At PFF, we strive to dig beyond the basic numbers through performance-based scouting, and the “Outside the Box” series is just another way to dig into player performance beyond the traditional box score statistics. We spend a lot of time explaining why our grades may not match up with a guy’s numbers for a game, or even a season, so this series was created in order to keep all of that analysis in one place.
Why did a quarterback have a 100.0 passer rating and get a negative grade? How does a running back get a positive grade with only five yards on three carries? How can a linebacker grade negatively when he had 12 tackles? These situations arise every week of the season and we’ve decided to show why the stats can often lie while providing some insight into our grading process. First up in this new series is a look at the recent performance by Steelers rookie linebacker, Ryan Shazier.
On the surface, the stats look really good. Getting in on 10 tackles is nothing to sniff at, and adding an interception makes it look like a Pro-Bowl performance for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier. But let’s take a closer look to see what went into his -1.5 grade in such a seemingly productive debut.
Fans will remember Shazier’s interception, and rightfully so, as it was a great display of his athleticism and the potential he brings to Pittsburgh’s defense. He ran the seam with tight end Scott Chandler and took advantage of a bad decision by quarterback E.J. Manuel by turning and making a play on the ball.
There’s obviously a ton of value in having the ability to turn the ball over, but it wasn’t all great for Shazier in coverage. He was a little late to react in zone at times, and he got burned on a deep out by Chandler when they matched up later in the game.
Against the Run
It was a mixed bag for Shazier in the run game as well and it started out poorly on the fourth play from scrimmage. Buffalo ran a rare fullback dive and Shazier got caught up in the fake pitch in the backfield and ran away from the point of attack.
He did show his nose for the football at times, particularly this play as he sifts through the trash to find the ball carrier and take him down. Shazier’s length and athleticism were on display as he stopped RB C.J. Spiller for the short gain. However, he had a similar opportunity to take Spiller down for a loss in the backfield later in the game, but Spiller broke free as Shazier was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
As for taking on blocks, there was nothing definitive as Shazier was sealed out of some plays but did a nice job of avoiding second-level blocks on some occasions as well.
If you’re looking for some positives in Shazier’s first game, there are certainly plenty to point to. The interception was impressive and there were flashes of potential sprinkled throughout his 37 snaps. However, if you’re just looking at the boxscore, the numbers don’t give a full indication of some of his weaknesses in the game, whether it was falling down in coverage, whiffing on the tackle, and getting sealed out of a few running plays.
The Week 3 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles will be a really good test for Shazier as he goes up against one of the league’s best run-blocking offensive lines and a passing offense that challenges linebackers as much as any in the NFL.
Follow Steve on Twitter.