PFF's Best Run Blocker Award: Vikings C Joe Berger
It is award season here at PFF, and this year we are taking the offensive line a step further than in previous years. Not only do we have the Bruce Matthews Award for best offensive lineman, but we are starting awards for best pass and run blocking linemen as well. The best run blocker award is named after former New England Patriot guard John Hannah, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
Let’s take a look at the top candidates and the inaugural winner of the 2015 John Hannah Award for the best run blocker of the year.
Joe Berger, C, Minnesota Vikings
Joe Berger was largely used in a reserve role during his first few years with the Vikings before starting at right guard during the last half of the season after replacing Brandon Fusco. This preseason Berger was once again inserted into a starting spot during the preseason after a season-ending injury to center John Sullivan. Not only has Berger done a superb job replacing an elite center, but he has quietly been one of, if not the best center in the league this season. The veteran has excelled as a run blocker to earn the highest run blocking grade among centers during the last four years. Over the final half of the regular season, he earned an above-average grade of +1.0 or higher in every game, including a peak of +5.3 against a good Oakland defensive line (0.0 is average). He was also the most consistent center as he had the lowest percentage of negatively-graded run blocks at the position. The Vikings offense primarily runs man and zone blocking schemes where center play can be crucial, and Berger’s performance was an integral part of Minnesota’s rushing success this season.
Tyron Smith, LT, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas offensive line is arguably the best run blocking group in the league, and they are led by LT Tyron Smith. In what was a career year for the 25-year-old, Smith had the second-most positive graded run blocks among tackles. In addition, he earned negative run block grades on just 7.9% of run plays, second-lowest among all players.
Evan Mathis, LG, Denver Broncos
Evan Mathis came over to the Broncos after more than two months as a free agent following his release from the Eagles and entered the season having graded as the best run blocking guard three of the last four years. He started the year slow while dealing with injury, but he played significantly better after the first two weeks and was once again the top run blocking guard in the league. Mathis earned a positive run blocking grade on 24.8% of run plays, the second-highest rate among all offensive linemen.
Richie Incognito, LG, Buffalo Bills
After being out of the NFL in 2014 following his suspension the previous year, Richie Incognito had a career year in his return to the field. His run blocking was particularly impressive and helped solidify their weakness at left guard since Andy Levitre left a few years ago. Incognito had the second-most positively graded run blocks among guards, and the third-highest ratio of positive run blocks to negative run blocks among all linemen.
Marshal Yanda, RG, Baltimore Ravens
Since moving to guard in 2011, Marshal Yanda has consistently been one of the top overall players at the position in the league. While the rest of the offensive line dealt with injuries this year and their performance dipped from last season, Yanda continued his elite level of play. He had more positively graded run blocks than any other player in the league for the second consecutive year. Amazingly, his +23.8 run block grade was only the fourth-highest of his career.
For more PFF awards, visit the following pages: