In this four-part series, I will be analyzing the Green Bay Packers’ biggest free agent addition of the 2016-17 offseason, Martellus Bennett, using film from his previous season with the New England Patriots. Today’s focus: the positives of Bennett’s run blocking abilities.
A big man deserves a big writeup, so I hope you’re in this for the long haul. I can assure you that if you make it through all four parts in whole, you’ll want nothing more than to witness Martellus Bennett maul poor linebackers into oblivion in the run game, then on the very next play, turn a 5 yard out into a 25 yard touchdown. The guy has the skill set to do both. As mentioned earlier, today’s recap will be about the positives on Marty’s run blocking. With a 6’6”, 275 lb. frame, Bennett can pack a lot of punch when he so chooses. Now let’s get into it!
Tight ends are asked to be a wide receiver and an offensive tackle packed into one frame. How many used car salesman/computer engineers do you know? Probably not many, because it’s a tough task to do both things really well. Bennett can.
In the next clip (#88, end of the line, bottom of the screen), not only does Martellus put forward a great effort, which certainly helps, but the blocking is really well done from a technical standpoint. Running an outside zone to the strong side, Bennett runs a perfect combo block with the right tackle beginning when they each put a shoulder into the defensive end lined up in front of them. Bennett then slides his feet while the tackle takes over, and he moves upfield looking to pick up a scraping linebacker; these are the blocks that spring long runs. Offensive lineman are prone to over- or under-running the shiftier linebackers downfield, as they just simply aren’t as agile. Here, though, Bennett manages to shuffle his feet and keep his shoulders turned inside, which creates a wider base to pick up a linebacker. From there, his natural strength comes into play and eliminates the linebacker.
Did you see him at the end of that? You should have answered no, because Marty ran his man out of the screen. That is what you call finishing a block!
Bennett’s ability to seal the edge has been something that the Packers have been lacking for a few years. Jared Cook was a serviceable blocker, but was more of a U-type tight end split out wider. Richard Rodgers is...there? He’s certainly no road-grader anyway. Martellus Bennett, however, might make Mike McCarthy bring back the shotgun toss sweep on third and one. As long as Bennett keeps his feet moving on the edge, whether it be forward to push the defender back or merely shuffling sideways to stay in front and keep the defender occupied, Bennett can be a very effective edge blocker.
Here, you’ll see that with a down angle on the DE, Bennett’s block has to be quick forward to stop possible penetration. The down angle makes it easier to knock the defender off his position, but coming off of the snap that quickly and blocking someone lined up down the line is no small feat for such a large frame.
In the next clip, Bennett (bottom of screen) shows both his technical blocking ability and his athleticism. Starting with a defender lined up on him adds a bit of difficulty to seal the edge, as he now has to get his feet outside faster than the defender reads the play. Adding another step of difficulty is the fact that the DE reads the stretch run and hops outside immediately after the snap, making Bennett’s blocking route even further outside. Bennett’s upper body strength assists him in making the block as he’s able to turn the DE inside, and he slips off at the right time as the offensive tackle takes over his man. His next block comes against K.J. Wright, who is, eh, pretty good I guess. Bennett’s food speed comes in here, as Wright is already scraping over the top. Martellus manages to reach Wright just in time with his enormous wingspan and hold him up just enough. A normal tight end wouldn’t have even gotten the chance to make a block here.
We know Bennett is a large human; this does not necessarily make him strong. Rest assured, he certainly is strong. It is difficult for a taller player to maintain good leverage, since the old adage of ‘low man wins’ rings true in the trenches more often than not. That makes it crucial to maintain good footwork with a strong base and core in order to be able to drive a lower defender back. Watch Bennett’s (2nd from bottom) body lean and fast, chopping steps in the next clip.
He absorbed the initial contact excellently, lowering his pad level before contact and exploding upward using his leg strength. He didn’t over extend and kept his butt down, which maintains a strong base, and was able to drive his defender backward.
Martellus Bennett has both the technical and athletic ability to be a strong asset as a run blocker. The Patriots’ run game in 2016 was very effective, thanks in part to their newest acquisition at tight end. Here’s to hoping that Marty can bring over the same uptick in productivity for the Green Bay Packers in 2017!
Be sure to tune in tomorrow for part 2!