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By Roy Miller as told to Charlie Campbell
The night practice went well on Saturday. The cannons at the stadium kind of reminded me of the Oklahoma vs. Texas battles I used to play in. When we scored we get a cannon too, but this one is pretty loud. Maybe a little bit louder. The stadium is amazing. It is something that I've been dreaming about. I've seen it on TV and in video games, but this was the first time I was able to go there and run around since the team drafted me. It was really special.
I've been working on my technique and I've been working on a move. It is taking some time but it is getting better. We have gone fully live, and full tackle, and things pick up another notch. All of sudden, guys are trying to knock you into the ground, which is great because you get to see the real game speed and feel that out. It is important for me to see guys take it up another notch, and get more accustomed to the speed and intensity of the NFL on game day.
One thing I wanted to provide some insight on is going against the zone-blocking system in practice. I understand that it is new to the team this year, so I thought I'd give you a D-lineman's perspective on it. It is pretty tough because you are going against guys like right guard Davin Joseph, who went to the Pro Bowl last year. He is strong and fast, and he is coming at you. He's not waiting for you to get to him. It is very hard for offensive linemen to do this technique within the zone blocking scheme and get their hands on you moving laterally, but when they get it right it is very tough to defend.
These guys, not only do they have the speed but they have the strength, too. A lot of guys don't have both, which makes them much easier to beat. Other offensive linemen don't have both so you can take advantage of them not being strong enough or quick enough to get their blocks. Davin is definitely different. A lot of teams are running this zone-blocking system, and it is good preparation for us, and Coach (Jim) Bates is getting us ready to go against it in the regular season.
Another part of zone-blocking is the offensive line does cut blocking. When we go live in practice anything goes, but we try to save each other and look out for each other by not going after the knees. It happens in practice when we go live, but they have to make sure not to put a teammate at risk of having a season-ending injury. It is difficult to go against because your teammates are never going to completely cut you off the way you get cut in a game. We get prepared for it also in drills.
Definitely a lot of team's I faced ran zone-blocking systems in college. In the Big 12, offenses throw the ball a lot, and then would try and hit you with a zone run and try and get you out of your gap. In order to defend it, technique is so important. You have to be in the same stance every time, and take the same steps every time.
Even though we see the zone-blocking system everyday in practice, we are still getting ready to go against other offensive systems. Coach Bates has different defenses, and certain things to have us prepared for that. It is something that we talk about all the time, and I know we'll be ready to face it.
I heard that Coach Morris told the media about me getting into it with (center) Jeff Faine during OTA days. Coach said he felt at first that he needed some protection from me because I showed up in his office in my jersey, gloves, and all geared up from practice. Coach said I looked intimidating. I thought I'd tell you guys about that.
Faine and I really got into it in one practice, and afterwards, I wasn't sure how to handle it. Faine is a great player, and he does things that great players have to do that I didn't really understand – basically, anything goes. That is the way Faine is, and that is what has made him a Pro Bowl-caliber player, and that is what is going to make him one of the greatest centers in the league this year and in the years to come. That guy does everything he can possibly do to block you. Some stuff is real borderline, but it's something that I have to get used to and not put myself in that situation.
Being a rookie, it's kind of tough because you think it's about rookie jokes and stuff like that, but I just decided to talk to the coaches because I don't want to do anything that could affect the team negatively. We are teammates, so I wanted to ask Coach Morris what should I do about Faine, and talk to Coach about how to handle it the way teammates should.
Definitely Faine and the rest of the offensive linemen and I are good competitors, and I think of them as friends. When we come out on the field it is time to go and get better. We all understand that. We understand we have to do whatever we have to do, and the other person just has to be able to play off of that. I understand that when it is my time I just have to do the same thing. It is a two-way street, and when we get off the field we are all cool. That is just football.