- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Most football coaches of any stripe love the glass-eating, ass-kicking offensive lineman type, and they’ll willingly add those players to their teams — often in lieu of the technical refinement and mechanical consistency that marks the best blockers in the game. San Francisco’s Trent Williams, the best offensive lineman in the NFL today, is quite happy to demolish any defender on any play with his physical dominance, but he’s also capable on a play-to-play basis of shutting out enemy edge-rushers with a technical palette that is the envy of the league.
There is a balance, and somebody needs to get that through to Saints rookie offensive tackle Trevor Penning. On Wednesday, New Orleans head coach Dennis Allen kicked the 19th overall draft pick off the practice field after Penning got in a fight with defenders on his own team for the third day in a row.
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) August 3, 2022
A rather exasperated Allen explained it thusly:
— Ed Daniels (@WGNOsports) August 3, 2022
“We’ve got to get our work done,” Allen said. “We’ve got to learn as a team how to compete, and how to play, and how to practice, and push ourselves to the limit, yet not take it over the edge.
“We are in the third day in a row in practice,” Allen concluded. “People begin to get a little bit tired and things get a little bit chippy. It’s not unusual for something like that to occur during a training camp. It’s certainly something we don’t want to see happen. It’ll be addressed and we’ll move forward.”
Anybody who watched Penning at the Senior Bowl knew that he was going to be this type of player when he hit the NFL. Penning was throwing opposing defenders around all week in practice — occasionally at the feet of his own quarterbacks — and while that got a lot of oohs and aahs from those in the league who find such things scintillating, it also masked some serious technical deficiencies that will also show up when it’s time to get real in the regular season.
Browns expert edge-rusher Myles Garrett agreed.
When you’re dealing with Garrett’s bull-rush, or Micah Parson’s long-arm, or T.J. Watt’s speed through the arc, it’ll get complicated in a hurry. As Senior Bowl highlights showed, Penning gets his hands inside the pads and on the numbers, and he has the upper-body strength to jolt and dislodge defenders from their intended paths.
But in Penning’s case, I have serious concerns about his ability to operate as a pass-protector and space player at the NFL level, and these issues show up repeatedly.
Here’s one play with straight whiffs on two different defenders on a pull…
…here’s Penning passing the end to miss against the second-level defender…
I'm not sure what this is, but I'm pretty sure I don't like it. pic.twitter.com/ajfCqo1R6s
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) March 7, 2022
…here’s Penning missing at the second level again, and adding some after-play activity to emphasize whatever point he’s trying to make…
I'm not cherry-picking. This is bad rep after bad rep. He's going to have to rein it in and get under control in space. pic.twitter.com/2RONInZHfQ
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) March 8, 2022
…and here, he does show the one thing he can consistently do in pass pro. Maul people to the ground. As Myles Garrett said, good luck with that at the NFL level. Penning needs to have his hands on a defender to make it work; he’s not an asset against defenses that present more complex rush concepts.
This is better, I guess. If you want to go full WWE, at least get your hands out there in a hurry so you can grapple. pic.twitter.com/wVeK6Ag3JC
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) March 8, 2022
In fact, he could be a distinct liability until he spends the time needed to get his technique together.
Last season, per Pro Football Focus, Penning allowed one sack and 11 total pressures on 435 pass-blocking reps, and he was dominant at times in the run game. But he also racked up 16 penalties, and that was against (no offense) middle-tier NCAA competition for the most part.
Penning is expected to start on New Orleans’ offensive line this season, the fact that he was selected 19th overall tells you that story. Which gives him training camp, and three preseason games, before things get really real.
“It’s part of my game, I think. It’s just how I am as a player,” Penning said Monday. “But I’m obviously out there working technique. I’m trying to get better at the technique of the game, getting the blocks down. The finishing ability, that’s what I pride myself in, and that’s always going to be part of my game.”
Hopefully, the “working technique” thing is as much of Penning’s plan as the “this is just who I am” thing. Because no elite NFL edge-rusher will be fazed one bit by the tough-guy stuff — and they’ll be licking their chops when they see Penning’s mechanical flaws.