Given that it’s a week we’re dedicating to offensive lines and linemen, it seems appropriate that we bring back an old favorite to show which linemen are the most efficient when it comes to pass protection; Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE).
It’s a simple enough formula. We weigh hits and hurries as worth 75% of sacks, add the three forms of pressure up, divide it by the number of times they pass blocked at a certain position and you’re left with your PBE number. For the mathematically inclined, it looks a little like this:
(1– ((Sacks + (0.75*(Hits + Hurries))/ Pass Blocking Snaps))*100 = PBE Rating
Looking at all offensive linemen who played at least 200 snaps as tackle (note, only snaps at tackle are counted), let’s see which of the 75 guys who qualified impressed the most over the course of the regular season.
More Than Was Bargained For
By the end of the season, the St Louis Rams had fielded four players for at least 200 snaps in pass protection at tackle. Former first round pick Jason Smith could only finish 41st after giving up two sacks, two hits and 11 hurries on his 201 snaps in pass protection. The highly-touted Rodger Saffold was down in 65th after surrendering 32 combined QB disruptions on 359 pass blocks. Even swing lineman Adam Goldberg could only finish 47th when he filled in at tackle. No, the only Rams lineman that impressed at tackle in pass protection was actually Harvey Dahl. Not only did the former Falcons guard outplay his teammates; he outplayed everyone. The sample size is limited, and he was helped somewhat by playing in an offense that attempts to get rid of the ball quickly, but on 200 snaps in pass protection Dahl gave up just three hits and three hurries, giving him a league-best PBE rating of 97.8. So, while the Rams look at ways to rebuild their line, their use of Dahl could be something to watch.
While you can look at Dahl’s 200 pass blocks and think the sample size skews the data, you can’t say the same thing about the men that follow him. Joe Thomas is widely regarded as the finest tackle of his generation and finishes second, just ahead of Andrew Whitworth who gave up one less pressure, but was in pass protection at tackle for 72 fewer snaps. Neither man covered themselves in glory in the run game, but a franchise left tackle first and foremost should keep their quarterback upright, and you can’t deny that either man excelled in that regard.
While Thomas and Whitworth have been protecting their QBs’ blindsides, the top tackle over the course of the season when it comes to protecting the front side was the Tennessee Titans’ David Stewart. He gave up 19 combined sacks, hits and hurries on 547 pass blocks to beat out Jason Peters (a left tackle for the left-handed Michael Vick) who gave up 21 on 570 snaps in pass pro. The interesting thing about Stewart is who his quarterback is; Matt Hasselbeck. Whatever you may say about Hasselbeck he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league in making his offensive line look good, getting rid of the ball before pressure really has a chance to get to him. It showed this year with Stewart ranking atop the front-side tackles, and it showed last year when his front-side tackle Sean Locklear finished at the top of the rankings.
The Free Agents
That gives you the Top 5, with the soon to be available Demetrius Bell just outside in sixth after giving up one sack, one hit and seven hurries on the 237 occasions he was trying to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick clean. He leads all the available free agent tackles. The interesting thing to note is how some of the players who didn’t have the requisite number of snaps in pass protection came out, particularly Jared Gaither. In his time at San Diego, Gaither gave up just three pressures on 165 pass blocks which would have led the league, though you could say something similar about Anthony Collins of the Bengals. He spent 80 snaps in pass pro at tackle and gave up just the one hurry; a trend whenever Collins has seen the field in recent years.
Over the past few years we’ve seen plenty of rookies come in and struggle. It’s one of the things that made Tyron Smith and his debut season such a joy to behold (except for when Jason Babin was lined up opposite him). He finished 14th overall after giving up eight sacks, a hit, and 21 hurries on 620 pass-blocking snaps. Incredibly, that wasn’t enough to lead all rookies after Marcus Gilbert gave up nine fewer QB disruptions on 167 fewer pass blocks. Smiths’ run blocking set the two apart, but it’s got to be reassuring for Steelers fans that they’ve found someone who can help Ben Roethlisberger stay healthy.
2011 Pass Blocking Efficiency, Offensive Tackles, Top 20
Pass Block Snaps
Total Pressure Allowed
|16||Andre Smith Jr.||CIN||503||27||95.8|
Passing on Protecting
So you’ve seen the good, but what about the bad? The man who finished bottom of the entire NFL only saw 246 snaps at tackle after being forced to move there, yet, despite his flaws, walked out with a Super Bowl ring. David Diehl gave up four sacks, six hits and 20 hurries while spending 246 snaps in pass protection at left tackle, in stark contrast to the man he replaced, Will Beatty, who finished ‘up’ in 50th with a PBE rating of 93.6. Diehl was bad enough to leave Sam Baker, the benched Atlanta Falcons left tackle, with the second lowest rating after the former first round pick gave up four sacks, seven hits and 17 hurries on just 242 snaps in pass protection.
Left in as Liabilities
At least the Falcons saw sense to bench Baker and the Giants had to move Diehl to left tackle; what about the tackles who spent a whole year getting beat like a drum? Well, of the tackles who played more than 500 snaps, none scored a lower PBE than Marshall Newhouse who gave up 54 QB disruptions on 544 pass blocks. That was slightly worse than the spent Marc Colombo (53 on 543) managed, and even put Jeremy Trueblood to ‘shame’ with the Bucs right tackle giving up four sacks, five hits and 50 hurries on 596 pass blocks.
2011 Pass Blocking Efficiency, Offensive Tackles, Bottom 20
Pass Block Snaps
Total Pressure Allowed
As we always say, these numbers offer a degree of context, but aren’t the best measuring tool as to the best pass blocking tackles in the league. Our grading methodology accounts for the nature of the pressure–when it comes and how quickly–so it’s a better tool to defer to. But Signature Stats like pass blocking efficiency can explain those gradings and often reinforce what the eye sees when you really look; which OTs’ are giving up pressure on a regular basis. It explains why players like Sam Baker got benched and goes a long way to quantifying just how much of a slump Kareem McKenzie had this year. It can also put a number to just how good Joe Thomas is and helps show just how much the New England Patriots missed a healthy Sebastian Vollmer when it mattered.
Come back tomorrow as we go further into our Pass Blocking Efficiency sig stat to look at how all the linemen played when they lined up on the interior of the line.