2014 Bruce Matthews Award
Sam Monson reveals PFF's second annual Bruce Matthews award, recognizing the season's best offensive lineman.
2014 Bruce Matthews Award
This is Awards Week at PFF and though we’ve already gone through a lot there are still more to come. At its heart PFF has always had a special eye on the trenches. With the ever-increasing use of stats in the game, you can get a reasonable reflection of a lot of positions, but life on the line of scrimmage needs a thorough examination of the tape.
The annual votes for Pro Bowl and even All-Pro teams show how often offensive linemen playing fantastic football get overlooked, often for a player with name recognition but a far inferior season. At PFF we have decided to recognize these players. Last year, we awarded Evan Mathis the inaugural Bruce Matthews Award as the NFL’s best offensive lineman.
Matthews is the perfect player to lend his name to this award. He was a 14-time Pro-Bowler, a 10-time All-Pro, never missed a game due to injury (229 consecutive starts) and played all five line positions during his career. His career lasted so long that he ended up being coached by one of his old college teammates (Jeff Fisher). Matthews embodies what we want to recognize with this award – outstanding offensive line play. So let’s take a look at the contenders from this season.
4th Runner Up
Nick Mangold, C, NY Jets
Earlier in his career Nick Mangold was the dominant center in the league. He had let that standard slip for a few seasons, but this year he quietly regained much of that old form and was clearly the best player at his position (who didn’t have his season cut short due to injury). Mangold finished the year with a +22.6 grade, clear of the rest of the pack despite a late surge by Travis Frederick. He has always been a strong run blocker but despite pass protecting for a less than ideal quarterback situation in New York he surrendered just seven total pressures all year, being beaten for only one sack.
Mangold had just one game graded in the red, the final one of his season against the Patriots before going off injured mid-way through the game. This was a fine bounce-back season from Mangold, and worthy of recognition on this shortlist.
3rd Runner Up
Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns
There were three left tackles that enjoyed fantastic seasons and can barely be separated. Thomas finished the lowest of the three in the overall PFF offensive tackle grades with a +33.5 mark, but that is only 3.3 shy of No. 2 and 4.7 off the top spot. On the other hand, he was more than 11 grade points ahead of the next best tackle.
Thomas has been the benchmark for pass-protecting offensive tackles since entering the league. This year he was again up with the best despite allowing a little more pressure thanks to a combination of very deep drops and questionable pocket presence from the Cleveland quarterbacks. Thomas was also an excellent run blocker in 2014 — something that has not always been true during his career — right up with Jason Peters and Joe Staley in that regard, two tackles characteristically much more powerful in the run game than Thomas.
This was an excellent season in an excellent career for Thomas, but not quite good enough to rank higher.
2nd Runner Up
Andrew Whitworth, LT, Cincinnati Bengals
Whitworth is the second of the three tackles to enjoy excellent seasons but come up shy of the award itself. He does benefit a little from the quick passing game in Cincinnati, but Whitworth’s pass-protection numbers this season are bordering on silly. He wasn’t beaten for a sack all season and surrendered just nine total pressures. Think about that for a second. In 16 games or over 1,100 snaps, Whitworth allowed pressure on just nine of them. He allowed his quarterback to hit the ground just once all season.
Some of those games featured multiple pressures so he actually posted perfect pass-protection games on 10 occasions. That’s 62.5% of games this season Whitworth was a clean sheet when it comes to protecting the quarterback. This from a player that was originally drafted to play guard. Whitworth remains one of the most consistent and best tackles in football. Though he may have been snubbed for the Pro Bowl, he earned recognition on this shortlist.
1st Runner Up
Jason Peters, LT, Philadelphia Eagles
The final of the trio of excellent offensive tackles, Jason Peters topped the position rankings with a +38.2 grade. Peters may have allowed a little more pressure than the two other tackles here, but was often protecting for far longer in that Philadelphia offense and still graded comparably because of that. He also brought his A-game when it came to run blocking, burying players when he got a clean shot at them.
There might not be a more powerful run blocker at the position than Peters, and he is a big reason why the Eagles are able to have success on the ground, teaming with a healthy Evan Mathis to form the best left-side tandem in the game. Playing in Philadelphia Peters also notched 1,168 snaps this season, more than any other tackle other than Anthony Castonzo from Indianapolis.
Peters was the best-graded left tackle this season, heading a very closely matched trio at the position, but the winner of the award does not play tackle primarily…
2014 Bruce Matthews Award Winner
Marshal Yanda, RG, Baltimore Ravens
With no Evan Mathis for half of the season it looked destined for one of the three elite tackles to win the Matthews award this year. However, Marshal Yanda decided to take up the mantle of outstanding guard play. Yanda finished with a +43.4 grade, almost 20 points clear of the next best player at his position. He allowed exactly 16 total pressures, just one per game over the season, and even showed the ability to kick out to right tackle when the Ravens suffered injuries late in the year and needed a re-shuffle up front.
Yanda’s run blocking grade of +34.2 was nearly twice that of the next best guard, San Francisco’s Mike Iupati (+18.5), paving the way for a successful season from Justin Forsett, not exactly a dominant runner in ordinary circumstances. Baltimore averaged 5.6 yards per carry running either side of Yanda this season, significantly more than any other lineman on the team. His season was a picture of consistency, with impressive games almost every week, and even positive grades once he switched to tackle.
Marshal Yanda was a monster in the trenches this season and a worthy winner of the second annual PFF Bruce Matthews award.
See the other awards we’ve handed out this week:
2014 PFF All-Pro Team
2014 PFF All-Pro Special Teams
2014 PFF Stephenson Award (Best Player)
2014 PFF Offensive Player of the Year
2014 PFF Defensive Player of the Year
2014 PFF Matthews Award (Best Offensive Lineman)
2014 PFF O-Line Rankings
2014 PFF Rookie of the Year
2014 PFF Offensive Rookie of the Year
2014 PFF Defensive Rookie of the Year
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam