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K-Raid/K-Krush: Offensive Tackle Friendly

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Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

if you are an NFL offensive tackle, you would be licking your chops at the thought of playing in Kliff Kingsbury’s K-Raid (passing game)/K-Krush (running game).

K-Raid Benefits:

  1. The constant variety of quick passes—-in close to 40% of all passing plays, the ball is coming out within 2 seconds, which, for an offensive tackle means simply one thing: deliver a jolting hand punch to the numbers of the edge defender—-which often causes the DE to cover up in order to deflect the blow—-and thus doesn’t allow the defender the time to get his arms up in time to deflect the pass—-and then if the pass is a short bubble screen or quick flair, the tackle can release downfield to make splash blocks on the linebackers or defensive backs.
  2. Standard pocket passes—-with such a dynamic running threat at the QB position, DEs are often instructed to perform disciplined “control rushes.” What DCs don’t want the edge players to do is storm the edge and get steered wide of the pocket—-because it affords the QB an easy escape route through a wide open gap. This is what DCs talk about all the time—-”establishing and maintaining contain” on a mobile QB. These controlled rushes show up a lot on the video below.
  3. Bootlegs and waggles—-these are fun plays for tackles because what they are instructed to do is influence the defender into moving toward the initial flow—-and in that 1-2 second interim, the tackle can set up for an easy pin block, where he squares his shoulder to the defender and walls off the inside in order to enable the QB to break contain on the bootleg.
  4. Screens—-when the defensive line is getting a little too aggressive, it’s a good time to call a screen, which for the tackle, means fan blocking to sell the pass, and then on a 1-2 count, letting his man blow past him and now running upfield to block the “first sign of color” (in other words—-the first tackling threat).
  5. Play Action Passes——the tackles fake what at first looks to be a run block and then they square up on the DE and leverage him inside the box or steer him wide of the pocket.

Purpose: what the K-Raid does is it stifles an edge player’s aggressiveness off the snap—-first, by making the edge player react in split seconds to passes coming out quickly—-secondly, to keeping pass rushing arcs disciplined so as not to open the scrambling gate for the mobile QB—-and thirdly by making the edge player “stay at home” in fear of the misdirection bootlegs and waggles.

Fourthly, the edge player has to worry about getting too aggressive in fear of “taking the bait” on screen passes. Fifthly, play action passes keep the defense honest and hold them in their tracks, which gives the tackles a chance to sell the run and then get a reset on their pass pro to take and ride the defender in the direction he commits to. All of these reads combined gives the edge defender a heckuva lot to think about—-and too much to think about is precisely what Kliff Kingsbury wants too create for every defender—-because, as they say, “over-analysis causes paralysis.”

Watch the tackles on these passing plays—-and quite often you will see how the tackles are able to benefit from the defense trying to stay in “controlled” passing lanes—-and whenever the tackles get the chance they will pin their DE inside or ride him to the top arc of the pocket.

Note: of the 5 categories of the K-Raid above, the 2019 Cardinals had the most success with #1 (Quick Passes), #2 (Standard Pocket Passes) and #5 (Play Action Passes). Where the offense will aim to improve the most in 2020 is in #3 (Bootlegs) and #4 (Screens).

K-Krush Benefits:

  1. RPOs (Run/Pass Options):—-RPOs are an offensive tackle’s dream, because the threat of the handoff from the QB to the RB causes the edge defender to freeze—-and if the edge defender misreads the play and just storms the edge, it’s an easy steer wide of the QB for the tackle to make. So what this does is it gives the tackle the freedom to square up on his man and steer him to whichever side he goes, thus opening either an inside hole of an outside hole, which the RB can read.

2. Basic Off-Tackle Plays:

These are plays that offensive tackles relish because, unless there is a blocking assignment switch on the play, the tackle has a huge down block to make on the DT, which is made to order because of the angle of the block and the leverage. Either a motion man, a fullback (if used) or one of the guards is going to “kick out” the edge player, whom the tackle leaves in order to block down on the DT or ILB.

3. Counter Plays/Draws:

Kliff loves these counter plays and they go back to the old days of the Redskins’ “counter treys” with the “Hogs” up front and John Riggins at RB. As a tackle, on a counter play, if the initial flow of QB and RB is toward you, you and the guard to your side are going to pull in the opposite direction. If you are away from the initial flow, you block down and seal. As a pulling blocker—-again—-the rule of thumb is to block “the first sign of color.” But sometimes the seal blocks on the back end are so good and the linebackers have gotten caught running toward the initial flow, thus, when the RB counters back the other way, the pulling tackle can actually turn the opposite corner and run downfield to block the safety or CB. On draw plays, which the Cardinals were pretty good in executing, the tackles and all of the OL are told to leverage their men in the direction their defenders commit to, and that will often open up wide holes.

4. Sweeps and Reverses:

Simple responsibilities for the tackle—-if the sweep is to your side, you want to “hook” the edge player—-in other words you want swim over to his outside shoulder and try to leverage him to the inside so that he will lose “contain.” Now—-if the edge player has read it well, you want to take him on a “sleigh ride” and drive him as far wide as you can so that it will give the RB a good chance to cut back through an open running lane. if you are away from the sweep or reverse, you just want to make sure that you prevent the backside edge player from chasing the play from behind. Although sometimes, you are asked to down block on the guards’ DT, so that the the guard can pull on the play without the DT getting onto the backfield.

5. Read Options/Speed Options:

Tackles relish this play, because, they leave the edge player unblocked and either block down on the DT or block down to the second level on one of the linebackers. So, what the QB is keying on is the edge player whom the tackle leaves unblocked—-if the DE stays inside to honor the RB, the QB pulls back the ball and beats the DE to the outside—-if the DE stays wide to keep contain, the QB hands the ball off to the RB, who should have a nice hole because of the tackle’s down block. On the speed options, the QB runs a sprint out toward the edge defender and if the edge defender comes up to take him, the QB pitches the ball to the RB. If the edge defender tries to play both the QB and the RB, the QB tuck the ball in and rush es for all he can get upfield.

Purpose: In the K-Krush the offensive tackles can show off their aggressiveness and their athleticism—-and it often gives them a chance to leave their edge defender to fend for himself while the tackle has the opportunity to hammer a great down block or zero in on the linebacker on the second level or pull in tandem with the guard on counters where tackles get a chance to deliver “blow up” blocks on linebackers and defensive backs.

This video of Kenyan Drake highlights is fun to watch because of the vast variety of plays he ran. You can see here why the RB in both the K-Raid and the K-Krush is the MVP of the offense other than the QB. As for the OL, take a look at the variety of blocks the tackles make on these plays.

Man, it’s fun to play the OL in this offense and what’s special about it form an OL standpoint is that each of the 5 OL are equally important. Once we begin to understand that equal importance of each lineman better, we will realize that the this offense alters the traditional way we look at offensive lines and it makes, for example, the center just as important as the left tackle. And actually the tackles have it a bit easier in this offense, because they don’t have to deal as much with all of the stunts, twists and blitzes up the middle.

Analysis: Sean Kugler and Brian Natkin did such a good job of getting the offensive line to play in unison. Because the tackle position in the offense is system friendly, the coaches were able to get good performances from D.J. Humphries and Justin Murray.

What hurt D.J. Humphries and Justin Murray early on was Kyler Murray’s tenancy to set up at the deep end of the pocket and then when pressure hit the top of the arc Kyler would make the mistake of running backward, instead to stepping forward. Thus, DEs were getting a bead on Kyler when he flushed backward. But, to Kyler’s credit he started stepping up more and escaping inside the holes and as the season progressed his earlier flush out backward problems were getting solved.

It is important to note how encouraging it was for the coaches to get such steady play from Justin Murray—-who in the last six weeks of the season was the Cardinals most consistent and effective offensive lineman. D.J. Humphries, for the most part, was good in pass pro, but his lack of discipline at times on snap counts was an on-going issue—-as was a number of his missed opportunities to finish off his run blocks. But, those issues can be corrected if Humphries can acquire the kind of discipline it takes to as Kliff says, “stay with the standards.”.

What’s noteworthy about the tackle friendly offense is that Justin Pugh recorded his highest grade of the season in any game (LG or T) when he started at RT versus the 49ers. Check out this line: 79.4 overall, 68.0 pass blocking, 84.6 run blocking—-0 sacks, 0 QB pressures and 0 penalties—-versus one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.

Pugh struggled some a week later at Tampa Bay trying to contain Shaq Barrett—-but the offense put up very good numbers and points in that game, despite Barrett’s disruptions.

The point is—-because the K-Raid and K-Krush are so tackle friendly and because Sean Kugler’s and Brian Natkin’s coaching is very effective—-there are reasons to believe that many offensive tackles would thrive in this offense.

There has been talk on twitter about the Cardinals perhaps having interest in Jack Conklin, 6-6, 308, 6 (TEN)—-

Conklin is made to order for this offense because he delivers one of the nastiest hand punches in the NFL and backs defenders off. Conklin played RT for the Titans because they already had their 2014 1st round pick, Tyler Lewan, at LT. But, if you go back and look at Jack Conklin playing LT at Michigan St. there are enough reasons to believe he could play either tackle in the K-Raid/K-Krush and in the K-Krush part of the equation we could start calling him K-Konk. Because Kyler Murray senses and feels pressure so well, it doesn’t really make the LT position more important—-again—-every position on the OL—-all 5—-are of equal importance.

Here is Conklin playing LT (#47) versus Michigan in 2015, if you want to see for yourself.

Prior to this season, the Titans didn’t pick up Conklin’s 5th year option because he was coming off an ACL tear in 2018. He struggled early on in 2019, surrendering 3 sacks versus the Jaguars in Week 2...but after week 2, he gave up only 1 sack the rest of the season. He finished the year with the following grades: 78.0 (#15 T) overall, 72.4 (#45 T) pass blocking and 80.5 (#6 T) run blocking. His overall grade of 78.0 was 13.5 points higher than D.J. Humphries’ (64.5). D.J. pass blocking grade (76.3) was 2.9 points higher than Conklin’s, but D.J.’s run blocking grade (52.3) was 28.2 points lower.

Given what the Cardinals want to accomplish on offense in both the K-Raid and the K-Krush, Jack Conklin brings significant upside, especially given how Conklin improved his pass protection as the Titans’ season progressed while springing RB Derrick Henry for chunk-yard plays with stunning regularity.