Yesterday it was the offensive tackles‘ turn, so it only seems fair that we move onto the offensive interior as we look at NFL’s most effective pass protecting lineman from 2011.
If you missed how we go about deciding that, the formula used is built from numbers we gather during our analysis process. We weigh hits and hurries as worth 75% of sacks, add up the three forms of pressure, divide it by the number of times they pass blocked at a certain position and you’re left with a figure. Work in a multiplier to get it into form, and it equals your PBE number:
(1– ((Sacks + (0.75*(Hits + Hurries))/ Pass Blocking Snaps))*100 = PBE Rating
So let’s look at how those centers and guards turned out shall we, with a minimum criteria of at least 200 snaps at guard or center (separately).
Guarding Against Pressure
In yesterday’s article we mentioned how Matt Hasselbeck makes his tackles look as good as possible with his ability to get rid of the ball quickly. Well you only need to look at the Top 5 guards to see that Ryan Fitzpatrick is falling into that category. Both unheralded Bills OG’s finished in the first four, with Kraig Urbik leading the way after giving up just two pressures in his entire spell at guard (248 snaps in pass pro). Chad Rinehart may have given up five times as many combined sacks, hits, and hurries, but doing so on 537 pass protection snaps explains his fourth overall ranking. With both men restricted free agents, it’s pretty hard to see them leaving Buffalo. That can only mean good things for Fitzpatrick and the fortunes of the two guards, given how in-sync the line and QB appear to be.
Best in the Business
While the Buffalo guards have come out of nowhere to a degree, it’s no surprise to see Marshal Yanda (second) and Carl Nicks (third ) up at the top of the Pass Blocking Efficiency ratings. Both gave up just two sacks, while Yanda allowed one fewer hit (one) and two fewer hurries (six) than Nicks, although Nicks was into pass protect on 130 more regular season snaps. It’s reasons like this why Yanda is viewed by many as the best right guard in football, and why Nicks is likely to command a huge price tag if he hits the open market.
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Diehl-ing with Despair
Honestly, we’re not trying to start a fight with a big guy like David Diehl, but rather just pointing out some numbers. Yesterday we told you he was the worst-ranked tackle in the league when it came to giving up pressure, and he’s about to complete the double, because he’s also the worst-ranked guard. The Giants’ lineman gave up five sacks, two hits, and 28 hurries on the 280 occasions he lined up to pass protect at guard; comfortably worse than the next weakest effort by Zane Beadles of the Denver Broncos. Diehl may bring a lot to the table off the field, but simply put, if you’re watching him on it, you’re likely to be watching him get beat wherever he lines up.
As is often the case, a number of first year players were thrust into situations they didn’t appear ready for. This was particularly evident in the case of Will Rackley, who finished with the third lowest score (out of 72) after giving up six sacks, seven hits and 27 hurries (only Beadles beat the 40 total QB disruptions he gave up). Rackley wasn’t the only one to have his problems, with John Moffit and Maurice Hurt finishing in the bottom 10, with no rookie finishing higher than the 40th place that the Oakland Raiders Stefan Wisniewski managed. Making the transition from college to the NFL is never easy, but the offensive line is one area where this seems to stand out all the more.
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Center of Attention
Moving onto the men in the middle and once again we’re looking at a Buffalo Bill leading the way, only this time it’s Eric Wood getting his due after he gave up just one hit and two hurries on 301 pass blocking snaps. He was one of six centers (out of the 34 who were in for at least 200 pass blocks) who didn’t give up a sack all year, with the second-placed Max Unger also being one of those guys (though he did give up seven hurries).
To Play or Not to Play
Will Jeff Saturday or Matt Birk retire? That’s a question that a lot of Colts and Ravens fans are asking, as well as a number of NFL teams who have Saturday earmarked for a front office role. Both still have something to offer on the field, giving up 15 QB disruptions between them to both finish in the Top 10. If they do decide to play on, it’s hard to see them not remaining with their current teams, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented players for center-hungry teams to pick up. The improving Scott Wells ranked third after giving up two sacks, a hit, and six hurries on 633 snaps in pass protection, while Chris Myers finished a healthy 13th overall (Myers, for his sins, is a much better run blocker).
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Area for Improvement
After a rookie season that had its ups and downs, it was somewhat refreshing to hear Jason Kelce speak with such honesty that his pass protection was the area of his game most needing work. This study confirms it, with Kelce ranking lowest of all centers in the league after giving up33 combined sacks, hits and hurries. That was 10 more than the next-worst center (J.D. Walton) and while it came on 651 snaps in pass protection (third highest of all centers), it’s still a number that is far too high for any player at that position.
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Quarterbacks hate push up the middle because it prevents them from stepping up into throws, so how good a guard or center is in preventing this should not be overlooked. You only need to look at how some quarterbacks fall apart when under pressure to see this. So, while we’d always refer you to our grading as something more in depth, these numbers provide an interesting insight into which guards and centers are the best at making their QBs’ lives easier. Given the money some of them are getting, it’s the least they can do.