Tuesday, April 30, 2019

1956 Defensive Players of the Week: The 4-3 Middle Linebacker Era Begins in Earnest

By John Turney

Mr. John Turney has done his usual splendid job on detailing Gino Marchetti's career. To dovetail into what Turney wrote; Marchetti's interviews with NFL Films gave insight into what this man was all about.

My personal favorite story on Marchetti comes from my former pen pal Mr. Raymond Berry. Berry stated emphatically that Marchetti would pace the locker room like a caged lion before games, and then the Hall of Fame receiver remarked that "I just don't see that much anymore".

Gino came to play and was fortunate to see him in the Coliseum in the Pro Bowl after the '64 season. Marchetti show zeal above and beyond in slamming Frank Ryan to the turf (revenge for title game loss). Now onto 1956, and who do we start with—yes, the one and only Mr. Gino Marchetti.

September 30th: The Colts build a 28-7 lead over the Bears in Baltimore as Marchetti records 2½ sacks in the 28-7 win. The Bears believe they are truly contenders in the Western Conference, yet the Colts beat the Bears in Baltimore for the third time in the last four years.

October 7th: We have co-defenders of the week. Rookie linebacker Ed Beatty ties a league record with three opponent fumble recoveries in the back and forth 33-30 win by the Niners over the Rams. Bill Wade is flushed from the pocket, rolls left is hit and the hustling Beatty wraps his arms around the ball before it goes out of bounds.

Joining Beatty is the starting left corner of the Cardinals—Richard Lane. Chicago is down 13-7 as Conerly throws towards the sideline. The Night Train strides in front of the receiver and is off down the sideline for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals win 35-27 to remain in first place.

This is the only Cardinal team with a winning record in the decade, and the main reason on defense is the superb coaching job by new assistant coach Wally Lemm. The young coach molds Lane and his cohorts into an airtight secondary that allows only eight touchdown passes all season, and leads the league in the defensive passer rating with a mark of 33.5.

October 14th: Andy Robustelli has his best game ever rushing the passer as he garners four sacks (Lou Groza just cannot keep Andy out of the backfield) in the 21-9 victory over the defending league champion Cleveland Browns.

October 21st: In the Clark Shaughnessy defense the key word is 'attack' the offense from a variety of defensive alignments with an assortment of "red dogs". Man-to-man coverage is demanded by the cantankerous old man and there has been a revolving door at the left corner position for the Bears since 1951.

This situation changes dramatically in '56 as rookie J.C. Caroline plays this difficult position with aplomb. He intercepts a Unitas quick out and scampers 59 yards for a score in the Bears 58-27 rematch victory over Baltimore. Earlier in the game, Johnny Hightops cut Caroline down in the open field on a breathtaking Lenny Moore run. Caroline intercepts six times in a seven-game span and earns a trip to the Pro Bowl.

October 28th: Yale Lary has returned from the Army and is back at his right safety post for Detroit. On this sunny afternoon in the Coliseum, he pilfers three passes (all key plays) in the Lions 16-7 win over the Rams.


November 4th: We again have co-defensive players of the week. Opening day in 1969 the Pittsburgh Steelers beat Detroit. The two head coaches are our players of the week. Al Carmichael on a draw play for the Packers his hit at the line of scrimmage by the middle of the Browns defense. The ball hits the ground and is kicked forward a few yards. Left linebacker Chuck Noll of Cleveland snaps up the loose ball and dashes towards the flag and scores on a 39-yard fumble return in the 24-7 win.
Joe Schmidt (56) tackles John Henry Johnson

The Lions are in an over-shifted 4-3 with middle linebacker Joe Schmidt aligned over the left offensive tackle. Fullback John Henry Johnson of San Francisco bursts through a hole a right guard and motors 54 yards deep into Lion territory. The Niners will gain just 39 yards rushing on the other 30 running plays they try as Joe Schmidt is just not going to allow San Francisco to knock Detroit from the unbeaten ranks.

Twice the Lions stop the 49ers on fourth down rushing plays, and Schmidt is involved in both plays. The famous photo of Schmidt with his back bowed trying to stop John Henry at the goal line is from this game. San Francisco cannot score an offensive touchdown as Detroit hangs on 17-13.

November 11th: The unbeaten Lions last won a game in Washington in 1935. The head coaches of their respective teams were Cardinal teammates in 1940 & 1941. Joe Kuharich continues to believe that his ground attack can gain against the staunch Lion defense, but who is going to stop Detroit when they have the ball?

Buddy Parker has Bobby Layne pitching the ball all over the yard today, and though he has some success; our player of the week intercepts Layne twice. Norb Hecker playing left safety in the first quarter steals an errant Layne pass, and playing right safety in the fourth quarter nabs his second in the 18-17 Redskin victory to keep them in the Eastern Conference race. Hecker intercepts in five consecutive games in '56 (eight for the season).

November 18th: The Bears need to continue to win to keep pace with Detroit and today at Wrigley middle linebacker Bill George pillages the Rams pass pocket as he records three sacks in the 30-21 win. The Bear defense will rank second in the league with 220 yards in sack yardage.

November 25th: Lou Baldacci and Fran Rogel combined to gain 222 yards rushing in the Steelers victory over the Cardinals the week before, but today they gain a paltry 29 yards on twelve carries in the 38-27 Cardinal victory. Right linebacker Leo Sanford is one of only four Cardinals that remain from the team in 1951, he has played strong football now for six seasons. The durable Pro Bowl bound Sanford has recorded 25 takeaways (fumble recoveries and interceptions) in the 72 games he has played. He leads the Cardinals to victory to remain in the Eastern conference race at 6-3—just a half game behind the Giants.

December 2nd: The injury to middle linebacker Ray Beck during the second game of the season left a gigantic void in the New York Giants defense. Rookie back-up defensive tackle Sam Huff has improved each week in trying to fill that void. Today he returns interceptions 12 and 10 yards respectively in the 28-14 win over the Redskins. The Giants are now in a position to win the Eastern Conference with a record of 7-2-1.

December 9th: After crushing the Bears the week before, the question in Detroit is a simple one; will they be motivated against the Steelers? In the first quarter, Teddy Marchibroda throws towards the right sideline. Left safety Jack Christiansen knifes in front of Ray Mathews and the Lions have the ball.

Marchibroda passes to right end Elbie Nickel in the second quarter, and Jack again pilfers the pass and dashes 22 yards deep into Steeler territory. This theft leads to a field goal and an insurmountable 38-7 lead. Christiansen plays his usual strong game in run support also as Pittsburgh gains just 25 yards rushing on 33 carries. The Detroit victory sets up the showdown in Chicago.

December 16th: We finish the season with co-defenders of the week. Pittsburgh has never beaten Washington twice in a season, and though he always gives maximum effort Ernie Stautner just does not have many multiple-sack games so far in his career. Ernie records 1½ sacks in the mud today as the Steelers shut-out Washington(first road shut-out since December of '49).

Jack Hoffman (82) tackles a helmetless Brown
Left defensive end Jack Hoffman attacks the Lion pass pocket and garners three sacks in the 38-21 win over Detroit to win the Western Conference title at Wrigley.

RIP Gino the Gentle Giant—A Man's Man

By John Turney
Credit: Merv Corning
Sad news today:  Gino Marchetti, the greatest defensive end of the NFL's first 50 years passed away last night of pneumonia. He was 92.

This past March one of his cohorts in crime, Ordell Braase, the end he played opposite for many years also passed away. The news of Marchetti's passing will hit Baltimore and the NFL world hard. He was a truly beloved character.

He was admired by his teammates and his coaches. Weeb Ewbank told his Colt team, right before the sudden death overtime of the 1958 NFL Championship game, "Just go out, block and tackle, keep the ball, and let's win it for Gino". Marchetti couldn't participate because one of his own teammates crashed into his lower leg, breaking, sidelining him for the remainder of the game.

Marchetti was also an extremely successful entrepreneur, opening up a hamburger chain called, "Gino's" which he turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise. The modest Marchetti said, regarding his business success, "I owe it all to (Colts owner) Carrol Rosenbloom. He loaned me the money to start the second store and that is what got things rolling."
Marchetti began his college football career late, having served in the US 69th Infantry Division, 273rd Regiment, 4th Platoon. and was a replacement at the Battle of the Bulge. We asked him about it since it was a particularly brutal battle but the modest Marchetti told us, "I was a replacement, I got there after the real action. Mostly, I carried a machine gun around. However, the truth is he saw plenty of action, even though he missed much of the early fighting.

His unit did meet up with the Russians at the end of the war—the first American unit to do so.

He played semipro ball for a year and after that, he went to Modesto Junior College, and then he attended the University of San Francisco.

He almost didn't last at USF because when he rolled into campus on a motorcycle and a leather jacket and long hair, slicked back and word got to the coaches that there was a wildman asking where the football field was the coaches almost dismissed him on the first day. He played on the great USF teams that featured Ollis Matson, Bob. St Clair, Burl Toler, Joe Kuharich, and others. Marchetti earned All-West Coast Honors and headed to the NFL.

Marchetti began his NFL career in 1952 for the Dallas Texans (who took him with the first pick in the second round) and then for the Baltimore Colts from 1953-64, and then 1966. Marchetti was a good rookie with the Texans in 1952 even as a skinny 6-4 220-pound end. What little film exists shows a man with excellent mobility and good strength and hustle. He even had three sacks in one game and a couple were with his shoulder in a strap.
In 1953, his first season with the Colts, he played left tackle. He often said that his experience as a tackle helped his career because he saw what the good ends he faced did and he replicated those moves. However, even with the knowledge, he stated was going to go to Canada to play defensive end but new Colt coach Weeb Ewbank promised Marchetti he would play defensive end from then on.

So, he was back to his natural spot in 1954 and he played well enough to be voted to his first Pro Bowl and he was voted to the next ten Pro Bowls (he missed 1958 with a broken leg).

He employed an unusual stance where he angled in just a bit and crowed the line of scrimmage as much as possible. He said he did that to be able to watch the guard and tackle and the back all at once and see the blocking pattern as well as being able to see if any one of them moved, he'd take off. And he did—like he was shot out of a cannon.

Longtime Baltimore writer told us that he never saw Marchetti ever take a cheap shot. Well, maybe he didn't see it, but we saw a bit of a nasty player on film. Leo Nomellini, a Hall of Fame defensive tackle and a peer of Marchetti said, "Gino had the look of death in his eyes. He'd knock blockers down like ragdolls. It's just a good thing his parents brought him up right".

George Allen agrees, "Gino wasn't the cleanest player ever. He intimidated players and would give them an extra lick". But Allen added, "Gino came along before Deacon Jones but wasn't as fast as Deacon, but he was meaner and fast for his size. . . . but he was a great pass rusher and was great against the run, too. He was just so strong and so tough and so dedicated you could never stop him."
Credit: Murray Olderman
He was First-team All-Pro nine times and a Second-team All-Pro and eleven-time Pro Bowler and in 1958 he was the AP Lineman of the Year, sort of, but not exactly the precursor to the Defensive Player of the Year Award. That year he was credited with 43 hurries (often misreported as sacks) and helped the Colts win the first of two NFL Championships.

He was voted as the best defensive end on the NFL’s 50th Anniversary team as well as the 75th Anniversary team. He's also a good bet to make the 100th Anniversary team as well even though his last game was 43 years ago. And for good measure, he was a member of the NFL's 1950s All-Decade team.

Sid Gillman once said that Marchetti was, “The most valuable man to ever play his position”. Marchetti was a “grabber and thrower” according to Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman and PFJ's film study shows that as well. He would get his hands on the outside of the shoulder pads of the offensive tackle and he’d throw him whichever way the tackle was leaning, using the motion of the tackle against that tackle and that would free Marchetti to get to the quarterback.

He was also very skilled at closing running plays going up the middle or just to the off-side of the ball. We've seen him do that as many as six or eight times in one game.

We don’t have complete sack data on Marchetti’s career but we do have the key years of 1960-64 and he had at least 56.5 in those five seasons. He claims that on opening day, 1957 he trapped Bobby Layne attempting to pass seven times. Film shows four for sure, and there is one that is not shown on the reel, so it is possible he had five, but in any event, it was his best-ever day in terms of sacks.

Marchetti was going to retire after 1963, actually, he DID retire but it was reported that Don Shula talked him out of it and he came back and had a fine 1964 season. He worked particularly hard in early 1964 and in camp ran a 4.9 forty-yard dash—at age 37. He made All-Pro in 1964 and then retired for the second time only to be talked out of retirement again
This time it was in 1966 as a “favor” to Colt owner Carroll Rosenbloom to back up an injury-savaged Colt defensive line. That final year he played some defensive tackle as well as usual end position.

Said longtime Colt executive Ernie Accorsi, “He had just unbelievable quickness and when he got near the quarterback he was like a 747 banking toward the landing. The great ones have an instinct for closing like that. For years, for All-Time teams, you could stir up debate at most positions but no one ever questioned that Gino was the best defensive end. There was no debate”.

Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood "When I came into the league Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen took me under their wing. Both of them told me to watch films of Gino and others. Mickey Dukich, the Rams film guy, had reels of the top pass rushers—Deacon, Gino, Willie Davis, all the greats and the two I watched the most were Deac and Gino."

"They both played left end, as I did so that drew my attention and as I watched I was fascinated by those two. Gino had tremendous hand strength and great initial quickness—a great takeoff. He'd crowd the line, get off quickly and when he got his hands on a blocker it was over. Gino'd just toss him to one side and be free to get the quarterback."

In 1993 Don Shula told Sports Illustrated, "Gino Marchetti revolutionized defensive-end play. Most of them were bull rushers in those days, but Gino was a grabber and thrower, a guy with moves who'd blow by the tackle so fast sometimes that he'd never touch him."

Bob St. Clair, who was a college teammate but also an NFL rival said, "He's the best I've ever seen. We came from the same college but had a great rivalry. He was so far ahead of the rest, second place is far down the ladder." Jim Ringo added, "Oh my God, who's better than him?" And Forrest Gregg added kudos by telling Sporting News that Marchetti was the toughest defensive end he ever had to block.

Marchetti will be missed by PFJ, we thank him for the time he gave us in interviews and the knowledge he gave us in those conversations. Say hello to Deacon and Reggie Mr. Marchetti.

Pro Bowl Selection (1955–1965)
All-NFL Selection (1956–1964)
NFL 50th Anniversary Team (1969)

NFL 75th Anniversary Team (1994)
All-Madden All-Millennium Team (2000)
NFL All-Time Team (2000)
Nine-time First-team All-Pro
Eleven-time Pro Bowler

Pro Football Hall of Fame 
National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
Modesto Junior College Hall Of Fame 
Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame 
Credit: George Bartell

Monday, April 29, 2019

The NFL's Best-ever Kick and Punt Blockers

By John Turney
In the early 1990s, when we were doing sack research we had a conversation with longtime Raider executive Al LoCasale about official statistics and unofficial statistics. Of course, sacks came up and other statistics. We asked if punt blocks were official. He smiled and said, "semi-official".

Okay, whatever that means. To us, official or not, they are interesting. Although we have not checked we think blocked kicks are now official but still, they are only interesting if the players now are compared with past greats. So, we decided to do another list.

As with the return men where we combined kick- and punt-returners on one list, we are combining the kick blocks and punt blockers. Sure, we could have a separate list for each and then a combined just like we could have had a kick returner, punt returner, and a dual returner list, but for our purposes, we want to capture who the best of the best were and combining the lists made sense.

Pro Football Researcher Association member and Pro Football Journal contributor Nick Webster made this list possible. His amazing work brought light players many fans had not heard of or didn't know were great blockers. Also, he clarified some inconsistencies in the kick-blocking stat as well.

This is how we rank them based on Webster's research and our own evaluation of the quality of the blocks and the ole' 'eye test'. For a quick reference number one through number eight we'd consider the 'elite'. Numbers nine through maybe #25 we would consider 'excellent'. After #25 through the end of the list, we'd say they are very good to good.

The List:
1. Ted Hendricks—He blocked both kicks and punts with remarkable frequency. Blocking punts is rarer (more difficult) than kicks and due to that, we put Kick ‘Em in the Head Ted’ at the top of our list. He blocked ten punts (tied for best ever) and 14 placekicks (plus a shared one with Bubba Smith) and in 1974 had seven combined blocks to lead the NFL which Nick Webster thinks is the record for most combined blocked in a season. 

Once he blocked a punt but was called offsides and the extra yards put the opponents into field goal position. So, Hendricks went ahead and blocked the field goal for good measure.

He also had one punt block and one placekick block in playoff games.

Punts are harder to block and therefore rarer and since he was a threat on both placekicks and punts we put "The Stork" number one on our list.

2. Alan Page—Mostly an interior rusher on placekicks, but he did block a punt, he has the highest total in NFL history with 27 according to Webster. Page was always a threat, especially late in his career. He topped the NFL in 1978.

3. Dave Whitsell—Best edge rusher on placekicks ever with at least 21 career blocked FG and PAT. We say 'at least' because while Webster uncovered most of those, Whitsell possibly had one or two in 1958-59 where the Detroit Lions records are spotty. Unofficially, Whitsell led the NFL in blocked kicks three times.

In the full games, PFJ has seen he didn't have any, but that covers only about six games. However, the great thing about looking at gamebooks and film is that a player like Whitsell can get his just due. Without Webster's work, that wouldn't be possible.

4. Ron McDole—The ‘Dancing Bear’ had 22 career kicks blocked. He was the best athlete around (290 pounds or so, heavy for a defensive end in that era) he got it done the Avis way—by trying harder. He said that offensive linemen often looked at FGs and PATs as “break time” and he’d simply outhustle them to get by and block or deflect a kick.

5. Matt Blair—A big-time leaper, he had 21 career blocks. Most, however, were PATs. While that can be important in a close game and can kill momentum, it isn't quite what a blocked field goal can be. Twice he led the NFL in blocks in 1977 and 1981.

Blair's style was to rush the middle of the line, jump like a basketball player and get his hands on a kick.  Bleacher Report stated it this way, "It’s a skill he likened to going for a slam dunk. “You take a running start, you leap, and you make it happen".”

Blair is the second Viking in the top five. And when you add in Carl Eller (tied for 28th) it's pretty impressive.

6. Albert Lewis—An edge rusher whose forte was blocking punts—He is tied for the most ever with ten. He also deflected two others and even tackled a punter, which is almost the same as a block. 

He led the NFL in 1990 with four blocks (all punts) and was second in 1986 (all punts). However, in 1986 he had one deflection that dribbled past the line of scrimmage (not technically a block) and tackled a punter plus he had one block in the playoffs.

Since blocked punts can happen in the opponent's territory blocked punts can have a more damaging effect than even a field goal block. A good number of blocked punts are returned for scores or can be a safety. At the very least they can pick up 40-50 extra yards. Four of Lewis' blocks resulted in touchdowns and one went for a safety.

Three of his regular-season punt blocks were returned for touchdowns plus one more in the playoffs.

7. Irv Cross—Cross blocked nine place kicks with the Eagles and seven with the Rams (an NFL-leading four in 1966 alone). An edge rusher who 'got there' as often as anyone in history. Like Albert Lewis, he had some length (height and long arms) that helped close the final inches which were the difference in a blocked kick and a successful field goal.

Was a very good corner, too. One of the best ever at 'axing', which is roll blocking a wide receiver at the line of scrimmage to take him out of the pattern, and a superb tackler, too. 

8. Shaun Rogers—Seventeen placekicks blocked. Not a leaper, Rodgers used his bulk to push the interior blockers back and then got his hands up quickly—the ultimate inside power rusher. He tied for the NFL lead three times with a career-high in three in 2004.

9. Julius Peppers—Twelve field goals and one PAT blocked for a total of 13 blocks. In this era when eighty percent of field goals are good, the twelve blocks matter a lot. Say in the 1950s, there was a fifty percent chance that the field goal was going to be no good anyway, depending on the length. Now, that is not true, making Rodgers and Peppers a top commodity in the 2000s.

Here is how the Chicago Tribune reported Peppers' skill, "In essence, Peppers has taken 25 (37 through the end of his career) points off the board (eight blocked field goal attempts, one blocked extra point attempt) in his career. "In terms of defensive ends, he's the best at it," said Lions special teams coach Danny Crossman, who previously coached him on the Panthers' special teams. "He'll get you a couple every year. You can write it down."

"What makes Peppers so effective? Well, he's 6 foot 6. His arms are long enough to clean gutters without needing a ladder (34 inches). And he has hops (36 1/2-inch vertical jump). 'He has great leverage and length,' Panthers coach John Fox said. 'He's quick and he can bend. He puts his body in a position that a lot of guys can't do.' Peppers can move like a basketball player."

10. Eddie Meador—Meador holds the Rams record for blocked kicks with 10 FG or PATs thwarted, though some others are close to him. He was an edge rusher who could slip a block and deflect a placekick. He, unofficially, led the NFL in 1962.

11. Gary Green—Nine blocks including two punts in nine seasons. If the ball was kicked in any way he had a shot to stop it. He'd fire off the line and layout as well as anyone.

12. Leo Nomellini—Webster records eleven blocked kicks, but records are so spotty in the 1950s that if we had full records, he might challenge the top. On film, he hustles and is athletic on FG and PAT attempts.

13. Night Train Lane—Another where full records are not available, so when Webster updates his work and published his definitive list Lane could climb but his current total is 13.

14. Frank Cope—Like with Nomellini and other early players full statistics are not available, but those that are available via gamebook review and film study shows that Cope was a terrific kick blocker.

15. Wahoo McDaniel—An original AFLer who was more known for his wrestling career, McDaniel led pro football in 1963 with four blocks, and his final tally was very high according to Webster—15 total.

16. Sam Huff—Statistics do not exist for his career, but he claims that he was adept at blocking kicks and punts. Webster's research confirms that the claim was accurate in the gamebooks and film that are available and currently has a total of nine confirmed blocks for Huff.

17. Bob St. Clair—Named the "Kick Blocker" for the 1950s All-Decade Team in Dan Daly's fine book Pro Football Chronicles. "Geek" was 6-9 and his inclusion is based on anecdotal evidence. 

For years there was an unverified report that he blocked ten kicks in one season, but quite a few researchers have debunked that and it's gone the way of the Norm Willey 14-sack game. (According to Paul Zimmerman he had 8, still, not too shabby).

So, while we, too, doubt the 10 in a season, he was reported to have a proclivity to block kicks, perhaps a proclivity that was bigger than the one that caused him to eat raw meat. So, while we have no numbers, we feel strongly he deserves to be mentioned here. 

18. Ed Sprinkle—Again, a player with incomplete statistics but still a high number of blocks, at least nine, mostly punts.  

19. Erich Barnes—Like Night Train, another tall edge rusher. And like the earlier player on this list could rise as Webster's research becomes more complete.

20. Cornell Green—The Cowboys top edge blocker ever (Ed Jones best interior). Had 11 blocks.

21t. Lloyd Mumphord—Nine blocks for Mumphord including one partially blocked punt. He and his cohort Curtis Johnson really helped the Dolphins in the early 1970s. In 1972 they combined for five blocks to give their contribution to the Perfect Season.

21t. Curtis Johnson—Eight blocks for Johnson and as mentioned, with Mumphord, the Dolphins had two excellent edge rushers who could vary the rush and confuse blocking schemes.

23t. Bob Rowe—Webster's work shows Rowe with 11½ blocks (one was shared) in nine seasons. In 1972 he blocked three field goals in one game against the Colts and was the AP Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. He ended that year with 3.5 blocks which led the NFC and in 1975 he had three blocks which tied for the NFL lead.

23t. Steve Tasker—Six blocks, mostly punts but he also had some punt deflections plus one in a Super Bowl, which were as nearly as good as blocks. So based on the difficulty of blocking punts and also the near-near misses he leapfrogs the group of inside rushers we've tied at 28th on this list.

23t. Ivory Sully—Sully, in our view, was one of the best all-around special team players ever, he could block kicks and punts, cover, block for returns, and could also return a kick himself.

He seemed to have a knack for blocking kicks in clutch situations that resulted in catastrophic (scoring) plays against the opponent. In 1979 he blocked a Viking punt that the Rams returned for a touchdown. In 1980 he blocked a punt that was recovered by Rams for a touchdown.

In 1982 a blocked field goal kept the 49ers out of the NFL playoff tournament. In 1983 he blocked a potential game-tying kick, again versus the 49ers. In 1984 he blocked a Giant punt that went out of the end zone for a safety. He also blocked the first punt in Tampa Bay Buc history in 1986.

The only 'nondescript' block, if you will (relatively speaking, that is) was a blocked field goal versus the Jets in 1983—but it still allowed the Rams to get to overtime where they ultimately lost.

26t. Denico Autry— Eight blocks in just five seasons (however just two are field goals) and he led the NFL with three blocks in 2015. He's on pace to be among the elite if he keeps up this pace. He's turned into a pretty good three-technique as well. He's this high already on his per-season average, the great linemen following all played a dozen or more years.

However, since we are giving the benefit of the doubt now, if he does not get many blocks in the next few years he'll drop and perhaps be one of those lower on the list that had a few or two big years than nothing else. We'd also like to see him get more field goals, though a blocked PAT can be important.

26t. Paul Krause—Nine blocked kicks

26t. Art Thoms—Thoms had the six in 1972 to lead the NFL and eleven in his career, nine were placekicks and one was a punt which occurred in his rookie year. 

29t. Ed Jones—Eleven blocks for "Too Tall" which is good, but you'd maybe expect from someone who was 6-9. He had three in two different years which accounts for over half of his blocks. He tied for the NFL lead (with Joe Nash) in 1989 with three and was second in blocks in 1978 with three.

We've tied about fifteen defensive linemen at 20. First, we know this is just a list and the rankings this low are not really relevant and we don't take ourselves so seriously as to think the ranks have to be perfect. Second, when you have a bunch of linemen between eight and eleven blocks how does one separate them? There are ways to do that but when the number is, say, 10 in a 15-year career, there is some fuzziness in the math and it's hard to really quantify.

In the future, Nick Webster will do a post with all the final numbers that are available and have a formula that takes into account field goals, PATs and punts and so on and for the 'statheads' it will be more satisfying. This list is about the art as well which is why we include the likes of Cope or St. Clair.

29t. Bubba Smith—Nine and a half blocks, the half is one he shared with Hendricks.

29t. Deacon Jones— Eight blocks, possibly nine, in fourteen seasons, but none after 1970.

29t. Carl Eller—Ten blocks for Moose (not including one in playoffs), eight field goals and two PATs.

29t. Clyde Simmons—Nine blocks (plus one in the playoffs) in fifteen seasons once had four in 1987.  A Tall (6-6) rangy player with long arms.

34t. Joe Nash—Nine blocks in fourteen years. He tied with Too Tall Jones in 1989 with three. He also tied for the NFL lead in 1984 and 1985 with two (albeit it was a down couple of years for blocks).

34t. Claude Humphrey—Nine blocks, five in 1974 alone (he was second to Ted Hendricks in the NFL that year).

34t. Jack Youngblood—Eight blocks and one deflection plus one more blocked kick in the playoffs. The deflection came in 1983. The Green Bay Press-Gazette wrote, "Youngblood knifed through the middle of the line and got a piece of Jan Stenerud's PAT but it carried over the crossbar and caromed off of the stanchion . . . Stenerud said, "We knew that Youngblood had a knack of twisting through. It nearly cost us the game."

34t. Joe Greene—Eight blocks, five field goals and three PATs in 13 seasons.

34t. Dan Hampton—Eight blocks, one of them shared with Al Harris according to Bears media guides. Named the "Kick Blocker" for the 1990s All-Decade Team by Dan Daly in Pro Football Chronicles.

34t. Rob Burnett—Eight blocks on placekicks in fourteen years

34t. Israel Idonije— Eight blocks, four PATs, and four field goals. He was the NFL leader in 2007 with a total of three blocked kicks.

34t. Wilbur Young Eight blocks for the 6-6, 300 pounder 

34t. Craig Terrill— Eight blocks. A stout defensive tackle, just 6-2, was another of the 'hustle-types' that could push inside and get some penetration and a block. He led the NFL in 2010 with three.

34t. Tim Irwin— Nine blocks in fourteen seasons. A tall guy (6-7) with long arms. Only the second offensive lineman on this list.

34t. Sean Jones—Another of the tall guys with eight blocks in a fine career.

44t. John LoVetere—Also eight blocks, could block both punts and placekicks a bit rare for a defensive tackle. 

44t. Ted Vactor—Had eight blocks, bunched in three seasons but many were big-time plays in big games.

44t. Eugene Daniel—Eight blocked kicks in his first five years, then none the rest of his career. He also recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown. Solid special teams player, too, with a high of 13 tackles on kick/punt coverage in 1985.

44t. Dick Lynch—Eight blocks for Lynch, including three in 1962.

44t. Issiac Holt—Five blocked punts plus two blocked placekicks in eight seasons.
44t. Nolan Cromwell—Five blocked punts plus a deflection, and also recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown. An integral part of the punt block team his entire career, blocking three punts in his final season. He was an edge rusher and in 1978 he scored a touchdown on a blocked punt and the blocked two, one went for a touchdown,. The next year one of his punts was returned for a touchdown.

50t. Bill Hewitt—No numbers, of course, are available so the evidence of Hewitt being an excellent kick blocker is anecdotal but Chris Willis of NFL Films named him one of the best two-way ends ever and that kick blocking was part of his skill set.

50t.  Pat Thomas—Seven blocks, and among them are both punts and kicks. The blocks came in seven years before his knees gave out. He once blocked a field goal and punt in the same game and the punt resulted in a touchdown for the Rams and the field goal prevented three points. The final margin of victory for the Rams in the game was two points.

50t. Gary Lewis—Lewis played four seasons, 1981-84, and blocked nine kicks plus one more in the 1982 playoffs and deflected at least one other. He had four in the 1982 strike-shortened season and five in 1983 to lead the NFL both seasons. 

The five in 1983 were often blocks of potential game-winning or game-tying kicks. His five blocks that year were composed of three field goals and two PATs. He didn't block any kicks in his other two NFL seasons. He had to leave football due to a serious illness.

50t. Fred Carr—Carr had one monster year then not much on his other seasons. In 1976 Carr blocked three field goals and three extra points to tie with Alan Page for the NFL lead in blocks. At 6-5, built a lot like Matt Blair you'd think he might have been dominant for a long time but all that can be found, he only blocked kicks in 1976 (six) and in 1971 (one) and in 1977 (one).

50t. Dave Washington—Eight blocks in three seasons, three each in 1975 and 1975, but none in the other none seasons in his career. A tall linebacker who could ump, like Fred Carr, and also like Fred Carr kind of a poor man's Matt Blair who was, in a sense a poor man's Ted Hendricks.

50t. Karl Kassulke—Six career blocks, five of them punts and two resulting in touchdowns in ten seasons. His career ended abruptly when, in 1973, he crashed a motorcycle accident on the way to training camp and that accident left him paralyzed.

50t. Rod Woodson—Seven career blocks. Woodson was a special player. A Hall of Fame corner who could have been a HOF as safety had he played there his entire career, he was excellent in returns and also could pressure a kicker. The definition of a football player.

50t. Cory Littleton—With only three years in the league, Littleton is the least-tenured player on our list. He already has four blocked punts and one deflected punt and one near-miss (shown in the card below). He tied for the NFL lead in blocked kicks in both 2017 and 2018.

If he stays on special teams (he's now a starter) he could really amass quite a total if he keeps up the current pace.

50t. Lee Roy Selmon—Six blocked kicks but all in three seasons. None in the other six.

50t. Johnny Fuller—He had a big year in 1971 with four blocks, plus a couple in pre-season a total of five in his career.

50t. Ken Reaves —An effective edge rusher with good height (6-3) for a corner and long arms. he had six career blocks.

50t. Flozell Adams—Seven blocks for the Hotel. He led the NFL in 2003 with three blocks and tied for the NFL lead with two in 1999.

50t. James Williams—The Bears recorded eight blocks for "Big Cat".

50t. Richard Seymour—Seven blocks in twelve seasons plus another in the playoffs.

50t. Dave Rowe—A total of seven blocks, including an AFC-leading four in 1974.

50t. Tom Sestak Big Ses had a total of seven blocks. 

50t. Dave Pureifory—deflected a punt as a rookie in 1972, and blocked one in 1973, '74, and '75, pretty good for a 6-1 defensive lineman. Imagine if he'd have been 6-5.

50t. Marlin McKeever—An interesting player who was a Pro Bowler as a tight end, but was a good middle linebacker before that and after. He had seven blocks with the Rams and two with the Redskins for a total of nine in a 13-year career.

50t. J.J. Watt—So far Watt has four blocked kicks, so he's on pace with the group of players we have tied at 20 on this list. He's not an elite kick blocker, though, like Page or Rodgers or even Peppers yet.

50t. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie—Four blocks, all early in his career, we were told by one NFL special teams coach that he was a marked man for most of his career. When he got the blocks early he was always going to draw the blocking. So it's a case of his skills being as good as many above him on this list but the 'numbers' are not as high.

50t. Steve Gleason—Four blocks in just seven seasons for Gleason before he was felled by ALS. Had he been able to stay healthy he may have been in the Tasker-area of this list.

50t. Justin Bethel—Four blocks in his seven-year career.

Honorable mention
Lenny Sachs—Blocked three punts in one game quarter in 1920 for the Racine Cardinals in a win over the Detroit Heralds. He recovered one for a touchdown and the other two were recovered for touchdowns as the Cards won 21-0 

Other notables: 
Herb Adderley
Johnnie Johnson
Ed Reed
Tim McDonald
Bill Malinchak
Bobby Freeman
Nate Allen
Mike Gaechter
Bubba McDowell
Bobby Bryant
Dennis Smith
Fred Williamson
JC Caroline
Joe Lavender
Levi Johnson
Michael Downs

Mike White
Neil Smith
Joe Greene
Doug Atkins
Andy Robustelli
Sherman White
Vern Den Herder
Calais Campbell
Gary Jeter
Mike Barnes
Ed Neal
Clay Matthews
Langston Walker
Jerry Sherk
Paul Smith
Eric Swann
Nick Buoniconti
Wilbur Young
Curtis Weathers
Jim Bailey
Buck Buchanan
Jethro Pugh
George Tarasovic
Tom Sestak
Fred Robbins
Jim Dunaway
Jeff Cross
Dale Dodrill
Frank Cornish
Ra'Shede Hageman
Shane Dronett
Bill George
Ernie Ladd
Sherman White
Joe Klecko
Bob Lilly
Harold Wells
Merlin Olsen
Lawrence Pillers

As always a list can go on and on but we feel confident that we've covered the top guys if you think someone deserves some mention, let us know so we can update. And as we get more information from Webster we will update you as well.

edited 10/6/2022