Something that caught my eye during the Las Vegas Raiders' recent preseason game against the Los Angels Rams was Thayer Munford getting the first-team reps at right tackle on the Raiders’ offense.
Munford ended up participating in 42 offensive snaps and fared well in Pro Football Focus’ grading system, earning a 70.5 overall grade, a 68.8 mark as a run blocker and 70.1 in pass protection with zero pressures surrendered. But the grades/numbers only tell part of the story while the film paints the full picture. As a wise man once said; ‘Tape Don’t Lie’!
We’ll start with the first play of the game. The Raiders are running outside zone where Munford is going to get a little bit of help from the guard, Greg Van Roten, as they combo block up to the linebacker, No. 35.
Initially, Munford does a great job of getting off the ball and using efficient footwork to make sure he gets outside leverage on the defensive tackle who is head up on him. He then shoots his hands and has the strength to lift the defender’s pads up, and he runs his feet to get some vertical movement on the block.
Now, I would like to see Munford do a better job of getting his hips around to seal the defensive tackle inside and create an outside rushing lane, which will also help him stay engaged and finish the block. However, we’ll take about five yards of vertical movement every time.
This time, the Ohio State product is going to be in pass protection and is responsible for that standup outside linebacker who lines up over the tight end pre-snap. He immediately gets his eyes outside and recognizes that the linebacker is dropping in coverage, meaning he has no one to block.
So, Munford puts together some teach-tape material on how to look for work by decleating the defensive tackle and helping Van Roten in pass protection. This is a great example of him being a good teammate and sending a message by being physical to start the game.
This next clip isn’t a devastating block by any means, but sometimes that’s not necessary as just getting the way can help put points on the board.
The Raiders are a running long trap here and Munford shows off that impressive get-off and initial footwork to get to square on the 3-technique who has inside leverage on him. Unlike power where the running back tries to go outside, Brandon Bolden works inside of the puller and cuts up the field with the long trap design, and that’s where the right tackle’s block pays off.
Munford is able to keep his feet moving and stay engaged just enough so that the defensive tackle can’t break free and Bolden has an inside lane to sneak into the end zone for a touchdown. There wasn’t as much movement on this block as there was on the first one, but the couple of yards of push that Munford is able to generate makes a big difference between a short gain and six points.
This next rep is similar to the first one as Las Vegas runs outside zone and we see the 2022 seventh-round pick use good footwork to get outside leverage on the defender again. Also, his strong hands help him control the block to steer the defensive tackle, and he does a great job of keeping his feet moving through contact.
The biggest difference is Munford uses his upper body strength to stay engaged. Not only does he get some vertical movement this time, but the defensive tackle started the play in the middle of the field and finished it near the numbers. That’s the formula for an ass-kicking block right there.
Here’s an example of where our subject’s upper body strength and hand placement can help in pass protection. The Rams run a delayed E/T stunt where the end—or outside linebacker in this case—works up the field for his first few steps and then darts inside as the defensive tackle loops around.
Munford feels the edge defender work inside and immediately shifts his outside hand under the edge’s armpit. That hand placement, plus his strength, allows him to toss the pass-rusher inside and the two defensive linemen end up colliding with each other. Essentially, Munford has a two-for-one block that thwarts the defense’s line game.
This last clip is more subtle and far from a highlight, but I wanted to include it to show how the second-year pro’s awareness and football IQ have grown.
He knows he has the tight end’s help in pass protection with a chip block so he doesn’t just fly backward into his pass set. Instead, he stays patient and the line of scrimmage and uses his inside hand to give the guard some help with a strong post arm. Then, he lets the edge defender come to him and picks up his assignment without a hiccup.
Again, I don't mean to paint this as a spectacular rep, but it is good to see a young player show an understanding of the protection scheme and be able to give a helping hand (literally) to one of his teammates. This is something that I consistently noticed about Munford’s performance last Saturday, so it’s encouraging that he’s getting the mental part of the game down as the season opener steadily approaches.