For the last five drafts, Texas A&M has had one line of scrimmage player drafted in the first round; four pass protectors on offense, and one edge rusher on defense.
In the 2014 college football season, months after Jake Matthews became a sixth-overall pick in the NFL Draft, senior offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi took his spot at left tackle. That same year, a true freshman named Myles Garrett recorded 11.5 sacks and started making a name for himself.
Texas A&M finished with a record of 8-5, which was enough to place them in the Liberty Bowl that year. In that game, Ogbuehi tore an ACL, and his prospects for the 2015 NFL season were up in air.
The Bengals saw the injury as a blessing for them, because according to offensive line coach Paul Alexander, without it: “there’s no way we have a chance with this guy if he doesn’t get hurt”.
Ogbuehi became a Bengal and Garrett racked up 19.5 more sacks over the next two seasons in College Station. You all know the rest.
Garrett made his NFL debut the week after the first Bengals-Browns game in Week 4, and had four sacks in his first three games. This past Sunday was the first-overall pick’s first game against the Bengals, and the first time he’s met Ogbuehi on the other side of the line of scrimmage since the Texas A&M practice fields in 2014.
I went over the snaps of which both players squared up against each other, so let’s look at some of the notable instances:
I’ve gone over Ogbuehi’s preferred technique many times these past two years; it hasn’t changed very much. It’s his rendition of the hug technique that the Packers have been utilizing of late.
On the tail end of the Bengals’ first drive, Garrett is aligned outside of the tight end in the Wide-9 spot, and the Bengals deploy a slide protection towards Ogbuehi to the left to account for the desired throwing lane over the middle of the field.
Ogbuehi has a little extra footwork to do to mirror Garrett from that wide alignment, and does so accordingly. But with his hands-outside technique, the placement of his hands have to be even more precise. He’s got to get those hands striking up into Garrett’s shoulder pads for this to work.
Instead, Garrett’s inside long-arm counter brushes Ogbuehi to the side and creates a rift in the pocket. Luckily, the protection allowed Clint Boling to wash Garrett out of the pocket.
I’m only really showing the snaps where the play wasn’t designed to have Andy Dalton release it immediately after the snap. After that last play in the first quarter, Nate Orchard was going up against Ogbuehi most of the time up until this third down in the red zone midway through the second quarter.
This is only a glimpse of how damaging Garrett already is at just 21 years old. After just three steps out of his four-point stance, he generates enough force to forcibly escort Ogbuehi about three yards back into Dalton and disengage to finish the sack. This was the Browns’ only sack of the game, but it’s something we’ve seen plenty of times with Ogbuehi.
There’s just so much going on here. The Bengals are running a misdirection out of 13 personnel (one running back, three tight ends) going off the handoff from Dalton, and because the Browns only have four down-lineman, they deploy three double teams in the form of ACE blocks; the sole one-on-one is Ogbuehi v. Garrett.
The direction of blocking and double teams is supposed to get the linebackers flowing towards the right side of the offensive line, while running back Joe Mixon’s primary read is the left side B-gap between Boling and Ogbuehi, and Mixon would only have one second-level defender to worry about if Garrett didn’t completely fill the primary gap after discarding Ogbuehi forwards.
Mixon reacts accordingly and bounces the inside run around the rest of his blockers, where he works around the edge because left defensive end Carl Nassib never thinks to find Mixon and compromises his edge.
Only a couple plays later, the Bengals try to get Tyler Kroft on a spot route a few yards from the goal-line. I don’t have to tell you how bland of a play call this is, but this isn’t the offensive film room either. Something that many people watching the game probably don’t realize is that the offensive lineman know where the ball is supposed to go and how long the quarterback is supposed to hold the ball.
This play is designed to have the ball leave Dalton’s hands pretty quickly, but even with that being the case, Ogbuehi doesn’t get an excuse for letting Garrett get under his pads so easily and lifting him up into Dalton.
If you can focus on when they collide, Ogbuehi’s hands are far too high and don’t even connect with any part of Garrett, just his head really. Garrett knew how to handle Ogbuehi, and his lapse in technique wasn’t helping. Some will blow this play off as a wash because the ball got out and it isn’t recorded as a pressure allowed, and that’s fair.
But when you have a mismatch on the blind side like this... it makes you wonder just why they’re calling for a play that has the ball released just a second after the snap with no play action or motioning.
After halftime, it appeared as if Ogbuehi adjusted accordingly. He times his hug directly after Garrett’s bull rush attempt and really gets his hands on his shoulder pads. This slows Garrett enough for his force to diminish all together. Just like the previous play, the ball gets out before Garrett could’ve done anything, but the improvement in execution hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Something Ogbuehi has done well all year is ride out rushers who try to bend around the edge, as he does with ease against Garrett here. Garrett, without a doubt, has the natural flexibility to bend around the edge when he’s won it, but this time, Ogbuehi meets him to the top of the arc and just uses his length to push him around the pocket.
Again, the timing and placement of Ogbuehi’s hands is much better here as he “hugs” Garrett instead of punching his chest, but this is where heavy hands, or there lack of, come into the equation of pass protection.
Ogbuehi is able to place his inside hand on Garrett’s inside shoulder, but is unable to keep it there upon Garrett’s block shedding. This is also the danger of the hug technique, you sacrifice all your length upon contact and Garrett uses his to disengage and work around Ogbuehi.
Finally, this fourth-quarter Joe Mixon run that counted for zero yards wasn’t completely Ogbuehi’s fault, but could’ve done better. By this time, Garrett knew how Ogbuehi would engage him at the point of attack, and responded with readiness at the hands.
This is kind of like an abbreviated version of a swim move, with a lot more contact. Ogbuehi tries to get under his pads, but Garrett already has his outside hand ready to swat down Ogbuehi’s.
But Mixon is attempting to run inside of Ogbuehi, only the delayed blitzer from the slot forces him to bounce the run outside, which give Garrett an opportunity to finish Mixon himself. So many variables can impact who is able to make a play on the ball carrier, but Garrett did a admirable job himself here.
This piece has gone on long enough, but I wanted to add in Giovani Bernard’s best snap of the game:
That’s just awesome.
Happy Steelers week.