Monday, June 21, 2010

Yahoo Ranks the O-lines

Article by Jason Cole:
O-line rankings: Talent and depth rare finds

The rankings are odd, a mix of the run & pass-blocking efficiency rankings from Football Outsiders, with Cole's own gut feel about who should move up or down. Still enjoyable reading, for the slowest time of the year.

One example of the oddness, the Ravens O-line is ranked way, way too high. Cole writes, “At a time when pass protection is so critical, the Ravens were below average last season” – and then ranks the Ravens 3rd! Huh? Turns out he likes Michael Oher a lot, believes Joe Flacco and the new receivers will take a big step forward (which would help the pass-blocking), and gives the Ravens some credit for continuity from last season (as opposed to the 2 new starters last year). “There is reason to believe improvement will be made.”

Another oddness on the page, and this is not Cole's fault, is to read this in the article:

“Because depth is so important, the Saints have resisted trading tackle Jammal Brown”
while at the bottom of the page there's a link to news about Brown being traded to the Skins. Ah, the information age.

How about the Skins??!? Cole ranks their line 29th, but that's before the trade. Isn't their line suddenly in the top half of the league? A lot depends on Brown's return from the injury, and on the development of Trent Williams. But they have three new starters from last year. At the tackles, Williams & Brown: one of them a top-5 draft pick, the other a 2-time Pro Bowler in four seasons of play, available for cheap because he missed a year for injury. Professionals at the guards, in Artis Hicks and Derrick Dockery. Ex-Raven Casey Rabach at center, one that got away from Ozzie a few years ago. Not to mention what Cole describes as “the organized, demanding coaching of Mike Shanahan,” who may not be great at personnel but who sure as hell can coax efficient play out of an offensive unit.

I'm not sure I'm emotionally ready for the Redskins to have a decent squad. But maybe I better get ready. They have had a brilliant offseason. Not just “by Redskins standards,” I mean overall. Their offense will be completely overhauled when it takes the field Sept 12.


  1. I'm with you. I always like to read these things and at the same time I always find something that makes me roll my eyes. Indianapolis #9? Really? Do the Colts have an above-average player anywhere on the offensive line? Even Dallas Clark is pretty terrible from an offensive lineman perspective.

    Cole acknowledges that their pass blocking is largely due to Peyton's inhuman ability to get the ball out. The Colts line was pretty badly exposed a couple of times in the playoffs, including the Super Bowl.

    The only caveat I'll make is that Bill Polian may be the best GM in football and the lack of attention that the Colts have paid to the offensive line the last two offseasons indicates that he feels better about the line than I do.

    Also not putting the Jets top 3 is criminal. Cole is guilty of ROT. He blames the line for all of Sanchez' sacks when Sanchez (and usually any rookie QB) is the one to blame. If you want to grade the lines, grade the lines. Cole seems to combine grading lines with grading results, creating a clunky article with no clean analysis.

  2. Not an excuse, but I think it's very difficult to find clean analysis in regards to the OL. There aren't many if any objective stats recorded, which makes quantitative analysis difficult if not impossible. And the big problem is that many people try to figure out some methodology for quantitative analysis despite lacking the ability to do so.

    Your example of Colts OL vs. Jets is perfect. Sanchez was sacked (per pass) four times as often as Peyton, which doesn't in any way imply that his OL is a worse pass-blocking OL than the Colts'. But people try to make it out as such.

    This, btw, is my frustration in trying to discuss Gaither on the Ravens board, and PFF...

  3. It all comes back to Gaither for you.

  4. It does, but this is only one piece of the bigger issue. On the Ravens board and Ravens related discussion it's Gaither specific. But it's a sub-set of the underlying problem, which is that it's very difficult to quantitatively analyze the play of an offensive line or lineman.

    Yet so many people try to do so, and they do it in one of two ways...
    1) They simply make up a couple statistical measures and talk about what they think it means and how that impacts the line's ability. The sacks allowed with Jets vs. Colts is a good example.
    2) They develop a methodology for evaluation which winds up either flawed or using subjective measurements to try to put together objective, quantitative analysis. This is the flaw in Pro Football Focus...a flawed methodology that winds up showing Clady and Gross and Peters as mediocre tackles when pretty clearly those are some of the best players at their positions. Patrick pointed out earlier to me (us?) that only one guy on the Cleveland OL - one of the worst OLs in the NFL in '09 - was ranked in the bottom half of the league at their positions, and it was the RT who was #36 (out of 64 tackle starters).

    Basically there's a lot out there trying to analyze OL play, but not a lot that's really good. I'm not saying I've got a solution here, just noting the problem.


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