EPISODE 9: YOU'RE PLAYING OUT OF CONTROL!

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So, Big Dawg, imagine this right? So you get in the car and you crank it up. You put your seatbelt on because that's the right thing to do. You read the sign, click it or ticket. You put the car in drive and you get to riding. Riding and looking. Looking and riding. Got your home boys on the side and y'all talking about riding to Oakridge Mall because it's movie night. Y'all just riding, vibing to some music, talking about the game, riding and looking, looking and riding.

All of a sudden, you take your hands off the steering wheel because you're trying to show out. You real comfortable with your hands off that steering wheel until all of a sudden, uh-oh spaghetti-o. Unfortunately, this happens way too often.

Episode Number 9: Are You Playing Out of Control?

Let's think about that analogy for a second. How can we have control of a vehicle without our hands? You can't control anything without your hands. Now, I can mash on the accelerator and make the vehicle go faster. I can mash on the brakes to make the vehicle slow down. But I can't guide that vehicle in the right direction and the way that I want to go without my hands, which ultimately means I do not have control. You must get your hands on to establish control and if you don't, Big Dawg, get your hands on that vehicle sooner than later, a catastrophe's going to happen. In most cases, not having control can lead to chaos.

If you've been around football long enough, you'll know that whoever controls the line of scrimmage controls the football game. There goes that word again, control. And whomever cannot control the line of scrimmage, can't control the football game. And if you can't control the football game, a catastrophe is bound to happen over and over and over again. How important is your hand play at the line of scrimmage? And I'm not just talking about one guy. I'm talking about the line as a whole, those dawgs up front. How important is your hand play at the line of scrimmage?

It's so important that if you don't get a handle on that steering wheel, you're bound to crash. Catastrophe is right around the corner and you know what good offenses do? They'll find a weakness in the defense. They'll find that lineman who can't establish control, and most of the time that lineman that can't establish control is trying to drive the vehicle without his hands. Is that you, Big Dawg? Is that how you sound in the trenches? Boy, you out there playing out of control.

One of the reasons why I chose to talk about this today is because normally during this time of the year, I watch a lot of film. A lot of my Big Dawgs across the country, whether it be NFL or college and high school, they're always sending me film to analyze, so outside of training and consulting, I'm watching a ton of film. And whether it be on the offense or defensive side of the ball, the common denominator for error is the same. If you had to guess what that common error was between defense and offensive line play at the line of scrimmage, what would be your guess?

You guessed it. Hand mechanics, man. The common denominator for error on both sides of the ball would be hand placement before contact, hand placement at contact, and hand engagement after contact. And truthfully, when you look at NFL play, it's the same thing. The only difference is is that on that level, the game is a lot faster, which means your hands have to be quicker, which means your hands have to be more precise. So for that reason, I just couldn't pass up this question.

I got a question from one of my Big Dawgs. His name just says Laker Fan. I don't know his real name, but shout out to you, Big Dawg. You asked a really good question. It's a question I get a lot and let me read this question. It says, "How do you get a really strong first punch with your arms extended?" Like how do you get in that position is what he's saying? "It often feels like when I get off the ball, my elbows are bent and I end up headbutting the offensive lineman." I've seen that a ton, Big Dawg. You ain't the only one. "Is my upper body weak? I bench press around 315 as a junior." In other words, he's saying, "I don't think my arms a week. Why is it that I can't get that separation that I want, that extension off the ball? Why am I headbutting guys in front of me?"

Big Dawg, I see that so much that there's an issue with hand mechanics. There's an issue with the hand mechanics. That's why this was a great question and I have to answer this trench question. Laker Fan, appreciate you. Let's talk trenches.

You know when I have conversations with defensive linemen and I discussed with them, what is your goal? What is your objective? I mean, you ready to go. You got your shoulder pads on. You got your cleats on. You probably spatted. When I was in high school, I had to be spatted every game. I spend so much money on tape alone. I know for a fact I spent more money on tape than I did my cleats. Now, that's a shame. I had my cowboy collar, so it looked like I had big traps. I have a pitch-black, limousine-black visor, so you couldn't see my eyes, which wasn't the smartest because we're already playing at nighttime. But you know what? I looked good. And you know what they say. Look good, play good.

Well, that ain't always true, but what was my goal? What's your goal, Big Dawg? Coaches, ask your athletes, "Going into this game, what is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish?" Nine times out of 10, despite what they may say out loud, they are going into that game to make tackles and get sacks. They trying to make as many plays as possible. Now, making plays and making tackles is two different things because you might make a play, a great play, but it doesn't mean you made the tackle or the sack.

Making the play means that you sacrificed. You served for your team. It means as a defensive end, you set an edge. It means as a nose guard, you commanded a double team allowing the linebacker to be free. Now, you might not have made that tackle or that sack, but because of what you did, somebody else benefited from that. You're a team player, Big Dawg, and those are the guys that go a long way.

Now, you may say, "Coach, there ain't nothing wrong where my linemen going to the game wanting to make tackles and sacks." Well, in my opinion, it is something wrong with that if that's their first priority. One of the number one reasons why dawgs in the trenches play out of control is because they're focused on the wrong thing. They want that bone and they want it bad, so what you think they looking at? Come on, coaches. What they looking at?

The backfield. As if that Big Dawg is not in the gate, as if they don't have an opposition in front of them, as if that guy in front of them just going to step to the side and let them come on through, as if they don't have to fight for what they want. I'm referencing episode Number 8. If you ain't heard it, Big Dawg, you got to go check it out.

They want to make tackles. They want to make sacks. And ain't nothing wrong with that, but that ain't the first priority, Big Dawg. Your first priority is that guy in front of you. Why we not playing with precise hands is because we can't focus our eyes.

Let me give you an example. Have you ever looked through a camera and you're trying to take a picture? Now, I ain't talking about these cell phones. I'm talking about a real camera. So here you have a camera in your hand and you looking through the camera, and you trying to take a picture of your dawg and you focus your camera on your dawg.
And if it's a really good camera, you can actually focus it to where everything around it is blurry. You know what I'm talking about, Big Dawg.

Yeah, I took a little photography back in the day. So, because you're focused on the dawg in this picture, everything else is blurry. But you can also focus on the thing behind the dawg, to where that becomes the focus, and the dawg becomes blurry.

Big Dawg, listen to me. Your eyes are an essential part of the game. If you're looking at the wrong thing, you will always respond the wrong way. How precise can you be if you're focused on something five to seven yards away, but you're not focused on what's inches away from you. I mean, right in front of your face, and closing, when the ball snap. You can see crystal clear the running back and the quarterback, but what's blurry is that guy in front of you.

Well, of course your hands not gonna land, because your eyes not telling 'em where to go. That's why we call it hand and eye coordination. Your hands are not coordinated without your eyes. If you are focused on something five to seven yards away, your hands are not prepared to attack something that's inches away.

Big Dawg, you want the bone so bad. You're not trusting your training. You're not playing with good hands, because you're playing with bad eyes. We don't to fight the good fight. We just want that bone. You focused on the wrong thing, and you out there playing out of control. That's you, Big Dawg? That's how you sound out there in the trenches? It is when you playing with no hands.

The second major reason why defensive linemen do not play with good hands in the trenches is because of their stance. Man, I can't tell you how many defensive linemen I've had to adjust their stance so that they can play with good hands.

Unfortunately, sometimes, as coaches, we do not spend enough time on their stance. If you don't have a good stance, they'll never have a good start. Having a good stance is like that first button on your button-up shirt. If you match that button right, all the buttons fall in place. But, man, if you get that button wrong, you ain't gonna find out until the end.

That's the messed-up part with the stance. Is that it feels good, and it might even look good, but truthfully, sometimes it's not till the end when you check production, that you see if it was actually good or not. And sometimes we look at our dawgs, and we see that they're not producing, but we won't trace it back to the stance. Check the stance, coaches. Big Dawg, check your stance.

Now, allow me to re-read this sentence. He says, Laker fan, "It often feels like, when I get off the ball, my elbows bend." Alright. Why do you think your elbows bend when you get off the ball? There are lots of reasons, and without getting too technical, but just a little bit, there are two common reasons why that happens.

The most common one is that their stance is too heavy. They are too heavy-handed in their stance. How can you play with quick hands when you got a heavy stance? You have absolutely too much weight on your hands. Your hands might be too far out front of your shoulders. Sometimes, the further your hand is away from your front foot, or what I call your power foot, the more your weight distribution is off. And how can you be powerful if you are unbalanced?

So, when you are too heavy on your hands, what's the first thing most D-Linemen do to get off their hands? They end up pushing off their hands. And when they push off their hands, that's what always causes that elbow to bend, or what I call flare.

Now, sometimes, that defensive lineman may actually have his hand placed underneath his shoulder, or slightly in front, depends on the lineman. But, where that defensive lineman may go wrong is that, prior to the snap, they'll start leaning forward, and there are two problems with leaning forward in your stance.

One major problem is that you just disengaged your hips. You are no longer loaded in your hips. That's a huge problem, because it's your hips that bring hit to your hands. Oh, that came from the Big Dawg Bible. Your hips brings hit to your hands.

And when you lean forward in your stance, you just disengaged your hips, and loaded your hands. I'm gonna say that one more time. When you lean forward in your stance, you disengage your hips and load your hands. Do I want to load my hands, or do I want to load my hips? Well, whatever you wanna load is where your weight should be. So when you lean forward in your stance, and you disengage your hips, and you load your hands, once again, your weight distribution is off.

Now, you have no hip explosion, no triple extension, out of your stance, and your elbows are bent because you just pushed off your hands. And you're standing trying to get off your hands while that man in front of you is coming at you full speed. And by the time that window closes, you're just getting your hands up in front of your chest. And so what happens? Head to head combat. You ramming your head into that guy in front of you like you a ram, out there about to get a concussion.

Back in the day when I played football, you walk around showing people all those marks on your helmet. That was a badge of honor. Look at that blue right there, look at that green. Look at that orange. Boy, I hit him so hard, it left marks on my helmet. I don't know what we was thinking back then, but that was the dumbest thing ever.

One, it's not safe, and you asking for a concussion. You thinking you out there balling. But you sound like ... Lord have mercy, give me strength.

The third reason why defensive linemen do not play with good hands in the trenches is because their hand mechanics are wrong. When I say hand mechanics, I'm talking about the movement from the ground and onto the chest plate of the offensive lineman. I'm talking about their shoulder joints, elbows, hand positioning, prior to contact. The mechanics of the strike.

And sometimes, the problem with that defensive lineman's hand mechanics may not be practice, necessarily. They might be trying to break a muscle memory that they've established in the weight room. Oh, that's a whole nother topic that I'm not gonna into right now. I'm just gonna look on over here, and just focus on the hand mechanics, for now. I ain't gonna get into the weight room. Just mind my business on over here with the hand mechanics. We'll talk about the weight room on another episode. Amen.

I ain't gonna touch that right now, man. But that's a big problem. So, what actually is wrong with the hand mechanics, or the pre-contact hand preparation? I'm trying not to get in too much detail with this thing, but it's hard not to. So let me just mention this. Let me go over here and grab my Big Dawg Bible again. Hold on one second.

Okay. You wanna hear? Here it go. If you don't like how your hands land, then check how your hands are on the land. Alright, think about that for a second. If you don't like how your hands are landing, check the positioning of your hands on the land.

Now, some people think that it doesn't make a difference. But what exactly am I talking about? Are your index and thumb vertical? When you put your hands in the dirt, are your index and thumb on top of each other? Are they vertically aligned? If your index and thumb are vertically aligned, sometimes that means your elbows are out. That could be a problem for some defensive linemen. Your elbows are already out, in your stance, and you don't even realize it. I'm telling you. Think about it.

Or, is your index and thumb horizontally aligned? Are they side by side? Most of the time, if your index and thumb are horizontal, it means your elbows are in already. They're already in, in your stance. Why? Because most of the time, your elbow and thumb work together. If your thumb is up, your elbows are in. If your thumbs are in, your elbows are out.

Now, most of the time, this statement holds true. But once again, it all depends on the muscle memory you've established in the weight room. If you've ever paid attention to track, and I come from a big track family. My dad's a head track coach and has been for many years. Shout out to Coach Rolle, Hall of Fame down in Miami, Florida. Won six State Championships, which is hard to do down there, when everybody and their mama can run. Mama out there running a 4:340 with her church heels on. I'm telling you, ain't nothing but speed down there, Big Dawg.

If you've ever looked at a sprinter in the blocks, he puts his hands, his thumb and index, on the line. Horizontally on the line. Well, why do they do that? Partly because they're not allowed to cross the line. But another reason why they do that is so that their elbows are in already. And when they split, which is a track term, their elbows are in already, once the gun fires.
When you're trying to get from one point to another, from point A to point B,you want everything to be in a straight line. Sometimes when you're in your stance, having your index and thumb horizontal, or as close to horizontal as you can get it, puts everything in a straight line. It works your elbows in, and it will keep your elbows from flaring or working outward. Still on the topic of hand mechanics, sometimes we don't play with good hands because our hands pair before they punch. If you ever watch a defense lineman in slow motion, watch their hands. If they're in a three point stance and they have their left hand down and their right hand up, watch closely at how the up hand, which is what I call the striker, waits for the down hand. What are the hands trying to do? The hands like to pair before they punch.

It is important that your hands pair before they punch. I'm not saying don't pair your hands before you punch your hands, I'm talking about the run. But the question is, where should they pair? Where should they pair? Should they pair prior to contact, or should they pair at contact? Oh, that's a deep question, big dawg. I'm trying not to get too technical, but I'm trying to help you get better at the same time. Where should they pair? If you're picking your hands up, what are you telling your body to do? To work up to? Sometimes that happens, why? Because our hands command. So, when we pick our hands up and we try to pair them, we're commanding our bodies to raise. While we're working up, that offensive lineman is working out. By the time we pair our hands, and the offensive lineman is closing on us, we get our hands caught before we can strike. Before we can truly punch, and get that extension we're talking about.

Our hand mechanics are not right. When I coach this with my big dawgs, when I'm first working with them, we're working on hand mechanics, I try to keep this very simple, and I try to make it very easy for them to understand. You can have helicopter hands, or airplane hands. Now, when I say helicopter hands, what I'm speaking to is the mechanic of coming up and then out. From the turf, the hands come up, then they go out, like a helicopter. They pair, then they punch. But then you have airplane hands. Now, the reason why I call them airplane hands is because an airplane, obviously, does not go straight up and then out. The airplane would take that 45 degree lift, and it will go from the ground and towards somewhat of a 45 degree outward. When you plan with airplane hands, it means that your hands are going from the turf, or the dirt, and they are working their way towards the opposition in front of them.

So, big dawg, do you have airplane hands, or helicopter hands? If you're pairing before you punch, you're probably playing with helicopter hands. Aw, dawg, that's not [inaudible 00:25:43], ain't it? I'm gonna say it again. If you're pairing before you punch, you are probably playing with helicopter hands. Most of the time when you're playing with helicopter hands, you don't get the extension you want. If you get the extension you want, you don't have the body leverage you want, because your hands didn't command you to come out your hips. They didn't go out like an airplane, they went up like a helicopter. You didn't go out like an airplane, you stood up, up like a helicopter. If you out there playing like a helicopter, straight up and down, that's probably what you sound like.

Big dawg, you out there playing out of control. He who controls the line of scrimmage controls the football game, and you can't control the line of scrimmage without your hands. You will never be able to control the vehicle without your hands. Big dawg, you're right. You not playing with good hands has nothing to do with your upper body strength. Like he said, "I bench press 315 pounds, I did that as a junior, I'm probably a little bit stronger now, my upper body is not weak. Man, I don't think it's weak, right coach? What's going on with me?" Coaches, big dawgs, we have to figure this out, because if we have defensive linemen that can bench press 315 pounds and more, how sad is it that they can't use that 315 pound bench press?

Now, normally when you come at your hips the right way, if they're loaded, you're talking about lots of pounds of pressure. But they have all that power, and no play. What good is it to be that strong, yet you can't use it? Well, big dawg, to answer your question, no, you are not weak at all. As I mentioned in a previous episode, in high school, my junior year going to my senior year, I was bench pressing 315 10 times. I was very strong for my age. However, because of the weight room, I actually ended up tearing my pec. When I tore my right pec, still torn, I could not bench the bar. I could not lift just the bar alone, with no weight on it. I was scared, I was devastated, and I didn't think I had any future in football. Why? I just had to get my bench press up.

Nothing wrong with getting your bench press up, but if you don't learn how to use your hands, it don't matter how much you bench. If you don't learn how to use your hands, I don't care what you dead lift. If you don't know how to use your hands, your squat does not matter. Your vertical jump means nothing to me, your standing broad jump is just for show, 'cause if you don't know how to use your hands, you going fast nowhere. 'Cause just like that vehicle with that V12 engine, and them fancy tires, that [inaudible 00:28:57] with that nitro boost in it, them NASCAR tires, however you wanna dress that vehicle, big dawg. You've got a powerful vehicle, but you ain't got no hands. My bad, I shouldn't be laughing at that. Let me reread the question, and I'll conclude with those three essential answers.

How do you get a really strong first punch with your arms extended? It often feels like, when I get off the ball, my elbows bend, and I end up headbutting offensive linemen. Is my upper body weak? I bench pressed 315 as a junior. The three reasons why we mentioned, why our big dawgs play without hands, and out of control, is one, they are out of focus, they are not focused on the right thing. Your hands can't coordinate what your eyes can't see. If you can't focus on it, you'll never hit it. Number two, you're not having a good start, because you're not in a good stance. You're way too heavy on your hands, or you've unloaded in your hips, and loaded on your hands. Hands are way too heavy, and my big dawgs know light stance makes quick hands. Number three, your hand mechanics are not right. Your hand placement on the land may not be how your hands want to land. You might be pairing before you punch. You might have that disease called helicopter hands. Ugh, you've got them helicopter hands.

I'm just messing around with you, big dawg, but go see a doctor. There could be lots more reasons why you having hand problems, big dawg. Or you have a hard time stopping a run, or just playing a run past option, or doing anything. Those are probably your three reasons why you're headbutting the guy in front of you. As strong as you are, man, you're not using it, and you're not playing with your hands. Go back and watch a film, big dawgs out there, coaches. Watch an athletes film, big dawg, watch yourself. See if any of those three essentials apply. I don't want you out there in the trenches sounding like a car wreck because you're playing out of control.

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