Uche Nwaneri: What He Brings to the Cowboys OL

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The Uche Nwaneri signing indicates that the Dallas Cowboys want to focus more on running the football in 2014.

Uche Nwaneri

Uche Nwaneri was not only the Jaguars most agile offensive lineman over the last several years, he was the most quick-witted and technically sound run blocker. A big body and quick feet are two traits that can’t usually be associated with the same guard. This is why players like Carl Nicks cost the Buccaneers a boatload of dough: the Saints learned this the hard way when they had to let him walk in free agency and their running game ended up in the toilet.

In the NFL it doesn’t matter if you have the best bookend tackles in the league. If you want to be able to run the football, you need a mauling straight line road grader to clear a path. However, finding a guy who can do that isn’t as difficult as finding a guy who can not only do that, but get to the second level and take out the linebacker on the move, or pull to overload the edge.

Uche NwaneriUche Nwaneri not only showed amazing power as a run blocker early in his career, but in the Jags third game of the 2009 season against the Houston Texans, on one of Maurice Jones Drew’s 3 touchdown runs, he plowed his way through not one, but two linebackers including All-Pro DeMeco Ryans to lead the way. It was plays like this that convinced the Jaguars front office to get out the checkbook and extend his rookie contract before he hit the open market .

Jones-Drew had a career high season racking up 15 touchdowns and almost 1,400 rushing yards with Uche Nwaneri leading the way. Signing him to a five year $24 million contract with $8 million guaranteed in 2010, would later prove to be a bargain because Nwaneri continued to be the key to the Jaguars running game success moving forward. Jones-Drew averaged 1,440 yards per season up until his season ending injury in 2012.

Luckily for the Cowboys, the Jaguars found themselves in a financial crisis and Uche Nwaneri, who was set to earn $5.9 million in 2014, became the sacrificial lamb. Releasing him freed up $3.7 million in much needed cap space.

In a previous article I mentioned that the Cowboys 1st round draft choice Zack Martin had never played inside at guard before. I also mentioned that he was more of a finesse blocker than a road grader. The recent interest the Cowboys have shown in Uche Nwaneri indicates that the front office may feel the same way now that they had a chance to evaluate the current status of the offensive line in OTA’s and minicamp.

Where does this leave Zack Martin? In my opinion, the Cowboys should continue to develop him at his natural position of tackle as a future replacement for Doug Free. I believe that Martin’s quickness and technique combined with some NFL coaching should be enough to compensate what he lacks in over-all length.

Uche Nwaneri

Film Study.

  • Uche Nwaneri has proven to be what I refer to as a “complete” guard. He has the power to blaze a path for the RB to follow (road grader)… Quickness to get to the second level and lay down blocks on the move… Excellent agility to move laterally and seal the edge when pulling… Experienced veteran who does a nice job of reading stunts and blitzes… Plays with a solid base… Uses a good combination of power and technique in pass protect… Plays with good pop, strong violent hands… Has good knee bend and anchors well against the bull rush… Maintains good pad level… Mirrors opponents well… Plays with some nasty… Versatile because he can play center in a pinch… Smart enough to make the line calls… Solid veteran guard…

It’s rare to be able to find a guard who is efficient as a pass blocker and a run blocker. They are usually primarily one or the other because many are recruited for a college system that emphasizes one or the other and that’s where most of their experience lies. Uche Nwaneri is a complete guard and the Cowboys interest in him tells me they not only want to focus more on the running game in 2014, but give Tony Romo some veteran experience on the interior of the offensive line to help young players like Travis Frederick develop in to better pass blockers.

It’s obvious that pressure up the middle has been a major problem for Tony Romo and pass protection is Fredericks weakness. Anyway you look at it: signing Uche Nwaneri is a win-win situation for the Cowboys. Protecting the teams $108 million QB investment isn’t a bad idea either. Especially when it appears as though all they have to rely on for a #2 is Brandon Weeden, who couldn’t even keep a job with the quarterback starved Browns.

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  • californy

    Uche Nwaneri bring a lot of game experience to the Dallas roster. He make the depth of the OL much better. I personally hope he replaces leary in the line up and they play Martin at Right OG

    • Al

      All I know is there was too much pressure up the middle causing Romo to either hurry his throws and/or throw off of his back foot. Trying to make him play like a pocket passer when he rarely had a pocket was foolish. If he was going to have to run out of the pocket so often anyway, they should have called more bootleg/roll out plays to begin with. When Parcells was in Dallas they let Tony use one of his best assets which was his legs. JG has tried to make a Steve Young type QB play like a lead footed Troy Aikman . Bad idea

      • californy

        I rather the new OG replace Leary, I thigh Berny was our best OL down the stretch last year

    • you don’t start 94 straight games in this league and not learn anything. We have no one on this team with anywhere near that much starting exp

  • californy

    I am going to talk about Digg Free, Doug Free demise may be premature. Did you know Free was ranked 25th best RT in 2012, and in 2013, he came in at number 3 best RT. Doug Free jump from 43 best pass blocker to 27 in 2013. It seem Free learn to play more balance in his blocking and that enable him to do more effective in the run and pass game last year

    • David Vick

      scheme fit. Free is more athletic and the zone blocking scheme is good for him.

  • californy

    I heard Doug Free gave up 34 hurries in 2013, that amount is too high., but he also didn’t give up any QB hits, and gave up 6 sacks last year. So you have to read between the number and these stats I am providing. Personally I dont think Free is as bad as many here make him being, but he not a top 3 RT in my book

    • Al

      that’s only because of Tony’s escape ability. He can avoid the sack coming from the right side most of the time, but the pressure up the middle will kill any NFL QB. If Peyton Manning had Free as one of his bookends, 25 of those 34 hurries would be sacks.

      • californy

        I rather Tony get rid of the ball much earlier in the short pass offense. The longer he hold it, the greater chance of a qb hit on Romo.

        • Al

          there again. it goes back to Ginger trying to play like the offense he was in back in the 90’s when Aikman had enough time to eat a sandwich and drink a coke in pocket because of a great OL. You can’t run an Air Coryell without a solid OL and a dominant running game to go with it.

          • californy

            Beasley will be a beast in the short pass offense, that what they ran at SMU. Beasley is nothing more than a rb catching the ball..

            NO traded up in rd number one to get this type of player in Cook WR.

          • Al

            other teams see how effective he was against them and liked it. Ginger for some reason didn’t want to stray away from a deep passing attack

          • californy

            I like the short passing game and the sweeps Philly ran last year at 27 TD to 2 Interception by the QB last year. It helps when you have a top run game in the NFL.

          • Al

            it won the Cowboys 5 superbowls

          • I have been saying that about Bease since day 1

          • Gabriel Carrasco

            I saw Aikman signing autographs one time on a play because of all the time he had.

          • Al

            lmao

          • lol: how do you like that playbook so far?

          • Gabriel Carrasco

            I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I will definitely get to it this weekend.

      • Exactly

  • californy

    Ronald Leary continues to struggle. The Cowboys’ LG is ranked 58th
    among guards after receiving a negative grade in each of the last six
    games.

    • He has good upperbody strength, but having bad knees is not good for an OL.

    • David Vick

      run blocking was good but having trouble with the stunts. Bern probably better there, should be with more experience.

  • californy

    Bryant is 58th in percentage of passes he’s caught, hauling in 60.7
    percent. He also has a negative blocking grade, ranking 89th among WRs.

    • Al

      60.7 is wrong it was 58%

  • californy

    Right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau continues to improve. Bernadeau has
    received a positive grade each of the last three games and he’s the
    Cowboys’ highest-rated guard at 22nd overall.

    Freddy came in at 9th best center last year

    • Al

      if you are going by PFF it’s useless.

      • californy

        I use only what I am given, I know Cas dont like their rating system either, But I dont care about rating of player, what matter is what they do collectively. A OL getting recognition is never a good thing. The best OL are the one you take for granted.

        • Al

          I don’t use rating systems for my evals. I use my eyes. I throw stats in my articles because that’s what readers want to see. They don’t have access to tape, nor do they know what to look for when grading players. What I know is, collectively, this team has been at the bottom of the league running the football ever since Ginger took over as the OC.

          • californy

            We been been the bottem ,in run stats because our lack of effort i the run game. We are 31 in effort in the run game the last 2 years. That despite having a top 7 in run average per play/

          • Al

            they can run in space because Murray has good vision and can pick his hole, but in short yardage situations when teams are playing run, this team can’t get a yard because they get no push

          • californy

            I want player who can run Traps, we just don’t block this way. A Good FB would help out in this department

          • Al

            a good blocking TE would allow them to utilize the Wham as well

          • californy

            May not be familiar with the terms but I do understand the concept.. We had a team that use to block like this all the time. That why I like N Illinois and Jason Schepler TE at 64 pancake Blocks in 2012.

          • Al

            whamming the TE is a WCO concept. The guard lets the DT think he has a free run at the QB so he can get to the next level and take out the LB, but the TE comes over and picks him up from the blind side

          • As you know, my dad likes to wham the te

          • I agree there

          • I agree cuz there have been many times that JG just straight up abandoned the run

          • David Vick

            they were having good success behind Smith/Leary end of last year running…..first time in years I was yelling at JG through the tube to run the ball. Don’t think he heard me.

          • Gabriel Carrasco

            I only use PFF as a guide to where the players are ranked relative to the rest of the league. But the eye test says that Berny is better than Leary, and Nwaneri is better than Berny. We finally have some depth on this team. Even the D line has depth, not top heavy, but a decent rotation finally.

          • Al

            just out of curiosity, what does PFF say about Uche

          • californy

            A look at PFF’s offensive line ratings

            October, 26, 2012

            10/26/12

            11:39

            AM ET

            By
            Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com

            1
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            Comments12
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            The Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive line has been the second-least effective in the NFL per the review and grading of Pro Football Focus’ Khaled Elsayed.

            The site’s current grades for Jaguars offensive linemen: Eugene Monroe +12.8, Uche Nwaneri -1.8, Mike Brewster -2.7, Herb Taylor -2.6, Cameron Bradfield -4.3, Brad Meester -8, Guy Whimper -8.8, Eben Britton -10.9.

            Not pretty.

            Only Arizona’s line, regarded by many as among the all-time worst, rates as worse.

          • Al

            interesting because someone commented on DC.com that PFF had Uche ranked above avg

          • I saw that too

          • Al

            the main thing I keep in mind is that PFF had Bennett ranked higher than Witten as his backup lol

          • I used that example many times.

          • Gabriel Carrasco

            I find it curious as how Rob Gronkowski who didn’t play much last year, is ranked higher than Witten who played every game in the Top 100. Funny how that woks especially when they say that previous years have no affect on how the players rank.

          • Al

            Gronk is good, but he isn’t as good of a blocker as Witten which makes him the better TE.

          • Gabriel Carrasco

            Gronk is good, but I do think Gronk is a better blocker, however, Witten blocks far more than Gronk, which gives Witten the edge. Witten would have more TD if the line didn’t suck for so long.

          • Al

            Cas texted me earlier and said BB said the opposite pretty much of what I did about Nwaneri. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

          • I can’t wait to see which one of you is right lol

          • David Vick

            I don’t think he starts ahead of Bern/Leary winner. He wasn’t exactly snatched up quickly. I believe he sat for a month after being released.

          • did you know that PFF is based in europe and they don’t even have access to coaches tape? The base their evals off of watching the games on TV lol

          • Amen to that

  • californy

    If you want to see a complete wr look at the play of Marshal and Jefferies in the run game in Chicago, For me blocking up field is just as import if not more important than blocking at the line of scrimmage. Dez is no Michael Irvin.

    • Al

      i agree there, he doesn’t make good reads on hots either

    • He never got much of a chance in Dallas, but Holley was never afraid to lay down a block either.

      • Gabriel Carrasco

        Williams and Harris are probably our best blocking WR.

  • Gabriel Carrasco

    Ronald Leary is being accused on a DWI. It happened in 2012, so I have no idea as to why it is just now being brought up. However, it would surely explain the signing of our new OG.