With the draft been and gone, and the 2013 season slowly creeping closer, it’s time for our annual look at the under-appreciated players from every NFL roster. Our Secret Superstars series digs under the surface to highlight those players who put in the dirty work to allow others to shine, or those who look poised for a breakout campaign after starring in limited roles.
The series has no greater ambassador than Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, whom we highlighted two years ago on his path to becoming one of the most dominant players in the league.
Last year saw us discuss the merits of players like Richard Sherman, Greg Hardy and Tim Jennings, all who went on to have big seasons for their respective teams. We had our misses as well, with injuries costing some and others just not living up to the play that lead them to be named Secret Superstars.
Starting the series this year is our look at the Arizona Cardinals right tackle Bobby Massie, who may have started his career poorly, but turned it around in a big way to end the season, potentially leading to a promising 2013 and beyond.
When he was drafted out of Mississippi in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, Massie was considered to be “raw” as a prospect. So it was surprising, and probably asking too much, to see him as the Day 1 starter at right tackle in Arizona.
Given all of that, early struggles were to be expected, but it was just how badly he struggled that jumped out. With the exception of a impressive performance in Week 2 against the New England Patriots, where he was perfect in pass protection, his highest-graded performance in the first seven weeks of the season was -0.6. Making things even worse, he didn’t finish any of the other five games with an overall grade better than -3.6.
Playing so poorly that at one stage only his teammate D’Anthony Batiste ranked lower than him in our offensive tackle rankings, Massie allowed some form of pressure on 14.5% of his pass-blocking snaps over the first seven weeks of the season. That included a performance as bad as you’re ever likely to see against Cameron Wake and the Miami Dolphins, and horror shows against the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings. When all was said and done at the end of his first seven weeks in the league, he had allowed 12 sacks, two hits and 33 hurries. Totals that would be considered bad enough for a full season let alone seven games!
Turning Things Around
Thankfully, with the help of PFF, Massie was able to turn things around in the second half of the season in a way nobody would have expected. From Week 8 onward, he had just two games where he finished with an overall negative grade, and just one where he graded negatively as a pass blocker. Suddenly, the player who was allowing pressure on 14.5% of his pass blocking snaps was making pass protection look easy.
In those remaining nine games he allowed more than two total pressures in a single game just once, against the Chicago Bears in Week 16. And what about the 47 total pressures allowed over the first seven weeks? Just 14 from that point on – an incredible turnaround!
A quick glance at our Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) Signature Stat will show you that he ranked 47th out of the 52 offensive tackles who played at least 50% of their team’s passing snaps. That’s an indication of just how bad the beginning of the season was for Massie, with his fantastic performance over the second half of the year barely raising him up the rankings at all. However, if you purely look at those last nine games, his PBE Rating comes in at 97.3. Had he been able to produce at that level for the full season, he would have been tied for third place among all offensive tackles. That’s how good he was in the second half of the year.
The good news for Massie is that despite a new regime taking over in Arizona, he still looks likely to be the starting right tackle when the season begins. That means he’s going to get the chance to show everyone how good he is over a full season, and correct any misconceptions that he’s one of the worst offensive tackles in the league.
An area he needs to improve on still is as a run blocker. Though he wasn’t terrible, grading out at 0.0 over the full year, he didn’t have any performances where he wowed you in the running game and, if he wants become a complete player, that needs to improve.
It may be lofty ambition, but Massie is genuinely capable of being considered one of the best right tackles in the league by this time next year, he certainly played like one to finish 2012. What’s important is that he builds on that strong finish and doesn’t revert back to the form that had us shielding our eyes in his first few starts.
His improved level of play makes that seem so long ago, and the mere thought that the same player can be one of the best at his position might seem hard to believe, but that’s how impressive this Secret Superstar was late in the year, and we can’t wait to see how he progresses in 2013 and beyond.
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