DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister
After playing in 42 games and starting in 33 games in his three-year NFL career, it is officially time for Cleveland Browns’ right guard Shawn Lauvao to live up to his status as the 92nd overall pick (third round) in the 2010 NFL Draft. After missing the first six games of his career with an ankle injury, Lauvao played in 10 games and started in one to finish out his rookie campaign. Since then, Lauvao has started in all 32 regular season games at right guard for the Browns. Lauvao has been very inconsistent overall throughout his short career. There have been times when he has looked like a solid starting guard, but there have been too many times when he has looked like a backup.
Shawn Lauvao’s ProFootballFocus.com Profile
By ProFootballFocus.com’s standards, Shawn Lauvao played six poor games, seven solid or average games, and three good games during the 2012 season. As you can see, Lauvao surrendered three sacks, nine quarterback hits (second most amongst all offensive guards), and 15 quarterback hurries. He also played in all 1,064 of the team’s snaps.
By ProFootballFocus.com’s standards, Shawn Lauvao played eight poor games, four solid or average games, and four good games during the 2011 season. As you can see, Lauvao surrendered six sacks (most sacks given up amongst all offensive guards), three quarterback hits, and 18 quarterback hurries. He also played in 1,036 of the team’s 1,087 total snaps.
In the Run Game
As a run blocker, Shawn Lauvao does an adequate job overall. Although he usually executes his assignment by blocking the correct defender, there were a few times during the 2012 season when Lauvao came out of his stance and looked confused on who he was supposed to block. When you consider that Lauvao was the starting right guard in the same offense for a second straight season, this is very alarming. Lauvao shows average strength overall as a run blocker. There are far too many times when Lauvao is unable to move his man at the point of attack. For Lauvao to improve in this area, he must do a better job of consistently lowering his pad level, driving his legs on contact, taking better blocking angles, and he must also improve his functional strength as a run blocker. Another area in which Lauvao must improve as a run blocker is in his ability to keep his balance. There were way too many times throughout the 2012 season when Lauvao ended up on the ground at the end of plays. Lauvao has the type of nasty demeanor that everyone loves at the guard position, but it is very difficult for an offensive lineman to finish blocks and play through the whistle if he is constantly on the ground. An area where I felt that Lauvao showed flashes was in his ability as a puller. Although he was rarely used in this capacity, he showed impressive fluidity and athletic ability when getting out in front of the ball carrier. This may be a reason for the Browns taking a look at Lauvao as a left guard this offseason. Left guards are typically asked to pull on run plays much more often than right guards.
Week 12: Pittsburgh Steelers
The offense lines up with the fullback offset to the strong side (right side) of the formation. You can tell that the strong side is the right side by looking at where the tight end is lined up.
At the snap, Lauvao takes a step back from his right guard position and begins to pull to the weak side of the formation. The running back takes a counter step to the right. The fullback makes his way to the weak side behind Lauvao. The entire offensive line (aside from Lauvao) blocks down and takes on the defender in the gap to their right.
As the play materializes, it becomes apparent that this is a Counter run to the weak side. Lauvao’s target on the play is the right outside linebacker. His job is to kick out the linebacker as the fullback leads up through the hole created in the C-gap. The running back is supposed to follow the fullback’s lead block up through the C-gap. If executed properly, this is a beautiful play.
Lauvao has engaged with the right outside linebacker and the running back is cutting inside of his block into the huge hole in the C-gap. The fullback is blocking the inside linebacker (#94) that over-pursued to the outside. The play is being blocked to perfection and the back is about to be one-on-one in the hole with the free safety. If the back can make the safety miss, this will be an easy touchdown run.
The free safety took an atrocious angle and over-pursued to the outside. Lauvao has sustained his block on the linebacker long enough that he has no chance of turning around and catching the back as he now has a full head of steam.
The safety falls down trying to rebound from taking the terrible angle. The back runs past the free safety and into the end zone untouched for a 15-yard touchdown run.
This play stood out to me in watching Lauvao because he looks so natural as a puller that I am led to believe that the Browns may be on to something in taking a look at Lauvao at times as a left guard thus far this offseason.
Week Two: Cincinnati Bengals
Once again, the offense lines up with the fullback offset to the strong side. The tight end is to the right side of the formation so you can easily tell that the strong side is the right side.
At the snap, Lauvao takes a step to his right and immediately looks confused as to who he is expected to block on the play. The left guard begins to pull around behind the offensive line to the strong side and the rest of the line (except for Lauvao) blocks down. Based on the way the rest of the offensive line moves, it looks as though Lauvao should be blocking down on the one-technique between he and the center. The fullback makes his way to the outside.
As Lauvao continues to look around and try to figure out who he is supposed to block, the one-technique shoots through the A-gap completely unblocked and closes in on the running back in the backfield. It is pretty apparent that this is a Power run play to the strong side based on the line blocking down, the left guard pulling around, and the fullback kicking out the Sam linebacker.
The one-technique wraps up the running back in the backfield and other defenders begin to close in on the back. Lauvao continues to look around and as he tries to find someone to block.
Here is an All-22 angle of the previous image.
Lauvao turns around and watches as his teammate gets brought down in the backfield for a one-yard loss. This play occurred on second and one late in the second quarter.
Had Lauvao known his assignment and executed it on the play, it is hard to tell how many yards the play would have resulted in. Based on the way the rest of the blockers executed, I would expect that one yard and the first down would have easily been achieved.
Week Six: Cincinnati Bengals
The offense lines up with the fullback offset to the weak side of the formation. The tight end is lined up to the left. As the play materializes, you will see that Lauvao’s job on the play is to block the three-technique aligned on his outside shoulder.
At the snap of the ball, the strong side of the offensive line fires out and blocks the defender in the gap to their outside. The weak side of the offensive line also fires out and blocks the defender in the gap to their outside. The fullback makes his way up through the right A-gap between the center and Lauvao; aiming for the Will linebacker. This looks to be a variation of an Isolation run play to the strong side.
Lauvao continues to block his man, but he is unable to move him backwards and to the outside at the point of attack. Considering that Lauvao’s job is to push his man to the outside and his man aligned to his outside, this should not be an incredibly difficult assignment to execute. The defender has began to cross Lauvao’s face in pursuit of the running back. With nowhere to run to the strong side, the running back is forced to cut the run back toward the huge hole between Lauvao and the blockers to his left.
The defender disengages from Lauvao and closes off what was once a huge hole.
Lauvao watches as his man closes in and wraps up the running back. Two other defenders close in and also wrap up the running back. Lauvao grabs ahold of the running back and tries to help him gain yardage as he goes down. What could have potentially been a big gain only results in a one-yard gain.
Making Blocks in Space
If Shawn Lauvao wants to take his game to the next level, he must improve at making blocks in space. When Lauvao climbs from the first level to the second level, he often struggles to sustain blocks on linebackers and defensive backs. He has shown that he has the athletic ability to get to the second level of the defense. The issue is that once he gets there, he is often unable to hold a block long enough for the ball carrier to take advantage of it. This leads to Lauvao blocking the defender for a moment, the defender shedding the block, and then the defender continuing his pursuit of the ball carrier.
Week One: Philadelphia Eagles
Before the snap, the Browns line up in an Ace formation with the strength of the formation to the right side.
At the snap of the ball, Lauvao and the right tackle double team the three-technique in the gap between them. The center and left guard double team the one-technique in the gap between them. The tight end blocks the defensive end to his outside and the left tackle blocks the defensive end to his outside. This looks like the beginning of an outside zone run to the weak side.
After combining to double team the three-technique, Lauvao climbs to the second level of the defense and attempts to block the Sam linebacker. If Lauvao can get his hands inside of the linebacker and get his butt turned to the running back while keeping his legs churning, this has a chance to be a big play.
The linebacker (left circle) easily sheds the block and begins to run downhill toward the running back. Lauvao’s (right circle) block attempt was incredibly weak and he was unable to engage with the linebacker for more than an instant.
The linebacker closes in on the running back and combines with a teammate for the tackle. Lauvao trips and falls to the ground as the officials blow the whistle. The result of the play was a one-yard gain.
Pass Protection vs Power
When Shawn Lauvao faces pass rushers that resort to using power against him, he typically does a decent job overall. Although Lauvao does not possess the strongest anchor in pass protection, he has a strong enough anchor to get by against most power rushers in a one-on-one setting. The times when Lauvao really struggles against power rushers are when they come at him with a full head of steam. In these instances, Lauvao often gets jolted backwards and knocked off balance before struggling to recover.
Shawn Lauvao ranked 31st in “Pass Blocking Efficiency” amongst all offensive guards that were on the field for at least 50% of their team’s pass plays during the 2012 season (49 qualified). ProFootballFocus describes Pass Blocking Efficiency as “A weighted formula that combines sacks, hits, and hurries (with hits and hurries three quarters the worth) relative to how many snaps an offensive guard stays in pass protection.” You may click on the image if you wish to enlarge it.
Shawn Lauvao ranked 37th in “Pass Blocking Efficiency” amongst all offensive guards that were on the field for at least 50% of their team’s pass plays during the 2011 season (55 qualified). You may click on the image if you wish to enlarge it.
Weak Two: Cincinnati Bengals
On this particular play, Shawn Lauvao is lined up across from arguably the best three-technique defensive tackle in the entire NFL in Geno Atkins. Atkins is an incredibly athletic and explosive athlete and his bull rush can be devastating. According to ProFootballFocus, Atkins produced 16 sacks (most amongst all defensive tackles; second most was only nine), 13 quarterback hits (third most amongst all defensive tackles), and 49 quarterback hurries (most amongst all defensive tackles; second most was only 36) during the 2012 season.
At the snap of the ball, Atkins explodes out of his stance and bull rushes Lauvao. With the running back coming out of the backfield on a pass route and the right tackle and center being occupied, Lauvao has no help on the play. Lauvao maintains a wide base and strikes Atkins in the chest with both of his hands. Lauvao gets pushed backwards a few steps, but he does not lose his balance and he keeps fighting.
Atkins pushes Lauvao back within a couple yards of the quarterback but not before the quarterback gets rid of the football. The pass (circled) is already in the air at this point.
It just so happened that the slot receiver, Mohamed Massaquoi, came wide open deep down the field on the play. Due to Lauvao handling Atkins’ bull rush so impressively, the quarterback had enough time to deliver an accurate pass deep down the field. The quarterback ended up overthrowing the receiver on the play, but it does not change the fact that he had plenty of time to throw the pass.
Lauvao endured his fair share of struggles in this game, but he showed on this play that he has the tools to handle a bull rush from arguably the best interior pass rusher in the entire NFL. These flashes must show up with much more regularity if Lauvao wants to continue his career as a starting guard.
Pass Protection vs Athleticism
Most of Shawn Lauvao’s struggles as a pass protector come when he faces quicker defensive linemen that use their athletic ability to beat offensive linemen laterally. Due to the fact that Lauvao possesses good but not great feet, he is always going to be susceptible to athletic pass rushers in one-on-one situations; especially on stunts. Lauvao must rely on film study and anticipation to beat athletic rushers to a spot.
Week One: Philadelphia Eagles
On this particular play, Lauvao is lined up across from Philadelphia Eagles rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. During the 2012 season, Cox produced four sacks, six quarterback hits, and 14 quarterback hurries. He is an extremely talented interior pass rusher and his future looks very bright.
At the snap of the ball, Cox fires out and engages with Lauvao. Lauvao extends his arms into Cox’s chest. It looks as though Cox may attempt to bull rush Lauvao back into the quarterback’s launch point, but he stays in the B-gap between Lauvao and the right tackle throughout his rush path.
Cox continues his path through the B-gap and his athletic ability forces Lauvao to turn his body toward the right sideline. Cox then executes a “rip move” with his inside arm in hopes of disengaging from Lauvao.
Cox turns Lauvao all the way around and begins to close in on the quarterback. The fact that the right tackle got beat on the play does not help matters. The outside rush from the left defensive end gives the quarterback nowhere to go. If he steps up in the pocket, he will step right into Cox.
Cox closes in on the quarterback and brings him down for the sack.
All in all, Shawn Lauvao still has plenty of work to do if he wishes to continue his career as a starting guard at the NFL level. Although Lauvao shows plenty of flashes and has progressed during each of the past two seasons, there are still too many mental errors and too many times where he does not beat the opposition. Based on the work of Jason Pinkston, John Greco, and Shawn Lauvao during the 2012 season, I could even make an argument that Lauvao was the third best guard on the roster. With a new coaching staff in place and both guard positions wide open, Lauvao needs to continue progressing and prove that he deserves to start for a third year in a row. If Pinkston and Greco step up while Lauvao falls behind, do not be surprised to see Lauvao cut after the preseason. The Browns used a draft pick on Garrett Gilkey for a reason and the team may not feel the need to carry four guards on the 53-man roster. At the end of the day, it may be now or never for Shawn Lauvao in brown and orange.