Commentary

Merril Hoge's All-Game Tape team

Troy Polamalu and Zach Thomas are among a group of players who take special advantage of the film room.

Originally Published: August 30, 2007
By Merril Hoge | ESPN.com

Merril Hoge, who played for the Steelers and Bears from 1987 to '94, picks his All-Game Tape team -- players who use their film study to best advantage.

Troy Polamalu

Polamalu

SS Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers: The most dynamic safety in football, Polamalu is asked to do so many things down around the box and in coverage that most safeties could not do. As a result, he watches a great deal of tape to understand each opponent.

FS Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens: A ball hawking maniac, Reed devotes time to studying tape in order to make big plays around the line of scrimmage and bait quarterbacks into mistakes.

LB Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens: The Peyton Manning of defense, his tape study allows him to stay ahead of the offense and direct his teammates.

CB Asante Samuel, New England Patriots: His ability to cover wide receivers like a glove is not an accident, as his tape study has allowed him to maximize his cover skills. Other teams know he studies tape and will avoid throwing the TOG route, in which the No. 1 receiving option runs a vertical route and the No. 2 receiving option runs a 10-yard out pattern.

Zach Thomas

Thomas

LB Zach Thomas, Miami Dolphins: His tape study is a complement to his amazing instincts. Nobody gets to the ball faster than this wrecking ball.

OL Olin Kreutz, Chicago Bears: As the first player to touch the ball when the Bears are on offense, Kreutz has to direct traffic, including the responsibilities of each player in pass protection. Tape study is paramount for him to make the right calls in the passing and running games.

QB Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals: Despite sitting out his first year, Palmer has taken the league by storm. A big reason has been his willingness to study tape and learn every tendency of his opponents. Tape study has also helped him improve his own skills.

WR Mike Furrey, Detroit Lions: A wide receiver playing in the slot must be able to identify coverage on the move. Furrey studies so much tape that he is able to feel and anticipate coverage, allowing him to get open a lot.

Torry Holt

Holt

WR Torry Holt, St. Louis Rams: The best route runner in the NFL, Holt studies tape to identify cornerbacks who struggle with certain routes. Once he finds a weakness, he attacks.

OL Mike Flanagan, Houston Texans: The key to protecting a quarterback in passing situations is identifying who is coming after him. Flanagan studies enough tape to know exactly which defender will rush the quarterback.

LB Donnie Edwards, Kansas City Chiefs: Simply the best cover linebacker in football, Edwards became great by studying tape on wide receivers and running backs.

Matt Light

Light

OL Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh Steelers: Known for his ability to maul people when he comes off the ball, Faneca is one of the most complete guards in football.

OL Matt Light, New England Patriots: The Patriots expect all their players to study plenty of tape, and Light does not disappoint.

DL Hollis Thomas, New Orleans Saints: It is important for defensive linemen to study the techniques of opposing offensive linemen. Tape study is a big reason why Thomas was so effective last season.

Former NFL fullback Merril Hoge is an analyst for a wide variety of NFL programs on television and ESPN Radio. An eight-year NFL veteran, Hoge spent 1987-93 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and joined ESPN in 1996.