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11 Oct 2013

Under Pressure: Miami Woes In Protection

by J.J. Cooper

If you’re looking for someone to blame in Miami's 26-23 loss to the Ravens, it would be fair to look at the Dolphins offensive tackles. Their ineptitude has been a continual theme of Miami's 2013 season.

Repeatedly in the fourth quarter last Sunday, the Dolphins pass protection let down the rest of the offense. On the Dolphins first drive of the fourth quarter, the offense was able to overcome a Terrell Suggs sack (beating left tackle Jonathan Martin) to still get a field goal.

The Dolphins defense picked up a touchdown on a Reshad Jones interception return. With a chance to take the lead on its next possession, the Dolphins were forced to punt thanks to a pair of sacks. One came when Suggs bullrushed Martin into quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the other occurred when Suggs flipped to the other side to beat right tackle Tyson Clabo.

The Ravens drove down to kick a go-ahead field goal, but the Dolphins had time for one more drive to either win or force the game into overtime.

That drive almost was stuffed before it started. Tannehill somehow managed to bail out Martin on fourth-and-10, as Elvis Dumervil drove Martin into the backfield almost immediately after the snap. Tannehill managed to dodge Dumervil, sprint to his right and somehow threw a 46-yard strike to wide receiver Brandon Gibson.

But the Dolphins offensive line blew this second chance. Dumervil drove Clabo into the backfield with yet another bullrush, then shed him to sack Tannehill for a five-yard loss. After an incomplete pass on third down (the Dolphins had perhaps unwisely spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down), kicker Caleb Sturgis was asked to kick a 57-yard field goal. There’s no guarantee Sturgis would have been successful from 52 yards out ... but his odds would have been better.

The Dolphins knew that they were going to take a hit when they let left tackle Jake Long go in free agency, but it’s been worse than they feared. Martin, a 2012 second-round pick, has given up six sacks. Clabo, signed in free agency, has been just as bad with 5.5 sacks allowed at the easier right tackle spot. For a guard, John Jerry’s three sacks allowed is also pretty ugly.

Sometimes you'll see a young quarterback drag down his offensive line by holding on to the ball too long, but don’t think that Tannehill is part of the problem. The Dolphins quarterback has been sacked in less than three seconds on 20 of the Dolphins 24 sacks. And only two of the Dolphins 24 sacks have taken longer than 3.1 seconds.

Martin has the worst sacks allowed percentage in the NFL after the first five weeks of the season. Clabo is third-worst. Guard Jerry is 16th.

No other team has three of the bottom 20, although the Steelers acquisition of Levi Brown means that Pittsburgh now has two of the bottom 10 (with Brown and Mike Adams, the player Brown is replacing).

Sacks Allowed Percentage Leaders, Through Week 5, 2013
1 MIA 71-J.Martin 6 1.95% 11 TB 70-D.Penn 3 1.13%
2 NYG 76-C.Snee 3.5 1.83% 12 CAR 69-J.Gross 3 1.09%
3 MIA 77-T.Clabo 5.5 1.79% 13 GB 62-E.Dietrich-Smith 3 1.06%
4 ARI 75-L.Brown 4.5 1.72% 14 CLE 77-J.Greco 3.5 0.99%
5 CLE 72-M.Schwartz 6 1.70% 15 STL 77-J.Long 3.5 0.99%
6 OAK 76-L.Nix 3 1.63% 16 MIA 74-J.Jerry 3 0.97%
7 NYG 65-W.Beatty 4.5 1.38% 17 SEA 68-B.Giacomini 2 0.96%
8 PIT 76-M.Adams 3.5 1.37% 18 JAC 65-W.Rackley 3 0.94%
9 PHI 65-L.Johnson 4.5 1.26% 19 NYG 72-J.Pugh 3 0.92%
10 JAC 76-L.Joeckel 4 1.25% 20 HOU 74-W.Smith 3.5 0.90%

While the Dolphins are the worst in the league in adjusted sack rate, the 31st-ranked Carolina Panthers can thank Cam Newton’s run-around tendencies for much of their problems. Left tackle Jordan Gross is the only Panthers’ offensive lineman to rank among the bottom 20 in sacks allowed. Newton ranks third-worst in long sacks (sacks of 3.2 seconds or longer), trailing only a pair of rookie quarterbacks. Newton this week came out and said that some of the Panthers sacks have been his fault. He’s not just defending his linemen; it’s true.

Quarterback Long Sack Leaders, Through Week 5, 2013
Rk Sacked Team QB Sacked Count Rk Sacked Team QB Sacked Count
1 NYJ 7-G.Smith 12 11 IND 12-A.Luck 5
2 BUF 3-E.Manuel 8 12 PIT 7-B.Roethlisberger 5
3 CAR 1-C.Newton 7 13 PHI 7-M.Vick 5
4 CLE 3-B.Weeden 7 14 JAC 11-B.Gabbert 4
5 SF 7-C.Kaepernick 7 15 BAL 5-J.Flacco 4
6 OAK 2-T.Pryor 6 16 NYG 10-E.Manning 3
7 SEA 3-R.Wilson 6 17 TEN 10-J.Locker 3
8 NO 9-D.Brees 6 18 NE 12-T.Brady 3
9 DAL 9-T.Romo 6 19 CIN 14-A.Dalton 3
10 KC 11-A.Smith 5 20 OAK 15-M.Flynn 3


Atlanta's season has turned into a disaster, but they did have a well-designed blitz against the Jets last week.

Facing an empty backfield set for the Jets, Atlanta sent what appeared to be a six-man rush. Linebacker Paul Worrilow was actually faking a blitz, but he engaged an offensive lineman before peeling off to try to buzz under any potential hot route.
That fake blitz, coming from the inside, made it hard to discern how the Jets were to block this five-man rush. Osi Umenyiora came off the edge unblocked to sack Jets quarterback Geno Smith just 1.7 seconds after the snap.


Smith got tagged with the quickest sack of the week and the longest one, as he ran around and was eventually run out of bounds seven seconds after the snap on another Falcons sack.

But while that was the longest sack of the week, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s 6.8-second sack is more noteworthy. In five years of logging sacks, I don’t know if I have seen a cleaner pocket for longer than the one Romo had on this play. Eventually it collapsed, but Romo had ages to find a receiver.

Posted by: J.J. Cooper on 11 Oct 2013

9 comments, Last at 11 Sep 2014, 5:52am by Tina K. Maye


by Robert Grebel :: Fri, 10/11/2013 - 1:33pm

This column just made me realize that Richie Incognito is Miami's second-best offensive lineman.

Oh god.

by DEW (not verified) :: Fri, 10/11/2013 - 1:48pm

As a Dolphins fan, this scares the hell out of me.

The only thing I can take any comfort in is that Jake Long, the guy they didn't bring back for megabucks, is himself on that list at 15th. (Though the splits say that Martin gives up a sack nearly twice as often as Long, a guy who is himself awful). So at least we suck on the cheap instead of sucking for a fortune. I am, however, utterly shocked at the head-in-the-sand attitude of management and coaching who went through the offseason, then through the draft, then through the preseason, (and, heck, still in the regular season if their public comments are to be believed) without acknowledging that this was an issue. The defense is decent, Tannehill has a chance to be good, the WRs are actually competent, but the line can't run-block and can't pass-block. It's such a trainwreck that I wish Ben Muth was doing his column on the Dolphins every week just to see what four Xs of Great Shame look like on one play.

by Dean.2 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/11/2013 - 2:30pm

Giants actually have 3 in the bottom 20 too:
Snee (2), Beatty (7), and Pugh (19).

by JBazz (not verified) :: Fri, 10/11/2013 - 3:22pm

It would be interesting if these sack percentages could be contextualized with how often the lineman are one on one, facing multiple rushers, or getting TE/RB help. I feel like some otherwise good lineman might give up more sacks because their team is throwing them on an island so the TE/RB can help the rest of the line. Likewise with a bad lineman who isn't giving up a ton of sacks because he's always getting RB or TE help.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/11/2013 - 5:09pm

If Cam Newton has to apologize to his line, what does Geno have to do? Granted, he apologized for the Titans game a week ago, but, Jesus, 12 long sacks out of 18?

As far as the Dolphins fan above, just hope Tannehill stays healthy. I'm not sure what the GM could do now (perhaps could have traded for Monroe, but too late now), but maybe Philbin should call more slants and screens, just to alleviate the pressure a little.

by widderslainte :: Fri, 10/11/2013 - 5:41pm

Cutting Clabo looks pretty smart now, huh Weintraub?

by nuclearbdgr :: Fri, 10/11/2013 - 7:48pm

How fast was Clay Matthews unblocked sack of Stafford? It was so fast he broke his thumb.

by Phatmatt12345 (not verified) :: Sat, 10/12/2013 - 2:00am

I'm a huge Fins fan and have watched every game this year. Granted, Miami's O-line has not played well, especially at the tackle position. This being said however,Ryan T. holds onto the ball too long sometimes, and even if the stats say most of his sacks have come in 3 seconds or less he has to get rid of that ball in certain situations. Throw it out of bounds or at a WR's feet, but most sacks are avoidable. I don't have the numbers but my guess is that QBs with elite awareness (Manning, Brees, etc.) take far fewer sacks because they're smart enough to throw the ball away if pressure comes before an opening has developed. The best example is their past game vs Baltimore where he took a sack with about 30 seconds to go when that was THE ONE THING HE COULDN'T AFFORD TO DO. The pressure came way quicker than it should have but the ball needed to be thrown away when you have no timeouts left. Essentially what I'm saying is his awareness needs to improve. I have faith that it will though and he will become a top talent QB. His arm solid, he's got good athleticism and he's tough. Though there are critiques to be pointed out in his game (taking more sacks than he should) I've not been this excited about a Dolphins QB since Dan. GO FINS!

by Tina K. Maye :: Thu, 09/11/2014 - 5:52am

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