Pass Blocking By Time To Throw

| April 21, 2014

passblockTTTOne problem with statistics in all of sports is that there are never two instances that are exactly the same. We can try to account for as many factors as we possibly can, but we will never be perfect. We can only strive to improve.

This concept holds true for pass protection. If a team’s offensive philosophy was to throw screens and quick slants every pass play, then it would make life for the offensive linemen relatively easy.

If that was the philosophy, we could see that the team’s linemen never allow pressure over the entire season. On the other hand, if the quarterback decided to hold onto the ball for four seconds every play, then even the best offensive linemen would allow pressure on a somewhat consistent basis.

Our grades are able to account for how long the quarterback holds onto the ball, but our raw pressure numbers do not — one of the many reasons we prefer our grades to any statistic. While it is great to get an overall view of how good pass blockers are, it would be even better to level the playing field and see how pass rushers perform in certain situations.

For example, let’s say an offense always throws the ball at exactly two seconds after the snap on their passing plays. It’s not a realistic model, but it would be interesting to know how good offensive linemen are at pass blocking within the first two seconds of a play and we can get fairly close to a definitive answer using PFF data.

Looking at the 2013 season, we can start with every pass block by a player during the season, what the time to throw was, what the time to pressure was, and if any pressure was allowed. Any play where the ball was thrown before two seconds and an offensive lineman didn’t allow pressure is taken out of the data set. Any play where an offensive lineman allowed pressure after two seconds would be considered ‘no pressure allowed’ because it came after the two-second mark in that scenario.

2.0 Seconds

Here is a table of the top tackles, guards and centers in terms of Pass Blocking Efficiency (measuring sacks, hits, and hurries against the number of snaps spent pass blocking with weighting heavier toward sacks) at 2.0 seconds. This data includes the playoffs, and requires a minimum of 100 pass rushes remaining in the data set to qualify for the list.

Offensive tackles:

Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
OT Joe Thomas CLV 604 0 0 1 99.88
OT Jordan Gross CAR 459 0 0 2 99.67
OT Tyler Polumbus WAS 505 0 3 2 99.26
OT Terron Armstead NO 132 1 0 0 99.24
OT Michael Oher BLT 486 0 1 4 99.23
OT Jason Peters PHI 482 0 1 4 99.22
OT Byron Bell CAR 454 0 1 4 99.17
OT Zach Strief NO 547 1 0 5 99.13
OT Demar Dotson TB 459 1 0 4 99.13
OT Trent Williams WAS 506 2 2 2 99.01


Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
G Chris Scott CAR 218 0 0 0 100.00
G Brian Waters DAL 151 0 0 0 100.00
G Andrew Whitworth CIN 139 0 0 0 100.00
G Ronald Leary DAL 456 0 0 2 99.67
G Josh Sitton GB 399 0 0 2 99.62
G Ben Grubbs NO 588 0 1 2 99.62
G Willie Colon NYJ 436 1 1 0 99.60
G Mike Brisiel OAK 370 0 0 2 99.59
G Louis Vasquez DEN 518 0 0 3 99.57
G Rob Sims DET 461 0 0 3 99.51


Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
C Jason Kelce PHI 503 0 0 0 100.00
C John Sullivan MIN 421 0 0 0 100.00
C Kevin Boothe NYG 205 0 0 0 100.00
C Nick Mangold NYJ 437 0 0 1 99.83
C Roberto Garza CHI 457 0 0 2 99.67

It probably isn’t surprising to find Joe Thomas at the top of the list with just one pressure allowed within the first two seconds. It is yet another number to show how dominant of a left tackle he has been since joining the NFL. Some of the more surprising names are Terron Armstead who allowed his fair share of pressure in his four starts but performed admirably in the first two seconds of plays.

Michael Oher is another to note. He allowed 57 pressures on the year but could be excited for the upcoming season as Jake Locker has typically shown a lower average Time to Throw (TTT) than Joe Flacco.

At guard there were three perfect players. It’s important to note that this only includes Andrew Whitworth’s time at guard and not at tackle. If you were asked to name Cowboys offensive players, the guards might be the last two players listed. However, they were excellent in protecting Romo for his first two seconds of drop-backs.

The list of centers isn’t all that different from our typical list of top pass-blocking centers. The most noteworthy player is Kevin Boothe who was a noticeably better pass blocker at center than he was at left guard.

There are a few problems with analyzing players in this way. If a player is successfully pass blocking for 1.9 seconds and the ball is thrown, chances are they would have been able to successful for that extra tenth of a second but we didn’t include it. However, it does count every time a player did allow pressure within 1.9 seconds. Therefore this kind of analysis will underestimate how good a player is in pass protection because it always accounts for the bad plays of less than two seconds, but sometimes eliminates the potential good.

2.5 Seconds

If we did this analysis for a number lower than two seconds, then we get closer to most linemen allowing no pressure. However, if we increase the time threshold we get more interesting results. Here are the top linemen when we look at the 2.5-second mark:

Offensive tackles:

Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
OT Jordan Gross CAR 309 2 1 6 97.65
OT Joe Thomas CLV 421 0 3 17 96.44
OT Tyler Polumbus WAS 289 3 5 9 95.33
OT Joe Staley SF 262 3 2 11 95.13
OT Demar Dotson TB 291 3 1 14 95.10
OT Zach Strief NO 354 4 2 16 95.06
OT Sebastian Vollmer NE 106 0 1 6 95.05
OT Tyron Smith DAL 270 0 1 19 94.44
OT Russell Okung SEA 144 2 3 5 94.44
OT Jason Peters PHI 328 2 4 19 94.13


Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
G Willie Colon NYJ 282 1 2 5 97.78
G Chris Scott CAR 146 1 1 2 97.77
G Josh Sitton GB 228 0 0 7 97.70
G Louis Vasquez DEN 265 0 0 9 97.45
G Ben Grubbs NO 369 2 3 8 97.22
G Jahri Evans NO 330 1 2 11 96.74
G Evan Mathis PHI 339 2 5 8 96.53
G Travelle Wharton CAR 267 0 0 13 96.35
G Larry Warford DET 240 0 5 7 96.25
G Jamon Meredith TB 122 0 2 5 95.70


Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
C Roberto Garza CHI 267 0 0 5 98.60
C Jason Kelce PHI 330 2 0 4 98.48
C Nick Mangold NYJ 279 0 1 5 98.39
C Scott Wells SL 180 1 0 3 98.19
C Max Unger SEA 196 1 0 4 97.96

The first thing worth noting here is just how big of a difference half of a second makes. Quite a few of the names remain the same, but the amount of pressure allowed increased while the Pass Blocking Efficiencies decreased.

This list also resembles our normal Pass Blocking Efficiency numbers more closely. It is expected for the average to above average players to very rarely give up pressure within two seconds so one single play could make a noticeable difference on the leaderboard. Here we see more of a difference between one player and another.

3.0 Seconds

Finally, here is the same analysis done but with a three-second threshold. Anything beyond three seconds, we find that the sample size starts to get too small.

Offensive tackles:

Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
OT Joe Thomas CLV 203 2 7 25 87.19
OT Demar Dotson TB 151 4 2 21 85.93
OT Jason Peters PHI 181 3 4 26 85.91
OT Zach Strief NO 182 4 4 26 85.44
OT Jordan Gross CAR 154 6 3 19 85.39
OT Joe Staley SF 129 4 4 16 85.27
OT Branden Albert KC 115 3 6 13 85.00
OT Tyler Polumbus WAS 166 3 8 23 84.19
OT Trent Williams WAS 164 8 5 19 84.15
OT Tyron Smith DAL 137 1 2 26 83.94


Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
G Josh Sitton GB 112 1 0 8 93.75
G Willie Colon NYJ 132 1 2 10 92.42
G Evan Mathis PHI 182 2 5 12 91.90
G Jahri Evans NO 170 3 2 16 90.29
G Ben Grubbs NO 187 3 5 17 89.57
G Louis Vasquez DEN 100 0 2 12 89.50
G Travelle Wharton CAR 127 0 3 15 89.37
G Kory Lichtensteiger WAS 152 2 3 18 88.32
G J.R. Sweezy SEA 140 0 4 20 87.14
G James Carpenter SEA 105 4 4 9 86.90


Pos Name Team Pass Blocks Sacks Hits Hurries PBE
C Jason Kelce PHI 171 2 1 5 96.20
C Max Unger SEA 116 2 0 5 95.04
C Brian De La Puente NO 176 3 2 9 93.61
C Stefen Wisniewski OAK 113 0 2 9 92.70
C Nick Mangold NYJ 133 0 1 12 92.67

Here we see the sample sizes decrease a bit, as in order for a play to count either the quarterback needed to hold onto the ball for three or more seconds, or the offensive linemen needed to allow pressure within those first three seconds.

If a team’s plan is to have a lot of quick passes, then the numbers on this table aren’t very important. However if the playbook calls for a play to develop down field then these become incredibly important.

A lot of the players on the leaderboard came from teams with a high average time to throw. A team like Seattle had to deal with a weak point on the offensive line mostly due to their run blocking, but their interior pass blocking was above average considering their time to throw. Teams like Philadelphia, Carolina, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Washington and the New York Jets also had high time to throws and have an offensive lineman represented on the list.

While this type of analysis certainly isn’t perfect, it gives a decent idea of when pressure is allowed in the NFL, which players have a strength in pass protection, and how important fractions of a second are. Knowing how much pressure is given up is certainly a much better indicator of how good an offensive line is than looking at just sacks given up. In order to get that better indication, though, the time to throw and time to pressure needs to be accounted for.


Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke

  • Jason Williams

    I guess Garza just lays down after 2.5 seconds, lol

  • Zanzibar_Buck_Buck_McFate

    For Seattle, at 3 seconds, for better or worse Russell Wilson is scrambling, and the concept of “pass blocking” is really out the window.

    • Robin

      That is certainly the case sometimes. But Seattle does run its share of deep passes. Even if you move the pocket intentionally on a roll out pass blocking plays a roll.

      • Hannah Hayes

        Considering screens and play action, you are correct.

  • Nick Cortez

    Love these kinds of stats! Wish you would show the full listings of lineman for each grouping as well, though.

    • LightsOut85

      They’ve never said it directly, but from what I’ve heard, the reason the premium section isn’t “expanded” with some of these details stats from articles (these, route-breakdowns, etc) is because those are things that are offered only to NFL teams. Why? I have no idea. (Back when they went pay-only, I “understood” them moving the play-by-play position/formation data to NFL-only (probably for more $$ than a premium subscription), but personally it doesn’t make sense why they tease us with some data, only to never release it. I would think they’d want to promote advanced statistics & encourage people to use/play-with the numbers…but we can’t if we don’t have them).

  • Hannah Hayes

    So, similar to his career, Demar Dotson gets better with age.