Football’s most disparaging and embarrassing specter is nearing, as the Pro Bowl rosters were released earlier this week. As usual, there are qualms with the construction of it, as some of the invited surnames should not be going to Hawaii. Players are living off their reputations and getting voted in despite not performing to worthy standards, which only further adds to the abomination that is the Pro Bowl.
Perhaps it’s a situation for the best that the truly deserving players don’t go — they won’t have a reputation to shove down the drain as they loosely attempt to put on a show for global viewers. The previous Pro Bowl, in short, was a disaster, and so bad that even Roger Goodell has rightfully become in favor of dropping it. Players should simply be honored for getting voted in, and one of those players should be Miami Dolphins’ center Mike Pouncey.
The younger Pouncey has been one of the league’s best centers since going to Miami in during the 2011 draft. He possesses the traits that all future — and if the future is now, then present centers — should have. He has the length and strength to dominate opponents one-on-one while also having the mobility to execute blocks not only down the line of scrimmage but in the open field as well. By open field, I am referring to the ability to not only administer a combination block and then latch on to a linebacker at the second level, as is commonly seen in zone blocking schemes, but the foot speed and flexibility to turn the hips at the line of scrimmage and be a lead blocker — akin to a pulling guard — for the ball-carrier. There are not enough centers that have this ability because the league has long viewed the position as bottom of the barrel in importance, which is a mistake.
Intelligence, big hands, and lengthy arms are the three characteristics that most personnel men have sought in centers for the past few decades. In the new age, that simply isn’t enough. They have to be able to do more than just check into the proper blocking scheme after finger pointing and identifying the defensive front. They must have all of the aforementioned abilities while leading running backs and dealing with hefty nose tackles mano a mano. It could successfully argued that, because of the current schematics in circulation, the center is the most important position on the offensive line, not the famed left tackle.
Perhaps Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, who’s been a lightning rod for criticism among the fan base and former players, knew this well ahead of the rest of the general managers when he selected Pouncey 15th overall.
Pouncey has added stability to the Dolphins’ offensive line with very good play. He has quick hands that enable him to constantly strike opponents while also possessing the knee bend to effectively sit in his stance. He plays with a wide base, making it hard to knock him off balance, and it enables him to generate power through his lower body. Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork found this out when the two met in Week 13, as he was neutralized at times by the impressive blend of flexibility, quickness, and strength of Pouncey.
Going into tomorrow’s Week 17 matchup against the center, Wilfork recognized Pouncey’s play in an interview with the Patriots team website:
“It’s rare that you find a center that can pull out into the open field and can block DBs and linebackers, especially up front being able to orchestrate that offensive line and getting everybody in the right position that they need to be in,” Wilfork said, via Patriots.com. “… It’s hard to just know that he’s only two years in – that’s the scary thing.
“He has a very bright future ahead of him and I think those guys, they rally around him. He sets the tone for that team, that offensive line and everybody else just works around of him. … He’s a very, very good football player and smart.”
What’s even more impressive than the above blend is his mobility. He has better mobility than his brother, who was appropriately lauded for it coming out of the University of Florida and interestingly enough is going to the Pro Bowl, and is really able to offer more potential for various blocking schemes for the Dolphins. I’m of the opinion that Pouncey’s mobility is not used enough, but on occasion the Dolphins’ coaching staff has done a good job of getting him out in space to bury wimpy defensive backs as witnessed against the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season.
Using a pin-and-pull zone blocking concept, Pouncey fired out of his stance and pulled to his left while the most of the offensive line blocked down (Jake Long went to the second level.), lead blocking for running back Reggie Bush and driving the Seahawks defensive back out of bounds.
Wilfork also made reference to the aforementioned impressive mobility of the young center:
“You don’t know when he’s moving, so we have to do a really good job against him and just understand that when he moves, we have to be very disciplined and playing good run technique against him because like I said, he down blocks, he pulls, he can face block you,” Wilfork said.
“He can do all types of blocks. That’s tough for any opponent. We just have to do a really good job of playing good technique, good fundamentals up front with this guy.”
It’s this blend of ability, along with consistency in his play, that should have netted the young Dolphins center a starting Pro Bowl vote. Albeit a useless and often comedic form of football theater, the accolade is still very important to the players and the deserving ones should go. Pouncey is just that, as he has been better than his brother and the voted starter Maurkice Pouncey as well as the backup Chris Myers.
With a great blend of size, strength, length, mobility and overall consistency in play, Mike Pouncey should be starting in the Pro Bowl, as he’s what future NFL centers should strive to become.