2011 Pass Blocking Efficiency: Running Backs

| 5 years ago

2011 Pass Blocking Efficiency: Running Backs

Each and every year I begin my breakdown of running backs in pass protection by reminding everyone that there’s more to the position than just rushing. Sure, it’s more important what they do with the ball in their hands, but having a back who can pick up the blitz and keep pressure off his quarterback is an invaluable tool that provides offenses with an extra level of protection and versatility.

Normally, this article would give me an opportunity to wax lyrical about Clinton Portis (the 2008-2010 king of the pass-protecting backs), but with him taking the year off, who would step up and establish themselves as the new man to beat?

Let’s break down those pass blocking backs!  

(For the purpose of this article, we only looked at running backs who stayed into pass protect at least 50 times and note that we do not count chip blocks as a pass block).


Staying In

The place to start when looking at backs in pass pro, is to see which of them are doing it most frequently. If nothing else, it shows as which teams either have faith in their guy … or which just need an extra body in there to make up for what’s on the offensive line. Rather interestingly, it’s Michael Bush, formerly of the Raiders, who led the league in staying into pass block in 2011, doing so on 144 occasions. That was four more times than every-down back LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles, and six more times than Frank Gore. The conclusion? If you’re going to be an every-down guy, you’re going to need to earn the trust of your coaches in pass protection.


RankNameTeamPass Block Snaps
1Michael BushOAK144
2LeSean McCoyPHI140
3Frank GoreSF138
4Steven JacksonSL122
5Ahmad BradshawNYG105
6Beanie WellsARZ103
7Ray RiceBLT102
8Kregg LumpkinTB97
9Jonathan StewartCAR96
10Adrian L. PetersonMIN83


It’s All Relative

A number of greater significance than how many times a back stayed in, is what percentage of times a back stayed in relative to the number of passing plays they were a part of. There are a number of possibilities why backs Jackie Battle and Daniel Thomas spent nearly half of their passing plays blocking, be it a lack of faith in their work as a receiver or a lack of faith in their offensive lines’ blocking. However you want to spin it (and it should be noted both men gave up little pressure), you can’t ignore that they spent a significantly higher percentage of time blocking than other backs, which probably has a little something to do with cautious coaches doing everything they can to keep their quarterback upright.


RankNameTeamPassing PlaysPass Block SnapsPass Block %
1Jackie BattleKC1366447.1
2Daniel ThomasMIA1777944.6
3Isaac RedmanPIT1947739.7
4Frank GoreSF35213839.2
5Ahmad BradshawNYG28110537.4
6Michael BushOAK38514437.4
7Felix JonesDAL2077435.7
8Beanie WellsARZ29310335.2
9Joseph AddaiIND2167434.3
10Adrian L. PetersonMIN2488333.5


Feeling the Pressure

So we’ve looked at who is staying in the most often, now how about who is giving up the most pressure? In sheer numerical terms, that man is LeSean McCoy who gave up a sack, three hits, and 14 hurries. You have to feel for McCoy, he’s not helped by having nobody to spell him, nor by having a quarterback who is always going to hold onto the ball more than others. That number is still alarmingly high, but at least McCoy is a feature back. Imagine being Kregg Lumpkin, a third-down back who gave up 16 combined sacks, hits, and hurries. If you’re on the field in obvious passing situations, you simply need to do better than that.


RankNameTeamSacks AllowedHits AllowedHurries AllowedTotal Pressure Allowed
1LeSean McCoyPHI131418
2Kregg LumpkinTB331016
3Jonathan StewartCAR111012
4Frank GoreSF20810
5tReggie BushMIA2439
5tMichael BushOAK2259
5tRay RiceBLT2169
5tSteven JacksonSL1269
5tMatt ForteCHI1179
10tChris OgbonnayaCLV4048
10tBeanie WellsARZ2158


Pass Blocking Efficiency

But so what if you gave up some pressure, if you were staying into block a lot? That’s where our Pass Blocking Efficiency signature stat comes in handy. A simple enough formula, we take the combined number of sacks, hits, and hurries (where hits and hurries are worth three quarters that of a sack), divide it by the number of pass blocks and take that away from zero. Like this:

Pass Blocking Efficiency = (1– ((Sacks + 0.75*(Hits + Hurries)) / Pass Blocking Snaps)) * 100

What this tells us is that there isn’t a better back in the league (at least in 2011) than Fred Jackson. But then you don’t need a fancy formula to figure that out as the Bill was the only running back not to give up a single QB disruption all year. That was one less than the Atlanta Falcon duo of Jason Snelling and Michael Turner who each gave up just one piece of pressure to finish second and third.


RankNameTeamPass Block SnapsTotal Pressure AllowedPBE
1Fred JacksonBUF830100.0
2Michael TurnerATL72199.0
3Jason SnellingATL57198.2
4Roy HeluWAS78298.1
5Donald BrownIND68297.8
6Dexter McClusterKC65297.7
7Jackie BattleKC64297.7
8James StarksGB71297.5
9Ahmad BradshawNYG105497.1
10LeGarrette BlountTB58297.0


Down at the other end of the scale, there’s no surprise that Lumpkin finished at the bottom, though at least he didn’t give up the most sacks of any running back. That dubious honor went to Chris Ogbonnaya who was responsible for four sacks, and finished second from the low end in the PBE rankings. Sometimes teams just end up asking too much out of limited talents and that was certainly the case with Ogbonnaya.


RankNameTeamPass Block SnapsTotal Pressure AllowedPBE
32Ray RiceBLT102992.9
33Peyton HillisCLV73792.5
34DeAngelo WilliamsCAR57592.5
35Justin ForsettSEA55691.4
36Matt ForteCHI75990.7
37Jonathan StewartCAR961290.4
38LeSean McCoyPHI1401890.2
39Reggie BushMIA74990.2
40Chris OgbonnayaCLV67889.6
41Kregg LumpkinTB971686.9


It will not (nor should it) ever be as important a part of playing running back as rushing the ball, but there’s something to be said for a running back that can prevent pressure from getting to his quarterback. Each unnecessary hit a quarterback takes could be the one that puts them out for the season, so we here at Pro Football Focus can only doth our collective caps to the Jacksons, Turners and Snellings of this world for preventing that. Their thankless task need be thankless no more.



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  • defenaughty

    I just heard the news that Jason Peters ruptured his achilles. Are you guys planning on doing an article that breaks down his impact?