Following the Miami Dolphins shocking victory against the Baltimore Ravens, PFF usually comes out with ratings and pressure rates. Liam Eichenberg allowed a team high seven pressures.
On the season, Eichenberg has allowed 44 pressures. How does one of the more technically sound lineman on the roster and in the 2021 NFL draft allow this much pressure?
- During his Fighting Irish career Eichenberg started 38 games at Left Tackle
- Eichenberg went the last 30 games of his career without allowing a sack
- He allowed just three sacks his first year as a starter in 939 snaps. He would not allow a sack in either of the next two seasons on his way to consensus All-American honors in 2020
- At 15, Ohio State offered Eichenberg a scholarship
Eichenberg was regarded as a technically-sound tackle prospect. At Notre Dame he played efficiently out of his stance in pass protection. In run blocking, he excelled at moving down on blocks and finishing at the second level.
There were concerns about Eichenberg’s footwork as he would get caught against faster edge rushers, especially in a Wide-9 stance.
In turn, this style of play limits Eichenberg’s fit in a west coast and RPO style of scheme, he seems better suited in a scheme that will utilize his powerful arms. A scheme that runs a lot of power run plays and play action passes would benefit from his blocking.
Here you can see Eichenberg strike with force on first contact and gain depth into his pass set.
Eichenberg’s powerful lower body shines when he is able to put one hand onto the ground and finish his defender off into the second level. He does this on combo blocks too.
One of his worst traits is his timing, and hand placement. Eichenberg routinely punches rushers off the line and does not change it in different sets, making his contact predictable
Upon further review he reaches for contact instead of patiently waiting for rushers to make a move.
In training camp, it was reported by Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post that Liam Eichenberg was getting reps as the first team left guard.
At first, it made sense to plug Eichenberg as a left guard, as a former left tackle he would understand a bit of the nuances. Furthermore, Eichenberg’s arm length is not on par to an average starter at left tackle. Eichenberg’s arm length is around 32 ⅜”. An average NFL LT’s is 34″ while a guard has an average of 33’ arms.
That move inside showed that Eichenberg had the ability to start right away. It also shows his versatility as an offensive lineman. Versatility goes a long way in any player’s NFL career. Former Miami Dolphin Laremy Tunsil started his career by playing left guard.
However, Liam Eichenberg was inserted as the starting left tackle Week 1 against the New England Patriots. Austin Jackson, the team’s starting LT was out due to Covid-19 protocol.
“I’m a guy you can plug in and play right now,” Eichenberg said before Notre Dame’s Pro Day in March. “I’m not a guy that needs a lot of development. I’ve been coached well. I use my technique and my fundamentals very well.”
So how is it that a Notre Dame OL prospect, a school known as the OL factory, has given up 44 pressures and leads the league in sacks given up?
The same instances pop up when Liam is struggling, primarily in pass coverage, as a left tackle.
From Lance Zierlen of NFL.com :
Eichenberg himself has said he feels like he is a better RT than LT in the NFL. While Austin Jackson looks to have improved at LG, moving Jackson back to LT may prove costly.
Another OL change will break the Dolphins continuity, which Flores preaches. Moving Eichenberg to RT may work or may not. If it doesn’t, he can try RG and slide Robert Hunt to RT where he played last season.
The main issue with Eichenberg is that he pushes forward against faster edge rushers which allows defenders to hit that extra gear and get home.
The root cause? His stance.
Throughout the NFL season Eichenberg’s stance has worsened. He’s playing with a higher pad level. In the trenches it’s said, the low man always wins.
In the NFL, there are much more powerful rushers compared to college. I would understand why Eichenberg’s base and stance has been altered to get more drive out of his body. However, this leads to him playing to high. Thus, the result making him lose his one-on-one battles and giving up more pressures.
This is not only an Eichenberg issue, it an issue amongst the entire offensive line, especially the younger lineman. It will take some growing pains for Eichenberg to hold down the fort. It has not helped that he has had to play multiple positions on this line for several weeks.
Also, it comes down to coaching. Coach Lemeul Jean-Pierre is a first-time offensive line coach tasked with developing Eichenberg, Jackson, Hunt, and Kindley. It has taken Austin Jackson 21 games to show he’s is not up to par to play left tackle. Recently, Jackson is serviceable as a left guard.
Against the Ravens, the pocket looked a bit cleaner compared to recent weeks. If the offensive line can continue to improve as they did against Baltimore they have some experience to carry over into the remaining schedule.
If Eichenberg continues to show the same struggles at left tackle it might be better to move him to right tackle or as a guard.
After all, his former college coach thinks he would be a fit at right tackle in the NFL.
“Those who are going to draft him are going to get a plug-and-play guy on the right side. He’s probably not a left tackle. If you’re talking about that kind of athleticism, you could make the case that maybe he’s not a left tackle. At the right tackle position, you plug him in and he plays right away in the NFL because of his consistency, because he’s going to be there every single day.”Brian Kelly on Liam Eichenberg
One positive of Eichenberg play is that he does well when his hand is on the ground and he has to push people around and move up to the second level. Whether it be in the ground game or in passing sets.
He does not get pushed off the line easily when he plays with his hand in the dirt.
While it may be late to change offensive philosophies this late into the season, a change in personnel, technique, and coaching may help Eichenberg’s development and the entirety of the offensive line.
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