Duke Manyweather is Leading the Offensive Lineman Revolution
When you think of NFL star-power and SportsCenter highlight reels, Offensive Linemen don’t often make the top of the list. This group is made up of silent workhorses whose roles are critical to a successful offense, yet are often seen but not heard. So when it comes to the leading expert on NFL Offensive Linemen, you may not know the name Duke Manyweather.
In addition to his own athletic accomplishments at Humbolt State and in the Arena Football League, Manyweather is the sole Offensive Line Scouting and Development Consultant. He and Philadelphia Eagles star right tackle Lane Johnson recently put some of the NFL’s top offensive linemen through their paces at the OL Masterminds Summit, where they discuss everything related to the special position, as only the guys who have played it truly understand all the intricacies. We got together with Duke to recap this special event, find out how the O-line has changed, and discover Duke’s secret sauce for elite physical and mental preparation.
How has the offensive lineman position changed in the past couple of years?
“A lot of people link it back to the college game, and the fact that some of these college systems aren’t preparing guys to move on to the NFL. I look at it from an even deeper level. I think that less and less kids are playing on the offensive line – they just don’t find it appealing because it’s not a position that’s going to get them notoriety. They want to be a receiver or a quarterback, or be in one of the other flashy positions. Then when you get to the high school and even the Pop Warner levels, you’re not getting a high coaching standard.
Don’t get me wrong – there are some great coaches out there. But not enough are teaching young players fundamentals from the ground up. Then when these kids get into college, the coaches are trying to win football games. They don’t have time to go back to the basics. The same is true when they make it to the NFL: it’s all about winning. So we see that understanding how the body moves and how it works gets lost in the shuffle. There isn’t that foundation of solid technique.”
How did you come up with the idea for the OL Masterminds Summit?
“I saw an interview with Lane Johnson, who’s an All-Pro tackle for the Eagles. He was talking about the challenges of trying to stop dynamic pass rushers, and how they’re able to break down the offensive line because they work on their game all the time and are always honing their technique. He mentioned that pass rushers get together in groups and figure out how to attack offensive lines, and the linemen need to figure out the same thing in reverse: how to shut down these pass rushers.
I immediately called Lane, told him I’d just seen his interview, and suggested that we get all the offensive linemen in a room together. If we could gather for a couple of days, we could do exactly what he was suggesting. And that’s what we did. We brought in as many guys as we could and analyzed film in a classroom, talked about things that could work against certain pass rushers, and went through detailed scouting reports. Then we went to the field and broke things down to their simplest elements: stance, how to use our hands, footwork for the run game. We explored fundamentals for different body types and skillsets.
The whole reason for getting all these guys together was to go back to basics and understand that no matter how big or strong someone is, it’s ultimately their grasp of the fundamentals and their understanding of how to best use their body that’s going to set them up for repeated success every damn down. Sometimes at the highest level, it’s easy for simple techniques to get lost in the shuffle and for starting points to be skipped over. So refreshing them can be a real difference-maker. Instead of individuals wanting to keep their trade secrets to themselves, gathering and sharing openly as a group benefits every single one of these players and their teams.”
How have offensive linemen’s bodies changed in the modern game, and what physical demands does this create?
“There are still some big guys, but the days of every time having 355 or 360-pound linemen are over. Now they look more like track athletes. They’re long, lean, and explosive. And people don’t realize how nimble these guys are. To keep up with difficult defensive assignments – like trying to stop Khalil Mack – they need to be fast, be able to change direction, and juke like a much smaller player would. So we need to emphasize general preparedness. It’s my job to make sure that we're stable, that we're flexible, we're mobile, and that we're strong in the necessary areas. They must have great movement quality and then we can start loading them. That way they can be powerful when they change direction and can chase people who get out on the edges.”
What about the mindset side of preparing guys for colliding with other big bodies on Monday Night Football?
“We let them know coming in that we’re going to challenge them both physically and mentally. We put them in situations in training that are going to mimic the stressors they’re going to encounter in real games. That way they have something to fall back on when the bullets are flying. If you’ve encountered hard things in practice, then you trust that all your training and hard work you put in during the offseason is going to show up when you need it to on the field. That’s why everything I do is holistic. It’s starts with the feet and goes all the way up to the head.”
How do you help linemen improve their endurance without risking injury by hammering their joints with a lot of distance work?
“One of the things we do a lot is training with tempo. We also make sure that the work to rest ratio is allowing them to recover well between sets. Another big thing in our conditioning is doing exercises that are concentric. There’s not a lot of eccentric motion in this type of training. So we’re protecting both the muscular system and the joints. We include plenty of sled work. Sometimes it will be heavy and short, and other times it’s much lighter and we’re going for distance. Or somewhere in the middle and we’re emphasizing speed and efficiency. Varying the load and intensity is important. We also do drills that mimic what guys are going to have to do during games, which are unloaded and movement based. We’re not pounding the pavement because that’s going to take too much of a toll.”