If you’ve been reading Pro Football Focus daily (as your doctor will recommend), then you’ll know this week (and last) we’ve been looking at pass protection. We’ve shown which individuals give up the most pressure, both in 2010 (tackles, guards and centers) and over the past three years.
But we limited that look to offensive linemen. Now we’re going to turn our attention to those ‘skill’ players who try and get in on the act and help their team. Tomorrow will be the running backs, but today we’re going after the tight ends, and for some it won’t be pretty.
Not content at dropping those unique PFF stats for 2010, this article will also offer goodness from the past three years. But enough lyrical waxing about what to expect, let’s get to it.
Logically, we’ll first bring forth one of those things that only we jot down as part of our analysis process. Which players stayed into pass protect most often? Topping them all was Daniel Graham. The Broncos were pretty keen on keeping him in, with Graham left into pass block on 41.02% of his passing plays. That percentage was enough to keep him ahead of Brandon Manumaleuna who stayed in on 68.07% of the time but was in on far fewer passing snaps than Graham who rarely came off the field.
Below them there’s a big gap before we get to Anthony Fasano. Dolphin fans may expect more from Fasano in the passing game, but considering how often he is kept into pass block maybe he deserves a tad more leeway. Outside of that it’s particularly interesting that Kansas City has two tight ends in the Top 10. Perhaps they’ve realized how ineffective Matt Cassel becomes under pressure and are doing everything possible to prevent that situation. Or, perhaps it’s because they have little faith in their tackles. Either way it’s telling.
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Moving on to the juicy part about giving up pressure, we’ve limited the study to those tight ends who stayed in at least 60 times, leaving us with 37 players. Now, it’s important to remember our Pass Blocking Efficiency formula looks at sacks, hits, and hurries, weighing those hurries and hits as three quarters the worth of a sack (as our grading reflects). So the formula looks like this:
((Sacks + (0.75 * Hits) + (0.75 * Hurries)) / Pass Pro Snaps) * 100
Which leaves us with a relatively clear winner. With a PBE rating of 1.09, Chris Baker of the Seattle Seahawks is top dog after giving up just one pressure in the 69 pass plays he stayed in. That was enough to put him ahead of the always consistent Jim Kleinsasser who was left into block more often (113 times) but gave up two hurries.
Following these two are two Broncos. The aforementioned Daniel Graham was kept in an awful lot, and only allowed six QB disruptions all year, while Dan Gronkowski gave up the one sack on his 61 pass blocks. That won him the ‘Pass Blocking Gronk of the Year Award’ with a 1.64 rating, besting his brother Rob’s 4.74.
After the top four, some of the big names start to come. The league’s most complete tight end, Jason Witten, is fifth, and Marcedes Lewis is eighth after allowing four pressures in 109 chances.
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Then, as these articles have taught, there are some guys who didn’t do so well. If you read some of the team pieces I did last week you would have noticed me not speaking very highly of a certain Bears tight end. I’ll preface this by saying it may be a little unfair to look at Brandon Manumaleuna compared to other tight ends, because he was kept in an awful lot one on one. Indeed, you can attribute nine of the pressures he gave up to him being left matched up with a nightmarish trio in DeMarcus Ware, Ray Edwards, and Cliff Avril. The fact he gave up more pressure than any other tight end comes largely down to misuse, with the Bears treating him as an extra tackle when he quite clearly isn’t. Manumaleuna surrendered pressure on 12.37% of the pass plays he stayed in to block for.
At least second place Chris Cooley wasn’t kept in all that much in comparison. He still gave up far too much pressure, but there was a degree of damage limitation with the Redskin. Thos two were clearly ahead of (er, behind) Baltimore’s Todd Heap who was part of the Ravens’ set of skill position players that had a tricky year in pass protection.
The real big surprises are with the guys in sixth and 11th. You associate both John Carlson (6.76) and Brent Celek (5.91) as pass catching tight ends, but both spent over 120 snaps in pass protection with neither fairing all that well. It’s peculiar, especially with the Seahawks having such a good pass protector in Chris Baker who was active for 16 games.
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But the sample sizes are relatively small when you’re looking at just 2010. So it’s time to open the study up to the past three years and raise the minimum number of pass blocking snaps to 125 which leaves us with 38 tight ends to dissect. We’ll start with the good, and that means mentioning Jim Kleinsasser once again. So he’s not much in the open field, but there is no tight end more like a tackle out there than the Vike who has given up just eight QB disruptions in three years.
A name that rarely gets mentioned follows Kleinsasser, and that’s Robert Royal. The current Cleveland tight end hasn’t always delivered as a pass catcher or run blocker, but you can’t fault four pressures given up in 132 pass blocks. His 2.27 score was better than the 2.44 of Martellus Bennett, one of two Dallas Cowboys in the Top 10 (no surprise who the other is).
It is a surpise, however, to see two pass catching tight ends, Dallas Clark and Dante Rosario, in the top five. We know (largely) why Clark features so highly and that has something to do with Peyton Manning’s ability to avoid giving pressure a chance to influence him. But Dante Rosario is more unexpected, though he does benefit from being used in a number of two tight end sets where both men stay in, and as a half back more inclined to pick up a blitzer than an end. It’s still an impressive response to the challenge.
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Those not looking so good include names we’ve already mentioned (which makes the money the Bears paid Manumaleuna all the more puzzling). We also see Greg Olsen appear, which gives further backing to the thought that the Bears’ struggles in pass protection are about more than drafting one guy. By far though, the biggest name in the Bottom 10 is Vernon Davis. Often lauded as a great blocker (he has moments for sure) consistency has been his biggest issue, though it should be recognized that 2010 was the best year we’ve graded for him in pass pro (two sacks and three hurries given up). If he continues to clear up those mental errors there’s no telling the player he could become.
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That wraps up the tight ends. A good one can greatly improve your pass protection and a bad one can be like playing with ten men on some plays. Outside of Jim Kleinsasser, you’re unlikely to find one who can even resemble blocking like a tackle, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for someone who escorts defenders to your quarterback.
There’s something terribly inefficient about that.
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