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NFL Combine Day 1: Offensive line, running backs, specialists

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The first day of combine field workouts is finally here!

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

While the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine has been in full swing since Tuesday, today marks the first day of the on-field workouts, and the last day of the week for this group of players.

Today we’ll watch the offensive linemen and running backs (as well as punters, kickers, and long-snappers) take the field to compete in both measurable events as well as the field drills. Each of these drills have different purposes and expose different strengths and weaknesses.

Offensive Line

Prospects To Watch

Quenton Nelson (OG) - The top lineman in the draft, Nelson is considered to be one of the best linemen to enter the draft in recent memory. Of course he’s a guy to watch.

Mike McGlinchey (OT) - Nelson’s teammate, there are questions regarding McGlinchey’s athleticism. On the field he bears some resemblance to Jack Conklin. Will McGlinchey show the same surprising athleticism in his workout? [Prospect Profile]

Connor Williams (OT) - Williams missed a big chunk of 2017 with a knee injury. His medicals will be key to his draft stock, and he will need to show teams that he is a smooth mover and a starting offensive tackle.

Alex Cappa (OT) - Cappa made waves at the Senior Bowl and with his violent tape against D-II players. This is another opportunity to show that he can hang with big-school products.

Will Hernandez (OG) - Same as Cappa, he made waves at the Senior Bowl, but as a smaller school product, he should capitalize on every opportunity to compete with the big-school players. Also, the massive guard will need to show the NFL that he can still move. [Prospect Profile]

Events That Matter

(note: all events as described by the NFL. Read the full PDF HERE )

As fun (and occasionally amazing) as it is to watch 320 pound linemen run the 40 yard dash, it just doesn’t matter for them. There are, however a couple measurable events that DO matter.

Bench Press - The bench press is a bit of a tricky event to evaluate, because the arm length that teams tend to covet in linemen works directly against their ability to bench press. That being said, all linemen need a base level of strength and the bench can help expose that, especially in their ability to extend their arms and control defenders. Also, truly big numbers point to a bloody-mindedness to ignore pain and fatigue and push their bodies well past the point where they want to quit — also an important trait in a lineman.

Broad Jump - Football is played from the ground up, and a lineman’s power doesn’t come from his upper body, but from his lower body. A good broad jump shows off his ability to generate explosive power from his lower half, as well as ankle flexion and balance to stick the landing.

3-Cone Drill - Here short area quickness, flexibility, and balance are all on display. There is a pretty strong correlation between success in the 3-cone drill and success in the NFL. Linemen have to be able to move to pass protect and run block.

Field Drills

Linemen go through a bunch of field drills to expose their ability to move and any mechanical issues which might impact their movement.

Offensive Line Short Pull Power Drill

1. OL will team up with another OL in a 3-point stance

2. There will be 2 hand held shields simulating the defense, participating OL or drill instructors will hold the shields.

3. On the DRILL DIRECTOR whistle, OC will block down on defensive shield over the pulling OL 4. The pulling OL will drop step and pull to the opposite defensive shield simulating a LB in the gap.

4. The pulling OL will engage the shield and drive block until DRILL DIRECTOR whistles.

5. This drill will be performed to the right and left.

This is drill simulates the downblock/pull from just about every power run play in an NFL playbook. It shows off a lineman’s ability to block with power and technique at the line of scrimmage as well as his ability to get out and block at the second level. This is the drill that relates the most directly with what linemen will be asked to do in the NFL.

Pass Pro Rush Drill L & R

1. DRILL DIRECTOR instructs the OL to set in a 3-point or 2-point stance.

2. DRILL DIRECTOR blows the whistle to start the DL rush up field.

3. OL will kick-step pass pro and engage the DL rush.

Another drill which is directly applicable to what a player will do on Sundays. Put simply, one offensive lineman simulates a pass rush while the one being tested needs to kick-slide in pass protection. This drill shows off which linemen have the feet and fluid movement skills to play offensive tackle in the NFL.

COD Wave Drill

1. OL starts the drill in prone position with his face to the ground

2. DRILL DIRECTOR blows the whistle and OL jumps up and runs in the direction the DRILL DIRECTOR is pointing to with a football.

3. OL will move laterally, forward, and back upon the command of the DRILL DIRECTOR using the football for direction.

4. OL will sprint forward for 10 yards and finish through the cones when the DRILL DIRECTOR gives the command of “Finish” and a swipe of the football downward & back.

This drill is nothing like what a lineman will do on Sundays and is easily chalked up as “silly”, however it is useful as a movement screen. This drill exposes which prospects are natural knee benders who can drop their hips, lower their centers of gravity, and move freely. It also forces players to stay in that position for an extended period of time, which can expose conditioning issues.

Running Backs

Prospects To Watch

Saquon Barkley - Barkley is regarded by most as the top running back prospect, and draws comparisons to the likes of LaDanian Tomlinson and Bo Jackson. Part of the fun of the Combine is watching players who perform on the ragged edge of what is humanly possible do insanely athletic things. Based on how he performed in games, Barkely is expected to put on a show.

Sony Michel and Nick Chubb - Both Georgia running backs will want to show that they are in the same conversation as Barkley. They’ll also want to try and separate themselves from each other and establish their own brands to appeal to teams.

Derrius Guice - Guice was considered by more than a few to be the top runner entering the season, but a somewhat disappointing season dropped his profile a bit. He’ll need to show that yes, he is indeed an elite athlete and can be an every-down difference maker in the NFL.

Rashaad Penny - Penny was the only player to have more total yards than Barkley last year, but he is something of an afterthought in the running back conversation. This is his chance to prove that he can be an impact player at the next level, and he belongs in the conversation with the top prospects.

Events That Matter

The 40-yard dash gets all of the attention with these guys, but it isn’t the best determinant of which backs will have the most success in the NFL. Last year Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt all ran pedestrian 40 yard dashes, but went on to have fantastic rookie seasons (though Cook’s was cut short by injury). There is much more to playing running back than running fast in a straight line.

3-Cone Drill - Even “one cut, north-south” runners need to be able to change direction quickly, and as with the linemen, this drill will expose a prospect’s ability to do so. It will show lower body flexibility, balance, and acceleration in a short area.

Short Shuttle - The short, or 20-yard, shuttle measures a prospect’s ability to completely reverse direction, stopping and accelerating as quickly as possible. They not only need to be quick and fast, but flexible as well.

Vertical Leap - You want a running back to have lower-body explosiveness, the ability to hit the hole and accelerate hard, and this is the drill that shows it off the best.

Field Drills To Watch

Blast Read

1. RB begins in 2-Point stance and takes handoff from QB.

2. Player accelerates to the bag, and will cut left or right off the Drill Coaches signal.

3. Player will then run around cone and accelerate up field.

This drill simulates a situation where a running back is faced with a defender in the hole and has to make him miss. It will expose his ability to process information quickly, see the running lane (vision), and quickly cut to make the “defender” miss.

Off-Tackle Reaction Drill

1. RB lines up 7 yards deep behind the QB.

2. QB starts the drill with a snap count and reverse pivot hand off to RB whose path is between OT and TE.

3. RB takes the hand off and runs through 4 step-over dummies.

4. After the 4th step-over dummy, RB will react to the stand-up dummy 5 yards ahead.

5. DRILL DIRECTOR will tilt the stand-up dummy left or right, RB will cut opposite towards 2 cones.

6. RB will burst through the cones and finish with a 20 yard sprint.

Similar to the previous drill, this drill exposes how quickly a prospect can process information and act on it. It also has the element of working through the “trash” at the line of scrimmage before making the cut.

Change of Direction (COD) Pitch Drill

1. RB is 7 yards deep behind the QB

2. QB starts the drill with a snap count and reverse pivot toss the football to the RB, whose path is outside the tight end or 1st cone.

3. RB will weave around the 5 cones in a zigzag pattern and switch the football in the proper arm.

4. The cones should be 5-7 yards apart and cover no more than 12 yards deep

5. RB will sprint 20 yards after the 5th cone.

Another drill that exposes a prospect’s ability to move and change direction quickly. This drill forces the back to string increasingly sharp cuts together before getting to sprint at full speed. It will expose stiffness in the ankles, knees, and hips, as well as the back’s ability to drop his hips and change his center of gravity while cutting.

Running Back Pass Routes

1. Flat Route (Right) – Depth of 0-2 yards

2. Texas Route (Right)

3. Corner Route (Either to the Left or Right but not both) – Depth of 10 yards

4. Wheel Route (Left)

5. Flair Route (Left)

Given the evolving nature of the running back position and the growth of “spread” concepts in the NFL, the role of running backs as receivers seems to grow every year. A back who can catch the ball is much more likely to be on the field all three downs. A running back who can be an actual receiver is a weapon for most offensive coordinators and is that much more valuable.

Enjoy the day, and use this as your open thread for today’s workout!