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Raiders draft film room: Dominick Puni, athletic mauler in trenches

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By: Matt Holder

Dominick Puni | Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kansas tackle could make a natural position switch to guard

The Las Vegas Raiders need help at guard as last year’s starter on the right side, Greg Van Roten, currently isn’t under contract. However, the Raiders are expected to pursue a quarterback in the first round of next month’s NFL Draft, meaning the team might need to get creative to solve its problem in the trenches.

While Kansas’ Dominick Puni lined up at left tackle almost exclusively last season, he played guard the year before and projects best on the inside in the NFL as Bleacher Report’s Brandon Thorn explained in Puni’s scouting report.

“Middling range to expand set points and protect the corner against high-side rushes,” Thorn noted as one of the former Jayhawk’s weaknesses. “Below-average arm length (33⅜”) for tackle leads to gradually losing control at the top of the QB’s drop.”

That being said, Puni does have a lot of potential to be a successful pro on the inside as the film clips below show.

First, apologies for the jumpy clip as I know it’s not aesthetically pleasing, but the functionality will do for now.

Part of the reason why Puni can make a natural transition to guard is already pass blocks like one. He rarely drops back and vertical sets pass rushers, preferring to be more aggressive with jump or quick sets. That’s more common on the inside because guards don’t have to worry about getting beat around the edge with speed as much.

Here is an example of that and this rep shows off Puni’s ability to change directions and stay in front of pass-rushers as well. Now, a couple of things he will need to work on when playing guard are maintaining a wide base and avoiding crossing his feet as well as dropping his hips/butt to anchor.

However, the aggressiveness and movement skills in his pass sets are good to see, it’s just a matter of cleaning up a few technical flaws.

When uncovered or when a defensive lineman isn’t directly rushing against them, offensive linemen are taught to “look for work”. What that means is they are supposed to scan the rest of the line and see where they can help a teammate. That happens frequently with guards since most defenses will have two edge rushers on a given play.

Granted, in this clip, Illinois has its right outside linebacker engage with Puni and then drop in coverage, leaving Puni uncovered. Notice how his eyes immediately go inside to see where he can look for work. Then, he delivers a shot to the defensive tackle which helps the guard put the defender on the ground, eliminating a pass-rush threat.

This seems pretty natural for Puni which is another reason why he should be able to make a smooth transition to the inside.

Moving on to the running game, which is where Puni really stands out.

Here, he’s on the playside of counter where he’s down blocking on the defensive tackle. He does get beat off the line a bit, but with good leverage and hand placement, it doesn’t matter as the defender gets washed inside beyond the hash mark. That helps create a big hole for the running back to hit, leading to a huge gain.

This is a good example of Puni’s use of hands and strength to push defensive linemen out of the way.

Kansas calls counter again only this time Puni is the backside and pulling. Despite being slightly out-leveraged by the linebacker (No. 28, who is lined up inside shade of the guard or in the B-gap), he’s able to meet the linebacker at the spot outside of the pulling guard. From there, Puni gets a piece of the backer and ends up putting him on the ground and the running back is off to the races for another huge gain.

That’s good movement skills and power from the former Jayhawk and also shows that he can be an effective puller, which is important for a guard. Kansas’ offense asked him to pull frequently, another reason why he should have a rather seamless transition to the inside.

We’ll end with one more run clip, this time with Puni climbing up to the second level. Off the snap, he has a nice get-off to reach his landmark and then does a good job of settling down to avoid overrunning the linebacker. From there, he shows lateral movement skills to match the backer’s path and stay in front of the defender.

Once Puni engages on the block, the rep is pretty much over as he flips his hips around to create an outside lane and an easy read for the running back. The cherry on top here is that he keeps his feet moving and finishes the rep by putting the backer on the ground. The latter is pretty consistent on tape as he blocks with a finishing mentality.

As of March 25, Puni ranks 89th on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board, so he could be a great Day 2 target for the Raiders.

Originally posted on Silver And Black Pride