2020 NFL Draft | Prospect Film Session with LSU Offensive Guard Damien Lewis

04/02/2020
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I sat down for an interview with talented offensive guard Damien Lewis out of LSU ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. Lewis was a dominant senior in 2019, and his chemistry with teammate Lloyd Cushenberry III led to an incredible amount of success for LSU in the run and pass game this season.

To start today’s interview, I went a bit into Lewis’s past and asked him about his time at the JUCO level at Northwest Mississippi Community College and how that grind helped him get ready for LSU:

“JUCO is a struggle because you have nobody in your corner who is gonna push you or wake you up or get you the stuff you need. You gotta get stuff done yourself. Some days you go without food and have no food in your room and you just have to grind it out. It is a real struggle up there and it made me so much tougher.”

I then asked him how it felt to go from a JUCO player with few offers to LSU and National Champion just a few years later:

“It was a blessing, man. God doesn’t make mistakes. He put me in a great position to be where I’m at now and I give all glory to Him. He led me, and overall this year, being from JUCO, it has been a great path and really a blessing to me to come from JUCO and from high school with zero offers and took my first offer to LSU and made the best of it. I’m living my dream. It has been a great ride winning a championship, having a QB for Heisman, and playing with some great offensive linemen. It’s all really been a blessing.”

I’ve asked a few LSU players this offseason this question, so I wanted to ask Lewis, as well. I asked him if he thought this LSU team was the greatest college football team of all time:

“No doubt. If we ain’t, then we up there.”

Clip 1

To start off with this clip, I wanted to ask Damien about his overall relationship and chemistry with his running mate in Lloyd Cushenberry III and how they worked off each other in games:

“Lloyd is my brother. He’s one of the guys when I first came to LSU that introduced me to the game and showed me around and told me how everything was gonna be. He showed me how to take care of business and taught me how to watch film and what to look out for in the playbook. You know a guy like that who you can connect with? We clicked on all cylinders. We played well beside each other and we communicated well with each other whenever it was good or bad. We just went out there and had fun.”

I then asked him how he knows when to climb to the second level after helping on the inside on these types of plays:

“It is all about instinct; you know when you do your job at the first level, then you can move to the second level. I know when I knock the guy to the middle gap then I see my man shooting down, that’s when I climb and get my hands inside to move him out of the way so my running back can have a clear lane.”

The other question I had about this clip was about a teaching point I read about when studying the great Howard Mudd. He mentioned how he likes his linemen to run defenders where their momentum is already taking them rather than pushing against their momentum. Lewis does that perfectly here as he climbs to the second level and drives the linebacker out of the play. I asked him if running the guy with his momentum was taught to him at LSU:

“Well, you never want to get stuck in the hole, so you always want to move your feet so you don’t get rolled up. My goal is to get my hands under the shoulder pads and run them to the sidelines or even drive him forty yards downfield if I have to. I know he can’t stalemate me on the line because if he does, then I’ll create a big ole’ barrier right there and the running back won’t have a lane to run to. Coach tells me to get the guy out of the way, so I’m gonna get him out.”

Clip 2

On this play, Lewis is lined up against a long and athletic defensive tackle in Raekwon Davis. I asked him how he countered playing against guys with this type of athleticism:

“With those type of guys, I set the tone first. You wanna go in and set the tone and get the punch first, so I try to hit him first and let him know this is how the day is gonna go. Whoever gets that first punch is more than likely gonna be the person who wins, so I just keep a low pad, drop my hips, and try to get my hand under him. If he does get his hands on me, I’ll reset my hands to knock them down and keep a good base to push him off his line.”

One aspect of line play is the “legal hold.” By that, I mean getting your hands inside in the right position and using your thumbs and grip strength to hold a defender in place. I asked Lewis how important grip strength and hand placement are for an interior offensive lineman:

“That’s 40% of the battle right there. I don’t care how big he is, you get under him and you gotta good base then he ain’t going nowhere. He can fight for his life but he’s still gonna be right there.”

I noticed on this play and on most of Lewis’s plays that he likes to give little hits and shots to defenders after the play. I asked him why he does this on a near regular basis:

“I like to come in and set a tone. I’m gonna be on them every play. This is how it’s gonna be. I’m not gonna be their friend. Every play, I’m gonna be on you because this is strictly business.”

Clip 3

This next clip is against stout defensive tackle Derrick Brown. He had a good first half against LSU, but Lewis and the rest of the offensive line shut him down in the second half. I asked Lewis what the preparation was like going into the week against such a talented interior lineman:

“We came in thinking power — thinking about his power. Our best five against them and their best five. The one who gets the lowest pads and biggest knock back were gonna be the ones to win the line of scrimmage. We were just thinking power, you know. Two for one and you gotta move the man out of the gap. Coach wants him out of the gap, so I’m gonna handle my business and get him out of the gap.”

I know when watching Lewis’s film that he is a powerful player who drives opponents all over the field. I asked him straight up, though, if power is a big part of what he likes to do as a guard:

“Yes sir. I use my power in both the pass and the run game. Power is like 60% of your technique, too. I use my power all over the field and do what Coach tells me to do on the field.”

Clip 4

Handling stunts is a big part of pass protection in the NFL, and Lewis does a great job of staying square and absorbing these blows. I asked him what the key was to handling stunts for him:

“We watch film on those guys and we watch to prepare for everything. Some teams like to stunt inside, some do a three-man game and such, so we just are prepared for the worst. On this play here, I gotta be quick because Cushenberry made the stitch call. He made the stitch, so I gotta keep my eyes outside because I got help inside. I see the guy coming out, so I gotta push him to my tackle and come back in to fill my gap on the inside.”

When linebackers and safeties blitz, it can get tricky for offensive linemen. I asked Lewis how he handles those types of stunts and how important it is to have a solid base in those situations:

“It is very important and you gotta look inside out. Those guys are real fast, so you don’t wanna just jump out there and go out there to jump on an island by yourself. You want to have your inside help so you play inside out. I try not to let them beat me inside and get them on the outside because that’s what they want to do. I keep my inside hand up so nobody can come on my inside. He’s free to rush outside because I’ll just open my hips up and run him out to the sideline.”

Clip 5

The clip above is from the Senior Bowl, where Lewis was a late call-up. I asked him how that entire experience was for him on and off the field:

“You know, it was a great week and I enjoyed it. I was a late add and I enjoyed the whole moment and the entire process. I lived it up with my teammates Cush and Stephen, and it was just another blessing that God blessed me with to go out there and showcase myself.”

Lastly, I asked Lewis what his analysis of this rep is and what is going through his head as he buries this rusher into the ground:

“Normally, I know this guy is gonna try and rush me straight down the middle. You not gonna beat me like that. Nobody is beating me to my inside. I’m already taught to play inside out so my inside hand is already up and I keep that right there on his chest plate. First punch wins, so when I get that under him, I know I already got him with the grip. I get that hand under him and under his hip and flip him. Then I’m putting my weight on him — that whole 330 on him.”

I finished the interview with my go-to question. I asked him what my team would be getting on and off the field if they spend a draft pick on Damien Lewis:

“Well, I’ll tell you this. They’re gonna get a blue-collar worker who is gonna come to work everyday, be prepared, love to compete, and bring energy to the team. I’m gonna go out there try and get a starting spot but also pump up the fans and the locker room. A good guy who will be good in the community and give it all for the team. Gonna go out there and help a team win championships and ballgames.”

 

 

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