Tomlinson’s Tape Shows Reason for Optimism Amongst Bad Performance

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A Film Break Down Of The Lions Loss At Green Bay.

Laken Tomlinson is a name buzzing around many fans heads following the loss to Green Bay on Sunday and for good reason. He had a very rough showing, however there is room for optimism amongst an abysmal performance.

The Bad Tape

Watching Tomlinson against Green Bay, his bad plays were largely a result of poor fundamentals. As a lineman in the NFL, you cannot fire off the ball late and come out of your stance high. On almost all of Tomlinson’s bad plays, this was how they started.

He understands that his main strength is power. However, he becomes too reliant on this power and plants his feet into the ground in an attempt to prevent the defender from moving. This technique can work if you fire off the ball low and establish position at the point of attack. But Tomlinson consistently comes off the ball late and high, causing blown up plays in the run game and sacks in pass protection.

Many scouts had the Lion’s left guard rated as a better right guard because he has what’s known as “heavy feet”, meaning that he does not move his feet quickly which can lead to poor leverage and quickness. Typically, left guards have quick feet, since they have a higher priority on pass blocking to protect the quarterback’s interior blind side.

If you combine all of these issues, you get a terrible performance like the one we saw on Sunday.

With 5:07 left in the 2nd quarter, here you see Tomlinson trying to rely on planting his feet into the ground to stop the defender. However he comes out of his stance too high and loses positioning. Tomlinson gets run backwards and tries to re-establish himself but he does not reset his feet and gets beat with a bullrush move by #76 Mike Daniels. He’s driven so far back, Lion’s quarterback Matthew Stafford cannot step up into the pocket and misses Anquon Boldin downfield on 3rd down. This was a very dangerous play for Stafford as he was hit below the knee as he was stepping to throw.

The very next play is a missed field goal by Matt Prater and the Lions miss out on points in a one score game. This one blown up play by Tomlinson was a critical one in such a close game.

The Hopeful Tape

There is good news here. All of these issues are ones that can be fixed with good coaching by offensive line coach Ron Prince and  hard work by Tomlinson.

Fortunately, the late starts and high posture are not because of a lack of knowledge. There are plays when he does fire out of the blocks and stays low and dominates the defender. In the running game he has shown the ability to move his defender at will if he establishes his position early. He has the power to take advantage in situations where he does have leverage.

On the second to last Lion’s drive of the game, we see Tomlinson display why he was selected in the 1st round of the 2015 NFL Draft. We see him fire off low and fast to pass off #97 Kenny Clark of Green Bay to Lion’s center Travis Swanson. Creating a hole for running back Dwayne Washington to run through. The great play does not stop there. Tomlinson continues on to the second level of the defense and bench presses middle linebacker Blake Martinez away from the hole. This play may have gone for more yardage had Washington shown more patience and cut to the outside instead of running right where Tomlinson pushed Martinez. But this will come with time and experience for the rookie running back.

We see Tomlinson do something on this play we rarely see him do: keep his feet churning. Often you will see an offensive lineman establish initial position only to lose it because they plant their feet and stop pushing with their legs. This fundamental is one that separates good offensive lineman from great offensive lineman.

On the play before this one, we also see Tomlinson display great technique in pass protection.

We again see Tomlinson come out of his stance quickly. He does a great job keeping his hips underneath him to maintain leverage throughout the play. If you watch the play closely, you see that Tomlinson only gave up 1 or 2 yards from the line of scrimmage. This gave Matthew Stafford a beautiful pocket to step up into and hit Anquon Boldin again for a nice chunk of yards.

The one critique of this play is you would like to see him keep his feet moving to maintain balance and leverage on the play. Tomlinson is still able to have a great block because of his power and posture, even though he displays heavy feet.

Left Guard of the Future?

Tomlinson has put together three really bad games in a row. There is no way around it. He has had a terrible season thus far. He has a habit of making his worst plays at the worst times, usually resulting in missed scoring opportunities for the Lions. Which may have cost them the past two games.

However, there are times where he flashes the ability of a starting caliber left guard in the NFL. There are times where he even looks like he could be a pro-bowler. Right now, these plays are few and far between. However, if Tomlinson can find a way to be consistent with his technique, he may be a great Lion someday.

We have seen this happen before. Pro Football Focus rated Travis Swanson as one of the worst starting centers in all of the NFL last year. This year he has made huge strides and is not only a leading player for the Lions, but has also been rated as a top 10 center through the first three weeks.

If you combine Tomlinson’s raw strength with solid technique, footwork, and if he can fire off the ball consistently, you have an offensive lineman you could rave about. If he puts all this together we could see a Travis Swanson-esque transformation next year or even later this season.

Film Room Mentionable Players

Tight end Eric Ebron has shown vast improvements since last season. On several plays he ran routes as precise as a wide receiver; not bad for a 6’4″ 248 pounder.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones impressed this week with crisp route running and displayed great release to burn cornerback Demarious Randall for over 200 yards and 2 TDs. There were a couple more receptions that could have been added to this great day had there been slightly better pass protection.

Center Travis Swanson and right tackle Riley Rieff continue to impress in the run game. The Lions running game clicked in the 2nd half when they realized the left side was not working and started utilizing our strengths.

Speaking of which, let’s give credit to offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter for his half time adjustments. The offense looked like a different team in the 2nd half on offense. A large part of which was realizing the Lions ability to move the ball in a “no-huddle” offense. If the Lions could play like that for four quarters, the offense could get really scary for opposing defenses.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin deserves some criticism after another week of not adjusting to what the offense was doing. Even though the defense was injured, he needs to play to the strengths of this team. Too often we were exploited for trying an exotic blitz with subpar players. He has an undying love for zone coverage on a team who is very poor at zone. Especially calling cover-2-zone for much of the game (when the weakness of cover-2-zone is down the middle), despite the fact we don’t have the linebackers to play this concept effectively. This was where Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook feasted on the Lions in the first half.

Defensive tackle A’shawn Robinson, who was touted as a draft steal by many correspondents, is showing exactly why the projected 1st round pick fell to the 2nd round. Outside of one play where he forced Rodgers out of the pocket, he really got pushed around out there on Sunday.

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