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08 May 2012

Word of Muth: Scouting the Bears

by Ben Muth

This week I decided to focus on the Bears offensive line. The reason is simple: They've been ripped for not selecting an offensive lineman in the draft this year, and I wanted to see if the line was that big of a problem. Anyone who has watched the Bears play the past few years would certainly think so, but as we all know, watching games on TV can often be misleading. So, I wanted to do a closer examination and judge for myself. After watching their Week 17 game against the Vikings I can safely say that everyone was right. The Bears have a huge problem up front.

Tackles

Let’s start with J'Marcus Webb. Webb, like most NFL tackles, was facing an uphill battle against Jared Allen. It was clear from the start that Allen was simply gunning for sacks and was willing to do anything to get them. That probably sounds like what he does every game, and it is to a certain extent. However, in more consequential games, even sack masters like Allen have to keep some semblance of a rush lane or contain. When it’s the last week of the year and you’re in shouting distance of the single-season sack record, you get the green light to do whatever you want. Between that and the fact that Allen is a far superior player, Webb was lucky he didn’t give up five sacks.

The biggest issue Webb had is that he was just awful with his hands. His punch is slow and non-violent. There were multiple times where Allen just chopped the left tackle’s hands and dipped around the corner like he was working against a popup dummy. Even when Webb didn’t get his hands knocked down, he never jolted Allen off his path with a solid punch. He would just grab Allen and try to hold on for dear life.

In Webb’s defense, he didn’t get a lot of help. When they slid to him, Edwin Williams seemed far too concerned with helping the center. Especially considering the best pass rusher in the game was running amok four feet away from him. When the Bears tried to chip it was with Kahlil Bell, who is possibly the worst chip blocker I have ever seen on film. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, when Lovie Smith realized that keeping a tight end over Allen might be a good idea, that Webb got any real help.

Opposite of Webb was Lance Louis, who only played well when compared to Webb. Louis is a guard who was forced outside due to injury, and he played like it. He simply doesn’t move or redirect well enough to pass block on the edge. With Gabe Carimi back in the lineup next season, the plan is to move Louis inside to right guard. I could see that working, as Louis is certainly strong enough to play inside. The biggest question will be his pad level, as he played high at times outside this year.

Interior

On the interior, Roberto Garza’s inability to pull was the first thing that stood out to me. The Bears ran a pin-and-pull play a couple of times. In a pin-and-pull, the tackle and tight end would block down while the playside guard and center would pull, with the guard kicking out and the center leading up. I’ve decided not to draw this play up in the same spirit as the general sports media policy of not showing fans who run on the field. Showing this play would only encourage others to run it. I think the Bears ran it three times, and Garza blocked his guy zero of those times. I’m not sure if this a line call where Garza decides to pull himself based on how the defense is lined up (Kevin Mawae was notorious for calling his own number), or if the play is always designed for him to pull. Whatever the case, I hope I never see it again.

As for the guards, it’s safe to say they probably played the best of any of the Chicago linemen. Chris Spencer got knocked around a little early, but seemed to adjust as the game went on. One thing he’s really good at is hand replacement. He’s not the most accurate when he initially punches in pass protection, but he does a nice job of re-positioning his hands inside for leverage. He also probably moves the best laterally of any of the Bears’ linemen.

Williams also played fine. He’s probably Chicago’s best run blocker (neck-and-neck with Louis) and does a nice job of running his feet after contact. Williams does a nice job sitting down on bull rushes. The biggest negative he has is definitely the ability to redirect on an inside move. There were a couple times where guys got inside him and were really able to press the pocket as a result.

As bad as Chicago’s line played at the end of the season, there is some cause for optimism up front. Carimi will come back next year and could be a big upgrade at tackle, Louis can move inside where he belongs, and perhaps best of all, Mike Martz is gone. The Tsar of the five-man protection/seven-step drop combo has been replaced by the (presumably) protection-friendly Mike Tice. Plus, despite all the line’s troubles against Minnesota, they still won. If this team improves at all up front, they could be dangerous next year.

That does it for this week. After a couple of weeks of watching less than stellar play, I’d really like to get back to writing about a quality unit next week. The Saints and Texans spoiled me, I suppose. If you think your team had a solid offensive line, recommend them below (or on Twitter) and I’ll write about them next week.

Posted by: Ben Muth on 08 May 2012

113 comments, Last at 12 May 2012, 9:57pm by LionInAZ

Comments

1
by jw124164 :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 11:58am

Well, I don't think my team's line was real solid (Falcons), but I'm not sold that Sam Baker is completely horrible. Is Sam Baker completely horrible?

2
by Jimmy :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 11:59am

Thanks for the write up Ben. I wish you had picked a game that didn't involve one of Hanie or McCown because those two managed to get sacked every seventh pass attempt. I doubt the Joe Gibbs Hogs could have kept those two upright. This game is also the only Bears game I haven't seen in seven or eight seasons so I can't really comment.

Having watched Webb in the other fifteen games, I thought he was a good run blocker (or at least occasionally flashes real power), clearly you don't, or is this a result of Allen never trying to engage Webb in his gap making it difficult to tell?

4
by Ben Muth :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:06pm

I thought he was an okay run blocker, but when you give up 3.5 sacks as an LT it really doesn't matter. No one pays LTs to run block.

7
by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:15pm

I've been thinking that the Bears could be average or better from LG-RT next year, if Carimi is at least average. You seemed to think the Bears interior wasn't that bad other than Garza's pulling.

If this is the case, can't the team just game-plan around Webb not being very good? I feel like a single weakspot, even at left tackle, is something that isn't hard to overcome. So am I deluded or could the Bears provide Cutler with average protection even with a weak LT?

70
by MidwayIllustrated (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 11:05pm

Was this one game you scouted the Bears on against the Vikings? If it is would like to get your take on the five game winning stretch in which the Bears allowed five sacks over that five game period.

16
by Marko :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:35pm

Your first paragraph is spot on. I think that the Bears' offensive line problems have been overstated. No one is confusing their offensive line with the best units in the game, but the Bears were cruising along at 7-3 and on track for the playoffs despite their mediocre offensive line until Cutler got injured and was out for the season (followed shortly thereafter by Forte also being knocked out for the season). And surprisingly to many people, Cutler's thumb injury wasn't the result of shoddy offensive line play; he was injured making a tackle on an interception return after the receiver (Johnny Knox) slipped and fell while running his route.

The most relevant portion of this article is at the end: "As bad as Chicago’s line played at the end of the season, there is some cause for optimism up front. Carimi will come back next year and could be a big upgrade at tackle, Louis can move inside where he belongs, and perhaps best of all, Mike Martz is gone. The Tsar of the five-man protection/seven-step drop combo has been replaced by the (presumably) protection-friendly Mike Tice."

In addition to the above, Cutler will be playing instead of Josh McCown, Forte will be playing instead of Kahlil Bell, and Chris Williams will return from injury and may be in the lineup instead of J'Marcus Webb or Chris Spencer.

Cutler also will be able to get rid of the ball quicker now that the team has added big and strong WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Cutler has made no secret of the fact that he likes big WRs like Marshall and Jeffery who are "go up and get it" guys. The Bears haven't had even one such wide receiver in years. The closest thing they had last year was Roy Williams, who was a "go up and drop it" or "go up and tip it so that a DB can intercept it" guy. Marshall and Jeffery won't need to be open to be open because they can outjump and/or outmuscle DBs even when they seem to be covered.

18
by Dan :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:36pm

The Bears OL gave up a ton of pressure all season. According to data from Pro Football Focus (unfortunately behind a paywall), Bears QBs were pressured on 40% of their dropbacks (most in the NFL - average is 32%), and sacked on 23% of their pressures (23rd in the NFL - average is 19%).

Breaking this down into Cutler's first 5 games, Cutler's last 5 games, Hanie, and McCown, here's the percent of dropbacks where the QB was pressured:

38% - Cutler's first 5 games
40% - Cutler's last 5 games
41% - Hanie
41% - McCown

Pretty flat, and consistently awful.

And here's the percent of pressures where the QB was sacked:

26% - Cutler's first 5 games
7% - Cutler's last 5 games
35% - Hanie
24% - McCown

Yes, Hanie was awful. McCown was mediocre, like early-season Cutler. And in the middle there was that brief stretch before he got hurt where Cutler was doing an amazing job of getting rid of the ball (and making the line look much better than it was).

19
by Jimmy :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:49pm

I don't trust PFF, I don't think they know what they are talking about. The numbers don't seem to demonstrate that the line was significantly awful the way you seem to think they do either. An 8% difference in dropback pressure is probably three snaps a game - that could easily be a result of Martz' unique approach to offense, you know the 'Who needs blockers?' approach. The numbers seem to indicate that when Cutler was playing the Bears gave up a low pressure to sack ratio.

The first five games also contain the period when Carimi got hurt and Omiyale got put in, that really can't help and the line stablilised and played better with a guard playing tackle rather than Gate68.

PFF don't seem to realise that football is a holistic game. For example, I would nominate Earl Bennett's return as the biggest reason why Cutler was able to start getting rid of the ball; he was the only receiver on the team who could pick up the hot routes.

34
by Dan :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 3:38pm

These numbers are pretty straightforward. I can see why you might have doubts about PFF's grading, but this was just counting. All they had to do was watch every play and mark down for each:

- was it a passing play (yes or no)
- was the quarterback pressured (yes or no)
- was the quarterback sacked (yes or no)

There's some judgment involved (what counts as a pressure?), but since it was the same people watching every play for every team, I think they probably have a pretty consistent standard which should make the numbers pretty reliable for comparing teams.

Interpreting what the numbers mean is trickier, and that's up to us (not PFF). I think the consistency with which they've allowed pressure is telling (and it suggests that we can learn plenty about the OL from a McCown game). And their bad ranking at pressure rate matches both what I saw when I watched the games and their numbers in various other stats (like sacks) over the past couple years. The biggest problem, I think, is that their offensive linemen (especially their tackles) have been bad at pass blocking.

There have been some other problems too. The backup QBs have contributed to the problem (especially Hanie), but that's not the main issue because they've had plenty of trouble when Cutler was playing. Losing Earl Bennett might have made things worse, but they've been pretty bad when Bennett was playing. Some games (like Seattle 2010) have been disasters because they didn't know what to be about blitzers, but a lot of their trouble has come in games where their blockers just got beat. Martz's system might have been part of the problem, but it's not like they're sending 5 guys out on routes every play - the Martz Bears have actually kept in more blockers than most teams (at least in 2010; I haven't seen the 2011 stats anywhere).

35
by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:05pm

"I think they probably have a pretty consistent standard which should make the numbers pretty reliable for comparing teams."

Or they get biased. Oh look it's the Bears, in games 2-4 they sucked, they probably still suck. See Cutler had to step up in the pocket there, hurry.

36
by Jimmy :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:18pm

Do they bother to count how long a QB has held onto the ball. For my mind there should be a place on the charting sheet for pressures or sacks caused by the QB not doing his job. The Bears got (sacks/pass attempt) of .073 before Cutler got hurt (despite some Omiyale shaped problems early in the year) which would have been just a bit below league average.

38
by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:23pm

"Omiyale shaped problems"

I hope to somehow include this phrase in my everyday life.

40
by Dan :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:43pm

PFF does take the length of time into account in their grading (and the Bears' OL graded badly - the team was 31st in pass blocking grade), but they don't have any statistic where they report it on its own.

J.J. Cooper here at Football Outsiders keeps data on sack timing, and he reported here that Cutler and Hanie were both quick-sacked well above the league average rate. On average, 1.8% of all dropbacks resulted in a QB sack taking under 2.5 seconds; on Cutler dropbacks that number was 3.1% and with Hanie it was 4.7%. Cutler was better than average at avoiding medium-length and slow sacks, but Hanie was awful at that.

43
by Jimmy :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:54pm

That still doesn't tell you what happened or why it happened. Should there have been an open hot read that the receiver didn't spot? Was it a lineman at fault or did another blocker not pick up a blitzer? Is this more a result of the Bears' refusal to use the shotgun? Is the QB keeping the defensive front guessing with his cadence?

Also the sample sizes on sacks under 2.5 seeconds are tiny. No the Bears' line wasn't great (I don't think anyone is claiming it is) but at least one of those sacks was Ronde Barber making possibly the best defensive play ever when he timed the snap perfectly and was in the backfield tackling Cutler before he had taken a step from under center (if tackling the QB within half a second doesn't get in the discussion I don't know what does). That one sack is enough to shift the number by 10%. Tiny sample sizes that moving to the shotgun when they want to pass might mitigate (it'll be interesting to see if it makes the difference FO argue it does, the Bears haven't used it much for years).

45
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:06pm

Pff's numbers, while they should not be treated as the final word for anything, provides a useful guide in general for a player and his performance. one can conjure up a million different situations where its difficult to interpret cause and effect of a sack or hurry, but the fact is, just about every stat site seems to agree with the consensus that the bears o line is lousy.

Its one thing to wonder about pff's numbers, its quite another to just assume they are wrong because of random situations.

75
by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 10:59am

They aren't random situations they are gaping holes in PFF's methodology. Everyone who says they like PFF says they like the fact that they grade every player. None of them seem concerned about how they grade every player, just that they do it. It is barely above pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey as far as football analysis goes. Grading a line without looking at QB, WR and RB play is beyond pointless, it is willfully ignoring serious problems with your approach simply to try to come up with something to put on a spreadsheet and write articles about. I might feel differently if they had All22 tape but they don't (and I am fairly sure that PFF's existence is the reason why we will now never get it, I suspect coaches and front office men hate it).

78
by rageon :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 11:15am

Nobody is saying their ranking are infallible.

Their numbers help. Some information is better than no information.

But to say they are "beyond pointless" would be as short-sighted as someone accepting them without also considering their shortcomings.

80
by Jimmy :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 11:57am

And if everyone treated this information as such and never quoted their rankings to 'prove' something then you would probably see a milder response from me. I do think PFF is somewhat dishonest intelectually and in how it represents itself and its 'findings'. A lot of people question FO's research but everything FO writes is far better qualified and avoids explicit statements that exagerrate the importance of what they do. PFF mentions no caveats to its methods or results, that isn't just a lack of subtlety but a failure to properly understand the limitations their own methods (or demonstrative of a willingness to ignore them, which would be worse). Too many people think it is statistical analysis (it really isn't) and use to to deflect properly observed criticisms (or vice versa).

Some information is better than no information.

I entirely disagree with this. Incorrect information can be way worse than none.

26
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 2:17pm

Those stats show that Cutler was better able to get rid of the ball but don't reveal why. Was it better blocking? Was it receivers adjusting to hot routes? Or was it that Lovie Smith and Mike Tice had staged their annual intervention to force Martz to run plays with hot routes, fewer seven step drops and more conventional route combinations? Maybe throwing the odd running play in too.

37
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:19pm

It might have been hot routes, but it seemed much of it was Cutler finding his inner Good Favre and making a lot of semi-miraculous sack-avoiding last-second passes that turned out to be successful. I know he spent much of the first Lions game with a fine view of the ceiling of Ford Field and kept completing passes despite the generally toreador-like nature of the offensive line.

42
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:46pm

I was really trying to refer to the entire play design rather than just the availability of hot routes. For example, Martz is famous for his love of deep passing plays that are designed to break open a hole in the pass coverage deep down the field using multiple deep receivers ie; running a big-4 under two fly routes or the famous 585 hook play that Don Coyrell made famous. Many offensive coordinators call more plays that are designed to attack shorter areas of the defense, such as the underneath spacing routes the Pats and Saints use, or even the more conventional play design where each play will have a first read, a second read and then a designated outlet. Not Mad Mike, spacing concepts are for wimps and why would anyone want seven yards when you can have thirty five in one play?

What I'm trying to suggest is that I think it's possible that the inner Good Favre could have been awakened by the availability of a better options in the play design.

69
by LionInAZ :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 10:49pm

The story at the time was that Cutler called out the coaches to figure out some way to keep the pressure off him, and supposedly cutting down on the number of long dropbacks. I don't know exactly how things worked out because I didn't see that many Bears games, and the second Lions game wasn't much of a test because Cutler only threw 19 times.

If the 1st Lions game was any indication, though, Cutler was spending a lot of time scrambling away from pressure.

76
by Steve in WI :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 11:02am

The Philly game was another one where Cutler made the offensive line look infinitely better than they were.

3
by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:06pm

I'm confused about the reference to the centre "calling his own number". Could you explain that a bit more? Is it that the centre looks how the D is lined up and works out whether only the guard pulls, or he pulls as well (if there's no nose tackle or something)? And interior linemen like to pull, because it gives them an opportunity to take on a linebacker (or even better, a safety), rather than having to fight a big DT? And therefore some Centers, and Kevin Mawae is known for doing this, could be biased towards making the line call that allows the center to get out and block the linebacker, leaving someone else with the D-lineman?

On your review of Williams, do you think part of his weakness on inside moves is that he's a former tackle, so is more used to working on outside moves? Is that the sort of thing that's correctable? I mean, I would generally have thought that dealing with inside moves is more down to technique and power and dealing with outside moves is more to do with speed (and technique), but then thinking about it, that only seems to work when thinking about an OT.

Oddly, I remember deciding to watch Webb for one game early in the season agaisnt an elite edge rusher (Gamepass' condensed option which makes the game only take 20 minutes to watch helped with this) and came away thinking he was actually pretty ok. So I thought that maybe his problem was more with Allen's specific power, rather than generally not being very good.

But then my memory told me this was against the Cowboys and DeMarcus Ware, but they don't appear to have played the Cowboys this season, and I can't really see any elite edge rushers that Webb would've been up against early in the season apart from Allen himself in week 6.

On reflection I'm not sure what the point of me writing this out was. That I think maybe I saw Webb early in the season and thought he was ok, but I can't really remember the details? Actually, that might be the most positive review that he gets - he wasn't so bad that I remember it!

6
by Ben Muth :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:13pm

The best way to get noticed as an offensive lineman on the broadcast is to pull or give up a sack. Mawae was a very good player who made a name for himself as being a center that could pull effectively. As he got on in years it seemed Mawae pulled a ridiculous amount compared to every other center, especially considering he wasn't that good at it anymore. I know some of his o-line peers and opposing coaches thought he would pull any chance he got regardless of how the defense was aligned.

Some of the criticism could have been jealousy (everyone likes to pull, because you block a smaller guy and get noticed) but I've definitely heard players joke about it more than once.

113
by LionInAZ :: Sat, 05/12/2012 - 9:57pm

I had to laugh at the commentary on Garza and Spencer, considering the irony that Garza is a former guard now playing center (and apparently can't pull), while Spencer was the Seahawks' starting center before coming to the Bears, and is now playing guard.

8
by Jimmy :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:16pm

Wrong Williams, this one is Edwin not Chris.

9
by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:19pm

Lovie implied that Chris Williams is moving to swing tackle this year. Which one hand I think is sad because I never thought he was that bad, and he keeps getting moved around and now essentially benched. On the other hand, I think this will make the team a lot better because we'll finally have a backup tackle who isn't horribly flawed in some way.

21
by Jimmy :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:51pm

I just don't think they want to commit to anything. Tice will do his usual thing of play the best five linemen and let it work itself out in camp. Emery has no attachment to Williams either so he has no draft pedigree to protect himself.

5
by John Walt :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:09pm

How about the Atlanta Falcons? I don't think they were stellar, but adequate. I'd like to know your thoughts...

10
by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:35pm

Tice has always had a strong tendency to be Gibbsian in his approach to qb protection. That's why Dennis Green hired him to be an assistant back in the mid 90s; Green decided he wanted to meld the approach of Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs, and that meant getting an assistant, hopefully one who had spent time in Washington, whose first principal was that the qb WILL be comfortable. I'll be shocked if we don't see that philosophy on display in Chicago this autumn. He may not have the personnel to execute exactly how he wants, but I think he'll keep eight guys in, and run three step drops, before he allows Cutler to get pounded like a piece of veal scallopini.

Ben, how many centers have you seen in the league now that are stout enough to not be overpowered by a good nose tackle, one on one, and athletic enough to pull effectively? It strikes me as being extremely rare, and when a team gets a center like that, the job of offensive coordinator becomes massively easier.

107
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 05/11/2012 - 9:57am

Are there any centers powerful enough not to be overwhelmed one-on-one by the best nose tackles, period? I remember watching the 2005 playoffs and thinking Casey Hampton was the clear-cut player of the post-season as he utterly destroyed Saturday, Nalen and Tobeck in consecutive games.

11
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:44pm

I was referred to a piece at the (not reliable) "rotoworld" rating the offensive lines 1-32, and was sent into peals of laughter at the idea of Pittsburgh in the top third.

How about Denver? they're thought of as a very good if not elite unit, and will obviously be pass blocking more this year than they did in 2011. Unless I miss my guess, personnel should be about the same, so watching 2011 tape should be more useful than in a place where there are multiple rookies or new players.

13
by dryheat :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:48pm

I'm pretty sure Ben already did Denver. My recollection is that they're a center away from having a really, really, good O line.

12
by dryheat :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 12:48pm

I’ve decided not to draw this play up in the same spirit as the general sports media policy of not showing fans who run on the field

Beautifully done. Thank you.

27
by pound4pound (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 2:35pm

+1. That was a fantastic line.

14
by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:04pm

Hey Ben,

You held off on your draft scout reports of your Stanford brethren, which is understandable, I suppose. But since the Dolphins drafted Jonathan Martin can you post his here? He's got to at least be better than Columbo, right?

Fire Jeff Ireland.

15
by Dan :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:27pm

I'm excited about Edwin Williams - I think he may be the Bears' best offensive lineman (not exactly a high bar to cross). It's good to see that someone who actually knows what he's talking about is also high on him. And if they're really moving Chris Williams out to tackle, that means that they might E. Williams might actually get to start.

17
by Jimmy :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:35pm

Whenever I watch E.Williams I wonder what the fuss is about. He gets way more help from team mates than some of the Bears line's regular whipping boys and gets amost zero movement in the run game. Well there's my tuppence anyhoo.

23
by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:58pm

I'm most excited about the right side of the line, which I expect to be Louis and Carimi. I think they're both going to be solidly above average.

20
by Insancipitory :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:50pm

Part of me wishes the film up for examination was the first Lions game where Cutler was secretly replaced with a stunt performer under the direction of Yen Wu Ping. But a part of me recognizes that for all it's heroic futility, the man who gave his life for those action sequences probably didn't want to be remembered that way.

22
by Jimmy :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:56pm

Watching that game I thought Cutler was going to beat the Lions on his own but it turns out that no matter how well a QB plays if his pass catchers can't catch it doesn't matter.

24
by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 1:59pm

Somewhere Donovan McNabb nods knowingly.

25
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 2:11pm

I'm a big fan of this column but I don't think that a review of the Cutlerless Bears fending off Jared Allen is the most fair representation of what they're capable of. Wouldn't a look at their line play from their stronger midseason stretch be more revealing as to whether or not their front office was right that their offensive line really has the potential to play at an average to above average level without drafting a bunch of linemen?

30
by Marko :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 3:15pm

Completely agree.

77
by Steve in WI :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 11:09am

Well, Cutler helped the O-line out quite a bit at midseason; one could argue that examining their play without him is actually more representative from a talent/potential standpoint. That said, I agree with you about the Vikings-Bears game in particular, where both teams had been eliminated from the playoffs and Allen was gunning for the sack record. As much as Lovie likes to say that winning that game set the Bears up at 1-0 in 2012 (ugh), I have to think both teams were dialing it in to some degree.

28
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 2:50pm

Im very interested in how NE's o line grades. Its also a wonderful exercise in trying to figure out how much of a boon a good offensive line might be for Ne. The weird thing is. On the other hand, i tend to also feel they are overrated as well, especially on the edges, but their interior seems pretty good.

Im glad ben illustrated the chicago futility because once again, it shows just how much offensive success is more than just a qb. Cutler was a top 5 qb in denver and has been a shadow of himself since arriving in chicago. The media would have you believe he's a petulant baby who lacks the inner fortitude to win. Forgetting his pathetic receiving core for a moment, this horrendous o line should be further proof that no one can play effectively at qb when your blockers flat out suck. There im done.

31
by Marko :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 3:22pm

"The media would have you believe he's a petulant baby who lacks the inner fortitude to win."

After seeing how horribly the offense performed after Cutler's injury, the media story now is that Cutler is an outstanding quarterback who has matured and was able to succeed despite a poor line, a weak receiving corps and a stubborn offensive coordinator who seemed hell bent on getting his QB killed. The media story also is that Caleb Hanie sucks.

44
by Eddo :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:56pm

This is true. The two players whose public perception improved the most this past season were Eli Manning and Jay Cutler.

46
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:13pm

I still don't quite buy the fact that the media perception of cutler has improved. Don't underestimate how much the narrative of, "well caleb hanie just sucks" is used to explain the bears offense.

I also think peyton manning's reputation improved this season. People seemed to want to compare his numbers to other great qbs as if they played in a vacuum. The fact that they were so appalling without him probably helped his legacy more than another 30+ td season would have otherwise.

As for eli, this is probably just me, but he went from being an underrated qb to one of the most overrated qbs in the league. Opinions were mixed before the playoffs and now hes talked about as an elite qb with hall of fame credentials. Amazing. I know he won 2 sb mvps and has 2 rings and hes a very good qb, but i think if people are honest with themselves, is eli really better than Philip Rivers? Is he better than big ben? Hell, what makes him necessarily better than say tony romo? Sure romo has had his typical flameouts, but people forget so has eli. Many of the giants wins in the playoffs have actually come when their offense wasn't exactly lighting it up either and the defense was forcing turnovers and sacks. Now i happen to think eli is better than romo, but its not as much as i think the general media believes.

47
by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:18pm

Performance is not static, Eli the past 4 years is not the same as Eli before then.

48
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:29pm

so do you think eli right now is better than rivers or ben?

52
by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:40pm

Yes. Now, that isn't a guarantee he'll be better in 2012, but that's where I'd put my money. I think Roethlisberger has a very good chance of experiencing a significant decline; aging or new teammates equals a team which relies on qb more, in this case a qb noted for hanging onto the ball a long time, in order to make plays, in the context of having to play catch-up more often. I don't think he is a guy who is effective deep into his 30s. Rivers also has a significant injury history, and is going to be working with a rebuilt o-line. I would be surprised if Manning is not significantly better over the next five years.

54
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:43pm

Ah, fine, i agree with you actually on both counts. I think eli's style is far more conducive to long term success and late career than rivers' and almost certainly big ben's. Still, i believe if you inserted rivers instead of eli, barring all the myriad of little factors that change, but just off raw passing production, the giants would improve.

99
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 7:30pm

I think both Eli and Tony Romo are meaningfully and perhaps obviously better than Ben and at least more consistent, if not actually better, than Rivers. Does that count?

49
by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:31pm

And the past year was off the charts good, no matter what the stats say about other qbs being superior. Anybody who didn't understand by December how formidable the Giants would be, if they made the playoffs, in large measure due to the speed of Manning's decisionmaking, and the accuracy of his throws, just wasn't watching him closely enough.

50
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:35pm

im not suggesting eli isn't a very good qb. He is. And yes, the giants were a very formidable opponent and probably the most balanced team of any team in the postseason-dvoa be damned. Still, his receivers are arguably the best in the league and yet the passing offense isn't elite. Sure, o line is part of it, so is tom coughlin's crazy insistence on running the ball even when it doesn't work, but again, i feel like the perception is eli is in the same class as brady, rodgers, brees, and his brother when i don't think hes better than rivers right now.

53
by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:43pm

Put Manningham and Nicks on different team and I guarantee the perception of their level of talent changes. Eli makes them look better than they are, no matter how good they are. Just consider Steve Smith - he didn't look like he even belonged on the field in an NFL game last year in Philly, He looked like their 5th best receiver and not even in the class of Riley freakin' Cooper. He was arguably the worsy WR I've seen start for the Eagles since Reid took over, not nearly as good as James Thrash or Todd Pinkston, probably not even Freddy Mitchell. That's a guy who made the Pro Bowl with Eli throwing him the ball.

I'd even go so far as to say that Eli's line calls and audibles make the RB's look better than they are. Look at Ward on the Bucs or the fact that they can plug in virtually anybody at RB since Eli took over. I will guarantee Jacobs disappoints this year. Eli's got his problems as a QB, but he's also one of the best in the league at a few (very important) things.

55
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:47pm

i understand the argument, but i don't fully buy it for a number of reasons. Manningham might be a product of eli and the rest of the talent, but cruz became the focal pt of bb's defense for a reason. Watching cruz, he's absolutely a real deal talent and so is nicks. Manningham is probably not a great starting receiver, but makes a very good third receiver than actually run deep and medium routes.

Your steve smith argument isn't totally conclusive either. Steve smith went to a completely different offensive style than what he's use to and on top of that, got hurt. I could make the ridiculous claim that asamough was being overrated by the raiders since he was an all pro with them and an absolute failure with the eagles...is that more likely or a matter of scheme change? Steve smith to me is a possession style receiver and mike vick is hardly the type of qb that uses such receivers well.

Again, i think eli is very good and does so many things well. I just don't think he's elite and people act like he is.

64
by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 8:35pm

I'm not arguing about Cruz - he's the real deal, no doubt about it. But I've never been impressed by Nicks, who has a tendency to lose mental focus, drop balls and blow routes. If Chad Henne were throwing to him, you wouldn't think "wow, what an athlete, what a player, if only he had a good QB out there with him!" You'd probably say "man, those Dolphins sure have lousy luck with WR's." He disappears at the worst moments.

And let me be clear about Smith: he was not mediocre, he was abominable. Blame whoever you want and I do know he was injured, but the guy did not look practice-squad caliber, let alone Pro Bowl caliber. Also, Vick has a great rapport and steady success with Jason Avant, the Eagles' possession guy... for whatever it's worth. (And I don't think the claim that Asomugha is over-rated is so outlandish - I've actually made the argument here on FO that I'm not sure he wasn't a little bit the product of hype playing for Raiders team no on watched where QB's could easily avoid even testing him because everyone else on the defense was terrible. I think all the "scheme-change!" talk is blown out of proportion and an excuse for a guy who simply got burned and embarrassed in several games... when he wasn't playing out of position or in any strange scheme.)

Eli is elite by just about any standard - I guess you should define your terms for elite. If it's Top 3 in the league, it's not a slam-dunk, but you could make a case. If it's Top 5, then without a doubt he is if we're talking purely 2011. I think he's absolutely elite at his pre-snap reads and calls, for his understanding of the game and even his strong arm. He's also unflappable, which is a hard thing to quantify, but he has a history of playing great late in close games. For a variety of reasons, I wish he played for the Eagles and there's certainly few QB's I feel that way about...

56
by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:48pm

The Giants receivers were not a terrific bunch until the end of the year. Let's put it this way; if you put Drew Brees on the Giants roster, he would significantly underperform Eli Manning, and Eli Manning would step onto the Saints, and the Saints offense would not decline, after a familiarization process. In fact, if Brees had been the qb in the NFCCG for the Giants, the Niners win comfortably. I think Tom Brady is great. I also think the Giants ask Eli Manning to make harder throws than what Brady is usually called to do for the Patriots.

57
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:55pm

we're kind of all over the place.

I should start i this way. Good and even elite qbs all have a mix of skills that are maximized in some schemes and weak in others. Yes, brees imo relies so much on the screen and half back short game to open up those deep and medium routes. Part of it are his receivers aren't great but he makes up for it with mismatches in graham and sproles. Still, the giants have neither so putting him on the giants would make them worse.

Eli on other hand lacks brees' consistent accuracy. Eli is strange in that sense. he can make otherworldly throw one second and then miss some very basic throws in the next(the superbowl had plenty of examples of both). The point i really wanted to make was, bundling all of elis skills currently and using my own admittedly subjective opinion of the talent that surrounds him and the playcalling, i think hes right near the top but not quite there.

Finally- tom brady is the most frustrating example of rating a qb. As a thrower, i absolutely don't think hes anything special. I saw a stat that showed how much his ypa plummeted when making any throw longer than 10 yards. Take out the ones thrown to gronk and it goes down even further. Couple that with the fact that he plays in an offense that maximizes the easiest throws to make and i feel his raw numbers frankly paint a completely wrong picture of the type of qb he is. On the other hand, hes deadly throwing short, incredibly patient, and sees the field extremely well. WE blame people like smith and carr for feeling the pressure and hurrying their throws, but brady is the master at avoiding that.

I guess it really comes down to how you value certain attributes.

58
by Independent George :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 6:36pm

I think the difficulty in gauging Eli is that his skill set is, frankly, a little odd. His deep accuracy is brilliant, but his short and medium accuracy is only average. Every QB is more accurate at closer ranges, but Eli's curve seems much flatter and shallower than most other passers. Together with his pocket presence and mobility, I'd rate Eli's deep game higher than anyone save Rodgers. At the same time, though, every game seems to include 3-4 completely baffling throws at point blank range.

I don't get it, but that's how he seems to play.

65
by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 8:38pm

I should have read this more closely first before I posted: if you have complaints about Tom Brady's game, then there's no argument here. Rating Tom Brady is easy: he's the best or second best of his generation. There's nothing frustrating about it. If you have qualms about Brady (or even Brees), then there's really nothing to be said.

66
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 8:51pm

There are really two working points. Do you believe tom brady gets most of his production off short throws? And then, do you believe throwing short is easier than throwing more difficult passes? And finally, if tom brady were inserted onto a different team and forced to adapt to a style opposed to short, would he succeed and how well?

One criteria i often use to judge qbs is how they would do if they were inserted on the chicago bears. Now granted, this isn't a great way to measure how great a qb is because it overvalues some attributes at the expense of others, but still, its always a fun exercise.

And imo, brady would struggle the most of any elite qb. Interestingly, so would too i think drew brees, who saw a percipitous drop in dvoa when his runningbacks got injured in 2010.

Thats partly why im so favorable to P. Manning. In 2010 his receivers got hurt, his o line was fairly poor, his running game was terrible and his defense was bad and yet their passing dvoa was still better than the sb winning gb passing game.

81
by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 1:45pm

Come on, man, I'm with Will - you're over-estimating your (and anybody's) ability to judge a player's ability in some linear way that jumps from a tier of "no, he's really good" to "elite" and then getting caught up in these kinda insane "what if" scenarios. Right now, you're throwing me an argument that Brady wouldn't be elite if he played for the Bears that is based on a) subjective speculation about things that will never happen b) an extremely subjective and very easily disputed analysis of Tom Brady c) an analysis of the Bears o-line that matches conventional wisdom d) ideas about how RB injuries would affect Brady's effectiveness. It's just... there's so much that can't even be argued because it's going into such weird speculative places - if there's any dispute that maybe Brady wouldn't be elite on some other team, there's just nothing to be said, there's no way to convince you of Eli's worth because your reasoning meanders so far from any provable reality and relies so heavily on subjective opinions that cut sharply against the general consensus. Good luck with that, but if we're just going subjective, I'd take Brady, Brees or Eli on my team any day of the week, regardless of RB injuries, route schemes or supporting cast.

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by AJ (not verified) :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 4:18pm

you're probably right on and i did say its subjectively mine and its not something i believe regardless of whatever.

Actually, if theres one point i want to hammer its this: No one knows how to separate scheme and talent surrounding the qb from actual stats. The problem i have is the perception of eli before the sb and now after is so warped and nearly everyone attributes ALL of the offensive success to him. Is that really true? And no one can point to any numbers to say definitely yes it was all eli.

The reason we got into opinions in the first place(not that i think there's anything necessarily wrong with opinions) was because will said forget numbers, my eyes say eli has gotten much better. I can't argue with that just like you can't definitely say what im saying is incorrect. As for brady, it was yes a hypothetical, but the numbers do bear out that brady throws and gets more of his production of short passing and high YAC than any qb in the league. And btw, i think advanced football stats once ran a study showing theres no correlation between passer rating or whatever qb stat you want to measure and YAC. I think brady is great, no question, but this fact never seems to get mentioned and one has to wonder what would happen if brady were thrown in a more conventional offense. The only other evidence i can point to is matt cassel has never come close to repeating the effectiveness he showed in ne with the chiefs. That isn't coincidence

101
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 7:50pm

"The only other evidence i can point to is matt cassel has never come close to repeating the effectiveness he showed in ne with the chiefs. That isn't coincidence."

It also isn't true.

2008 NE: 327 of 516 (63%) for 3700-21-11, with an NFL leading 47 sacks behind the offensive line that made Brady look like a statue for seven seconds every play the year before.
2010 KS: 262 of 450 (58%) for 3100-27-7, with only 26 sacks, and a higher adjusted nyd/a according to PFR (6.6 versus 6.0 in 2009). Y/A for each year: 7.2 dropping to 6.9 in Kansas. QB rating a few points higher in 2010.

Of course you can't pull an Eli-Only statistic out of the Giants offense. But you can watch Mario Manningham dip his hands in 30-weight motor oil before the game, and watch Jake Ballard get outrun by a fat guy chasing the beer vendor, and draw your own conclusions.

108
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 05/11/2012 - 10:13am

I'd seriously consider taking Romo, Roethlisberger or Cutler over Brady or Brees for a team with awful supporting talent. There are no circumstances in which I'd consider taking one of them ahead of a Manning, or Rodgers.

But obviously, how a quarterback performs with awful supporting talent is not all there is to how good a quarterback is, by any stretch of the imagination. Swapping Brady for Roethlisberger, or Brees for Eli, would in my opinion be very likely to make both teams worse.

67
by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 9:53pm

Well, first of all, when it gets to the point that we are saying that quarterback x is in the top 7, but not in the top 5, we are entirely overrating our ability to make fine delineations in value. When I evaluate a guy, I try to make a judgement as to how good a guy would be in a variety of situations. The reason I say Tarkenton may have been the best ever is because he was historically great with terrible teammates for about the first 2/3 of his long career, for two different franchises, and great when he was well past his physical prime, when he had great teammates, for his third head coach. I think Drew Brees is great. I also think his performance is more dependent on good offensive line play than any of the other qbs we debate being elite.

I also think a lot of people, when evaluating the Eli Manning of 2012, have the Eli Manning of 2007 on their mind. This guy's mental game is just historically great right now, but it may take a couple more years like 2011 for people to fully bury memories of early career Eli Manning.

71
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 11:05pm

I like eli. I really feel like you guys are pitting me into the eli manning is trash camp. I think hes very good and i think he will only get better too. Still, for whatever reason, i just feel hes getting way too much credit. His receivers are among the best in the league- greg cosell has mentioned how nicks is a manbeater, x iso that literally can beat anyone man to man and cruz is an absolute mismatch in the slot and is capable of running a complete route tree. I feel none of this is getting mentioned and guess what? as jay cutler showed, as manning showed, as tom bradys injury has shown, talent around you helps you look better, absence of talent makes you look worse. To write the giants success offensively as eli improving is frankly lazy.

72
by Will Allen :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 11:21pm

Please detail why it is lazy to describe what is plainly true, that Eli Manning is a significantly better qb than he was a few years ago.

Yes, when healthy, the Giants receivers are quite good. No, they were not especially healthy in 2011.

If you want to say the guy gets too much credit, go right ahead. The guy I saw was really damned good, and I don't worry too much about really damned good players getting too much credit.

95
by AJ (not verified) :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 4:22pm

the only reason its lazy is because everyone keeps pointing to raw numbers or even dyar and dvoa as a measure of how good an individual player is. That is simply wrong. Again, run a correlation on qb dyar or dvoa against a teams pass dvoa and you get over 90 percent correlation- implying qb is all that matters for passing dvoa. Even if you were the biggest qb is god type of fan, you should have a hard time believing a passing offense is 90 percent qb. Its fine if you believe the giants secretly have mediocre receivers and its all eli, but i think theres really no evidence to suggest that other than opinion and thats why i think its lazy. To have such a view, there has to be some evidence to back that claim up in some way.

96
by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 4:33pm

Would you please refrain from misrepresenting what I've written? I explcitly have wrotten that it is a mistake to use stats as a proxy for individual performance. I did not say the Giants receivers were mediocre. I said they were unhealthy for signficant periods in 2011. This happens to be true. Really, it is pretty ironic for you to be tossing abou the "lazy" label in this fashion.

97
by AJ (not verified) :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 4:36pm

Sorry, it was wrong of me. I didn't mean to misrepresent what you said, honestly. And lazy was a poor choice of words, it wasn't aimed at you but just what people generally do with this sort of thing.

98
by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 4:47pm

Ok, all is forgotten. I shall not curse your name to the Gods of Football!

105
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 05/10/2012 - 6:11pm

As of 2011 (Hence no P. Manning, who would be in the top three):

1. Aaron Rodgers, and not close.
2-3. Brees, Brady. (Within their offenses, which I admit protect them more than Rodgers' or either Mannings', they were historically good in 2011. Brady has three of the ten or (after 2011) twelve most impressive QB statistical seasons in the history of the NFL just since 2007.)
4-5. Eli Manning, Tony Romo (Romo's Y/A is always consistently good. He just plays in a division with Eli Manning).
6-7. Rivers, Stafford.

106
by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/10/2012 - 6:18pm

That for throwing more subjective, arguable opinions into a thread derailed by it.

62
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 7:04pm

I don't think that your Brees/Eli comparison holds water. For one, your impression of Eli would probably be quite different if the 49er defenders hadn't collided trying to pick off two awful throws in the NFC Championship game. Brees lit up the 49ers the week before but the turnovers favoured the Giants in ways that had nothing to do with Manning.

63
by AJ (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 7:24pm

Saying brees "lit up" the 49ers defense is clearly looking at nominal stats rather than what really happened. For one, he threw an absurd 63 times for a game anya of 6.38, way below his season avg of 8.1. Not too mention, an average teams gets about 10 drives a game, No ended up with 14 drives.

And finally, two of his tds came off the broken play variety when sproles and graham essentially broke tackles and ran for long tds. Brees was playing aGAINst a really strong D and he certainly outplayed eli, but he really didn't "light up" the 49ers.

74
by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:47am

Good grief, Manning had to throw 58 times, in the face of hellacious pressure. I remember the two bad throws very well; I was shocked it was only two. Brees can't play as well when he gets pressured like that. Justin Smith was fought to a draw in the game against the Saints. He crushed Diehl like a Dixie Cup when the Giants came to town.

68
by milo :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 10:42pm

Eli is taller than Drew and has two rings to Drew's one (to your Precious' none).
Is there some other statistic you can cite that would indicate that Drew would "significantly under-perform" Eli?

DVOA - nope. DYAR - nope. Completion % - nope. Y/C - nope. YPA - nope. AYA - nope. NYA - nope. Interception rate - nope. TD rate - nope. Sack Rate - nope. W/L record - nope. Fumble rate - nope. QB rating - nope.

If Brees had been the qb in the NFCCG for the Giants, the Niners don't win, they lose worse. Brees with a semblance of a defense (much less the Giants actual defense) is scary good.

73
by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:41am

Please remember that stats don't measure qb play. They measure offensive play. The Saints have a good to excellent offensive line. The Giants offensive line is average to bad. Short qbs behind bad offensive line play is not a formula for success.

84
by milo :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:05pm

Stats do measure qb play. That is their purpose. They don't do it in a vacuum. Do the stats provided by Football Outsiders for offensive line play back up your assessment? The answer is just a few clicks away.

85
by tuluse :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:10pm

Stats measure production, not skill or degree of difficulty.

88
by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:30pm

Uh, no they don't. As Aaron has said, with regard to his stats, they measure how a qb has performed in conjunction with how his teammates have performed. That isn't the same thing as measuring qb play.

The offensive line stats do the same thing, they measure offensive performance, just through a different prism.

91
by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:39pm

Also, I'll throw in that the FO advanced line stats are highly dubious anytime they diverge from clear, measurable things like "% of stuffed plays" or "# of blockers."

But, Will is right - Aaron is very explicit about the whole "this guy handing off to this back playing behind this line" intent of even the individual stats.

82
by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 1:49pm

IS this what the conversation has devolved to? Who's better: Eli or Brees? They're both great, they've both had massive success in their careers, they both are objectively among the 25 best people at their job in the entire world - gimme some criteria for "elite" and we can see which players meet it.

89
by Will Allen :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:33pm

Oh, I agree. They are both great. My stated preference was on a very narrow basis; between two great qbs, I will tend to take the guy who is significantly taller, because when o-line doesn't perform well, that extra height is really valuable.

90
by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:36pm

What if the taller QB is Drew Bledsoe? (just joking with ya.)

109
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 05/11/2012 - 10:21am

Again, I'm pretty sure if you swapped them round both teams would get worse.

100
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 7:38pm

The Giants' receivers were league average at best this past season:

1. Jake Ballard is a blocking tight end, miscast in the Giants offense because they had no one else.
2. Hakeem Nicks is a decent but not dominant NFL #1 receiver. He's good, but he's no Brandon Marshall, let alone Andre/Calvin Johnson.
3. Victor Cruz is a try-hard guy who is very good out of the slot. He's like 85% of Jordy Nelson.
4. Mario Manningham is Jeremy Maclin or Steve Smith (not the Carolina one) except he's a version with hands coated in unsalted butter.

Compared to Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New England, or even Houston, this is not impressive.

102
by tuluse :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 7:50pm

I think the problem with the Giants receivers is that they're boom or bust. They make some draw droppingly awesome plays, and then drop routing wide open hitches, and have a tendency to bat balls directly to defenders.

So they're hard to evaluate.

Also, I don't think Manningham compares to Maclin at all. He's more of a big receiver than a fast receiver. I would compare him to Malcom Floyd.

103
by AJ (not verified) :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 9:24pm

Im sorry i just don't agree with this at all. I know im about to violate my own principles here, but jake ballard put up a very good performance dyar wise for a tight end. Sure that doesn't mean hes necessarily great, but it does shows he far more than just a "blocking tight end"

Nicks was injured this year, but his numbers are actually pretty darn good and he had the best postseason both from a total perspective and from a rate perspective of any receiver not named calvin johnson.

Cruz being labeled a try hard guy is also seemingly anecdotal. His stats might be overrating him and he might very well be a one year wonder, but greg cosell has mentioned that he thinks he is one of the few receivers that can be dangerous at any route level and he said nicks is an absolute man beater, often requiring to just beat his man one v one without being schemed open.

And finally, again manningham may not be great, but as a third receiver, i think hes perfectly fine. Remember, there are lots of third receivers on teams that do absolutely nothing.

In short, you can criticize alot of things about the giants: their pathetic o line, their horrible running game, and most of all, their coaches ridiculous insistence of continuing to stay balanced even though their run game sucks, but accusing them of having mediocre receivers is really just wrong.

92
by AnonymousD (not verified) :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 3:03pm

More evidence for the side that claims Cutler's reputation has changed. I just read an article by Clark Judge. He's discussing teams that finished .500 or worse that are likely to make the playoffs. One of those teams is the Bears...

"All I know is what I saw from Cutler last season is the first time I've liked anything about the guy. He finally started playing like a quarterback instead of acting like a diva who makes bad decisions and worse throws. Maybe, just maybe, he finally gets it ... and it's about time."

29
by rageon :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 2:53pm

Excellent column; this is fast becoming one of my favorite features on Football Outsiders.

79
by rageon :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 11:16am

Also, I'm shocked that this hit 80 comments without someone using the word "DeCastro."

104
by LionInAZ :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 10:46pm

That's only because the discussion veered off into a never-never-land debate over whether Eli Manning is better than Drew Brees.

32
by D2K :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 3:30pm

Fantastic breakdown again. Since you are taking requests per se, I would love to know how you feel about my Buffalo Bills Offensive front. A unit that surrendered the fewest sacks in the league (23), and a unit that allowed both Spiller and Jackson to avg. 4.5 ypc.

Besides, my Bills never seem to get any attention hah.

33
by zenbitz :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 3:34pm

Would love to hear a break down of the Niners OL. They rate poorly by FO stats, but their LT made the Pro Bowl. Clearly the 49ers have offense issues - but it's a matter of some debate as to whether it's the line, the receivers, or that other guy with the funny name.

They are suppose to be a great run blocking team, but they run very inefficiently (but that could be because they do it too much, or their RB is flat out old and slow)

Clearly the FO thinks that if the line IS a problem, then it's too hard to correct via draft/FA because they just went out and got 3 receivers. They also tried to replace Alex Smith with Peyton Manning, but I don't think that's evidence of much.

39
by Independent George :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:41pm

I didn't see much of the Niners, but in the NFC Championship Game, it seemed to me that Smith really gets rattled under pressure. The line isn't great, but it looked to me like he makes it look worse than it really is by panicking under pressure.

41
by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 4:44pm

It looked like the receivers weren't getting open either. That can't help a QB's calmness.

51
by chemical burn :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 5:36pm

Smith also looks like he has a bit of David Carr syndrome where he was just getting hammered so much for so many years that he's causing some of his own problems in anticipation of hits and pressures that never materialize.

61
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 7:00pm

While there might be a bit of that in Smith my impression is that the 49ers were running a very basic offense last year. Even more so towards the end of the season when I had hoped that they might be expanding the envelope as a result of not having any wide receivers. Smith also seemed to be under instructions to reduce risks and minimise turnovers even if that came at the expense of sacks.

Someone higher in this nest of comments mentioned looking at the 49ers line where I think that there are some talented players who still make mental errors. It would be nice if they could really kick on after having a full offseason to install the offense properly.

The 49ers played well on defense but it wasn't as a result of schematic intricacy, they were one of the most basic defenses in the league, they were just able to win most matchups enough of the time.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 1:59pm

Yeah, that makes sense - I can believe he plays the "don't fuck up!" style of the game, which is a close cousin to the "dump it off before I get killed!" method of offensive mediocrity. I'm not sure you can ever switch that mindset off, especially so late in your career - I mean, the dude has been struggling to prove himself a viable starter for longer than some players take to make a legit HOF case for themselves. I still think the 49er's will be better off the sooner they move on from him because whatever his abilities and the short-comings of his line and WR's, he definitely has never really given us a reason to think he'll be anything better than a journeyman. I think the 49er's o-line is close enough to being great that they're better off finding a good QB to take advantage of it than it merely allowing a subpar player to stay consistently mediocre. (And I have a feeling the moment you start watching a QB with real potential play for your team, you'll rue the time wasted on Smith... if Cam Newton or even Andy Dalton were on the 49er's now, they'd be one of the Superbowl favorites.)

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by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:14pm

I'll say one thing about Alex Smith and his potential to step up his game away from his close to the chest style. Look at his performances over the last two seasons when he has been in a situation where he has had no choice but to throw caution to the wind he has actually been rather good. Against Philly a two years ago, with the Candlestick crowd baying for his blood he was outstanding apart from one fumble. He showed that same ability a few times last year, most significantly against the Saints when he was amazing at the end of the game. I'd love to know if there's a 'Happy-Medium-Smith' that is capable of controlled aggression under centre.

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by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 2:27pm

It's funny, I'm having a similar discussion about Sanchez on another thread that boils down to "I personally don't hate him as a player, but the organization really should have a plan for moving on at this point and no fan should be sad if they do." Sanchez has had a few games where they just had to throw caution to the wind (like the 2nd half of the AFCCG against the Steelers) and he's looked like a superstar in the making... but he's also got quite an impressive body of subpar-to-outright-awful work and there's no real reason to imagine he'll improve other than hope. If Smith or Sanchez was a second round pick, they wouldn't have lasted as long as they have...

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by jimbohead :: Wed, 05/09/2012 - 3:19pm

Very possible. My impression as a fan is that they've tried to move on from Smith a couple times, and just haven't found adequate replacements. JT O'Sullivan and Shaun Hill come to mind, as well as the series of 1-2 year deals that Smith has signed for a few years running. And then this last year, with the lockout, it seemed like Harbaugh just wanted someone, anyone, to whom he could hand the playbook and trust to be in camp when the lockout ended. The contract Smith just signed a little bit ago demonstrates the organization's commitment to him: 3 years at a hair under $10m/yr (lower-tier QB money), with essentially only one year guaranteed.

I will second the request for seeing the niners OL evaluated by the incomparable Mr. Muth. As an ignorant fan, I felt that the left side was solid but unspectacular (Staley made the pro bowl on reputation and general NFC tackle suckitude), but the right side was a mess. Rachal as RG was really bad, and watching Anthony Davis try to pass block against speed rushers was embarrassing.

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by zenbitz :: Fri, 05/11/2012 - 1:07pm

Smith has performed as an essentially average QB the last two years. 2011 he looked somewhat better because of the flukey/schematic low INT rate.

They actually DID try to replace him (with P. Manning!) this year, but beyond that - it's not like top 10 QBs grow on trees. In the 2011 draft Newton was taken 1st, so that's off the table. Yes, we'd be happy to have him instead of Smith.

At pick 10, the Niners too Aldon Smith.
4 QBs were picked until the Niners 2nd round pick:
Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, and right before the Niners pick - Andy Dalton.
The Niners took Colin Kapaernick, who is their current backup.

So I am not really seeing what their options were/are. None of Locker/Gabbert/Ponder seem better than Smith for the next year or two (they could easily develop better by 2014 or so, but the Niners' have the defense to compete NOW).

They certainly - with perfect hindsight - have taken Dalton over Aldon Smith, and maybe their 2012/13 squad is improved, but Aldon Smith is a pretty dang good player -- probably lots better than a pass rushing DE picked at 36, and it's probably even money that Dalton out plays Alex next year.

They clearly ARE thinking of the future because they drafted Kapaernick -- a guy who has potential but not enough to actually beat Alex Smith out of a job. And remember, starting in 2011 -- all new Coaching staff and Smith with no contract.

So without some real second guessing of the coaching/drafting staff, you can't really argue that time was being "wasted" on Smith. Singletary tried to dump Alex three times but his replacements were all worse. Harbaugh could have dumped him with no problem and stuck with him, and I kinda respect his decision making. You might as well say we "rue not picking Aaron Rodgers instead of Alex Smith". That doesn't make dumping Smith the correct move NOW (it doesn't make it NOT the correct move either)

But more interestingly - why do you say that "The 49er's o-line is close enough to being great". They certainly haven't PLAYED great. They do get talked up as a great run blocking line (but the team is mysteriously ineffective at actually running the ball) They are maybe 2 years removed from being the worst overall UNIT in the NFL (not worst LINE).

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by chemical burn :: Fri, 05/11/2012 - 1:23pm

Well, now we're getting into subjective, but I see a line that can really man-handle people and has enough raw talent to be really good. I also think they're hurt by Smith the way that all bad QB's make their line look worse than they really are. (Heck, even good ones like Vick can make their lines look bad.) While Top 10 QB's don't grow on tree is true, I think that's the kind of talk that fans justifying their team's inaction on pressing issues take. It's time to dump him and move on - a good coach doesn't sink his franchise's future to "win now" because good teams are built to exist for more than 1 year or 2. When is the last time a team built to "win now" actually won anything? All the recent Superbowl winners (and losers) were built for the long haul... except for the Cardinals. Do you really aspire to rooting for the Cardinals? To losing a Superbowl and then collapsing into flailing mediocrity?

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by zenbitz :: Fri, 05/11/2012 - 5:42pm

if we are being subjective... I see:
1) a line that can't pass protect or run block effectively
2) receivers that don't get open
3) a QB with serious accuracy issues and spotty pocket presence

I just cannot weigh these against each other. I guess what you CAN say is that IF (ignoring receiver issues) Alex is taking sacks/throwing the ball away rather than attempting low % throws that would lead to more picks, that would make the OL look worse but QB better.

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by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 6:39pm

"Williams also played fine. He’s probably Chicago’s best run blocker (neck-and-neck with Louis) and does a nice job of running his feet after contact. Williams does a nice job sitting down on bull rushes."

Is this analysis about Edwin or Chris Williams? Chris started the first 9 games, got injured, and then was replaced at Left Guard by Edwin.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 05/08/2012 - 6:45pm

This was week 17, it was Edwin.