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A Season in Review: OLine Myth


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#1 Urrymonster

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:15 AM

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.

Edited by Urrymonster, 09 January 2011 - 11:31 AM.


#2 chknwing

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:20 AM

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%.

#3 uncpanther

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:23 AM

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.

#4 Urrymonster

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:23 AM

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.

Edited by Urrymonster, 09 January 2011 - 09:38 AM.


#5 Urrymonster

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:25 AM

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.

#6 chknwing

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:29 AM

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.

#7 Urrymonster

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:35 AM

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).

#8 Anybodyhome

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:46 AM

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.

#9 chknwing

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:48 AM

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.

#10 Urrymonster

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:53 AM

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.

#11 Happy Panther

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 09:58 AM

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

#12 Urrymonster

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 10:01 AM

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.

#13 rubberpantz

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 10:41 AM

seriously good write-up all the way around.

while i definitely thought our oline didn't perform to their own high standards from the past couple of years, the improvement they showed at the end of the season over the start of the season was marked. i think a lot of the criticism that was leveled at them was misplaced and that more should be directed at the quarterback.

i think the reason it appeared to be consistently bad throughout is because at the beginning of the season, with the departure of Vincent and the injury to Otah, the oline was admittedly horrible. pass protection was poor at best and the run blocking was simply nonexistent. as the chemistry/conditioning/personnel finally began to come together, moore went out with his injury and was then substituted with (IMO) significantly inferior play from the qb position. this led to the appearance of season long, underwhelming oline play which i think is a bit of a red herring.

i guess what i'm getting at is that unless we somehow address the qb position in the off season, we're going to be right back here this time next year bitching about the same old thing. could we use some depth at oline? of course. would it help if otah were back in the line up? absolutely. with that said however, i think most of the oline pieces are in place and can return to the kind of dominance we had seen in the previous two seasons. a good upgrade at the qb position will move this team from 32nd in over all offense to middle of the pack with virtually no other tweaking required. keeping #34, getting a playmaking TE and another WR would move us up even further. however, none of this matters if we go into next season with Pickles as our starter.

#14 Snake

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 10:43 AM

I think a new coaching unit will do wonders for this team.

#15 Urrymonster

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 11:04 AM

A couple of people are thinking I am blaming the QB play completely, which I just want to point out that I am not.

Moore and Clausen both suffered from the came issues pre-snap and we were rarely in the right set for any complex looking scheme. However to think that this is something the QBs will have a problem with their entire careers is not the case. If they had a wily vet at centre rather than a guy entering his 4th year, a lot of the pressure would have been taken off the QB. As it was, we had inexperience being led by inexperience, which was a sure fire route to poor results.

The unit & Clausen improved as the season went on which shows that nothing can replace some game experience, which is why I do not think you want to blow the whole line up.

Also for the record, the pre-snap recognition is one of the things almost all QBs will get better with (some moreso obviously), so the thought is, even with an unchanged OLine and QB the results 'should' be a lot better.


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