Turn On the Jets Film Room: Is Brian Winters Ready to Start?

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During the 2013 NFL Draft, the Jets took a position that was bare and made it very crowded. Considering the constant preaching of competition around the Jets these days, it makes sense that John Idzik would draft Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi, and Will Campbell to be added to a stable of Offensive Guards that could already include Willie Colon, Stephen Peterman, Vlad Ducasse, and Caleb Schlauderaff. Over the next few weeks, TOJ will do some film studies on some of the new Offensive Linemen to see what kind of players they are and how they might fit into the Jets offensive plans (see Colon’s breakdown here). Today we will look at 3rd Round pick Brian Winters.

Winters is interesting in that he wasn’t highly recruited out of high school despite a decorated career in both football and wrestling. From a small school in Ohio, Winters was named All-State but only garnered a two-star rating from Rivals.com. Because of this, he didn’t receive many College offers and chose Kent State over Syracuse and Akron. This was probably the right decision as he was able to start 50 career games for the Golden Flashes at both tackle spots, finishing his career at left tackle.

Upon first look, Winters is an intimidating figure. He has arms covered in tattoos attached to a 6’4” 320 pound frame. He resembles Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins who is known as a nasty, physical player. But does Winters’ style of play, match his intimidating look like Incognito’s does?

After watching film for about 2 minutes the answer is a resounding YES! The first thing you notice about Brian Winters on film is his style of play. While he will not be known as a technician by any stretch of the imagination, he is an extremely physical player. Mike Mayock’s main quote about Winters leading up to the draft was that he “has no trouble finishing blocks.” The film agrees with Mayock’s statement. Winters is a guy that loves to mix it up with defenders. He has put countless big hits and pancakes on tape. This is where his wrestling background really comes into play. Every snap is like a mini wrestling match between Winters and the defender he is blocking. If he gets the defender off balance, you can guarantee that he will be delivering a hip toss as he has done on film over and over again. Lineman have different motivations. Some linemen just want to get a body on someone and make sure they take the proper technique to accomplish their assignment. Other linemen want to punish the defender and don’t care what technique they use to do it. Brian Winters falls into that second category.

Winters started at left tackle for the majority of his college career and it is apparent on film that he does not have the footwork and athleticism to continue to play that position in the NFL. He really struggles to set the edge of the pocket against speed rushers. It almost appears that his upper body and lower body are two completely separate entities. He will often stop his feet when he goes to punch. This is why he struggles to stop edge rushers on both up field speed moves and inside counter moves. I thought Kent State’s quarterback did a pretty solid job of moving around in the pocket to mask some of these issues.

Because of this issue on the edge, Winters is a perfect candidate to move inside to Guard. He has the perfect demeanor and skill set to be a solid starting guard in the NFL. He can be classified as a “phone booth blocker.” In small spaces, you are going to be in a dogfight if Winters is blocking you. He is a really good run blocker and most of his success can be attributed to his hands. Don’t let his bench press at the combine fool you (Cut short by injury), he has one of the best and most powerful punches of anyone I have evaluated in this draft. Both in pass and run blocking, he has the ability to completely stagger the defender and stop their momentum. The only downside is that he packs so much power in his punch that his feet stop moving; forcing him to lunge. This is something that will most certainly need to be corrected quickly by Jets offensive line coach Mike Devlin.

If Winters attended a bigger football school, he probably would have been playing guard for the past few years, a position that fits his skill set much better. From a footwork standpoint, Winters would be classified as slightly below average if he were coming into the league as a left tackle, but above average at guard. At Kent State, he has shown to be a very competent combo blocker from the tackle spot when he had the opportunity. This is definitely a strength in his game and will be utilized much more at the guard spot especially in a zone blocking offense. He has also shown flashes of being an above average puller, as Kent State called on him to pull often from the tackle spot. There are several plays on tape where he pulls simply to give himself a better angle to seal his defender, while on other plays he has shown that he can be a lead blocker downfield. He has actually shown a surprising amount of athleticism on these plays and should have the ability to translate his pulling ability to the Jets’ power run game.

If you look at the Jets roster on the website, Winters is still listed as “OL” while guys like Will Campbell are listed as “G.” This means Winters’ position is definitely not set in stone as of yet. Despite being a much better guard prospect than tackle, Winters is another player that gives the Jets flexibility. Just as drafting Sheldon Richardson in the 1st round provides flexibility for the defensive front, drafting Winters provides flexibility for the offensive line. He would be best suited playing at one of the guard spots, but could be used at Right Tackle if there are any injuries or if the Jets aren’t convinced that Austin Howard is the answer.

The offensive line is its own little unit that has guys with different skill sets and attitudes. In order for this unit to be successful, its members need to work well together and complement each other. Winters should fit the role of enforcer and bring a physicality that could change the identity of the Jets offensive line. Some of the best offensive lines in the NFL have guys who fit this bill: the 49ers with Mike Iupati and the Patriots with Logan Mankins come to mind.

From what I have seen on film, Brian Winters has a great chance to start at right guard for the Jets and projects to be a starter at guard in the NFL for a long time. He is currently ready to be a starter in the NFL, but needs to develop his game some more to become the player the Jets’ hope he can be. If he is developed in a similar fashion to guards like Jahri Evans or Marshall Yanda, the Jets may have found the next great guard to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft. In his development, he will need to improve his footwork and stop lunging at defenders in both the run game and pass game. If he can do this he could be a Pro-Bowl caliber player. When, not if, he cracks the Jets’ starting line up, Brian Winters will bring a much needed attitude that could reestablish the Jets’ offensive line as one of the most physical units in the NFL.

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  • Harold

    I think Winters has a ton of potential. And will be a starter in 2014. I just don’t think he is ready in year one. Switching positions and coming from a small school is a lot to overcome in a few months.

  • KAsh

    I really enjoy your insights, especially the way you break down the offensive line. My one worry with Winters is that he reminds me a lot of Ducasse: powerful tackle switching to guard who relied on strength more than technique. How do you think Winters will be different? What are some of the obstacles that tackles switching to guard musy overcome?

  • John C

    I seem to remember DuCasse had “good feet” when drafted, not that he was a monster. I hope Winters is a monster, and Vlad ends up on Dancing With The Stars

  • Circles26

    The difference is that Vlad didn’t switch to guard until last year. Then he played pretty well. He’s not suited to man blocking anyway. He may do better in Marty’s scheme. He’s very good on the move. Anyway the real difference between Ducasse, and Winters in attitude. Every line needs one of these scary guys. I’m hoping he will pump up Mangold, and Howard along side him.

  • mikeM

    Nice write up Mike, who would you say would be the backup olineman for Dbrick and Mangold in case one or both would go down?

  • Mark Phelan

    So much optimism!

  • Lidman

    Vlad was drafted on the upside coaches/scouts saw in his athlecticism for a man his size. At Temple, he was simply able to dominate his oppponents, so he didn’t develop necessary techniques to have success at the next level. He also simply might not have the temperment to play OL, in the NFL. Those are 10 big dudes battling on every play. You have to have a fighters mentality to survive there.

  • Mike “Tiny” Nolan

    Kash – I agree on the similarities between Vlad and Winters in that they are small school guys known more for strength than Technique. The difference I see though, is Vlad had more of a natural strength coming out of college and not great explosiveness behind it. Winters shows more of a dominant strength that is backed by tremendous toughness and hard work. The other thing I see is flashes of solid technical footwork. I was amazed on film at how good he was as a puller. This will translate well to guard. Vlad didn’t pull very often in college and was a technique he had to learn in the NFL after making the switch.

    Obviously it depends on the offense an OL finds themselves in, but specifically to zone, guards need to learn how to work with partners more often. Tackles are on an island most of the time in both run and pass. Guards are constantly in combo blocks with Centers and sometimes tackles in both run and pass game. It makes things a little easier as long as they learn proper technique. Pulling as I mentioned is big adjustment. Another big adjustment is type of player you will be lining up against. At guard you will see bigger, stronger DL and LBs. Your technique has to be tighter inside and you have to be willing to battle alot more on inside. This is where Winters attitude comes into play alot more than it would at tackle.

  • Mike “Tiny” Nolan

    mikeM – Obviously it would be huge problem if your best 2 offensive players go down. If it were to happen, I wouldnt be surprised if Aboushi is next man in at LT. He has some knee bend issues, but like Winters is a few technical problems away from being a good NFL OL. He’s probably better RT prospect or G. If in a real pinch Winters or Ducasse could possibly have to fill in. If Mangold goes down they have Dalton Freeman who is rookie out of Clemson. Not sure if he’ll make the roster. Otherwise Schlauderaff is probably the next man in at C. Huge drop off from Brick and Mangold.

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