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A Season in Review: OLine Myth

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Posted

Foreword

Our OLine was the second most criticised thing on this team behind the play of Jimmy Clausen, citing that they were not giving him time and that we were not as dominant as prior years as the main issues.

I thought it would be best to actually see if this was the case, or if we were making a bigger issue out of nothing.

Disclaimer

Statistics provided by the premium section of the Pro Football focus team. I personally trust them and have found their stats to be in line with every other statistical analysis team. They review every single play and explain how they record data, which other places do not. This takes a lot of the objectivity out of their analysis, allowing people to formulate their own opinions from the given data. Whilst their statistics might not be 100% accurate, they will be as close as you can get without knowing individual assignments. Their work in the trenches is especially good in my opinion.

Introduction

Coming into this season our offensive line was touted as one of the premier lines in both facets of the game, being absolutely dominant in the running game yet more than capable to handle the pass rush for our passing game philosophy. What we actually saw, was something so alien to us that we have not had these kind of offensive woes for several years.

Question 1 - Where did our dominant OLine go?!

When you actually look at the progression of our line through the season, it is clear the one that played this year was a far cry from what we have been used to for the last 2-3 years.

Pre-Season

We lose Vincent and Otah seemingly is ready to get back into action week after week, yet never actually does. The result? Our two primary backups were sitting on the right side of the line, with Mackenzy Bernadeau at guard and Geoff Schwartz at tackle. The result of this was a seriously inexperienced OLine, something which is completely alien to what we are used to.

Starting Day OLine

Gross - 104 starts in 7 seasons

Wharton - 74 starts in 6 seasons

Kalil - 31 starts in 3 seasons

Bernadeau - 7 starts in 2 seasons

Schwartz - 3 starts in 1 season

So we lost Vincent and his 79 starts in 9 seasons and Otah who had 25 starts in 2 seasons, giving our starting OLine an average of 3.8 seasons in the league, with 43.8 games started. However our C, RG & RT had an average of just 2 seasons and 13.6 games started.

Mid-Season OLine (after our 9th game/week 10)

Gross - 113 starts in 7.5 seasons

Bernadeau - 13 starts in 2.5 seasons

Kalil - 40 starts in 3.5 seasons

Schwartz - 12 starts in 1.5 seasons

Williams - 3 starts in 1.5 seasons

Suddenly we see that our average experience drops from 3.8years in the NFL drops to 3.5 years. However our LG, C, RG & RT averaged just 2.25 years in the NFL. Considering most draftees are not to be judged until they complete their third year in the league, we were setting ourselves up for failure by having 3 inside that starting on our line.

Question 2 - Our Pass Blocking

If you look at the stats you see that Jimmy was sacked 33 times, Moore 13 times, St. Pierre 3 times and Pike once. That is over 3 sacks a game and tied for the 2nd most sacks given up over the regular season amongst all NFL teams.

However consider these credited stats

Gross 1016 snaps - 6 sacks, 8 hits, 15 pressures

Kalil 1016 snaps - 5 sacks, 1 hit, 9 pressures

Schwartz 1016 snaps - 4 sacks, 6 hits, 13 pressures

Bernadeau 771 snaps - 5 sacks, 4 hits, 14 pressures

Williams 710 snaps - 4 sacks, 3 hits, 24 pressures

Wharton 555 snaps - 1 sack, 3 hits, 5 pressures

Our OLine was credited with giving up just 50% of our seasons sacks (on top of pretty low pressure numbers), begging the question of where did the other sacks come from:

11 - Unblockable (free blitzers, overloads causing it impossible for our blockers to pick up everyone)

9 - RB & FBs

4 - QBs

1 - TEs

So what appears to be the case, is that our blitz pick up and protection sliding is what gets exposed rather than our 'abilities' across the OLine. Considering we had a rookie at QB for the majority of the season and just saw that our OLine this year was, on average, just out it's second year this was bound to be the problem.

So it's likely that our QBs need to take responsibility for around 25% of the sacks due to not being able to shift and adjust pre-snap to deal with exotic blitzes, delayed blitzes or overloads. That is if they even recognised it in the first place...

Summary

Our OLine actually blocked pretty well down the stretch for Jimmy and they were not the reason the sacks kept racking up. Give this unit time to gel and get a bit of quality depth behind them and we should be set for the foreseeable future.

The ONLY thing we are lacking is experience, which if we try to keep the unit mainly intact, then we should see progress from here on. We just need the QB to be able to progress at the same time, allowing the opposing defences schemes to be countered with good pre-snap reads.

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Posted

duh. if you have an oline that cant block, of course other teams are going to blitz more and overload the line. The offensive line should be blamed for 90% of the sacks, not just 50%.

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Posted

I still think we need a guard and tackle out of this draft or (FA) especially if Otah is going to have injury problems throughout his career. If we get a stud guard on that right side and if Otah is healthy we will have a dominate o-line once again.

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Posted

duh. if you have an oline that cant block, of course other teams are going to blitz more and overload the line. The offensive line should be blamed for 90% of the sacks, not just 50%.

Even if you credit them for every single unblockable sack, then that only amounts to 36 sacks they personally gave up, which is 72% of the total sacks.

If that is your opinion, then who do you credit for the sack when every single member of the OLine is blocking someone and a delayed blitz gets through untouched? The OLine's fault for not disengaging (despite then givin the sack to someoen else) to pick up the blitzer, or the QB for not calling the right protection scheme pre-snap or identifying who was blitzing?

EDIT - For the record we were blitzed about on average with all other teams (around the 35% mark). We also dealt with standard blitzes fine, just not the ones which were disguised or forced us to make proper protection changes.

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Posted

I still think we need a guard and tackle out of this draft or (FA) especially if Otah is going to have injury problems throughout his career. If we get a stud guard on that right side and if Otah is healthy we will have a dominate o-line once again.

Schwartz was arguably our more consistent OLine player throughout the season and was effective in both facets, rather than just one like Kalil & Gross.

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Posted

lol personally I dont give a Sh.. who you blame it on. Oline needs to be blown up. Keep Gross, Otah, and maybe Kalil, everything else needs to be replaced. Carolina needs a big body Oline.

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Posted

lol personally I dont give a Sh.. who you blame it on. Oline needs to be blown up. Keep Gross, Otah, and maybe Kalil, everything else needs to be replaced. Carolina needs a big body Oline.

Fair enough

Intriguing that the only pieces you would keep are Gross (actually under rated on here) and Otah who didn't play this year. Then feel Kalil is a toss up (who has been our best lineman the last two years) and refuse to acknowledge potential quality in Schwartz. I agree that Williams is not NFL calibre, however Mack is a moderate back up, so I see no real need to just get rid of him.

Food for thought. Experience and chemistry is key across the OLine. What you suggest will set us back to square one AND one of the people you keep will be in is twilight once we are back to where we are now (a couple of years together).

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Posted

Thanks, I like how you broke it down. I've used the Football Outsiders stats and analysis and this year was pretty ugly when it comes to pass protection.

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Posted

lol, we are already at square one. New coaching staff will revamp everything, who plays what position etc. The oline is too small, sometimes skill can not overcome lack of mass/strength which is needed for the line to hold long enough to give pickles time to throw.

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Posted

Thanks, I like how you broke it down. I've used the Football Outsiders stats and analysis and this year was pretty ugly when it comes to pass protection.

I think if you look at the Line as a complete package, then yes it looks really ugly, especially earlier in the year (Gross & Wharton were real rusty). However to think that meant everyone was crap or played badly is a little short sighted and a lot of the OLines woes were not helped by the inexperience at QB. (Moore & Clausen were as bad as each other)

Obviously Clausen helped them some by turning to the check down quickly, however that's impossible to quantify.

I like football outsiders, however I prefer to try and see how individuals are performing. The stats provided might not be 100% accurate, however they are going to be very very close to that. The thing that Pro Football Focus seem to do best is the trenches, as they explain exactly how they record and analyse each aspect, thus taking a LOT of the objectivity out of it.

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Posted

Great analysis. O-line play is very hard to analyze and at the same time is one of those easy excuses to use for not blaming the QB. Like play calling.

Most people just hear "bad O-line" or "bad coaching" around the tailgate and take it as fact.

Summary

Our OLine actually blocked pretty well down the stretch for Jimmy and they were not the reason the sacks kept racking up. Give this unit time to gel and get a bit of quality depth behind them and we should be set for the foreseeable future

Agree and they looked great making holes for Stewart

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Posted

lol, we are already at square one. New coaching staff will revamp everything, who plays what position etc. The oline is too small, sometimes skill can not overcome lack of mass/strength which is needed for the line to hold long enough to give pickles time to throw.

To small?

Gross - 6-4, 304 lbs

Wharton - 6-4, 312 lbs

Kalil - 6-2, 295 lbs

Schwartz - 6-6, 331 lbs

Otah - 6-6, 330 lbs

Bernadeau - 6-4, 304 lbs

Williams - 6-3, 293 lbs

One starter under 6-4, who is the centre, which are always smaller

One starter under 300 lbs, who is the centre, which are always lighter

Our top performing linemen (Gross & Kalil) from the last two years are the smallest

Personally I think we have the balance about right. The right side is a mauling combo, the left side more capable of dealing with the speed rushers but not being too small that they are not good in the run game.

We aren't at square one. Schwartz, Kalil & Bernadeau got some good experience this year. Two are legit starters, the other a moderate back up. Schwartz has size and the ability to get to the second level so he fits your ideals. Kalil is average for a centre in terms of size, but is exceptional at getting the second level, so he too can do both well.

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