Thompson Looks At Physical Flexibility Along Offensive Line

General manager Ted Thompson is looking beyond a player's height to find out if they can play on the offensive line.

INDINAPOLIS––Some of the top offensive linemen eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft are skyscrapers. Gabe Carimi is 6-7, Anthony Castonzo is 6-7, Nate Solder is 6-8.

And the list doesn't end there. Fourteen offensive linemen invited to the NFL Combine this year measured in at least 6-6 or higher.

For a point of comparison, no current Green Bay Packers lineman is listed over 6-5.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson said he's not necessarily targeting shorter players, but there are certain qualities he looks for.

"I think body types are one thing, overall height is one thing," said Thompson. "But I think you look at the body type and flexibility, the ability to bend, bend at the knees, bend at the hips, being able to create leverage.

"I think you can watch them play, certainly watch them in drills to see if there's a stiffness to them. That's the problem, sometimes it's not necessarily their height, it's their lack of flexibility."

There's a certain line of thinking––inaccurate or not––that shorter players have natural leverage. They're able to underneath the pads of a taller opponent, impeding their progress.

Syracuse center Ryan Bartholomew, the shortest offensive linemen at the Combine measuring in at 6-1, said he has a certain appeal to NFL teams.

"I had a line coach say he liked guys my size who have natural leverage," said Bartholomew. "Leverage is a big thing in offensive line play, so if I have that naturally, it'll make things better."

Meanwhile, Colorado tackle Nate Solder, who's tied for the tallest lineman at the Combine at 6-8, said he's working to convince teams he's flexible.

"I think the worry with being a tall guy is that you can't bend, and the things that I've done to counteract that is to show that I can and work on staying bent," said Solder. "The advantages are you have a lot bigger wingspan, it's a lot harder to run around you."

With an arm length over 35 inches, Solder has wingspan working in his favor. But as the Packers have seen with Bryan Bulaga––a player with a shorter arms than typical––they don't need long arms to have success.

A common denominator coming out of the Combine is how playing other sports is translating to success on the football field, even sports as different as basketball and hockey.

Solder played basketball and thinks he's at his best playing in space. Meanwhile, Baylor's Danny Watkins played hockey in high school as a defenseman and was very persuasive about how his skills carry over, including the all-important knee bend.

"I think a lot of it did [carry over]," said Watkins. "A lot of knee bend. The way you put your feet in the run game is similar to skating. Obviously moving backwards in hockey was very natural to me and in pass protection. A lot has been able to carry over to my benefit."

Villanova's Ben Ijalana was a standout wrestler in high school and knew the constant movement involved in the sport helped his conditioning.

He, too, thinks height can be overrated.

"I just need to be myself, present myself to a team how I'm presenting myself to you guys," Ijalana told reporters. "Just let them meet Ben.

"I mean, this is who I am. This is the guy behind the facemask, behind the jersey and the pads. I'm 6-3 1/2 I'm sorry I'm not 6-6, 6-7 . But, you know, you put some cleats and a helmet on me, and I can be."

As long as he can bend and show the necessary flexibility, that might be enough.

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Comments (11)

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jeremy's picture

February 26, 2011 at 07:04 pm

RIP

The short armed OL myth.

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PackersRS's picture

February 27, 2011 at 12:47 am

Eh. Not necessarily true.
I mean, it isn't true at all that the bigger the arms the better the blocker, nor that a certain low measure prevents a guy to be LT...

But it's an advantage to have longer arms. Just like with height, it gives better leverage. Of course, it's much more irrelevant than proper technique, power and agility, but it's still an advantage.

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PackerAaron's picture

February 27, 2011 at 03:31 am

Good points RS.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

February 27, 2011 at 03:43 am

WTF are you doing up? Don't you have an early day tomorrow? Watching the combine coverage on NFLN today... I love it, but gotta be honest, I dozed off for an hour or two today when the O-lineman and TE's were doing their drills.

Are you and the media folk doing meth to stay awake, or is it a bit more engaging in person??? Serious question.

GBP 4 LIFE

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jeremy's picture

February 28, 2011 at 12:02 am

Tell that to Jake Long and Joe Thomas.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

February 27, 2011 at 03:34 am

The myth is not dead... yet. LT's (and all O-line guys) with large wing spans are still the rage in this league (rightfully so). BUT, The way things are going with the zone blitz's' in the league now, you never know where the pressure is coming from. It use to be the D's best pass-rusher lined up against the O's LT (assuming the QB was right handed) to get to the QB's blind side, that's just not always the case anymore. The game is fluid and in 5-10 years it may not be the case, but speaking in generalities, length is still an asset on the OL.

GBP 4 LIFE

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Nerdmann's picture

February 27, 2011 at 07:11 am

I'd say arm length is more more important for a DE than a LT, imo. Or in the 3-4, maybe an OLB.

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dfosterf's picture

February 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Weight. That is the "bigger" story regarding NFL offensive lineman prospects, imo.

I'm at 310, in my personal "wish-list" for our "minimum", and that includes centers.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

February 27, 2011 at 03:46 am

Couldn't care less about weight... make a hole for my RB and let my QB play 16+ games. Steve Urkel or Andre the Giant... makes no difference to me. Do. Your. Job.

GBP 4 LIFE

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Nerdmann's picture

February 27, 2011 at 07:12 am

True, although, to a certain degree, the more weight the better. Long as you're not trading off natural agility too much. All things considered.

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lebowski's picture

February 27, 2011 at 01:12 pm

I get the whole arm length thing, and see how a huge wingspan can be an advantage. My beef is when the 'ideal' length is 35" or so, and a guy with 34 1/2" arms is panned by draftniks as some sort of T-rex. Are you kidding me? Grab a ruler and look at that 1/2"... it's ridiculous.

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