Sunday, January 6, 2019

Anatomy of a Hold. Or Not.

By John Turney

It is a bit of a controversy. What you ask? This play where All-Pro rookie guard Quenton Nelson took down Jadeveon Clowney. Impressive in game-action speed. But when you see the hand placement of Nelson you start to ask questions.

In the Twitter debate we took sides, and strongly suggest the play in question was a non-call hold. To show hand and feet placement we used stills (for which we were chided). But we know that coaches film has rewind and freezeframe because full speed does not allow for careful study.

We saw the play live and loved it, only out of the corner of our eye did we see JJ Watt swat the pass down on the play. But as we reviewed the play we say the hold.

Anatomy of a hold: It's pretty clear what happened. Clowney was a stand-up three-technique and took his initial charger upfield then planted to go inside of Nelson, to the A-Gap. He "beat the drum" with his hands, stepped left and beat Nelson across his face. Nelson's hands were low and his 'punch' missed. Clowney's long right arm was inside Nelson's and he went for Nelson's right wrist.

However, he missed there and Nelson's right arm when around Clowney, grabbing him just about where the bottom of the '9' is on the back of his jersey. Clowney continues to set up the swim with his left hand on the guard's right shoulder and began to bring his arm over the top, but Nelson's grab pulled Clowney too close to execute the move. Here the holding should have been called.

Nelson's right arm impeded Clowney's inside and forward motion. His hand was not only outside the frame of the body, but it was also around the back. We were scolded that "Just because the hands are outside the frame of the body does not mean it's holding".  Yes, that is true. But it doesn't mean there is not holding either.

If you look at the film (and we hole the All-22's end zone view will be from behind the Texans defense because it will show the lateral movement of Clowney, from the outside shoulder of the (in B-Gap) guard to the A-Gap.

You can see the replays in full speed Here and Here.

Here are the stills:

Look, the is no indictment of Nelson, who is All-Pro. Nor are we simply carrying water for Clowney or the Texans. But even All-Pros are capable of holding. Nelson was flagged six times in regular season, once in playoff game and then there was this non-call. We think he's got John Hannah-like run blocking skills and is getting better in pass protection.

But fair is fair. Using this play as a showing of dominance is folly. Nelson's short set failed, Clowney got across his face and Nelson, knew he was beaten, grabbed on Clowney. They wrestled for a heartbeat and fell over the center and right guard to the ground, with Clowney's back leading the way. 

Why wasn't it called? No idea. Did the ref see it? Have the refs been good this year? But whether a play is called holding or not is sometimes because of chance. 

But don't try and say stills don't matter. Why in the world does the NFL use instant replay for reviewing close plays? Do they look at it only in game speed? Or do they look at it in slow montion? Or even stop the tape?  Multiple angles?  Yes, all of that.

We did the same.

We no show the All-22 endzone view:
And here are the stills, so we can so fame-by-frame the hands and how the wrestling move employed put Clowney on his back in a so-called "pancake" The question isn't IF there was a hold, but when, on this play, was there NOT a hold?


  1. You can call holding on almost every play if you wanted to get technical. Good thing that one missed hold didn't make the difference in the game though.

  2. Hey John, who would be your picks as some of the best pass blocking guards ever?

  3. This reminds me of the argument I had on a Jets forum regarding an armbar penalty called against the Jets in a game vs the Colts in 2006. (I argued that it was correct that the Jets defender was flagged.) The rule book was cited. There were no stills used, though.

  4. Jim Parker (best pass blocking guard ever), Roosevelt Brown, and Forrest Gregg do not approve of modern blocking rules. It shames the sport.