Monday, January 26, 2009

Any Justice For Us?

The forgotten man in talking about the 2009 OL is Winston Justice. Could he play a part? Could he be the starting RT?

My belief for this season was to keep Justice around "just in case". He knows the offense and could have stepped in and played at least "good enough". My attitude toward the future was to cut him and move on.

Now that the '08 season has played itself out I have mixed feelings. We have a hole at RT. Runyan is a FA. Shawn Andrews is MIA. There is no one on the roster who projects as a good RT immediately. It was much easier to casually dimiss Justice when Andrews was in the picture and Jon hadn't struggled for a season.

Justice didn't play much this year. He got some snaps in blowouts. He was part of the STs units for a while. Justin Tuck got by him and blocked a FG in the 2nd Giants game. Winston was replaced as a blocker by rookie Mike McGlynn. That was pretty damning in my book. If the coaches don't trust you as much as they do a rookie, how can you be part of future plans? That sealed my thoughts on Justice.

But wait. Late in the year he started getting snaps at LG in the goal line offense so that Herremans could move out to TE. Now the coaches trust him enough to put him on the field in goal line situations? Color me confused.

One of the popular Philly criticisms of Justice is that he's got no heart. I don't agree. You don't last in football very long with no heart. To use a boxing analogy, I think his problem is that he's more of a dancer than a puncher. It takes special guys to get away with that. Winston isn't special. He needs to play with more fire. I'm not talking fake rah-rah emotion, though. I'm talking about competitive spirit...where winning and losing on each snap is vitally important to you. Runyan has lost plenty of battles over the years. It isn't for lack of effort or caring. He hates getting beat. When he gets a chance to mash on a guy, he does it.

Here are my preseason notes on Justice:

Steelers game
JUSTICE - Up and down game. There was more good than bad, but it was still frustrating to see some of the mistakes. Set too hard to the outside and was beaten by inside move. Looked quick, athletic at times. Good pad level. Got his hands out. Whiffed on a LB on a run to his side. Whiffed on a DL and Hunt got tackled for a short loss. Generally did well in pass pro. Needs to play better considering he's in year 3.

Panthers game
JUSTICE – Moved his feet well in pass pro. You still wish he would anchor better. Played pretty well. Didn’t let his guy get free. Had a good game as a pass blocker. Didn't show much as a run blocker. We ran a lot of draws and that type thing. I'm not getting much of a chance to see him drive a DL and really be aggressive. Played better than last week.

Pats game
JUSTICE – Backup RT. Still not anchoring as well as you’d like. Does re-set after getting pushed back, but that would lead to trouble in a real game against a good DE. Got no push on the LDE on a run to his side. Pulled on a Moats run to the right side and did okay. Gave Ryan a running lane outside.

Jets game
JUSTICE – RT – Pulled and had a sloppy block on Gholston. Had poor sustain on a run block and the defender got to Hunt right at the LOS. Beaten in pass pro by Gholston. Vern was able to pressure Kolb, but not hit him. Justice did stay with the block. Justice put his head really low on the play. His pad level was too low. He needed to make himself bigger. Didn’t anchor well. I know I say this every week, but it bugs me that he is having the same problem over and over. Gets driven back toward the QB way too much. Got called for holding late in the half, negating a big gain.

Here are my notes from the 2007 finale when he played RT most of the game:

* JUSTICE – Played well when you consider he didn't practice and prepare for the game. Also take into account that he has played LT in the NFL and filled in at RT in this game. Took over at RT when Runyan was knocked out of the game. Pulled on a Tackle Trap and got a solid block on a DB. Handled his first 3rd down well. Started blocking the DE, then passed him to inside blocker, and got the DT who was looping wide. That shows good awareness and teamwork. His DE was able to deflect a pass. Justice hit the DE initially, then pulled off him. Winston has to stay on that block so the DE doesn’t get a free jump at the ball. It was a 3-step drop and Justice should have known that and blocked accordingly. When you have a quick pass, you block aggressively because you expect the QB to throw the ball almost immediately. Had a good block on Westy’s long run to the right side. Got his DE and stuck with him for several yards. Kept his hands on the guy as he pushed him downfield, but didn’t hold when the guy went to chase the play. Did get called for holding on a pass play, but it wasn’t his fault. We had a screen to the right called. Justice blocked his DE. The DL read screen and stayed with the RB. Donovan rolled right, outside of Justice. The DE went to pursue and Winston held him for a moment. Simply a busted play. Had a play-action pass where the TE stayed in to block (on his side). Justice looked inside for a defender at the snap. He helped the RG block a DT. A blitzer then came and Justice peeled off his block and picked that guy up. Good awareness. Got called for a False Start. Struggled at times with staying with the DE to the outside. Could be this is due to him playing mostly LT in practice and having to adjust to covering wide right in this game. Poor run block on play to his side. The DE got into him and pushed Winston back a step. Got knocked to the ground on a bull rush by Kelsay. Chris beat him a couple of plays later with a good swim move. Winston handled him better on the next play.

I don't know what to make of Justice. There is absolute logic to keeping him around and seeing what he does. The problem is that he played so marginally in the 2008 preseason. A guy in year #3 needs to show you that he's made good progress. He flat-lined. That scares me. I know Winston has talent, but he doesn't play with much confidence and that can get you killed on the OL.

The reason you would keep him around is to challenge for the RT spot. The thinking would be to bring in a RT in the draft, somewhere in the first 3 rounds. The kid and Justice would battle for the job. If the kid wins, you have to deal with the ups and downs of a rookie starter. Justice would at least give you someone who is young, athletic, healthy, and who knows the offense. I don't think he'd ever become a good player, but he might prove to be an adequate starter until the prospect is ready to take over in year 2.

We know Winston isn't a good role player. Can he be the starter? He did play okay at RT in the '07 finale. Maybe he's one of those guys who is fine for 60 snaps, but can't be effective for 6. Some guys struggle when they aren't "the man".

The fact that Justice still has this many questions heading into year 4 of his career bugs me. I'd probably cut him and move on. I prefer grinders and fighters. I trust them. The Eagles deal with Justice every day and should have a better feel for the situation. Let's hope they make the right decision.


shlynch said...

Justice is someone who you bring to camp and let him prove to you that he deserves to be a backup OT. But he has to win the job -- he doesn't go in as one of the guys you expect to end up on the 53 man roster. He certainly doesn't enter the equation of potential starters.

By the way, when you say "There is no one on the roster who projects as a good RT immediately," does that exclude Herremans or do you believe that he can't be a good RT immediately for some reason?

Tommy Lawlor said...

I'm projecting him at LT. Should have made that clear. I certainly think he can play there.

Here's a blurb that Chris McPherson had today on Todd:

Now, Herremans may be asked to slide outside to his natural tackle position in 2009. The incumbents, Tra Thomas on the left side and Jon Runyan on the right, are scheduled to become free agents.

"I have no idea," Herremans said of what's going to happen in the future. "Nobody knows what's going on except for the people behind closed doors. I don't even try to guess anymore. I just show up to work and play where they tell me to play."

tobylove said...

The thought of Todd at LT and new guys at LG, RT and probably RG is pretty scary. I hope they resign Tra and move Todd to RT

Mark H. said...

If nothing else, they can't let Justice on the field whenever they play in the Meadowlands. Bad things happen, man. Bad things.

T_S_O_P said...

Nice analogy.
Surely he was bought here to dance on the left, not punch on the right. Two problems, a) he isn't at all comfortable on the left and firing off the wrong foot; b) we don't need a dancer on the right, who does?

I agree with you, I'm not sure a dancer can ever become a puncher. Equally, I'm unsure as to whether he will ever be comfortable on the left, (he must be quite rare in this inability).

Didn't Jermaine Mayberry played both tackle positions before eventually becoming a Pro Bowl Right Guard? Is right guard a long term possibility? He was quite upset by the thought back in the summer. Where's his head at now? If only the Cardinals had got 1 game short of where they are now with their southpaw QB instead of KW and lost because the right tackle wasn't comfortable protectingthe blindside.

Tommy Lawlor said...

Jermaine wasn't athletically meant to play OT. He could have maybe made it at RT in a run heavy offense, but he was out of place as a pass blocker. Andy wisely put him inside and let him develop.

I have no idea what to say about Justice. I know the coaches aren't happy with his lack of progress.

I hope we find other solutions and let him walk. The kid might make it in a new setting, but I'm afraid he'll never pan out for us. Too much baggage to overcome.