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Sam’s Film Room: Why concerns over Charles Cross’ run blocking are overblown

In the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks took Charles Cross with the 9th overall pick. This pick was met with a mixture of emotions including surprise, confusion, and outright jubilation. On Field Gulls, I broke down Charles Cross and how his skill set translates to the NFL. In that article, I strongly suggested that the Seahawks should consider taking him given his prowess as both a pass blocker and his fit in their zone blocking scheme:

For the Seattle Seahawks, they really need a right tackle with Brandon Shell entering free agency and Jake Curhan and Stone Forsythe looking okay in their limited action. Drafting a first round offensive lineman is what I would strongly consider if I were Pete Carroll and John Schneider, assuming they don’t take a rookie quarterback in the first round. Cross is a perfect scheme fit for the team and he would offer long-term stability after Duane Brown leaves the team as well.

With Duane Brown officially not being re-signed, Cross will take over as the starting left tackle. In Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s press conference, they confirmed this. Also, John Schneider mentioned the following about Cross when asked about his transition to the NFL:

Phenomenal pass protector. Former basketball player... made that transition well. [On run blocking] Feel like the guy is a good athlete. Feel like he can run his feet. He can bend. He can really move in space. Really kind of a scheme deal with Coach [Mike] Leach where they threw the ball like crazy... Great job against top, top competition. Really nice game against Alabama.

Pete Carroll echoed his sentiment very similarly:

Very, very good athlete. Unusually good athlete... You can see his footwork... He can run block too. He can really move his feet. He can get off the ball and do the cutoff blocks on the backside and do the frontside stuff. He can get on the second level and stay on his feet and be agile. Excellent prospect to be a left tackle... When you think left tackle, you think pass protection... All of that athleticism, goes back to hoops.

Watching this press conference, two things really stood out to me: They both mentioned basketball skills and athleticism. This is very important to understand and why I don’t have any concerns for Cross’ long-term ability to run block in the NFL.

Basketball skills strongly correlate to how you play the offensive tackle position in football. The major thing you need to think about is positioning. The ability to move your body and get your hips in the right spot to seal a defender out of the path. This is done in a zone scheme to open holes for the running back. This is way more important than the ability to “drive block” a defender out of the way using pure strength. In order to execute a reach block in a zone scheme, you have to have agility, footwork, and positioning. Those three traits are far more important than power, because your speed and get off on the snap is what creates lanes for the running back since you are running horizontal to the line of scrimmage.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider also mentioned athleticism. I think the biggest criticism I’ve seen people make is that “Cross is not athletic.” This is factually incorrect. Look at his Relative Athletic Score (R.A.S.) per RAS Football.

Cross did not perform as well in overall size and strength metrics, but in terms of speed drills like his 40-yard dash, 10-yard split, and shuttle, he was excellent. His 3-cone time was less than ideal, but his movement abilities were very apparent in his film.

When it comes to Cross’ film, you are absolutely correct that he had limited snaps as a run blocker in college; however, on his limited snaps, he showed the traits necessary to be a good zone blocking offensive lineman. This is what the Seattle Seahawks scheme specializes in: outside zone strong, midzone weak, and duo to hit the backside. Each of those base blocks require agility and the body positioning to execute. I want you to re-watch the video I created on him before he was drafted. Start at 2:00, where I said the following:

Now for run blocking abilities, Cross is far from a mauler... Cross is more of a position blocker than anything. He plays the game a lot like a basketball player would on a screen... I think he would be great in a zone blocking scheme featuring reach and cut-off blocks in the NFL. He made some really good combo blocks in college. He would ensure that his teammate secured the first level and then he would move on to help against linebackers. He moves really well in space and he generally takes good angles.

Charles Cross is far from a perfect prospect. No offensive lineman in this draft was perfect, but Cross is a great fit for the Seahawks’ scheme. With both Pete Carroll and John Schneider mentioning multiple times what I said about positioning being more important than power and how he was an excellent pass blocker, this is clearly why they, and I, are very excited about this pick. Personally, I had Cross as the second best pass blocker in the draft only behind Evan Neal. At ninth overall, this is an excellent pick. I’m extremely happy the Seahawks were able to grab Cross where they did. Sure, it was tough seeing them not re-sign Duane Brown, but Cross has the abilities to be the long-term starter that we’ve been hoping the Seahawks were going take for a very long time.