Welcome to the Trench Warfare Newsletter.
I breathe offensive and defensive line play. Every week, I watch between 30-35 hours of coaches tape, specifically the end zone angle, in my home office and record dozens of standout clips for my personal video database that is up to about 500 GBs of player tendencies, techniques, and traits. I use the video as reference points through the season and off-season to help build profiles of players and also to help other players across the NFL get to know their opponent better.
In the off-season I go back and watch players I wasn’t able to hone in on during the season to make sure I have a full understanding of the landscape of the league before the next season begins. I don’t quite get to study every snap of every player in the trenches, but I dedicate my career to getting as close to that as one person can. And after 6 years of almost exclusively studying offensive and defensive line play in the NFL and college football, scouting for different organizations, and writing for different websites, I thought it was about time that I created a place where I could provide deeper analysis while dictating the direction of the content and inviting you with me on the journey. I now work for you.
Who should be interested in The Trench Warfare Newsletter?
- Players, coaches, and scouts at all levels of football
- Hardcore fans of the game that want to gain more insight and knowledge into the trenches — and how what goes on there affects why teams win or lose
- Casual fans that want to have a clearer, more robust idea of why their favorite QB, RB, or WRs are succeeding or struggling
What sort of content can you expect when you subscribe?
- Off-season project pieces
1-2 articles per week
The quantity and quality of offensive line analysis has grown since the time I started analyzing the subject online in 2014, but there’s still a long way to go. People’s appetite for quality analysis of the trenches is increasing, and that’s truly exciting. I am committed to helping further an appreciation and understanding of what takes place on the line of scrimmage. I strongly believe that football being “won and lost in the trenches” and smart teams building from “the inside out” aren’t just cliches. They are values and ideas that dictate success in the NFL.
The quarterback is obviously king, so protecting him and creating openings for modern QBs in the run game are vital components for success. Running the ball and stopping the run may not be quite as integral as they have been in years past, but late in the season, they can carve out a path to a championship. The point is simple: The two position groups closest to the quarterback - offensive and defensive line - usually have the biggest impact on whether games are won or lost, so hardcore and casual fans, coaches, players, and fellow analysts should have a resource dedicated solely on those position groups which is where I come in.
Growing up I was both a voracious reader of NFL biographies and a Madden fanatic, which were the seeds of a lifelong admiration for the league and the players in it. My dad idolized Johnny Unitas and raised me a die-hard Broncos fan, and over time, I became an NFL junkie and someone with a deep love for the sport. I played throughout high school in Clearwater, Florida and after stints at QB, defensive end, and tight end, I moved to offensive tackle and guard as a junior and senior. This is where my love for line play began, and while I was an above-average lineman at best (with some opportunities at FCS schools) I was exposed to many legit Division I players — both on my team and on opposing teams. That really grew my appreciation for what great players looked like and how difficult it was to take a pass set and block them.
I officially got started in scouting and writing about football in 2014 when I left Air Force active duty after nearly 8 years to pursue my dream of getting into scouting. Prior to 2014 I did a lot of writing on my own and for free on several websites, but since I was on active duty, I really was doing it for fun more than anything else. While taking leave in 2008, I was credentialed for the Senior Bowl and got to cover the event for a now-defunct website called NFLDraftDog.com. That was like a dream come true for me, getting to walk around and see the people I had been reading about my whole life like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Jerry Jones, and many other legendary figures in the NFL.
My first gig in football was as an intern with the Colorado Ice — now the Colorado Crush — in the indoor football league. From there, I reached out to former Denver Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist (a fellow Air Force veteran who was living in a nearby Colorado town) via Twitter. Ted was running a website called TheFootballEducator.com, and I pestered him about writing for his site for free, doing scouting reports on draft prospects. I eventually found out he had a speaking engagement at Colorado Springs University in my hometown and showed up with my wife to hear him speak, with a plan to stay until the event was over to introduce myself. We wound up chatting for a while, and he must have respected my initiative, because he brought me on board to help build his site. After that, everything fell into place for us to start working together and we even co-hosted a podcast for upwards of a year. Over that time, Ted taught me a tremendous amount about the way the NFL works, scouting philosophies, and about football in general. I also got to attend the Senior Bowl on his behalf multiple times to scout prospects, which I absolutely loved. Ted eventually moved on from his site to pursue other opportunities, but our time together had a big impact on me and I still consider him a great mentor and friend.
During my time writing for Ted I knew I needed to establish a systematic, thorough scouting process and learn more about the nuances of each position, which led me to Dan Hatman and The Scouting Academy in 2014. This is where I really started to become more of a professional, thanks to the curriculum Dan had set up. After two semesters of learning the key traits of QB-WR-OL-DL-LB, how to find them on tape, and — most importantly — how to convey what I was seeing in a report format, I was invited to the Senior Bowl as a standout student to take part in the Academy’s inaugural symposium at the Renaissance Riverview Hotel in downtown Mobile.
This led to a job building the Academy’s video database that I built and maintained for five years, and a spot in then-director of the Senior Bowl Phil Savage’s annual scouting school over the summer of 2016 in Mobile. Things went into hyperdrive for me that summer, as I had an NFL interview for a scouting assistant position, was invited and attended LeCharles Bentley’s inaugural O-line clinic at his training center in Arizona, and got a job scouting the mountain region for the Senior Bowl — a job that I held for two seasons.
As all this was happening in 2016 I made the decision to focus exclusively on line play which eventually led me to learning about Duke Manyweather.
Duke is the guy who has taught me more about O-line play than anyone. I bugged him‚ and still do bug him — with questions, and somehow, he’s always made time to answer them. I think he knew how serious I was about learning and saw that I respected the process, so he managed to find time to help me out. It’s something I still thank him for and always will. After years of friendship and collaborating on some fun articles like our annual All-Underrated OL teams, Duke asked me to be a part of OL Masterminds in 2018 as an advance scout putting together all of the film that the attendees study during the annual event in Frisco, Texas. This has been a great thrill for me and is something that has really opened up doors in the OL community I otherwise never would’ve had opened and that brings me to today and this new venture. When I have a question about a technique, specific block, or protection assignment I have the ability to reach out to a couple dozen current starting linemen or high-level coaches to get their feedback and I have pages of notes from my years attending the OL Masterminds clinic about the inner-workings of how different guys prepare and think about in-game situations. This insight is something I plan to bring to you in my work and through this newsletter.
This community that I hope to build on here is about appreciating line play, enjoying the process of learning about the position, sharing my findings with you, and together discussing the happenings around the pro and college game in the process.
My approach to scouting and evaluation is simple; identify the core and position specific traits that are most important for success, using the film to tell the story of a player while gathering as much context as possible to build a robust opinion. I also believe in the idea of having strong opinions that are loosely held.
I also believe it is more difficult and valuable to tell someone what a player CAN do rather than what they CAN’T do. This is a philosophy I carry with me in my process of shining light on line play because the bulk of the attention they receive (particularly O-linemen) is when they screw up. I understand why that’s been the case. Most people watch football on TV and follow the ball, which means that O-linemen are an afterthought that people only notice after they allow a big tackle for loss or hit on the quarterback. For defensive linemen, the opposite is true. People only seem to notice when they’re the ones making the big play.
While those plays make up 5-10% of the position, there remains a giant gap in what happens in-between those ‘splash’ plays and that’s where this newsletter comes in. I want to shine a light on the quieter, less obvious aspects of those positions. The ones you might not see if you don’t know where and how to look.
Don’t worry, though. Splash plays are what normally draw the viewer in and spark their interest in the trenches in the first place, so deconstructing sacks, sacks given up, tackles for loss, and all the sexy parts of line play will always be a focal point in what you find here as well because I know those things are just plain fun.
When it comes to studying line play there is never an endpoint in the learning process. There’s always something to learn and more film to study. Fortunately, I have been blessed with people around me that have spent a lifetime around the game and position far longer than I have. They’ve forgotten more football than I know. That’s humbling, but also exciting. I know that my knowledge base is constantly being sharpened and my conclusions challenged. You can expect my analysis here to evolve over time while holding on to certain foundational aspects of the position groups.
What experts in the trenches are saying:
”There isn’t a football mind that is as thorough as Brandon Thorn. Brandon takes great pride in his work and understands the intricacies, the nuances, the micro and macro details of Offensive Line Evaluation and advance scouting.
Brandon is a big part of OL Masterminds™️ with his advanced scouting work and he reminds of a quote I heard years ago:
‘Do the things that allow others to shine... The things that allows others to excel...The things that let people know you really care... The things that encourage...The things that inspire... The things that are necessary... The things that are INVISIBLE but INVALUABLE!!!’”
- Duke Manyweather, offensive line expert and founder of OL Masterminds
Brandon has become a highly respected voice in the football world. His understanding of technique, scheme and assignment is next level. His will to study, scout and analyze has made of one of the most credible and reliable sources in our game today!”
- Terron Armstead, Miami Dolphins All-Pro left tackle
"I first noticed Brandon's works a few years ago as one of the few analysts breaking down and highlight OL play on social media. He not only spotlights our play but shows people how and why we succeed. He's a great analyst that's dedicated to learning about the game, and sharing it. Few have the knowledge Brandon possesses, and even fewer can articulate it the way he does. And no one outworks him."
- Mitchell Schwartz, Former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro right tackle
"He is a true student of offensive line play. He studies and understands the nuances of the game as well as different techniques used by players league wide. Brandon understands set lines, angles, as well as schematics when it comes to different players and systems. You can take what he says to the bank."
- Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro right tackle
“I am excited to see the work Brandon has planned for his new service because I believe he has put in the time to truly study and ask the right questions of the right people to learn the ins and outs of OL/DL play. He will give an unbiased opinion based on facts from the FILM and that’s all anyone can ask for when evaluating the most under appreciated and misunderstood position in football and that’s the offensive line.”
- Bryan Bulaga, Los Angeles Chargers right tackle
”B Thorn is one of the best... if not the best O-Line analyst around! His work is not only detailed, but very fun to watch. It’s great to have guys like him who appreciate the trenches and point out what most people don’t see in the game of football. The man is also great tool if you need questions about an opponent.”
- Jedrick Wills Jr., Cleveland Browns left tackle and 2020 first-round pick
“As a 7th round pick I remember Brandon being the first to give me some props back in my SF playing days and as now one of the elite O-lineman in the NFL I’ve always thought it was pretty cool how Brandon is one of the few that actually took the time to know and understand OL play instead of spewing nonsense out of their ass!!”
- Trent Brown, New England Patriots Pro Bowl right tackle
”I appreciate Brandon’s work and breakdowns of different guys offensively and defensively that helps me break down players more and even helps add tools to my book from seeing him highlight details of O-line play more precisely than the general eye would from just seeing them play on tv etc.”
- Shaq Mason, Tampa Bay Bucs right guard
”Brandon knows what makes OL play an art. The man is extremely knowledgeable. He understands the differences between schemes and the techniques that are used in those schemes. You can tell how much time and effort he puts into his scouting. I would say outside of an NFL scouting department, his insights into line play are second to none.”
- Graham Glasgow, Denver Broncos right guard
”There are very few people I follow on Social Media who dissect the game from the eyes of a Lineman along with giving very knowledgeable insight. Brandon is one of the best I’ve come across who truly gives Offensive Linemen credit when credit is due along with pointing out fault or flaw that happen In ways that only OL and OL coaches appreciate.”
- Brent Key, Georgia Tech Assistant Head Coach, Run Game Coordinator, & OL Coach
”The time and research Brandon takes studying players and techniques is invaluable. The attention he has brought to the frontlines of football, have shed light to many of the people who never knew how technical it was. I look forward to watching this new adventure take shape for him.”
- Mason Miller, Mississippi State OL coach
”Over the years Brandon has been one of my favorite follows on social media. When I view Brandon’s post on social media, I can confidently say he understands what goes on in the trenches of an NFL game. He truly has an eye for talent and really understands blocking schemes and concepts!”
- Jonathan Goodwin, retired 13-year NFL O-lineman
”In a world with a LOT of fake OL analysts, Brandon is as reals as it gets."
- Austin Blythe, Seattle Seahawks OL
”There’s no one who spends more time evaluating trenches than Brandon. He’s got a keen eye for understanding technique and scheme, and grades players according to those principles. I trust Brandon’s evaluation of the trenches.”
- Geoff Schwartz, retired 6-year NFL O-lineman
"Brandon is dedicated to elevating the way we approach, teach, interpret, and talk about offensive/defensive line play. At the highest levels of the sport there is a lack of contextual evaluation for offensive and defensive lineman that leads to a detriment in how young lineman are picked and developed. Brandon is leading the charge to change this and continue to positively impact the sport of football we all know and love."
- Marshall Newhouse, 9-year NFL O-lineman
”There are very few people I trust when it comes to scouting and breaking down the trenches, Brandon is one of them. I have found him to be a credible and excellent resource and truly value his opinion.”
- Mark Schlereth, 3-time Super Bowl Champion & Pro Bowl O-lineman
Nobody puts in more work and film study than Brandon Thorn . One of the best follows on Twitter when it comes to Line play. I can’t wait to check out his new website!”
- Olin Kreutz, retired 14-year All-Pro center
"Brandon's effort to learn, study, evaluate and quantify line play can only be described in one word: RELENTLESS. His evaluations are built off of a mountain of time he has invested into studying individual players as well as resourcing coaches, trainers and heads of the industry in order to give the most accurate depiction he can. It is rare to see someone as dedicated and passionate about line play as Brandon. I look forward to seeing where this new venture will take him."
- Matt Jones, Run Game Coordinator for University of Tennessee Martin
"Scouting the trenches is tough, thankless business. Much like playing the position, there's no substitute for putting in the time to study an incredibly complex unit. Brandon puts in the time and then some, providing detailed written and video breakdowns that are easy to digest and incredibly informative. His expertise is well-earned and widely respected. When I'm breaking down an OL, Brandon's page is one of my first stops to make sure I'm on the right track."
- Mike Golic Jr, former Notre Dame O-linemen and current host of the GoJo Show for Draftkings.
“Brandon has put his head down and gone to work on all aspects of the trenches building out his knowledge and his ability to showcase what is happening in the trenches on the digital platform. He’s a humble, hard worker and highly respected in the business for his knowledge and work ethic to bring what he has learned to the public.”
- Lance Zierlein, NFL draft analyst for NFL.com