BGA: Scouting Stephen Peterman

Bent , TheJetsBlog.com

With the offseason well underway, the Jets have continued to sign some guys that Jets fans might not know too much about. I’ll be taking a closer look at each of the new signings and trying to assess what they can bring to the table for the Jets in 2013. Today, I look at another recent signing, guard Stephen Peterman.

Click the BGA link at the top of the page to look back at some of the scouting work I’ve done on some of the other signings the Jets have made since the end of the season.

Peterman, a 31-year old, is 6-4 and weighs in at 323 pounds. He was drafted in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys in 2004, but was released after two injury-plagued seasons. However, he soon found a new home and has been starting at right guard for the Detroit Lions for the past six seasons. Peterman signed a one-year, veterans minimum deal to join the Jets and should compete for a job with the likes of Vlad Ducasse, Willie Colon and Caleb Schlauderaff, along with the Jets’ 3rd, 5th and 6th round picks.

After the jump, I’ll be reviewing his career so far and looking in detail at what he could provide the Jets with this year and going forward.

Who is Stephen Peterman?

Peterman was a tight end in high school but converted to guard when he went to college at LSU. There he was a three-year starter and part of the 2003 national championship team.

After being drafted in the third round by the Cowboys, Peterman suffered a serious knee injury that caused him to spend his rookie year on injured reserve. He also broke a finger and Bill Parcells was said to have grown tired of his slow recovery. Peterman made three appearances on special teams at the end of the year in 2005, but did not make it through final cuts in 2006.

Signed by the Detroit Lions, Peterman continued to develop and got two late-season starts, turning heads in an upset win over his former team. Tom Kowalski from Lions Insider saw plenty of reasons for hope:

When you look at his tape, you see a guy who has a great deal of toughness and tenacity. He also plays smart and moves fairly well. The most impressive thing, though – and it really showed in the game against the Cowboys and their athletic defensive linemen – was his ability to recover after getting beat initially. He would be at a leverage disadvantage very quickly in the play, but use his strength and footwork to regain the advantage.

Peterman won a starting job early in the 2007 season and has been the full-time starter since then. He did miss the last seven games of 2009 after landing on injured reserve with an ankle problem, but other than that has only missed two starts since being named the starter – both of them back in 2008.

Peterman has been completely healthy over the past two seasons and in 2010, although he was dealing with a foot issue all year, which affected him badly, he didn’t miss any games. He struggled badly all year though, although he did play well over the last month. In 2011, he had a solid season and was ranked as PFF’s 16th best guard. However, in 2012, although he graded out positively overall, he was down near the bottom of the league in terms of pass protection. Peterman’s best season was probably the 2009 season that was cut short – he ended up ranked 14th despite missing the last seven games and could probably have finished in the top five if he’d stayed healthy and continued to play at the same level.

Let’s get into the film to see what he’s made of…

Observations

Based on all the footage I watched, here was my take on what Peterman brings to the table, divided into categories:

Usage - Peterman has just been a right guard for the Lions. He does have experience of playing at left guard in college though. In 2006, the Cowboys started working with him as a center, but that was the first time he had ever played the position. However, he said he enjoyed it, although he never got any regular season game experience. This could be important though, because they will need to have at least one active player who can slide over to the center position in the event of a Nick Mangold injury. Matt Slauson’s ability to do this enabled the Jets to keep Caleb Schlauderaff on the inactive list in the past, freeing up a spot for a special teams contributor. Had there been a longer term injury (to Mangold or Slauson), then Schlauderaff would have been activated. Schlauderaff and UDFA Dalton Freeman are currently the only other players with experience of playing center (although there was some talk of Willie Colon being capable of playing the position back when he was a draft prospect at Hofstra).

Athletic Ability – Despite the fact he’s played in a scheme where he’s required to make blocks on the move, Peterman’s athleticism does not really stand out. However, he does have the ability to make those blocks due to good technique and strength. Check out this play where Peterman gets out in front of a screen and makes the block on Patrick Willis. You’ll note that he looks pretty slow getting out in front, but sizes Willis up well and ensures that he is able to prevent him from getting inside leverage, springing the runner for an eventual 50-yard gain. Guys like Mangold and Slauson look much better than that in terms of getting out in front on a screen pass, but they don’t grade out as well in terms of screen blocking because Peterman is more consistent at making that block on in space.

Now that Peterman is 31, he may have lost a step or two, but his athletic numbers entering the NFL were not that impressive anyway. He ran a 5.46 forty at the combine and his vertical jump and broad jump were below 25 inches and eight feet respectively, a sign that he might have lacked explosiveness.

Run Blocking - Peterman graded out well as a run blocker in 2012. He has the ability to use his strength to gain a leverage advantage at the point of attack and the mobility to make pulling blocks or get to the second level. Check out this play for a good example of run blocking from Peterman (#66 at right guard). Here are a couple of images from the coaching film to show what a good job he did on that play:

As the ball is handed off, Peterman starts to block the defensive tackle to his right.

As the double team comes from the right tackle, Peterman is able to prevent the defensive tackle from getting to the inside. Linebacker Russel Allen (#50) comes across and is positioned to make a tackle in the hole if the runner cuts back.

The runner does cut back, but Peterman peels off his block to take on Allen.

Peterman gets outside leverage on Allen.

He is then able to continue to drive Allen to the inside, creating a huge hole for the runner to go in basically untouched.

For the most part, Peterman does a consistent job as a run blocker and would probably handle those aspects of his role well, if he were to get playing time with the Jets.

Pass Protection – Here is where there is some cause for concern. Peterman gave up more pressure than any other guard in the NFL last year and watching the film reminds me of when I reviewed film on Alan Faneca in 2010. Peterman seemed to struggle with his lateral movement, found it difficult to anchor against a bullrush and didn’t do a good enough job of preventing his man from getting separation. As with Faneca in 2010, it’s difficult to avoid attributing this to the aging process, especially with no reported injuries to pin it on. Peterman himself admitted that his foot injury impeded his ability to anchor himself back in 2010 and we’ve seen in recent years the effect a knee injury can have on a guard’s lateral movement (Matt Slauson in the second half of 2010). However, since no injuries were reported, can we realistically expect Peterman to do better in 2013?

On this example his lack of lateral quickness is exposed as Israel Idonije uses his quickness to easily get inside leverage and blow by Peterman for the strip sack. Based on the comments earlier in this article, it sounds like he had the strength and technique to recover from that kind of situation earlier on in his career, but perhaps that’s no longer the case. On this example, Peterman pulls right and doesn’t manage to secure his block so that when Matt Stafford is forced to step up, it’s easy for Shea McClellin to get off the block and pick up half a sack. Finally, on this play Letroy Guion is able to create separation and causes Peterman to overbalance and topple over.

Peterman was much more reliable in 2011, so maybe there are some correctable reasons for his 2012 struggles, but watching the film doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. Also, the Lions offense has plenty of quick passing specifically designed to mitigate pressure, so Peterman’s numbers might have been even worse in another system. Since Mark Sanchez has a habit of holding the ball for too long or not anticipating pressure, I could imagine that a higher percentage of those pressures allowed by Peterman would result in sacks or hits if Sanchez was his quarterback as opposed to the 19.6% that resulted in a sack or hit on Stafford. Then there’s the actual effect that the pressure has on each of those quarterbacks. Stafford’s QB rating under pressure per PFF was 62.4, whereas Sanchez’s was 43.3 last year.

Of course, Sanchez might not be starting, but since the alternatives are two young guys who might not yet be prepared to anticipate the rush at the NFL level and one old guy who might lack the mobility to escape the rush these days, protecting whoever gets the job should be a priority.

Scheme Familiarity

One thing Peterman will bring to the team is experience and hopefully a good understanding of the system Mornhinweg will be running. Peterman joined the Lions in 2006, three and a half years after Mornhinweg had left his post as their head coach. I’m not sure how many of his philosophies remained in place on offense after his departure, but the Lions do currently run a West Coast style offense with a stretch/zone blocking scheme, so there should be plenty of overlap.

Instincts – As you’d expect from such an experienced player, Peterman seems to have a good understanding of what his role is and how to deal with situations like stunts. The book on him coming out of college was that he has good instincts anyway. Where he was beaten, it was usually because he was at an athletic or technical disadvantage, not due to confusion.

Attitude – Jets fans might remember that there was some controversy involving Peterman following the Jets’ overtime win in Detroit in 2010. He was initially fined for two blocks that Bart Scott had described as “dirty” but then let off on appeal. Despite this reputation he’s not been that heavily penalized – committing 25 penalties over the past five seasons, 12 of which were during that 2010 season where he was playing hurt. He had just four in 2012, so plays with good discipline and there are plenty of comments online about how tough and hardworking he is.

Back in 2011, he did get penalized on this bizarre play.

Conclusions

Having watched the footage on Peterman, unless there’s some reason for his struggles in pass protection, that seems to be the reason he was still available and ultimately signed for the minimum. While he still shows good technique in the running game and as a blocker on screen passes, the Jets have relied on solid pass protection from the right guard position over the last few years and if Peterman was to win the starting job and struggle like he did in 2012, that could sink the Jets’ season.

There are some definite positives to this move though. Peterman has experience and enough scheme familiarity that he can impart plenty of wisdom onto some of the younger guard candidates. He has also been healthy for the past few years, which hopefully makes him a good fallback option. He is reliable in the running game, suggesting he can do a good job in a backup role even if that means they give him help in pass protection. Finally, he offers them the possibility of keeping a backup lineman on the active roster who can snap the ball in the case of emergencies.

When the Jets first expressed interest in Peterman, I saw him as a long time starter that fits the system and could come in and compete for the starting job with the Jets. However, his struggles in pass protection lead me to reset my expectations. If Peterman does make this team, I expect it to be as a backup and I’d have faith that he’d provide them with decent short-term depth in that role. However, if he ends up starting in the long term, that likely means that one of the other candidates they hoped would emerge has fallen short and this could be a problem.

Still, for a minimum salary deal, I do like the pickup for the reasons stated in the second paragraph of this section. There will definitely be some worse players than Peterman playing guard this year around the league.