An erratic but improving offensive line played a big part in Denver's championship win.
30 Nov 2012
by J.J. Cooper
Left tackle Duane Brown was considered a little bit of an overdraft when the Texans took him in the first round in 2008. Four years later, he’s one of the main reasons the Texans are one of the best teams in the NFL.
Brown has kept Matt Schaub’s jersey nice and clean this year. He’s given up one sack in 12 games, best among all NFL tackles.
Last week we took a look at the offensive linemen who have given up the most total sacks. This week, by pairing the sack stats with the NFL’s snap counts, we can zero in on which offensive linemen who have done the best job of protecting their quarterbacks.
Before we get to looking at which blockers have excelled at pass protection, it’s worth explaining how each sack is evaluated by my project.
A standard disclaimer applies here: sacks allowed are determined by multiple viewings of every sack in the NFL this season. Generally, it’s pretty easy to tell who was responsible for allowing the sack -- if a man starts to block a pass rusher and is beaten by that pass rusher for a sack, then he’s the one charged with the sack. In the case of line stunts and twists, context matters. Generally linemen are expected to handoff pass rushers who twist away from them while picking up the rusher who comes back their way. If a sack is a clear case of one blocker handing off his initial man and picking up the next while the second blocker blocks no one, then the man who blocks no one and ends up chasing the defender who notches the sack gets charged with the sack. If it’s less clear, the sack is split between the two blockers: one half-sack each. The same split is true if a rusher splits a gap where two blockers both tried to block him.
There’s another way a sack isn’t blamed on a blocker: if a quarterback holds the ball for an extended period of time (usually 3.4 seconds or longer, but somewhat dependent on play call and protection scheme), a lineman is not blamed for a sack and it’s listed as a coverage sack. If the sack came because of a blitzing linebacker or defensive back who could not reasonably be expected to be blocked, it’s charged as a quarterback/play-call sack. The same is true for some screen passes that the defense sniffs out -- if the offensive lineman is told to let a pass rusher by, it’s not fair to blame him for letting the guy by. And if a bootleg play-action pass is called where an unblocked man isn’t suckered by the play-action (which happens more than you may think), that’s a quarterback/play-call sack as well. Of the 805 sacks this season, 318 are charged as either coverage sacks or quarterback/play-call sacks.
OK, now that the details are out of the way, let’s take a look at the pass protection stars of 2012. Admittedly, we’re just looking at sacks, not hurries allowed, but in my experience running this project, generally blockers who don’t give up sacks also don’t give up many hurries either. Those that give up lot of sacks are also getting beaten often on close calls as well.
Here are the 25 offensive linemen with 500 or more offensive snaps this season and no sacks allowed.
|Team||Lineman||Position||Snaps||Sacks Allowed||Team||Lineman||Position||Snaps||Sacks Allowed|
More than a third of the league’s starting centers have not allowed a sack this year that can be blamed on them. It’s interesting to note that no regular offensive tackle has made it through Week 12 without allowing a sack. Here’s a look at the 25 tackles who have allowed the fewest sacks:
|Team||Lineman||Snaps||Sacks Allowed||Pct.||Team||Lineman||Snaps||Sacks Allowed||Pct.|
Usually a 1.5-second sack either involves a linebacker coming through unblocked, a quarterback tripping over the feet of a lineman on his dropback, or some other massive screwup by the offense.
Atkins sacked Palmer in 1.5 seconds without the Raiders making any major mistakes. Atkins just blew by guard Mike Brisiel at the snap and happen to have the good fortune of Palmer stepping into his path as he set on his dropback.
It was Atkins’ ninth sack of the season, extremely impressive for a true defensive tackle. With his next sack he will become only the second defensive tackle to reach double digits in the past five seasons. (Ndamukong Suh had 10 in 2010.) It likely won’t be enough for him to win defensive player of the year with the seasons J.J. Watt (14.5 sacks) and Aldon Smith (16.5 sacks) are having, but he should get consideration.
Brady Quinn put up middling stats in his return to the starting lineup, just as expected. He was sacked twice, and both times, it was because he held the ball.
Quinn had a 3.6-second sack, but he also had a 5.7-second sack that was the longest sack of the week. Quinn had plenty of time, rolled out, thought about running, and eventually got run down by Von Miller. It wasn’t Miller’s normal quick sack, where he beats a offensive tackle, but he’ll take it all the same.
39 comments, Last at 05 Dec 2012, 6:33pm by Independent George