What Bruss’s film against Penn State may tell us about his immediate future
When the Los Angeles Rams selected Wisconsin tackle Logan Bruss with their first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, there was palpable excitement in the war room that the team had potentially selected an immediate replacement for right guard Austin Corbett. Nevermind that the Rams’ first pick was outside of the top-100 selections this year, Bruss was drafted in about the range he was expected to go, played at a program renowned for their offensive linemen (including David Edwards and Rob Havenstein), and he would be tasked with manning a position that doesn’t have nearly as many responsibilities as some others.
Rams scout Brian Hill even jumped in the pool at LA’s draft house to celebrate getting the top player on their board. However, starting right away has not often been the gameplan for offensive linemen in the Sean McVay era.
Austin Blythe was a reserve on the Colts in 2016, then a reserve on the Rams during McVay’s first season in 2017, before becoming the starter at right guard in his third NFL campaign; Brian Allen was a reserve as a fourth round rookie in 2018, started nine games in 2019, but didn’t return to being a starter until 2021; Edwards finished the 2019 and 2020 seasons as LA’s starter at left guard but began each of those campaigns as the reserve behind Joseph Noteboom; and Noteboom was a reserve for his entire rookie season in 2018 and hasn’t been set to be a starter at left tackle until just now, his fifth year in the league.
Bruss is his own player and in his own situation. But is he being slotted in as the starter at right guard right now because he is the shiny new toy and the other options feel underwhelming (Bobby Evans, Tremayne Anchrum, Coleman Shelton, Jeremiah Kolone, Chandler Brewer) OR is it because Bruss is too fantastic of a prospect to deny?
It was only last May that the Rams were starting Austin Corbett at center and Evans at right guard, so just because Bruss seems like the leader pre-training camp this is the time for coaches to try things that may not work by the time training camp is over.
It won’t be the popular thing to say, I know, but I believe the odds are stacked greater against Logan Bruss to be LA’s starter at right guard for the entire season than they are stacked in his favor.
This is not meant to be a list of reasons to be negative about Bruss, but it will look that way to some fans. These are just the reasons why Bruss may be more of a long-term projection than an ideal Week 1 starter on the 2022 LA Rams as they prepare for a title defense:
- Bruss was the 104th pick of the draft, not the 14th pick, and not even all first and second round guards start right away; if they do, many of them struggle
- Bruss played right tackle at Wisconsin, not right guard; he only made six starts at right guard so there is somewhat of a learning curve
- Bruss is stepping into McVay’s house for the first time, while Evans is getting his fourth opportunity, Anchrum is getting his third opportunity, Shelton is getting his fourth opportunity, Kolone is getting his fifth opportunity, Brewer is getting his third opportunity; Bruss has to make up the ground of inexperience
- Bruss is more renowned for run-blocking than pass blocking, a potential issue for an offense that passed it 607 times and ran it 420 times last season
- Bruss is not an exceptional athlete and was never a dominate right tackle for the Badgers; he is a good athlete and a good player, but I’m setting a bar of “Start for the L.A. Rams in Week 1 at right guard” which is something I consider to be extremely difficult for anyone who played college football last year
But these are just words and football is not something that you read, it is something that you watch. That’s why I want to make sure Turf Show Times readers are getting the opportunity to at least be Turf Show Times watchers before we draw any pre-training camp conclusions on the immediate future of Rams rookie Logan Bruss.
Today that is going to start with us highlighting some good and bad moments during a 2021 game against Penn State. Consider watching the full 17 minute clip yourself courtesy of the DoABarrowRoll channel on YouTube and/or check out the moments below that I’ll be highlighting for our first Bruss Watch of the year.
This is only one game and I am only one person, a person who considers himself far more of a “fan tellin’ you what I see!” than an offensive line expert, but this is my immediate takeaway from watching a full game of Bruss against a very good defense: It’s a good thing that the Rams won’t be asking him to play right tackle.
If you do fancy yourself as an offensive line expert, or at least an offensive line greater-than-novice, then please add your evaluations in the comments section below. If you are a member of the Rams coaching staff, or a member of Logan Bruss’s family, or Bruss himself and you want to scream at me for not understanding what I’m seeing by all means, I agree with you to an extent!
My intentions here is to watch the film together here at Turf Show Times and then we’ll draw a consensus opinion about what you’re seeing and if it’s the same as what I’m seeing. But what I wanted to see out of Logan Bruss in this game was really “Not much of anything at all.” I wanted him to almost not show up on film because he was always owning the person in front of him.
That did happen a lot. But then there would be moments when Bruss was a focal point of an offensive issue for Wisconsin and when you’re on the precipice of starting against NFL veteran players that can be an issue when you’re not far removed from losing one-on-ones against Jesse Luketa and Nick Tarburton.
What are we looking for?
The answer to that question does get a bit more complicated when considering that Bruss will be playing guard at the next level instead of tackle. The assignments are different on the edge and I do think that Bruss is ill-equipped to play right tackle in the NFL.
Logan Bruss is #60 and will always be the right tackle on each play:
Is Bruss keeping low, setting a wide base, keeping his hips square against the defender, generally doing the right things against a Penn State defense that did have a couple of future NFL players in their front seven?
Let’s highlight a few things to look for in an offensive lineman. Here’s what Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has had to say about a few key areas:
You routinely hear in scouting circles that offensive linemen must have the feet of a dancer to excel on the edge in the NFL. While interior offensive lineman can be protected by each other, an offensive tackle is generally on an island in pass protection and must have the agility and coordination to counter a faster pass rusher.
Technique is an all-encompassing term that relates to the player’s mechanics when playing his position. For an offensive lineman this refers to hand placement, the balance and speed of his kick-step (which is the first big step back a lineman takes at the snap), how well the player drives his legs through the defender he is blocking, and how well he does at keeping himself between the defender and the ball carrier.Pass Block Speed
Pass blocking is so important, we divide it into two categories. This trait refers to how well the offensive lineman handles a speed rusher. Does he adjust well to a speed move vs. a power move; is the lineman quick enough to meet the defender?
Pass Block Power
Just like it sounds—can the lineman handle a power move from a defender? For offensive tackles this generally will be a defender attacking their body or inside shoulder. For interior lineman a power move generally comes right over top of the blocker. This criterion judges the lineman’s ability to hold his ground, weighing things like strength and leverage to control the defender.
Pretty simple—can the player move the pile and open rushing lanes for the ball-carrier?
Keep those areas in mind as we scroll through some moments here for Bruss against Penn State, but something else that I noticed about Bruss throughout this experiment was how he finishes plays. Bruss plays until the whistle and he may even keep going beyond that. Here is can see him wrestling his man at the second level until after the play is dead:
That’s great and it does show up on film several times. Even if it has nothing to do with technique, Bruss seems to be a high-energy, high-effort football player, BUT the word “lazy” did come up in Lance Zierlein’s scouting report when it comes to not forgetting what he needs to execute on a play-to-play basis:
Ends up second in race to land punch first.
Needs to play with less predictable, more explosive hands.
Too much weight drifts to his outside foot in his sets.
Can be a little lazy with his outside hand in pass pro.
Could use better attention to hand placement for block security.
Needs to keep weight under his pads throughout the sustain phase.
Had trouble playing too far out on his toes versus Penn State.
Zierlein specifically highlights Bruss’s troubles against Penn State, a game that routinely matched him up with Cardinals seventh round linebacker Jesse Luketa.
It was very early in the game that Bruss immediately blew a block against Luketa for a TFL in the running game, so let’s begin to take a closer look at how the right tackle-turning-right guard did in this matchup.
Logan Bruss vs Jesse Luketa
This was the first game of the season and even though Wisconsin’s offense struggled in almost every watch imaginable (3 turnovers, 174 rushing yards on 58 carries, 5.0 yards per pass attempt, two sacks allowed), the game came down to the final minutes. Much of Bruss’s job at right tackle came down to stopping Luketa, a senior linebacker who had 8.5 tackles for a loss in 2021, including this one.
As I said earlier, I am no offensive line expert like Mark Schlereth or some such man, but I can tell when #60 does absolutely nothing to prevent Luketa from getting to running back Chez Mellusi in the backfield. Luketa scoffs at Bruss’s block and blows right past him for the tackle.
Later in the first quarter, this time on a pass protecting assignment against Luketa, Bruss is kind of “bailed out” by the fact that the Wisconsin left tackle gave up a sack to Arnold Ebiketie (#17) before Luketa could get the sack himself—but it seemed headed in that direction:
Seeing a better angle here, the pocket collapses around quarterback Graham Mertz from both sides:
Let’s get an overhead look at Bruss, as Wisconsin threatens to get on the board early, and Luketa is again looking for a way to the quarterback:
Luketa tries to penetrate from the inside instead this time and runs into #74 by way of #60.
Later, we see Bruss do a better job of getting his hands in proper position to keep Luketa at bay, even as he’s losing against Power and getting pushed back into Mertz:
It’s a bit harder to see here, but keep an eye on the right tackle here, as Bruss first takes on defensive end Nick Tarburton (#46) before moving on to the defensive tackle:
There are plenty of plays of Logan Bruss moving downfield to the second level in this game (58 running plays, after all), although oftentimes it is more by design than it does seem to be impacting the flow of the ground game at all. However, here is another example of Bruss playing through and past the whistle, as he gets downfield for a block on cornerback #5 Tariq Castro-Fields:
And here at the end of the third quarter, the Badgers right behind Bruss for a key first down on third-and-2 as he walls off a lane by pushing back Tarburton for a first down:
Bruss vs Ebiketie
The best player on Penn State’s defense last season was safety Jaquan Brisker. But the second-best may have been senior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, a transfer from Temple and an early second round pick in this year’s draft.
Bruss didn’t face Ebiketie (#17) often in this game, but Penn State tried using his speed rush against Bruss in a key fourth quarter moment on fourth-and-6:
Bruss handles the speed rush well enough to give Mertz the chance to escape the pocket and look for a play to make on third down. Ebiketie had 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss last season but Bruss shows the agility to stay on his feet and keep Ebiketie from adding a sack here.
Unfortunately, Bruss did not have the ability to hold his block long enough on a key play in the second quarter and it cost the Badgers a chance to at least take a 3-0 lead.
Facing Tarburton again, Bruss doesn’t realize that his quarterback has fumbled the ball right behind him. Tarburton obviously can see it and when he does, wiggles under Bruss for a fumble recovery on third down at his own eight-yard line. If Bruss can win with power against Tarburton, then fine. If Bruss can win with technique here, then fine. But bad luck or bad technique, the end result is a fumble recovery for Penn State and a red zone stop.
It may be nothing but watch #60 here: I just don’t think any offensive line coach would ever say it’s a good thing to wind up facing the wrong end zone on a play. Bruss finds himself spun around and looking the wrong way for a tick:
Logan Bruss does a better job of keeping Tarburton upright and allowing #20 to run through the lane right behind him. I wanted to get as many overhead/straight up shots of Bruss as we could here and while he does seem to get pushed upright in his stance a bit much here by Tarburton (is power going to be an issue in 2022?) he sets his base and keeps his feet.
Game, Set, Badge
Down 16-10 with less than :30 seconds on the clock, Wisconsin is making their last ditch effort to win the game and they have a real chance to do it here at the Penn State 25.
However, Tarburton again wiggles by Logan Bruss and even if he’s on the ground by the time he gets to Mertz, Ebiketie has also beaten his man and the pair combine for a near-game ending sack.
Mertz is called for intentional grounding and Wisconsin is all but finished after this penalty/play. All Bruss can do is disturb/disrupt Tarburton for a half-second then go back to his pass protection stance in case Luketa tries to follow him next. But that doesn’t matter because Mertz was already toast as soon as Bruss and the left tackle had lost their matchups with the edges.
As far as the technique, I would love to know what TST readers think about the consistency and inconsistency for Bruss in this game against a defense that features several NFL players.
There are a lot of plays that I didn’t show you because Bruss was often not really factoring into the play, whether that be a run to the other side, a quick pass by Mertz, or he was simply a part of a huge pile and diving into the knees of the opposing players. Bruss ended up on the ground quite often in this game.
What I did show you were often bad plays (or seemingly bad plays) and while that can make it seem like he did terrible, it is important to note that these plays are cherry picked. I’m highlighting the types of plays that may happen to most players, but do they happen to Week 1 NFL starters as a rookie?
Maybe! Especially since Bruss will be playing guard and not tackle. If the Rams were looking for someone to replace Havenstein, then Bruss would probably not be the answer. By looking for a right guard instead, he may have a realistic shot to be starting in Week 1. However, we must take into account that the road to get there means that the other options (Evans, Anchrum, Shelton, Brewer, Kolone) must have not made any progress over their 3-5 years of training with the L.A. Rams.
Or perhaps Bruss is just that good.
What did you see?