Welcome again to a different addition of “Grinding the Tape!” This week I wished to focus in on one other younger participant who may make a bounce in taking part in degree this 12 months. Bucs proper deal with Tristan Wirfs has already established himself as one of many elite offensive linemen in all of soccer. In simply two years, Wirfs has already garnered a number of accolades together with a Professional Bowl and a first-team All-Professional choice.
Bucs followers have come to anticipate high-quality play from him on a week-in, week-out foundation. Most offensive linemen make a giant bounce in 12 months three within the NFL. Might this apply to Wirfs’ already glorious degree of play. In my estimation there may be nonetheless room for development and the reply is sure, he can.
The place Wirfs Excels
It is extremely obvious in watching his tape that Wirfs is extra comfy as a go blocker proper now than he’s as a run blocker. His actions are extra fluid going backwards than they’re going forwards. His footwork is smoother, and he performs with higher inside timing. And this exhibits in his grading. By way of his first two years within the league Wirfs has posted go blocking grades of 81.0 and 84.2 versus run blocking grades of 74.9 and 74.6 per Professional Soccer Focus. And that’s the place we’ll begin with the areas of Wirfs’ sport which might be already established as great-to-elite. For this analysis I watched the Bucs 2021 video games in opposition to Atlanta Week 2, New England Week 4, and Buffalo Week 14.
Anchor and Stability
What jumps off the display once you watch Wirfs in go safety is his unbelievable anchor and unbelievable steadiness he shows as he drops to his set. The anchor shouldn’t be stunning when you think about he stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 345 kilos. However the steadiness did catch me off guard. For his measurement, Wirfs is extremely mild on his ft. And he invitations the go rusher to assault his body realizing that he can soak up energy and nonetheless set his anchor. Right here is an instance for the New England sport.
As you may see, Wirfs shortly kicks out to sq. up the rusher coming off the sting. He permits his man to drive proper into his chest. However Wirfs is aware of that he’s solely going to present a quick step again earlier than setting his legs and ending the defenders ahead progress. And at that time Wirfs has each arms on his man and is now totally in command of the rep. Now this rep was in opposition to Josh Uche who is just 245 kilos. Is Wirfs in a position to do the identical factor in opposition to a extra highly effective go rusher? You guess!
Here’s a rep in opposition to 6-foot-3, 291-pound Jonathan Bullard in opposition to Atlanta.
Bullard carries much more energy along with his added weight, however the outcome is identical with Wirfs. He squares up his hips, will get a strong grip, and makes use of his highly effective decrease half to soak up Bullard’s ahead momentum, earlier than dropping his anchor and freezing the 2 males the place they stand.
As for Wirfs’ steadiness you actually see it on show when defenders attempt to counter to the within on him. Most counter strikes are profitable when the defender is ready to get the offensive linemen to lean too far to the skin. This leaves both A) a spot again to the within the defender can exploit or B) a means for the defender to push by means of the offensive lineman as a result of they’re too off-balance to re-direst again to the within. With Wirfs it simply doesn’t occur fairly often. Here’s a prime instance in opposition to Dante Fowler, Jr. of the Falcons.
Fowler tries attacking Wirfs with a pace rush to the skin, hoping Wirfs will over-set. However Wirfs is ready to transfer up the arc with unbelievable steadiness that permits him to simply shift again to the within when Fowler makes an attempt his spin transfer. Finally, Fowler is left in Wirfs’ heat embrace as quarterback Tom Brady completes his go to tight finish O.J. Howard.
Hip flexibility is an underrated side line play on either side of the ball. On the sizes that these gamers play at physics dictate that rotational mobility generally is a problem. Due to this fact, if a participant lacks that rotational mobility of their hips, they’ll simply be taken out of a play. I detailed this with an earlier GTT that includes Ndamukong Suh.
With Wirfs he exhibits nice flexibility in his hips that permits him to simply change course when a defender makes an attempt to vary angles on him.
Steven Means tries to cut Wirfs’ exterior arm and shortly flip his hips to take a direct path to Brady. However Wirfs is ready to flip his personal hips as properly to vary his airplane and preserve himself between Brady and Means.
Outdoors Zone Runs
There’s a appreciable distinction in Wirfs as a run blocker in huge zone runs versus in a spot run scheme. With zone runs Wirfs is ready to use his athleticism and momentum to wipe defenders out of performs. And I hope the Bucs play extra to this power of Wirfs in 2023. Particularly with the addition of rookie operating again Rachaad White. Right here is an instance in opposition to Atlanta.
You’ll be able to see Wirfs is ready to get out of his stance and on the transfer with relative ease. His athleticism permits him to maintain up with the tempo of the play. Then he strikes to the second degree. Right here he finds the linebacker and locks him up. Wirfs finishes the rep by rotating the linebacker away from the operating lane and places him on his again. This enables Bucs operating again Ronald Jones II to create a pleasant achieve.
The place Wirfs Can Enhance
Whereas Wirfs has created an unfair commonplace for O-line play out of a younger participant, he isn’t with out alternatives in his sport. There have been two areas I discovered in watching his tape that I believe he can enhance upon.
This was an inconsistent a part of Wirfs’ tape final 12 months. More than likely there have been some communication points between him and Bucs proper guard Alex Cappa. These communication errors may result in the occasional play like this:
Whether or not the inside linemen didn’t name out the looper or Wirfs simply didn’t see him, that’s acquired to get cleaned up this 12 months. As a result of Wirfs by no means got here off of his preliminary block on the stunting finish, linebacker A.J. Klein was in a position to have a free lane straight to Brady. You’ll be able to see one other one right here with Atlanta.
Once more, Wirfs locks into his unique block on the stunting edge rusher and misses the looper who will get round to Brady. Improved communication and consciousness ought to result in this getting cleaned up. And I’ve religion it is going to be higher in 2023 with the addition of recent Bucs proper guard Shaq Mason. And it wasn’t like Wirfs couldn’t decide these up in any respect. Simply that it was inconsistent. Right here is an instance of 1 he picks up completely in opposition to Buffalo.
On this play you may see good communication between Wirfs and Cappa and a seamless go off of the stunting finish and the looping deal with. With middle Ryan Jensen aiding Brady has nothing to fret about from the proper aspect of the pocket.
Physicality In The Run Sport
For a big human, Wirfs can play with fairly a little bit of reservation within the run sport. His actions appear only a bit slower, extra methodical and technical. It’s virtually as if he is considering what he’s doing fairly than simply reacting. Right here is an instance.
You’ll be able to see Wirfs will get out of his stance fast sufficient. Nonetheless, his combo block on the defensive deal with and subsequent second-level block on the linebacker are sluggish and lack energy and authority. He has the instruments to assist degree the deal with and wipe out the linebacker. He simply must decide to utilizing them extra.
However that is once more an space the place he has proven he can do it. It’s only a matter of doing it constantly. Watch when he actually engages and sustains his run block.
On this rep Wirfs has extra physicality in his launch off the road and with the preliminary combo block in addition to sustaining the block on the second degree. That must be extra constant in 2022.
If Wirfs can work on these two very correctable areas of his sport, he can simply take one other step ahead. That may enable him to proceed to ascend into the dialog for greatest all-around offensive deal with within the NFL. And I personally wouldn’t guess in opposition to him.