Early in the first quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers' contest against the Los Angeles Chargers, rookie center Kendrick Green experienced a humbling moment against Chargers defensive lineman Forrest Merrill.
On 2nd-and-5, deep in Chargers territory, Merrill imposed his will physically on Green by driving him back over ten yards, forcing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw quicker than expected. The end result was an incompletion.
For Green, this type of occurrence was not unfamiliar to him, as he has struggled frequently in one-on-one situations such as this. Though one must recognize he is only a rookie, there have been many instances where he has been overwhelmed physically. As accomplished as he was at the Center position in college, it has not fully translated in the NFL, despite the number of snaps he has taken. With this in mind, we will explore this question; would Green benefit from changing positions on the offensive line?
In general, the only aspect of Green that causes concerned in his height. When we think back to when the Steelers drafted Maurkice Pouncey in 2010, his physical attributes were as follows:
Height: 6'5. | Weight: 306 lbs | Arm length: 32½
Green's measurables, in contrast, were similar to those of Pouncey, with the only exception being height:
Height: 6'2 | Weight: 305 lbs | Arm length: 32½
If anything, Green's height should serve as an advantage, considering that the players at his position win primarily with leverage before strength. His size should allow him to attack with a lower pad level, which should result in a higher win rate. So far, we have noted his inability to establish the pad level needed to anchor effectively. One may assume at this point that his size is a liability against bigger interior defensive linemen.
Statistics And Metrics
At this point in his rookie season, most, if not all, statistics suggest that Green is struggling heavily with consistency in both pass and run blocking. According to the latest ESPN NFLpass-rushing, run-stopping, blocking leaderboard, Green currently sits near the bottom among centers in pass block and run block win rates. This season, Green has played 687 offensive snaps and has allowed just one sack with seven total penalties. This does not seem too alarming, except for the fact that he holds an overall grade of 55.5, which is barely average for his position.
Where Is Kendrick Green Best Suited?
During his time at the University of Illinois, Green played at guard from his redshirt freshman year to his sophomore year (with one start at center). As a guard, Green was one of the highest-graded players at his position. In fact, he earned Pro Football Focus All-America honorable mention and All-Big Ten honorable mention for his abilities at that position. In essence, Green had played only one season prior to being drafted at the center position. With this noted, a transition back to guard could benefit him, as it should allow him to focus on attacking and winning one-on-one battles.
Like all rookies, Green has had his share of peaks and valleys in his performance. The importance for this team is to ensure that he is placed in a position where he can succeed and do so consistently. If this means switching him back to the position he played early in his collegiate career, it would be incumbent on them to explore this option. As a fully committed center in the NFL, perhaps it is best to allow him to experience the growing pains and try to overcome them.