Turn On The Jets Film Room – Oday Aboushi: Guard or Tackle?

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If you search the internet for anything about Oday Aboushi, you will find a lot more hits than the typical 5th round pick. Most of the articles are about how he is one of the first Palestinian-Americans to play in the NFL.  The more I read about Oday Aboushi the more impressed I am with him as a person. In fact, he was once honored at the US State Department by Hillary Clinton for being an inspirational Muslim athlete. Now that the dust has settled in the aftermath of the NFL Draft and Jets fans have learned a little bit about who Oday Aboushi is as a person, it is time to figure out who he is as a player and where he might be able to fit in the Jets’ offense.

Aboushi played Left Tackle for the Virginia Cavaliers; starting 37 games in his career. He was a highly regarded player winning All-ACC honors and receiving an early invite to the senior bowl. At the Senior Bowl, he was used mostly as a guard as it became apparent that he probably doesn’t have the necessary tools to play Left Tackle in the NFL. A so-so performance at the Senior Bowl coupled with a weak combine where he ran a 5.45 40-yard dash and only put up 17 reps on the bench hurt his stock leading up to the draft.

In looking at the 2013 draft, it has become clear what type of linemen the Jets are looking for to fill out their depth chart. Guys that play a physical style of football will score extra points on the Jets big board. Like fellow rookie Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi is a nasty, physical type of lineman. He has no issue when it comes to finishing blocks and is constantly looking to lay big hits on unsuspecting players. Aboushi had multiple games with double-digit knockdown numbers at UVA in 2012. The Jets also seem to like versatile linemen that can be plugged in at different positions along the line. Aboushi played Left Tackle at UVA and started working in at Guard at the Senior Bowl.

Aboushi 1Despite being an All-ACC player at Left Tackle, it is apparent on film that Oday Aboushi cannot play Left Tackle in the NFL. Although, he has a nice long frame, he is just not athletic enough to play this position. His combine numbers show a lack of speed and explosion that is also prevalent on film. These deficiencies appear across the board in Oday’s game. First he struggles to explode out of his stance. Instead of firing out of his stance, he generally needs to take a false step before getting on his man. A false step is one of the worst habits an offensive lineman can have because it gives the defender an extra split second to either beat the offensive lineman across his face or get his hands on the offensive lineman first. The false step also raises Aboushi’s pad level prior to contact.

Since he is not an elite athlete, Aboushi can struggle in pass protection. While he can be very solid at times, there are other times where there are serious issues. When he is solid in pass pro, it is because he did a great job being patient on his kick slide and getting his hands into the defender’s chest. Once his hands are locked on, it is almost impossible to escape because he has an amazing grip. He is consistently able to do this to slower, power rushers. No game exemplified this more than the UNC game. There is one play on film where Aboushi throws a great punch at Broncos’ first round pick Sylvester Williams that not only staggers him but sends him backwards about 2 or 3 yards.

On the other end of the spectrum, he seriously struggles against speed rushers. Because he is not explosive, Aboushi does not drive off of his inside foot when kick sliding; resulting in short kick slides instead of the long fluent footwork you would see in some of the top Offensive Line talent.  Speed rushers will beat him on outside moves rather easily, immediately putting him into recovery mode off the snap. Once he has been softened up, Aboushi can be easily beat with inside counter moves since he doesn’t have the footspeed to power slide in the opposite direction. The funny thing is that despite the lack of athleticism he shows in the pass game, he doesn’t give up that many sacks. The main reason is that he is pretty good at recovering just enough to allow the Quarterback to throw the ball. The other main positive about Aboushi’s pass protection is that he is seemingly insusceptible to the bull rush. He is rarely over powered as he has a solid punch and extremely strong hands.

Lets take a look at an example of Aboushi’s issues in pass pro. UVA is in an empty set in an obvious passing down. Aboushi is lined up at Left Tackle. Georgia Tech is in a 3-3 front in their nickel package. The weakside inside linebacker will blitz in the A gap.

Aboushi 2 (1)

UVA is in a man pass protection. This means that the offensive line is responsible for the 3 down linemen and the two remaining ILBs. Aboushi is responsible for the 5 technique. For some reason, Oday takes a big kickslide outside. The 5 technique stunts into the B gap.

Aboushi 2 (2)

Because Aboushi oversets outside, the 5 technique is able to come through nearly untouched as he isn’t able to recover. The 5 tech forces the quarterback outside of the pocket and makes him throw an interception.

Aboushi 2 (3)

Because he doesn’t have great athleticism, a lot of scouts have determined that Oday Aboushi is a better guard prospect than tackle. While I agree that he is not an NFL Left Tackle, he is a much better candidate to play Right Tackle than Guard at this point. The main reason is knee bend. On top of his athleticism issues, Aboushi is a pretty stiff lineman. Although he is much better with it in the pass game, he does not bend his knees when run blocking.  This forces Aboushi to often times resort to sealing off defenders as opposed to using leverage to drive them. Aboushi was measured at 6’5” tall. He is probably close to the same height when he is in his run blocking demeanor.  This does not translate well to the guard position. As he moves inside, he will have to face bigger, stronger opponents where it is imperative to get low and drive them off the ball.  With his current technique, Aboushi will not be able to get this done in the NFL. Below is an example of some of Aboushi’s weaknesses despite it being a successful play -

On this play UVA is lined up in quads with a tight bunch look to the left side. They are going to run inside zone to the right. Aboushi is at Left Tackle.

Aboushi - UNC 1

On this play, Aboushi and the Left Guard are going to combo block the 3 technique to the weakside inside linebacker. The first thing Aboushi does wrong is false step. Notice how every other offensive lineman is taking a 45 degree angle step up field. On Zone plays especially, linemen need to take identical steps so their combo blocks are tight. If there is significant space between the two lineman, it will be difficult to work together to move the down lineman vertically.  Aboushi’s false step dooms the combo block from the beginning.

Aboushi - UNC 1 (2)

As the play develops, the guard has to step back into the defensive tackle in order to account for the space between he and Aboushi. Also, notice how close Aboushi’s feet are together. Because his feet are this close, he has no leverage and will have trouble adjusting his feet if he needs to get off on the linebacker.

Aboushi - UNC 1 (3)

On this play Aboushi gets lucky. The LB shoots to the A gap and the backside guard has to get off on him. Because the guard had to abandon his technique he has to make a desperation dive to get a piece of him. Because of this play by the LB and the wide rush of the DE, there is a huge cut back lane.  The first thing to realize, is that because of Aboushi’s technique, this play could have been stopped for a loss. If the LB were to shoot the backside C gap, he would have never been able to get to him off of the combo block.  econdly, notice how high Aboushi is on his seal block.  His knees are almost locked and he is standing nearly straight up.

Aboushi - UNC 1 (4)

Because of how high he plays, Aboushi blocks through his back instead of his hips. As an offensive lineman, you need to explode through your hips in order to generate the most power. If a lineman is upright, he is using his back. Think how much easier it is to lift something heavy when you use your legs and hips to lift it instead of struggling through your back. Aboushi has terrible pad level and relies almost solely on his upper body to run block. This is something he got away with in college. He will get destroyed in the NFL if this problem isn’t fixed.

Another reason why Aboushi would struggle at guard is pulling. One of UVA’s favorite plays in 2012 was a sweep play in which Aboushi would pull and lead block on the outside. After looking at several different repetitions of this play, it is apparent that he isn’t a great puller. His footwork is suspect at best as he often pulls himself too deep in the backfield and he just isn’t that fast.  Several times the back ran past him before he could even get to a defender, rendering him useless. On other plays, especially against Georgia Tech, the defense would attack Aboushi and cut him down in the backfield. This would completely stall the play in the backfield and it was a great job by Georgia Tech’s defensive staff to realize that this was the best way to stop the play.

Taking into account Oday Aboushi’s current skill set, it would take a lot more coaching and time to fix some of the things that would hold him back from being a serviceable NFL guard. Brian Winters is a much farther along prospect than Oday. Also, at slightly over 300 pounds he doesn’t have the ideal girth to play inside. Since his strength lies in his length and physicality, he would be much better suited to play Right Tackle. I’m afraid this will have Vlad Ducasse written all over it if Aboushi is forced to play guard from day one.

There is a reason Oday Aboushi was drafted in the 5th round. He is a project. Right now, Oday Aboushi is not ready to be a starting offensive lineman in the NFL. The good news is that the Jets don’t necessarily need him to be. Through free agency and the draft, they have added good depth to their offensive line. If someone goes down, Aboushi doesn’t necessarily need to be the next guy in, but if he improves his footwork and knee bend, he could be. Austin Howard has gotten better at the Right Tackle spot and this should continue. However, if Howard isn’t the answer, the Jets have drafted a guy that could be the starting Right Tackle in a few years with the proper development.