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Player Spotlight: OG Chris Paul makes a case for a starting role in the season finale

A film session highlighting the strengths of rookie guard Chris Paul during his performance against the Dallas Cowboys

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Commanders need interior offensive line help. Badly. It was a massive problem all season long and will be a top two priority for the team, alongside finding a solution at quarterback. Rookie guard Chris Paul got his first tryout for a starting position against the Dallas Cowboys in the Commanders season finale in week 18. While the rookie showed on occasion, he still has some developing to do; he also provided a good case for himself on 65 snaps played.

Let’s look at the positive takeaways from Paul’s performance against the Cowboys.

Double Team / Combination blocks

Context: 1st quarter, 1st & ten at the Cowboys 20 yard-line

Double teams and Combination blocks are essential for running blocking on the first and second levels. Furthermore, the player needs to establish a good relationship with his teammate when initiating the engagement with the defender. Paul and Center Wes Schweitzer is responsible for doubling the Cowboys 1-technique defender Carlos Watkins on this rep. Schweitzer wins at the snap with very good initial quickness and getting hands in a good position to establish a leverage advantage. Paul doubles Watkins and is in lockstep with Schweitzer as they begin to drive him off the ball for ten yards. Paul also displays good awareness and processing through his eyes, locating linebacker Anthony Barr on the second level and having an angle to climb and block if running back Jonathan Williams followed behind the double team.

Context: 1st quarter, 2nd & eight at the Cowboys 13 yard-line

Another example of his understanding of 1st-level blocking. Paul and Schweitzer are responsible for blocking Watkins again and were able to execute this combination block well. At the snap, Paul displayed good initial quickness and hat placement to keep his helmet on the Watkins outside shoulder before he allowed Schweitzer to overtake the engagement and climb to the second level. Again, Paul’s eyes and positioning allow him to seal off the declaring defender on the second level and give Williams the edge for what could have been a touchdown. Unfortunately, defensive end Dorance Armstrong slowed Williams down in the backfield, eliminating the lane he had toward the sideline.

Context: 4th quarter, 2nd & seven at the Cowboys nine yard-line

Another double team on Watkins late in-game. This time Watkins aligns as the 2-technique directly in front of Paul. Another good relationship at the snap between Paul and Schweitzer, being hip-to-hip, as they work to drive Watkins off of the ball. Paul displays good lower-body play strength and mental toughness executing to this level late in the game, which suggests that he does not let fatigue impact his performance to execute this block.

Athletic ability

Context: 4th quarter, 1st & ten at the Cowboys 45 yard-line

Paul’s athletic ability and mental processing are on display in this rep. Paul has good initial quickness and explosion off the ball at the snap on this zone run. Paul also displays good awareness and instincts, understanding that Watkins is unblocked on the first level and drives him downfield to clear a huge rush lane for running back Jarrett Patterson to cut into. Unfortunately, Patterson missed the hole as he was too late to burst through it.

Context: 2nd quarter, 3rd & four at Washington’s 23 yard-line

To start this pass rep, Washington uses slide protection to protect Howell, using the C/RG/RT on 3-man slide protection. Paul initially oversets on his 45-angle pass set against Armstrong, allowing him an easy path to cut back inside of Paul and press the pocket. However, Paul displays good competitiveness and athletic ability, using good change of direction to get back into the engagement. Furthermore, Paul shows good use of hands in his recovery, fully extending his arms and washing Armstrong into the 3-side of the slide protection. This effort and recovery, along with linebacker Micah Parsons not maintaining rush integrity, allows Howell to rush for the first down and extend the drive.

Use of Hands in Pass Pro

Context: 2nd quarter, 2nd & five at the Cowboys five yard-line

Conclusion

Paul showed plenty of positives in his debut against the Dallas Cowboys. Paul best fits in a zone-scheme run offense primarily due to his athletic ability. But he also displays good mental processing and awareness in the run game on doubles/combination blocks, which allowed him to climb and take good angles to the second level consistently. As a pass blocker, Paul has good initial use of hands and displays a solid ability to independently work each hand to try and gain leverage against pass rushers.

As previously stated, all things are not good with Paul, though, but there are tools to work with and develop, and he could get better with more live reps. But as the Commanders move forward in their search to improve the offensive line, Paul’s performance was solid enough to consider him an interior option for this team.

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