Walk along the sidelines of Redskins OTAs, and it's hard to miss a new set of drills that look very different. Giant men, mostly defensive linemen and linebackers, going through a series of very fast and very physical exchanges with a shorter, smaller coach. As the practices ran for the last few weeks, more information has leaked out about the drills, and the role of the mystery man.
"That’s Master Joe Kim," Washington coach Jay Gruden explained. "He’s part of our strength and conditioning program."
Watching the drills can be captivating, as Kim works through a series of hand-fighting techniques with players that look about twice his size. Last season, Kim worked with the Chicago Bears. Stephen Paea, who the Redskins signed away from Chicago this offseason, enthusiastically credits Kim with much of his success.
"I worked it last year, I was with him in Chicago," Paea said after OTAs on Tuesday. "I went from one sack to six sacks in one year."
Nose tackles generally don't produce sack totals that high, and Paea repeated that to reinforce how important Kim's coaching was for him.
"I was a nose tackle with six sacks."
Paea explained that Kim's work may look like it's focused on hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, but it's much more than that. The footwork that comes with Kim's techniques creates better balance for the defensive linemen, and that balance keeps the momentum focused on disrupting the offense.
"If your footwork is right, and your hands are right, [Kim is] going to take you where you want to go," Paea explained. "Instead of just a rip and run, we're doing certain footwork where we face who we're fighting. Most guys that rip and run, you put your back towards the guard and get pushed out of the way. That's not his way."
It's also worth commending the Redskins brass for bringing in Kim. Most of the NFL does a poor job of trying something new, as the league stays with convention more than any other major pro sports.
"We’re considering whatever is possible," Gruden said. "That’s what we’re trying to do. I’m willing to look at anything to make this team better."
Support for Kim has grown fast.
"I think Taekwondo was his specialty and he brings a lot of other elements to it. I love doing that," LB Trent Murphy said. "Everyone loves it, especially now that it's showing up on tape. Now that guys know it works, they're spending a little extra time with him."
Each week new offensive line coach Bill Callahan works with players well after the official conclusion of practice, and now, there is a growing group putting in extra time with Kim. And more and more players are getting involved, not just the D-line.
"He’s a great guy to have," Gruden said of Kim. "Guys can work on that in the weight room, they can work that out on the field during special teams periods. You see Alfred Morris doing it – our running backs can do it, tight ends can do it. Every position can work hand placement and hand usage at all times and he’s one of the best in the business at doing that."
One position group does not enjoy Kim's training quite so much, and it makes sense. Each practice, the offensive line is facing a defensive counterpart with new martial arts training, chopping down on hands at different angles and incorporating aspects of Taekwondo.
"They're not liking it as much but I think they're working with him too so they can't complain too much," Murphy said about the O-line group, with a smile on his face.