FanPost

How to Build an Offensive Line (aka: We got it backwards)

In this piece I'm going to explore a little into how you want to build an offensive line, in terms of run-blocking vs. pass-protecting at each position. Most of this makes a lot of sense just based on the nature of inside vs outside play, but I'm going to bring in some numbers to back it up. And of course it's not to suggest you can afford a player being great at one aspect and terrible at another (more of average+great, but at which), and there's more complicated factors that I'm not exploring in this write-up (like a QB's affect on pressure received, RB & TE pass-protecting, differences in passing styles (ie: an offense that goes deep will need better than normal protection because the routes take longer to develop). That said, let's get into this.

Pass Block Snaps

Sacks Allowed

Hits Allowed

Hurries Allowed

Total Pressure Allowed

Pressure

%

sack+hit%

sack-hit of tot pressure

%

% of all pressure

T

24799

268

305

1175

1747

7.044639

2.310577

32.79908

55.49555

G

24865

133

232

736

1101

4.427911

1.467927

33.15168

34.97459

C

12321

46

69

185

300

2.434867

0.933366

38.33333

9.52986

Total

61985

447

606

2096

3148

5.078648

33.44981

Here are the league totals for the 2012 season so far. (I could have looked at an entire past-season, but there are enough snaps to provide a large enough sample size here). As you can see, tackles give up a pressure on a much higher percent of their pass-blocking snaps relative to guards and especially centers. This makes sense given the nature of outside pass-rushing vs. inside pass-rushing. With less space to work with, it's harder to get pressure up the middle. Tackles also give up a sack or a hit (a "worse" form of pressure of it you will) on a higher % of their snaps than G or C (though the % of each positions snaps that are sack & hits is relatively the same). Of all the pressure surrendered by offensive lines, 55.5% of that comes from offensive tackles. There is a significant drop to the 35.5% guards surrender, and centers allow a paltry 9.5% of all pressure. (Part of this is due to their only being 1 center per line, but being in the dead center they still by nature allow the least pressure).

Because of this, I propose that You can put less importance on pass-protection ability (relative to others at your position) the further inside you go, but then need more emphasis on run-blocking ability. Two of the best offensive lines of recent years, NO & NE, both were thought of as pass-protecting units (partly because of their quick-release QBs), but in fact both were great run-blocking units that allowed the teams to not need 1 feature/star back & have a steady running game to compliment their excellent passing attacks. Both also had featured great run-blocking G tandems (Carl Nicks/Jahri Evans, & Logan Mankins/Stephen Neal respectively). You want each player on your line to hold their own in both blocking aspects, but I think it's important that your interior linemen are very good run-blockers, to be able to pick up those steady gains & give your QB more manageable down & distance situations for passing. Combine that with tackles who are "above average" in pass-protection, and you will have a foundation for success in both running and passing the ball.

That said, I will now address the issue that the Chargers seems to have linemen who are good at the opposite of what they "should" be good at. Here is a table which showcases our primary OL in the above protection statistics.

Pass Block Snaps

Sacks Allowed

Hits Allowed

Hurries Allowed

Total Pressure Allowed

Prs%

sack+hit%

sack-hit of tot prs%

% of all prs

Mike Harris

252

4

5

30

39

15.47619

3.571429

23.07692

n/a

Jared Gaither

138

4

2

6

12

8.695652

4.347826

50

n/a

Jeromey Clary

390

8

3

19

30

7.692308

2.820513

36.66667

n/a

Tyronne Green

353

1

1

13

15

4.249292

0.566572

13.33333

n/a

Luis Vasquez

386

0

1

13

14

3.626943

0.259067

7.142857

n/a

Nick Hardwick

390

2

2

9

13

3.333333

1.025641

30.76923

10.56911

all T

780

16

10

55

81

10.38462

3.333333

32.09877

65.85366

all G

739

1

2

26

29

3.924222

0.405954

10.34483

23.57724

To make some quick observations from this data, our tackles are allowing more pressure than league average and our guards are allowing less (especially with regards to sacks & hits, how often they come & what % of total-pressure they make up). Hardwick is performing worse than league average, but normally in years past he's been well above average in pass-protection (Gaither was excellent in PP in his short time last season, so injury may play a part, but I will just make conclusions based on how everyone is performing right now).

To show case our linemen's run-blocking vs pass-protecting abilities, I will compare their ranking in PFF's Pass Blocking Efficiency metric (detailed below), and their run blocking grades. (Only the later includes context, but since I have been using context-free pass-protecting numbers so far, I want to continue doing so). Mike Harris has been subjectively horrible at both aspects, so I will only examine Gaither as the LT (as ideally he'd be starting every game).

(1– ((Sacks + (0.75*(Hits + Hurries))/ Pass Blocking Snaps))*100 = PBE Rating. The higher the better.

Name: PBE rank, Run-block Grade**

Gaither: 58, 4 (2nd if you do per-game average (he's played 4 while most have played 10))

Clary: 50, 26 (was higher, but tapering off)

Green: 37, 42

Vasquez: 27*, 34

*(is 14th in PB grade (ie: in context), and was higher before a terrible game vs TB, so personally I'd look at that 14 for the purpose of illustrating he's better at protecting).

Hardwick: 29,25 (again, the past few years Hardwick was equally as bad vs the run, but top 5 in pass-protecting, so as with Vasquez, I'm portraying him as better at protection than run-blocking).

**total qualifers per metric are as follows (PBE, RBG)

T : 69, 71 (Mike Harris was 69 of those 69)

G: 76,78

C: 35, 37

Taking all these numbers into account, it can be seen that we are better run-blocking to the edge than we are up the middle, but better at preventing pressure up the gut than on the edges. While you don't want to be totally lacking in any facet at either area, it is in my belief that you can allow for more deficiencies in pass-protection at the middle 3 positions as long as they are exceptional (or not-crappy) run blockers. So when the time comes to re-build our line, I believe we better (or more consistent) protection from the T spots (duh, if there is one), and some inside linemen who are better at grinding out yards in the ground-game. Having the opposite (pressure on the edge & difficulty in getting consistent runs) is setting us up for extremely stagnant offense we have now.

UPDATE:

I was looking up numbers for passing-under-pressure for un-related reasons, and I thought I'd mention Rivers' numbers to show the unfortunate effects of our poor line.

Of 34 qualifying QBs, here are Rivers' ranks in the following:

Accuracy %** under pressure: 22 (59.2%)

% of drop backs under pressure: tie 4th most (38.3%)

Acc% not under-pressure: 4th (82.1)

Drop off of %: 31st (22.9% lower) (34 being worst drop-off)

The last number combined with the fact he's under pressure more than most QBs, is EXTREMELY worrisome to me. The 3 QBs with a bigger drop off are Brady, Vick & Locker. Brady faces the 3rd least pressure so that's not a huge worry, Locker is 13th least, not bad, but also can run to avoid some. Vick faces the most pressure and we can all see how in the toilet the Eagles' season has been.

**Accuracy % is compiled by counting drops as completions, and subtracting throw-aways, spikes, batted passes, and "hit while throwing" passes from total attempts. Essentially it is completion % (inc. drops) on "aimed passes".

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.

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