A Film Review Of Lions Free Agent Rick Wagner’s 2016 Season .
Rick Wagner Is A Pass Blocking Professional
Entering the NFL in 2013, Rick Wagner was praised for his abilities as a run blocker coming from a run heavy program like Wisconsin. While he was rightly projected at right tackle, many media scouts missed on his pass blocking potential.
Wagner has been touted as one of the top right tackles in the NFL and his pass blocking is a huge reason. Some analysts knocked him on his lack of quickness coming into the NFL. However, at 6’6″ with 34″ long arms he has been able to use his great length to mitigate this deficiency, similarly to new teammate Taylor Decker.
His length allows him to get his hands on speed rushers coming off the edge and does a great job flattening the defenders bend, moving them upfield past the pocket. This allows his quarterback to comfortably step up in the pocket, scramble opportunities, and more time for deep throws. Wagner’s length allows him to keep defenders in front of him when they use their first move.
Where Wagner really excels in pass protection is versus more powerful edge defenders like Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee. Wagner is incredibly strong in his upper body with a very thick base. When he sets his anchor he is very hard to move in pass blocking. His length and strength help him stop defenders in their tracks. When Wagner keeps his hands inside and does not come out too high out of this stance he does not lose versus a bull rush.
Rick Wagner As A Power Run Blocker In A Zone Scheme
Here is where an issue may lie in Detroit. While Wagner excels as a pass blocker he has had some issues in the run game. His strength works very well against bigger edge defenders. He is great at run blocking when you ask him to hit the guy that’s in front of him, even quicker linebackers. Wagner plays with a mean streak and mauls defenders while driving them downhill which is essential in a power blocking scheme
The main issue here is that he will not be asked to much of this if the Lions call a vast majority of zone blocking plays like they did in 2016. Detroit asks its offensive linemen to be responsible for the defenders that cross their zone. Not a big assignment if the Lions call inside zone, but the issues begin as they move outward from the center.
Wagner’s lack of athleticism and quickness may hurt him in Detroit’s zone blocking scheme. While he fires off the ball quickly he is not fast in space. Wagner really excels when he gets his hips underneath himself and can drive through a defender with his legs. But he has had issues on stretch plays, toss plays, and counters where he is asked to run where he is not in as good a position. His technique suffers on these plays which lead to him losing leverage, ultimately leading to blown plays.
There are some positives to take here though. Wagner is very powerful. If he can get centered on a defender lined up over top of him or shaded to either side he can blow them off the ball. He has not been featured in a zone heavy scheme yet. In Wisconsin and Baltimore Wagner has mostly played in power blocking schemes. While there are athletic limitations with Wagner he is an intelligent player. If he can better diagnose this scheme than Riley Reiff did, Lions fans may still see an improvement in the run game at right tackle from 2016-2017 seasons.