So we’ve been building to it all week and now it’s here.
On Monday we looked at pressure per play, Tuesday it was about how much of that pressure turned into sacks, and yesterday, how many blockers each team kept in on average.
The prep is done. All that remains is a countdown (because countdowns are so much more fun) to our top pass protection unit using the formula we introduced last year:
Pressure Per Play multiplied by Average Number of Pass Blockers Per Play (multiplied by a 1000) equals the Pass Protection Rating.
It should be noted Pressure Per Play has some weighting to it. From our grading we’ve found sacks are more often more impressive plays than hits or hurries (no kidding) and we’ve assigned three quarters the worth to a hit or hurry as that of a sack. That explains the Tuesday piece for those curious as to where it fit into things.
Anyway, I don’t think anyone came here for my long, drawn out explanations. You came for some rankings, and rankings are what you shall get …
32. Pittsburgh Steelers (2.22)
Just how did a team with the worst pass protection in the league get to the Super Bowl? Some of it comes down to the quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t afraid of holding onto the ball a bit longer, and understandably so with him being one of the best in the league at dealing with pressure (our fourth highest grade in this respect). The big problem is an offensive line that couldn’t overcome injuries, with every player having a negative grade in pass protection. It doesn’t look like Willie Colon will return, but if Max Starks is healthy that will help out somewhat.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 32nd
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 27th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 17th
31. Chicago Bears (2.12)
Regardless of what some may have led you to believe, the Bears line really didn’t get all that much better as the year went on. Both tackles struggled (giving up 26 sacks and 120 total pressures between J’Marcus Webb and Frank Omiyale) and the interior wasn’t much better. Worse still was the negative impact of blocking tight end Brandon Manumaeuna. Thought to be like an extra tackle, he gave up pressure on 12.37% of his pass blocks. If there’s a positive to take it was how good Matt Forte and Chester Taylor were with their blitz pick up.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 30th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 29th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 29th
30. Oakland Raiders (2.11)
By leaving in more men than any others to pass block, the Raiders recognized their problems. Unfortunately, though the skill players didn’t do a bad job of helping, they couldn’t overcome the woes of the offensive linemen. Only part timer Mario Henderson earned a positive grade, with the tackles Jared Veldheer (-13.7) and Langston Walker (-14.7) struggling big time. You can place some of the blame on Jason Campbell for not getting rid of the ball (three sacks attributed to him), but, big picture, there was a lot of pressure to deal with and he did well to not allow more of it to turn to sacks.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 29th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 20th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 32nd
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2.06)
What the Bucs may learn soon is that Josh Freeman can only do so much. He may be one of the best in the league at avoiding sacks (just 12.56% of pressure turned into sacks) and it’s not for the want of practice. Only one team gave up more pressure on a per place basis than Tampa Bay. A big problem is Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn. He gave up 51 total pressures on the year and was part of a Bucs team that collectively earned a -61.6 pass blocking grade for the year. In Josh they trust.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 31st
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 5th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 21st
28. Kansas City Chiefs (1.92)
It wouldn’t have been the biggest surprise to see the Chiefs pick up a tackle in the draft given the troubles of their starters. Brandon Albert (-9.9) and Barry Richardson (-13.8) will need to get better, with this line being built to run block and not keep their quarterback upright. For all the help their skill players give them (Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and Tony Moeaki all graded positively in pass protection) it won’t help Matt Cassel if the line doesn’t get better. If not, well we know the problems Cassel has with pressure.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 25th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 8th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 27th
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1.87)
Part of having a quarterback who can make plays when pressured means having a quarterback prepared to let more pressure come his way. The Jags and David Garrard are guilty of this, but that’s not their biggest problem. You can look past Jordan Black’s (-20.9) pass blocking because you know he’s not a starter, but Eugene Monroe is a real concern. When you draft a tackle in the AFC South, you need him to limit the damage Dwight Freeney and Mario Williams can do. Does Monroe? No. A shame, because in Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis Jacksonville have two of the better blocking skill position players.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 26th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 26th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 14th
26. San Francisco 49ers (1.86)
A lot of this can be attributed to the rookie struggles of the exceptionally young Anthony Davis (-17.0 pass blocking), but the facts are none of the starters walked out of 2010 looking all that good. It’s a line that doesn’t help out its quarterback, and at times a quarterback (whoever was playing) that wouldn’t help out their line. Not the best combination. Perhaps some of this could be overcome with some additional help, with the 49ers keen to get their backs and tight ends out running routes rather than helping out the line.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 27th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 21st
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 5th
25. Washington Redskins (1.86)
The Redskins went down gunning. Though they gave up a lot of pressure throughout the year, it didn’t mean they were going to leave any extra pass blockers in. Perhaps some of this came down to losing blitz pick up specialist Clinton Portis, but, in any case, tight ends and backs were kept in at a minimum. While you admire the ambition of it, Washington does not have the players capable of executing … yet. Perhaps Trent Williams will become the franchise LT they hope for, but right now he formed part of a left side of the line that gave up 82 combined QB disruptions (including 18 sacks) between them. You simply can’t leave talent like that so vulnerable.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 28th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 18th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 3rd
24. Baltimore Ravens (1.80)
Quite the fall for a Ravens team that finished in our top ten last year. Part of that comes down to the fall-off that occurred when Michael Oher took over the blind side tackle spot from Jared Gaither. Unfortunately (for Baltimore) Oher just wasn’t up to the task in 2010. You can also apportion some of the blame to the backs and tight ends for struggling so much, while Joe Flacco went from Joe Cool under pressure, to Joe Fool as he struggled to get rid of the ball. A shame because players like Marshal Yanda, Matt Birk and Ben Grubbs all had positive grades for the year.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 23rd
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 31st
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 27th
23. Philadelphia Eagles (1.79)
It was Greg Cosell who rightfully pointed out that Michael Vick will always make his offensive line seem worse than it is. Players like Vick tend to invite pressure, with their ability to deal with it leading to those breathtaking highlight reel plays that so vividly cloud judgment come end of year awards time. So while the line itself is nowhere near as bad as 23rd in the league, the unit as a whole suffers. It doesn’t help they have Jason Peters no longer protecting his QB’s blindside, but primarily this rating comes down to the Eagles having a quarterback happy to hold onto the ball to make something happen.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 24th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 14th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 7th
22. Denver Broncos (1.74)
The Broncos feature down the table in part due to their reliance on keeping extra men in. Daniel Graham excelled in this, so you can understand why to a degree, but him spending 42.31% of pass plays into block limits the options in the passing game. They weren’t helped by some rookies on the line taking some time to pick up the nuances of pass protection, but they can at least say Ryan Clady is playing to the level where he is now starting to warrant the hype as a franchise left tackle.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 18th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 25th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 31st
21. Arizona Cardinals (1.73)
Higher than you’d probably think given they’re a line that fields Levi Brown at left tackle. The big former first round pick gave up 70 total pressures on the year and finished with a pass blocking grade worse than any other player. He simply isn’t cut out to play left tackle. Outside of that, we did see improvement in the interior (though that didn’t owe much to Alan Faneca), and more questions raised about the value of Tim Hightower. He gave up more sacks (three) than you’d ever like a running back to. This team misses the quick release and fearlessness of Kurt Warner.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 22nd
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 28th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 18th
20. Buffalo Bills (1.71)
Improvement from the Bills. Demetrius Bell isn’t even an average left tackle yet, but he was much better than 2009, and Fred Jackson seemed to finally begin to get what picking up the blitz was all about. But players like Cord Howard still get beat far too often, and the interior is all too readily pushed back. That will need to improve. With Ryan Fitzpatrick still at quarterback they at least have a guy who knows how to avoid sacks.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 21st
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 12th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 19th
19. St Louis Rams (1.71)
What to make of the Rams? Sam Bradford had a good rookie year when it came to avoiding sacks. Their tackles flashed good play, but all too often they (especially Jason Smith) would follow it up by getting pummeled by an edge rusher. These are the least of their worries though, with the extra guys they kept in struggling, and right guard Adam Goldberg a better tackle than he is guard. You can imagine this pass protection unit getting better as Bradford continues to develop.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 19th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 4th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 22nd
18. San Diego Chargers (1.69)
It’s not necessarily a recipe for success. An offense and quarterback that like going deep, and pass protection that doesn’t always give you the time. While things were never as bad as the early season issues against Seattle, this is a pass protection outfit that can best be classed as vulnerable. You’d suggest keeping more men in, but none of the tight ends or backs are anything more than small obstacles and lessen the ability of Rivers to get rid of the ball.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 20th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 17th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 11th
17. New England Patriots (1.58)
We’ve seen New England lines play better, with Matt Light having an up and down year, and only two linemen (Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer) ending the year with positive pass pro grades. What the Patriots did really well was get rid of the ball before the pressure could impact on them. That combo of scheme and Tom Brady’s awareness of what is going on, makes this unit seem better than it is.
Pressure Per Play Rank: 17th
Sack % of Pressure Rank: 10th
Average Number of Blockers Per Play Rank: 10th