After Jake Long departed for the NFL, Michigan has been struggling to produce that next great tackle. With Taylor Lewan that has changed and they have a legitimate NFL left tackle. With above average technique and an ability to match up against speed rushers, Lewan could very well hear his name called very early in the 2013 Draft.
Size: Standing at 6’8 309 pounds, Lewan epitomizes an offensive tackle that fits the mold of either a ZBS T or a T who can fit into a man/power scheme. He has long arms due to his height and uses them to advantage. Would be best served to add 15 pounds to his frame.
Technique: At first watching Lewan I just saw him as a guy who moved his guy out of the way, but never really did anything proper. Sitting down though and really watching the film, you saw an OT who displayed above average technique and a penchant for making the key block at an important moment. Lewan’s technique was most apparent against William Gholston from Michigan State. Gholston is seen as one of the better pass rushers in the 2013 class and in their matchups Lewan limited Gholston to minimal pressures and a performance Gholston would not be happy with. Slowing film down you see Lewan use a good first step and allow his hands to stay on the inside shoulders of the defender, instead of just reaching and grabbing at the shoulders. After that he takes his defender and for the most part moves him with ease. It was impressive to watch, because I expected Lewan to be more of a walling off type of OT, but he does move his defenders and creates a good push.
Pass Blocking: Lewan is good as a pass blocker, but he could stand to improve on his overall technique to reach that next level. Let’s talk about the positives first though in terms of Lewan’s pass blocking. He keeps a very balanced stance despite being 6’8” and doesn’t overextend mainly because of his long arms. Lewan needs to watch his hand placement as a few times his arms were in holding territory that would be called easily in the NFL. One play I was impressed with Lewan was against Michigan State, he walled off Gholston and then sensed the stunt and attacked the outside rusher to give Robinson more time to throw. That just shows the cerebral aspect of playing LT; being able to sense those outsider rushers while going against your opponent is key as a RB or OG can pick up the defender you are going against. He needs to work on his footwork as at times he did a little too much with his footwork and it got him a bit off balance. Using more choppy steps instead of striding against those speed rushers will be more effective especially in the NFL. Does a pretty good job against bull rushing defenders, sets a good anchor again walls off his defender. When beaten initially, Lewan does a good job recovering and squaring himself up against his opponent. Lewan has the tools you want in an NFL LT, but those little technique issues could force him to move to the RT position.
Run Blocking: This is a strength of Lewan’s because of his natural ability to engage and move his opponents. While some OT’s use more of a wall off technique based on the scheme used, Lewan likes to get in front of his opponent and move him at his own will. This was apparent against Ohio State last year where he was able to take his opponents at times and completely move them away from the holes. It just goes back to the brute strength that Lewan has and will translate very well into the NFL. However, this doesn’t mean Lewan would be a poor fit in a zone blocking scheme. Actually, on film Lewan shows a lot of traits of a ZBS OT. He uses a lot of quick twitch moves and footwork and gets to the 2nd level well to find a LB or Secondary player to hit. Lewan does need to improve his awareness at times when reaching the second level, but the willingness to find that next defender is always noted as a positive by coaches when evaluating. The only real negative with Lewan that I noticed, was a few times Lewan seemed to lunge at his defender and get a bit off balance. He was able to complete the block and make the play, but in the NFL the stronger and more gifted DE’s will be able to take advantage of him being off balance and he will struggle to sustain his blocks. Lewan does a great job of blocking to the whistle and having a certain nastiness to his game. Looks pretty fluid while in space, although at times footwork becomes sloppy and he looks uncoordinated. Has the ability to get out in space and quickly adjust to an opponent.
Overall: At first I viewed Lewan as a pure RT only in the NFL and thought he’d be a starter but nothing more than that. After watching a few games of Lewan I can say that he has a future in the NFL being a starting player. At first I’d put him at LT and see if he can stick there against the premier DE’s. If Lewan does struggle, move him to RT and watch him become a very good RT in the NFL. That’s not to say Lewan couldn’t be very good at LT, I just feel his skill set is one that can become a stalwart at the RT position and one of the few that is a headache for opposing DE’s.