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Offensive line analysis: point of attack in pass protection

While studying the team in last night's game against the Arizona Cardinals, I really zeroed in on the offensive line. Their play, in my opinion, wasn't very good, so I wanted to go back over the other games and break down our starters. I just happened to record all of the preseason games and was able to compare my notes from last night's game with the reps of the starters in the previous games.

I have three terms for you:

(1) point of attack;
(2) levels first , second, and third;
(3) seal blocks.

Before I explain how the Redskins executed in these areas, I will explain them to you (this will require multiple posts, so stay tuned).

Point of attack: (Some people use "contact," instead of "attack." I like "attack.") This term is used to explain that moment where bodies meet bodies. So for offensive linemen, point of attack is critical to the quarterback's safety, as well as the running game. In pass protection, offensive linemen have to have a decent amount of success at the point of attack if they are to have any chance against the pass rusher.

It's safe to say that on every pass play, at least four guys will be rushing the passer unless it's the last play of the half or game (when it would be fewer). Tackles, generally your most athletic linemen because they have to be very mobile, have to retreat as quickly as possible at the snap of the ball. There is less traffic to deal with rushing from the edge, so the tackles must buy as much time as they can before the point of attack takes place. The longer the pass rusher takes to engage, the better for the tackle.

For guards, it's a bit different. With tackles on one side and the center on the other creating natural barriers, guards are generally bigger heavier guys because their point of attack zone is much closer to the line of scrimmage. They have to be as stout as possible to help create a safe pocket for the QB.

The center's point of attack generally takes place immediately after the snap of the ball, unless there is a stunt by the defense. Centers are what I like to refer to as the start of the pocket; they must maintain their ground immediately. If the center is blown off the ball, you can forget about a good passing pocket being created. So it is imperative that the center is sturdy and strong at the point of attack.

Outside of the Ravens game, our starters seemed to do a pretty good job at the point of attack. This wasn't the case with our reserves last night. In my opinion, they were not strong at the point of attack and were consistently blown back off of the ball. When this happens, it leads to sacks, hurried throws, batted-down throws, and an uncomfortable quarterback.

Nothing good comes out of not winning at the point of attack. I will break down point of attack in the running game next.

Game notes: Robert Henson, hands down, was my player of the game.

Terence Austin may have played himself onto this team.

Despite the fumble, Brandon Banks showed excellent vision, quickness and speed, but not sure if it will be enough.

Biggest disappointment: You guessed it. Devin Thomas, if you can't shine against backups, then maybe you're a backup.

By Lavar Arrington  |  September 3, 2010; 9:44 AM ET
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Again, another easy-to-read and interesting education and exposition piece by the much, much improved LaVar Arrington. His future in this capacity is more than bright.

Julian Tepper
Placitas, NM
Redskin fan since 1947

Posted by: jutepper1 | September 3, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Great article L.A. Your experience really shines through in a piece like this.

Posted by: Treymen | September 3, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I am really enjoying your analysis. As a former player, your analysis is particularly perceptive. I look forward to reading your blog this season. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: collegedad | September 3, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Keep typing, Lavar. I am ready for the next post!!!

Posted by: ericroks | September 3, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I don't get all the Devin Thomas bashing. He catches the ball when it gets near him. By Lavar's own admission, the reserve o-line unit didn't hold well at the point of attack for an inexperienced group of QB's. One in John Beck in which I am scratching my head about. With those two factors in place, what are people expecting Thomas to do in those situation. He did have a couple of catches. For a team that can never manage to develop players, they had better stop turning there noses up at anyone that can help or has some potential in order to prove some point. It is okay to assume Galloway will answer the bell come season time because he is a "Vet" The org. takes too many shortcuts when developing a team and then critisize the players about taking short cuts. Look, I don't like his whack haircut either but if he can help put him in the game!LOL

Just kidding, sometimes I think the Skins have an age bias though. Just put the guy in the game and let him play.

Anyways, Go Skins
Just want em'to go out and ball hard whomever is out there. McNabb, Rex, or whoever else and whip the OVERRATTED you know who's

Good luck with your knew career venture Lavar. You always seemed like a down to earth kinda dude!

Posted by: millineumman | September 3, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Like life, attitude and effort are far more valuable than potential.

After watching Devin Thomas fail to get open, run consistent routes, or dominate backups, I wonder if he'll be cut.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | September 3, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

good perspective, this type of insight is amazing. i like thethoroughness.

Posted by: teddywjohns | September 3, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Who knew LaVar was a decent writer with the ability to break down complicated topics in plain and entertaining terms?

Good job, LaVar. Keep the posts coming.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | September 3, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

This is a really nice addition to on-line washington post sports. Thanks for the excellent analysis Lavar. I appreciate your taking the time to do some teaching and providing your insights. Keep up the great work.

Posted by: redskinsfan5 | September 3, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

After watching Devin Thomas fail to get open, run consistent routes, or dominate backups, I wonder if he'll be cut.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat

Are you sure that he failed to get open? How can you prove that?

Posted by: millineumman | September 3, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

LaVar nice post. I'm looking forward to the next one. I feel the same way that Austin sealed his spot and Banks lost his. Roydell Williams says thanks Banks. Defense IMO is still good.

Posted by: classicskins | September 3, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Someone please explain to me how a player who was always out of position when he was on the field can come up with such a good analysis. Despite going to the great Penn State, I thought LaVarr must have been one of those physically talented but mentally challenged players we so often see. But clearly the guy knows the game and can write.

How come he couldn't be in the right place in the defensive scheme as a player?

Posted by: InTheMiddle | September 3, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Solid analysis, good insight. I love it! Keep it up, Lavar!

Posted by: wbbradb | September 3, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Hey LaVar, how would suggest the team handle a malcontent ego maniac like Al Haynesowrth? You would know so tell us all.

Posted by: sjp879 | September 3, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Hey LaVar, how do you recommend the team handle a malcontent ego maniac bust like Al Haynesworth? You should know for sure.

Posted by: sjp879 | September 3, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Would you lay off LaVar already?!?!? Yes the guy was a bust and a divisive locker room cancer but everybody knows this and there is no reason to continualy pour salt in his wound. Let it go.

Posted by: sjp879 | September 3, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

In the Thomas discussion, I would have liked to see him have more separation, more balls thrown his way and if Beck could have seen him open on the deep route, it would have been a totally different story for him. I do not like the fact that Austin and Armstrong have consistently outperformed him. His potential is among the top three wide outs, but his performance has been disappointing.

On the O-Line, I really would like to see us keep Capers. I think he is big and athletic enough but extremely raw right now. I would rather see him earn a roster spot that one of the Vets. I like the fact that he can play Guard and Tackle. I was not impressed with Cook at all. It was good to see Westbrook out there and was overall impressed with the corners tackling. However, did not like the way they played as a unit and missed assignments and felt like they had a lack of communication on more than one occasion.

My digg of the week. It was good to see Westbrook in uniform since he was reported released. I am growing tired of the lack of fact finding with all the news formats and fighting to get the story out first...

I was really impressed with Bartel and although at times felt Beck did well, I really like the way Bartel keeps drives alive and shows confidence in the system. He manages the game well and does not make many mistakes.

Hail and Let's show that poor O-Line of Dallas why our transition to 3-4 will be a surprise this year both in pressure and turnover. We have got to stop the RUN, but hopefully that will continue to get better as they work together and get on the same page.

Posted by: williamlkempjr | September 3, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm really enjoying your posts LaVar. Keep up the good work and let the haters keep motivating!!

Posted by: Bbman73 | September 3, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse


Sweet analysis. I think you can really use your professional experience to make Redskin fans more knowledgeable than the average "A to F" assessment to which sports junkies have become accustomed.

Breaking down performance, the way it is done by coaches and scouts, gives us a much better understanding of exactly what we're looking at.

I used to HATE the written tests we were given as a collegiate player. Some could be hours long. As a FS, I had to know the opposing offense, their tendencies, their plays, their formations, as well as our defense, which could really change from week to week, based upon our competition. I don't think most people realize how much study time goes into playing football on a highly competitive level. There's a lot of "book knowledge" and class time that goes into those few hours of game time.

For one, I think most fans are more knowledgeable than most sports writers give us credit for.

For two, I think many of the biggest fans played organized ball at some point and actually DO understand quite a bit.

And three, for those that do not already understand, your critiques can help educate them. They'll get up to speed in a hurry because they have a passion for the Redskins.

I think your skills as a player are (or at least SHOULD be) unquestioned. I'm seeing that your critical thinking skills and communication skills are pretty impressive, too. The combination puts you in a very unique position to speak on all things Redskin. We are gonna eat it up.

Thanks for a great start!

Posted by: Thinker_ | September 3, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Cue the Haters...

Posted by: Thinker_ | September 3, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I guess LaVar did not notice that the first string O line did not play last night. His analysis is worthless.

Posted by: astrober1 | September 3, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Great post! Thanks for this insight.

You know, your comments about the importance of the center position suggests an argument for putting Albert Haynesworth at nose tackle. If he can use his quickness to blow past a center and destroy the pocket, that helps everyone. Maybe he can do that from DE as well, but I would think he's going to be engaging guards more from that position.

Posted by: drischord | September 3, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse


Pleased to see you providing knowledgeable and intelligent football insight. Keep it coming!

Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | September 3, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

The haters, who all talk as if they know what they're talking about, were obviously in the locker room, in meetings, in Snyder's office, and talking with Greg Williams. Not! As much as I like Greg Williams, the Skins made a series personnel blunders, which reflected the overconfidence that permeated the organization. The organization totally mishandled Lavar who should have remained a fixture here in DC, plus totally undervalued Antonio Pierce and others. A culture of disrespect flowed from the top down: Snyder's melted ice cream firing of Mike Nolan because his defense was too vanilla is but one of numerous examples that have been reported. Lavar didn't just suddenly develop a brain. Every word that Lavar writes today only confirms what most people who saw how he conducted himself, except for the Skins' brain trust, realized. Lavar's problem with the Skins' organization wasn't that he was too stupid; instead, just like B Mitch, Lavar's problem was that he had more football smarts than many of his coaches, and way more football smarts than his owner. Fortunately, as Lavar has noted, times changed. Snyder seems to have grown because the team went 4-12 last year and was a national laughingstock. Gone are Ceratto and all the yes men who seemed to be competing for who could treat players and the public with the greatest amount of disrespect. Now, adults seem to be running the organization and there is genuine hope for the organization. Respect, Lavar. Respect.

Posted by: dannykurland1 | September 3, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

somebody wrote "Who knew LaVar was a decent writer with the ability to break down complicated topics in plain and entertaining terms?..."

I seem to remember LaVar being able to hold an intelligent conversation using the "Duke's English" as well as anyone. Why shouldn't we expect him capable of explaining himself on paper? Or is that something only quarterbacks are supposed to be able to do???

Posted by: dcjazzman | September 3, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

To those who felt LaVar was mishandled..
YOU ARE ALL WET! He Was like the second pick taken in the draft. If he was so talented, he should have been able to adapt to playing in a different scheme. In college..he was
allowed to run around and create chaos. That however is college..not the NFL.
He never came close to living up to the hype. he got an attitude problem..AS HE FELT HE WAS NOT BEING USED CORRECTLY..SOUND FAMILIAR? THINK..A.H.
He never was able to adapt...nor could he in NY.
Washington..screwed the pooch in not re-signing Pierce. Consider who made the decisions at that time!!

Most of the Skin`s O linemen(second, and third string) who played last night..went up against A LOT OF FIRST STRING ARIZONA LINEMEN..IN THE FIRST PART OF THE GAME.
TAKING THAT INTO CONSIDERATION..THEY DID PRETTY WELL. Most of the guys that played..really..had little if any game experience (Hyer has had experience..he is just below average as a player) screw LaVar...he should have led off with those that played..had minimum experience in the league.

Posted by: blazerguy234 | September 3, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

@danny kurland & thinker: super posts!

Posted by: dcjazzman | September 3, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Am saving these imbecilic comments some of you are making about Devin Thomas. We shall see what you all have to say when the guy is catching bombs and breaking tackles for TDs.

Posted by: Barno1 | September 3, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

good overview of the o-lines responsibilities keep up the good work. and remember shanahan got rid of a strong o-lineman this week in e. williams and the back-ups are getting blown off the ball..what a genius.

Posted by: wathu19 | September 3, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse


What are your thoughts on Clinton Portis?

Posted by: dedicato | September 3, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Lavar,two points of observations:

1. you wasted your time in reviewing the films because last nobody from first team played at all nad it was moot to compare.

2. i saw the description of the three stands of offensive line some where else....

Again ...please provide factual analysis

Posted by: mazbar | September 3, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Damn! A writer at the WAPO who analyzes offensive line play?!! Have I died and gone to heaven??!!!! I LOVE IT!@!!! Point of attack and physical domination are what rule the game and LaVar nails it! I'd love to see Mike Wise or that punk Wilbon write something like this.... FAT Chance! This is what I look for in my sports frills...down and dirty.... analysis of the nuts and bolts of what is absolutely essential in winning and losing. I easily TIRE of reading about personal success stories, coaching-player frictions, Snyder, who's moving up to be the 6th receiver on the depth chart.... LaVar freaking NAILS it for me! I want to know who the guys are that are going to DOMINATE the line of scrimmage against the Giants and the Cowboys!!!!! You GOT THAT WAPO??!!!!!!! You hire absolute IDIOTS to write about football....IDIOTS!!!!! Sally Jenkins?! Are you for real? Tra-Cee? For real??!!! Stupid writers who know absolutely NOTHING about the game.... LaVar is THE MAN!!!! And it goes without saying, that the guy who ended Aikman's stupid career has a place of honor in this house for as long as I'm alive. HAIL!!!!!!!

Posted by: Capitalist-1 | September 3, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

This post is awesome. Great job, Lavar! Excellent breakdown for someone like me who has never played.

This makes me think about Casey Rabach - I feel I have seen him repeatedly get blown off the line of scrimmage over the past two seasons. He seems weak at the point of attack on pass protection.

Posted by: hithere1 | September 4, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm beginning to really enjoy LaVar's take. And not just because I'm a lifelong Redskins fan who went to Penn State! Keep up the good work!

Posted by: manwray | September 4, 2010 1:15 AM | Report abuse

I guess LaVar did not notice that the first string O line did not play last night. His analysis is worthless.

Posted by: astrober1 | September 3, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

...idiot!...yes you. LA clearly said this in the beginning of the blog.

"Their play, in my opinion, wasn't very good, so I wanted to go back over the other games and break down our starters."

read the whole thing before you yap about something!!!

Posted by: imageClass | September 4, 2010 2:07 AM | Report abuse

So, to be clear:

If I support you, I'm an 'apologist'

If I critique you, I'm a 'hater'

If I never played the game but give an opinion, I'm 'qualified'


if I played the game at the highest level and give an opinion, I'm 'unqualified' based on whether you 'support' or 'critique' me


Posted by: kahlua87 | September 4, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

I think it was Greg Williams who could not get along with Lavar and got him shipped off. The two ego`s could not fit in the same room! Even though he has won a superbowl with N.O. I still think the man`s ego got in the way here! I was so glad when they got rid of Williams and his ego!I so wanted Lavar to be a superstar but Williams ego got in the way! Sad.

Posted by: vexed50verizonnet | September 4, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Gee Lavar as a Penn State fan I've gotta say you were totally overrated when you played there. You washed out in the NFL because you really weren't that good not just because of injuries. The Eagles especially ran over you like you were a doormat. And now as far as your gig a sportswriter I can say - Nothing. Too funny.

Posted by: Dog-1 | September 4, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Post should give this gig to B. Mitch. he is thoughtful. Base his analysis on facts, he is a straight shooter and he is consistent with his opinion and was a rock star for the skins. People respect him. Just heard Austin call him on his radio show and asked him to teach him with the pointers for kick return. On the other hand , Lavar is not respected even by the players who are paid for their weekly appearances. Dont believe me listen to the radio shows from last year.

Posted by: mazbar | September 4, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

LaVar was a complete waste of a draft pick. You think he would be more humble but his ego won't allow it.

Posted by: sjp879 | September 4, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

As much as I love to see that head banging between Shani and AH, just because I want to see who will be the last man standing at the end of it, I have to say that it will is the distraction that will sink the team this season... If the Redskins feel that AH is not up to par and not in any football playing shape or condition, why don't they just bit the bullet, cut him, pay him his 9 Millions like the Seahawks did to TJH this week and let him go…? Let’s put that chapter behind us and play football... I am sick of it and slowly turning against Shani in this saga…

Posted by: marabout_noir1 | September 5, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

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