Here we have the first of our free agent profiles. You can expect these from myself on a Monday and from Ronnie on a Wednesday. Then on a Thursday, our very on salary cap man Steve will look at how much each player might cost and how they might affect the cap room. So check back later in the week for that. Today I'm looking at one of the premier free agent offensive lineman, Baltimore Ravens left guard Ben Grubbs. Grubbs is listed at 6'3", 310 lbs. For reference, Redskins guard Chris Chester is 6'3", 305 lbs, so Grubbs size certainly fits in with the rest of the offensive line.
It's well documented that the Redskins employ the famous Mike Shanahan zone-blocking scheme. People have been skeptical as to whether Grubbs can adjust to the system. But having watched three or four Ravens games, they actually actually run aspects of both power and zone schemes. Grubbs shows on film he has the ability to be an effective run blocker in the zone scheme.
On this stretch run to the right, Grubbs takes a good angle on the defender, gets his pad level lower and begins to push the defender back.
Grubbs locks into his defender. You might think he gets a little bit high here, but he has complete control of the block. Both of his hands are on the chest pad of the defender and he's able to drive him backwards creating a cut-back lane for Rice. Rice took the lane and was brought down just short of the goal line.
This time we have a stretch run to the left.
Grubbs is up against 49ers defensive end Justin Smith. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie takes the initial block on Smith before Grubbs comes in and helps to push him towards the sidelines.
Once McKinnie disengages, Grubbs takes over and continues to drive Smith towards the sideline. Rice sees a hole opening behind Grubbs and takes the cut-back lane to get up field and get positive yards.
One thing I did notice on multiple occasions was that Grubbs did well to get to the second level, but would miss his block.
Grubbs gets to the second level and has a linebacker to target.
He engages the defender, but takes a bad angle.
The defender shrugs off the attempted block from Grubbs.
Rice had already cut back inside, but runs straight into the defender that Grubbs missed. They still get three or four yards on the play, but If Grubbs can cut off the backside of the line, Rice cuts that back for potentially a first down.
I've always said an important aspect of an offensive lineman is their ability to recover. At some point they are going to get beat, its just a fact of football. Grubbs was rarely beat on the film that I watched, but here's an example of his ability to recover.
Grubbs first game back from injury this year was against the Steelers. Defensive lineman Brett Keisel penetrates inside on this stretch run to the left.
Grubbs manages to re-engage with Keisel, and attempts to push him past Rice as he cuts back.
Keisel only manages to get a hand on Rice after an attempted dive towards him. Grubbs did enough to help Rice past him. Not a great play, but somewhat of a recovery.
As I said, Grubbs rarely gets beat and when he gets it right, the Ravens run game benefits.
Grubbs is going to kick the defensive lineman inside, while McKinnie pushes number 51 outside to create a hole. the fullback will come up into the hole and block Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga and allow Rice a free run through the hole.
As the play develops, you can see the big hole that's created. The fullback comes through the hole and give Rice a free run. Grubbs gets himself a good angle to kick the defender inside and seal off the inside.
What I love is that Grubbs continues the block even after Rice is gone. The defender never gets anywhere near Rice, who took the run for 50+ yards and a touchdown.
This is where Grubbs excels. He keeps his head on a swivel and is always aware and ready to pick up extra blitzers. He's part of a very good interior offensive line of the Ravens. Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda make up the trio of interior lineman, and together they all help with protection calls.
As we see in this play, Grubbs is not afraid to call out what he sees and help set protection. He helps with this on the majority of passing plays. Some seniority and veteran leadership would go a long way on the Redskins offensive line, especially lined up next to Trent Williams.
But it's all well and good being able to call out protections, how is he when it comes to actually blocking it.
On this play, Keisel is going to try and create an opening between McKinnie and Grubbs for the blitzing linebacker to run through.
Grubbs and McKinnie work well together to close the potential gap and not give either defender an opening.
Grubbs then takes Keisel and pushes him inside towards the center, Birk. The blitz stunt is picked up well and negated.
Here we have another stunt from the Steelers with a delayed blitz.
Grubbs initially helps push a defensive lineman inside onto the center and helps to dominate the block. Jason Worilds is coming around on the delayed stunt.
Grubbs identifies the threat, steps across and picks it up. Worilds can't disengage and Flacco has a clean pocket to throw from.
Here we have one more delayed stunt from the Steelers game.
Again Grubbs helps the center inside secure the block, with one eye watching for potential other blitzers.
He's again able to step across and pick up the extra blitzer. Flacco gets another clean pocket to throw from.
One of the games I watched was against the 49ers. It provided an interesting match-up of Justin Smith against Grubbs. Smith has had a great season as a 3-4 defensive end and has harassed a lot of interior offensive lineman all season long. Early on Smith gave him a lot of trouble in the run game, but only once or twice in the passing game.
This a rare occasion to see Grubbs with bad technique in pass protection. He's up against smith one on one. Smith gets under him and begins to push him back.
Grubbs manages to recover slightly, giving Flacco about three seconds to throw. But Flacco fails to get the throw off and tries to scramble. Smith manages to disengage and gets a hit on Flacco.
I'll finish this profile with Grubbs against Steelers linebacker James Harrison, one of the premier pass-rushers in the league.
Keisel and Harrison are running an 'X' stunt.
Grubbs gets a good initial punch on Keisel, making it easier for McKinnie to pick up. He identifies Harrison coming back inside early.
He picks up Harrison with no troubles whatsoever, and gives Flacco yet another clean pocket to throw from.
In summary, Grubbs is one of the top guards in the NFL. He excels in pass protection and would provide some much needed veteran leadership on the offensive line next to Trent Williams. He can recognize defensive stunts and call protections. He keeps his head on a swivel the whole play, always aware of an extra blitzer. In the run game, he would need to work on engaging at the second level and his consistency in the zone scheme, but shows he has the athleticism and ability to run it effectively. As I mentioned at the start, Steve will be looking at potential cap implications of signing Grubbs later in the week; but in terms of his ability on the field, I would absolutely be in favor of bringing him in and plugging him in next to Trent. That could potentially allow us to kick Kory Lichtensteiger inside to center and solve two positions with one signing.