Kyle Juszczyk stands at 6'1, 240 pounds. I don't know about you, but seeing that number 44 run out on to the field brings back fond memories of the great Tom Rathman. While "Juice" is still early in his career, he does show some great versatility when it comes to being a true offensive weapon. This term, coined by John Lynch had fans salivating, combine that with the hefty payday we shelled out to get him and most would assume he would be top of food chain in our offensive play calling.
So far at face value it could appear Juice has been M.I.A., so I decided to really look into his role offensively from last weeks Los Angeles Rams game. I found that Juice does have an integral role in the offensive when it comes to his lead blocking. The clips below outline some of his best blocks and some concerns I have around his size and stature at the point of attack. To me, although having prototypical size, Juice seems small compared to some of the behemoth linemen and linebackers he stands to face. He does do a good job of positioning and more importantly just getting in the way of a guy from time to time. I think overall he's effective but I'd be worried about the beating he's taking game after game. Let's get into the film
The clip below is from the 1st quarter. One of Carlos Hyde's longest runs of the day, this one goes for 20 yards. Juice motions in, the rams, show an 8 in the box front anticipating the run. Not completely sure on the play design, because I've seen Kyle Shanahan call running plays where the full back leads and where the halfback and full back go towards different holes, but on this play the blitzing linebacker comes through unblocked from the backside of the play. While Juice doesn't totally obliterate his target, he does effectively keep him from making the tackle for loss, the line opens a great hole and Hyde skates through and it's even touched until he's 20 yards downfield.
Our next clip also from the first quarter. Juice shows some real agility here on the designed cutback run. He and Matt Breida step one way, and then immediately pivot back to the opposite side of the line to find the hole. Juice shoots through the gaps, meets the LB at the point of attack and shows him the door, stage left. Breida cuts off his hip and gains 10 yards.
This next clip comes from the 2nd quarter. So here's an example of what happens when Juice runs into a bigger stronger athlete at the point of attack. Juice motions to his spot. On this play he's set to block all 6'4, 250 pounds of Robert Quinn. Quinn promptly dishrags Juice, and while Quinn doesn't get in on the play, he does draw a holding call on Juice who from his knees just reaches up and grabs Quinn for dear life. Burn.
This next clip is also from the 2nd quarter. When we imagined Juice's role in the offense this next play was probably what we all had in mind. Great play call, and design by the 49ers offensive staff here. At this point, eight minutes into the 2nd quarter, we ran this lead run play several times. The Rams already aggressive front was primed for a play action pass. Juice runs at the linebacker like he has all game, the linebacker breakdowns down and prepares for contact. Juice quickly fakes the block and shoots up the seam, leaving the linebacker out of position. Brian Hoyer drops a touch pass over the linebackers head and Juice goes for a huge gain into rams territory.
The next clip is from the 3rd quarter. The same cutback/counter run as we saw before. Juice somewhat picks up two blocks on the same play. One more intentional then the other. Play starts with Hyde and Juice faking one way and then cutting back in the opposite direction. Juice's path indirectly keeps Michael Brockers from getting Hyde in the backfield. I tried to look closely but I almost see Juice put a single arm out just to get by him and Hyde slid right behind him. Laken Tomlinson probably got away with a hold here but I'll take it. Juice meets the linebacker in the hole, again he doesn't necessarily over power him but his technique is sound and very effective. He engages, swings his butt around to prevent the player from making the tackle. Hyde skates by for a solid seven yards.
The next clip is also from the 3rd quarter. Here's your standard lead run play call. Juice leads Hyde into the hole. In this play we see Juice attack Aaron Donald who's already engaged with Tomlinson at the point of attack. Donald needed two people to block him the entire game, so Juice comes through and finishes the job. Hyde passes that block, breaks a few tackles on his own and gains 11. Effective power football.
This last clip is also from the 3rd quarter. The 49ers faced 4th down at the goal line. The play was a power run and Hyde ends up scoring, barely. Here's another play where we can see Juice lead at the point of attack, and it appears he took the brunt of the collision. His inability to get a push at the line made this run a lot more dramatic. For the most part the line holds up, the linebacker flashes into his fill assignment and Juice meets him at the goal line. Hyde muscles his way in. After the play we see Juice go full fetal on the ground. What's the over under on the number of times he ends up in the concussion protocol this season?
I'm anxious to watch Juice's role continue to expand with the team. I think some of the obvious things we expected are there. His agility and flexibility in the pass game are a no brainer. One thing I was happy to see (Didn't really watch any Raven's film on him) was his sound technique and blocking ability at the point of attack. A lot of the rhetoric at his signing was about how limited he ran, and how vital he was in the pass game. I was expecting a full on finesse H-back. However, Kyle Juszczyk does have some dog in him, and will do great in both the power game and pass game, as long as his health holds up. He faces another stout front in the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4, and I'll be watching to see how he does. Go Niners!