and works with the center to combine blocks and push both defenders into each other. Once again, Brees has all day to make a throw.
So overall, it's clear to see that Nicks is a top quality guard, probably the best of this free agent class. He's a dominant and powerful pass protector that can go one on one with most defensive lineman. He has flashed the ability to run a zone blocking run scheme effectively, however at 343 pounds, I have my doubts as to how long he could last in a game running sideline to sideline. I personally feel like Ben Grubbs is a better fit for what we do here in Washington,.
Don't forget to check back later in the week for Ronnie's free agent profile (I think he's looking at a wide receiver) and Steve's look at the salary cap implications of adding these players would be for the Redskins.
Also, how did you guys like the new look. Do you prefer the spotlighting players look, or the old look with red circles? Let me know in the comments.