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Posted Aug 10, 2010

All levels of football utilize one drill to test the mettle of an offensive lineman.

A simple way to evaluate offensive linemen involves the same test from the pee-wee practice field to the manicured, chalk-lined grass at Dove Valley. Take a lineman and match him up one-on-one with a defender of equal or greater talent. Snap the ball and see which player isn't where he wants to be by the end of the play.

On Tuesday, first-year man Zane Beadles, weighing slightly less than he did before he buzzed off the scattered strands of his rookie haircut, rocked back into a pass-blocking stance in front of Ryan McBean, who started 14 games last season. McBean flew off the ball and collided with Beadles, who stoned McBean one step behind the line.

McBean wasn't having that, especially from a rookie, so he called out Beadles for a rematch.

This time McBean fired off faster and lower to the ground, but Beadles was waiting for him in a strong stance. Beadles submitted a step further than the first rep, but he won the matchup and the respect of his teammate.
"That guy, he's come a long way from the beginning (of training camp) to now," McBean said.  "He's going to be great for us. I'm happy for him, and hopefully he can keep it up."

Along with J.D. Walton, Beadles came into camp working with the first team on the interior line. Neither player has relinquished their starting spot thus far, but that doesn't mean they're immune to hiccups.

In the same one-on-drill, Walton started strong pass protecting against Chris Baker, but Baker lead him outside and countered with a rip move to blow past the center and win the drill, reminding Walton he's still a rookie.

Head Coach Josh McDaniels said the transition to the pros forces players like Beadles and Walton to rely on techniques they probably didn't have to use on every down in college. When you're a second- or third-round draft choice, chances are you got by on superior size and talent at some point in your collegiate career.

"At this level I think everybody is pretty much equal, or many times you might be playing against players that are stronger or bigger than you," McDaniels said. "They have to do all the little things right, and I think they're working to try and do that."

Consistency from the newcomers has helped versatile, experienced linemen like D'Anthony Batiste fill in for players like Ryan Clady instead of covering for the rookies. Thus far McDaniels likes what he sees out of Batiste, who the team acquired from Jacksonville this offseason to add depth at guard and center.

"He's a physical guy," McDaniels said.

"(He) moves the line of scrimmage in the running game and really has performed well to this point. We feel good about the fact that he's coming on and it gives you another body that if you take to the game -- if he's our sixth or seventh lineman once Ryan is back -- that gives you a guy that can play tackle, can play guard, and be flexible for us as we head into the season. He's really shown well for himself."

While one-on-one tests against your own team are a good talent barometer, the preseason game against the Bengals on Sunday is the best test for who belongs plowing open running lanes and protecting the quarterback.

"We obviously get a big evaluation of all those young lineman that haven't played a whole lot in Cincinnati, and going forward in the preseason," McDaniels said.

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