Turn On The Jets Film Room – Stephen Peterman: Starter or Back-Up?

Mike Nolan steps into the film room to take a look at Jets’ Offensive Guard Stephen Peterman to determine if he is best suited as a starter or back-up.

Our resident Offensive Lineman, Mike Nolan, steps into the film room to take a look at Offensive Guard Stephen Peterman to determine if he is best suited as a starter or back-up for the New York Jets in 2013.  Be sure to give Mike a follow on twitter and Turn On The Jets a follow on facebook. Also make sure to check out the rest of our film breakdown series here 

Although the jury is still out on how well the New York Jets addressed their needs this offseason, they did a good job adding depth and competition at a few positions.  One such position is offensive guard. With the departure of two starting guards from 2012, the Jets brought in a myriad of players to compete for the two open spots. After signing Willie Colon earlier in free agency, the Jets drafted Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi, and William Campbell and signed Stephen Peterman all within a few days.  With the Jets front office preaching competition the 2nd guard spot should be up for grabs. 

Looking on paper at the depth chart, it would seem to make sense to have Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman step in as the starting guards. Both are experienced veterans that have played in high powered offenses. While the film backs up this line of thinking for Willie Colon, it tells a different story for Stephen Peterman.

Peterman came into the league as a 3rd round draft pick out of LSU for the Dallas Cowboys in 2005. His career with Dallas was forgetful as he was oft injured and never saw the field on offense. After he was let go by Dallas, Peterman was signed by the Lions and has started at Right Guard for them since 2007. Peterman actually has a similar career arc to Willie Colon in that Peterman was a pretty solid starting offensive lineman until injuries led to a bit of a downfall. Peterman was ranked as an above average starting NFL guard by most publications and fell around the 15-20 range in rankings by sites like Pro Football Focus. In 2010, Peterman hurt his foot and, although he didn’t miss any games, has been on a steady downfall ever since. 

The one silver lining you can find in this injury is that Peterman is a tough guy and played through a lot of pain. However, the injury has led to more negatives than positives. The first thing you notice when you watch film on Peterman is his unorthodox stance. Even though he wasn’t a great athlete to begin with, Peterman has a stance that doesn’t allow any explosion off the line of scrimmage as he has his right foot way back and on the side as opposed to being on the arch of his foot or even on his heel as most offensive line coaches teach. He probably does it for comfort to limit the pain in his foot. 

The first thing coaches teach is to have a good stance. Everything starts with the stance.  Peterman’s inexplosive stance has a strong tendency to carry over into his block. He simply doesn’t have the anchor that he used to have in order to drive people off the line of scrimmage. Although he is better at the second level, he cannot drive people at the point of attack. His best blocks on the LOS are generally stalemates or late seal blocks and his worst blocks lead to tackles for loss or no gain. Let’s look at an example from the Lions’ Week 16 loss against the Falcons:

Here the Lions have 6 offensive linemen in the game and are running inside zone to the left. Stephen Peterman is #66 at right guard. He is responsible for the gap (zone) to his left and will probably be one on one since the tackle next to him is also covered.

Peterman Zone (1)

The first thing you see is that Peterman barely steps with his left foot and puts himself in a bad position off the snap. Because he doesn’t “gain ground” the defensive tackle can cross his face.

Peterman Zone (2)

Despite the bad step Peterman is able to recover as the defensive tackle tries to gain leverage in his backside gap. Here a good offensive lineman should be able to finish this block and either seal the defender or drive him off the ball. Instead notice how close Peterman’s feet are. He has no leverage to finish the block.

Peterman Zone (3)

Because of Peterman’s poor technique and lack of strength, the defender is able to drive Peterman across the line of scrimmage into the hole. All of this happens despite Peterman actually being between the defender and the ball carrier.

Peterman Zone (4)

The defender sheds Peterman and makes the tackle for no gain.  Peterman can only stand over the pile and watch. 

Peterman Zone (5)

On the flip side, Peterman has shown the ability to make some pretty good blocks downfield, especially on the second level. There are a few examples of him making some well-timed blocks out in front of screens, which will be essential in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. Another important part of Mornhinweg’s offense will be the use of zone running schemes. Peterman has plenty of zone experience (More so than Willie Colon actually) and understands the technique and concepts. Here is a good example of him making a key block on the second level:

Here the Lions are on the 3 yard line and will be running inside zone to the left out of the Gun. The Houston Texans are in a base 3-4 alignment. 

Peterman TD (1)

Peterman takes his proper left step first, but since he sees the linebacker on the second levels alignment, he steps back into the combo block.

Peterman TD (2)

After taking this second step, he continues to work his proper “track” up field. Although tackle, Gosder Cherilus, comes off the down lineman too early, Peterman stays on his proper track and takes the linebacker as he shows in the backside A gap.

Peterman TD (3)

You can see from the wide angle that Peterman takes the linebacker 2 yards into the end zone. This block proves to be a key in springing Mikel Leshoure into the end zone for the game’s first score.

Peterman TD (4)

One part of his game that has been completely diminished is his ability to consistently pass protect. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterman led all Offensive Guards in QB hurries in 2012 with 36. Most likely because of his foot problems, Peterman has no anchor and generally can’t be left alone in pass protection. He needs help from the center as bigger pass rushers will put him on roller skates into the quarterback’s lap (And Even Sometimes that doesn’t help!). Peterman isn’t much better against savvier pass rushers either as he can easily be beat by a simple swim or rip move.  And if you want to see how he fairs against a guy with both Power and Speed rush ability, just take a look at the game against Houston to see what J.J. Watt does to him. The sad thing is that you don’t have to be the best player in the NFL to beat Peterman to the Quarterback. Let’s see how Peterman does in a one on one situation with Vikings DL Letroy Guion who has a total of 4 career sacks:

Here the Lions are in an obvious passing situation as it is 3rd down. Letroy Guion is lined up in the A Gap on Peterman’s inside shoulder.

Peterman sack (1)

Normally the center would provide help on the down lineman who is closest to him, but because the Vikings are such a good pass rushing team, Peterman is left by himself to handle defensive tackle Letroy Guion. The first thing I see is that Peterman takes a bad pass set. Instead of kicksliding with his proper base under him, Peterman basically back pedals until he makes contact with the rusher. Despite this pass set, he actually isn’t in a bad position once engaged.

Peterman sack (2)

After engaging, Peterman begins to lean forward to help stop Guion’s bull rush.  Once Guion notices his shift in weight, he uses a basic swim move to get Peterman to fall on his knees.

Peterman sack (3)

By the time Peterman stands back up, Guion gets a big sack on Matt Stafford.  In order to help Peterman, the center or the running back should have helped. For the Jets this could mean players are worried about helping Peterman instead of taking care of other things, like getting out into a check down.

Peterman sack (4)

While there are times when Peterman is satisfactory in pass protection, he is completely devoid of any type of consistency. This is something the Jets can’t have with a QB notorious for making mistakes under pressure like Mark Sanchez or a rookie QB like Geno Smith. While his career has been on a downward slope since 2010, it wasn’t until 2012 that it became painfully obvious to Lions fans and the organization that he had to go. This is mostly because his mistakes proved so costly to the team. He gave up QB hurries that led to interceptions, missed blocks in the run game that led to fumbles, and numerous big hits on Matthew Stafford on both sacks and pressures.

When the Jets first signed Peterman, I initially thought it was a good move to sign a veteran NFL starter to fill in at guard. After watching the film, my mindset has changed.  There is a reason why Peterman didn’t generate much interest and was signed for the league minimum. If Stephen Peterman is called on to start, the Jets are in a little bit of trouble. He would be a big step down from either Matt Slauson or Brandon Moore.  Peterman’s role on this team is to add depth and a veteran presence. He is a stop gap player with experience and toughness in case Willie Colon gets hurt or Brian Winters isn’t ready.  Based on the film, I’m not so sure that he can set himself apart from Vlad Ducasse or some of the other rookies. In the end, his experience should help him be the next man in at offensive guard. Although he is not starter material at this point of his career, his weaknesses can be covered up as long as Nick Mangold is healthy, I just wouldn’t expect the Jets to run his way too often. In the end, Willie Colon rested and recovered from his injuries giving him a chance to resurrect his career with the Jets. For Peterman, who played through his injuries, it is too late for him to be an effective starter in the NFL.