Grading Max Unger

Sometimes you suck. And sometimes you're so on you wonder why you can't always be that way. Between the two is an unbearable lightness where you just are. It's all important*. I detail every play because it's the only way to know a player. Today I wrap up with Max Unger and give a grade. Starting next week I'll begin the first of a two to three game analysis of Aaron Curry. Stay tuned, Field Gulls is about to get sexy.

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In Oregon's first drive of the fourth quarter, Unger twice pulled and twice crumbled before completing his block, ending the second on his back attended to by trainers. They were looking at his lower thigh by his knee and Unger was in obvious pain. He would miss the rest of the series but return for the next. He didn't look like the same player -- not totally. He lacked power -- more so. And when Oregon got inside the Oklahoma State five and ran it four straight attempting to score, Unger proved his limitations drive blocking, proved how little strength he could lose before his power was a concern -- a major concern. He was the man whose back tackled LaGarrette Blount.

Health isn't a major concern, but it is a concern. A concern that belies his 51 consecutive starts. Unger plays with braces over both knees. He hurt his knee pulling in front of a screen and attempting to square his block. The turf at Qualcomm Stadium was punishing players all game. It cost Oklahoma State Dez Bryant and with Bryant probably the game. The conditions weren't strong, but it's never good to see a player injured attempting to plant.

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Unger is built long and his musculature is decidedly working man's. He looks like a butcher or a blacksmith. He has good weight distribution and very good balance. Out of the blocks or on the move, Unger has great explosive power. He unloads and powers through his blocks showing good hip snap and hand placement. That allows him to get under and topple defenders. That power doesn't translate to endurance matchups. Locked one on one, he can be steered, driven back and, sometimes, shed. Explosive power is paramount for a professional athlete, and Unger's limitations sustaining blocks can be ameliorated with weight training and better conditioning. Unger looks like a hard worker, but he lacks the bulk and cut of a weight room warrior.

Footwork is Unger's standout skill. He angles well off the snap and gets his best in-the-box blocks taking advantage of a lagging defender. He's quick out of the blocks and wastes no movement in setup. When trap blocking, Unger shows adequate quickness staying well in front of runners or receivers, efficient lines to his proper spot, good positioning to execute the play and the footwork and technique to square the defender and engage on the move. Unger is also skilled at turning a defender when reaching blocking, and ambushing a defender with a well placed cut block. Unger's power is his technique and his technique and footwork allow him to be explosively powerful and effectively dominant.

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Unger is worst when matched one-on-one against a good bull rusher. He quickly loses ground, can be turned, but is still hard to outright shed. Nevertheless, this weakness disrupts run plays and opens pass rush lanes. He will struggle against dominant nose tackles. He may also struggle blocking on the move against better linebackers. His form is terrific, but he sometimes lacks an explosive jolt when engaging in space. That allows defenders to get back into plays, and though college linebackers were too slow to track down a passed rusher, most pros aren't.

Health and muscle development will determine Unger's upside and downside. If knee injuries occur or worsen, he could lose enough agility and enough power to no longer be athletic enough to play in the league. If he fills out and develops better sustained power, he has the kind mastery of technique and innate athleticism to be a special, even Pro Bowl caliber, center or guard.

Grade: B

*Even if it's not.

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