The importance of pass-blocking efficiency in today's NFL
In today’s NFL, where offenses are becoming increasingly more pass-happy and quarterbacks and wide receivers are media darlings, just how important is it to have a safe, secure offensive line? Take this for example: each of our top three highest-rated teams in pass-blocking efficiency made it to the playoffs while nine playoff teams finished with a PBE above the league average.
How about this one: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers allowed more than 13 QB pressures in seven games last year, all losses. In the nine game in which they allowed fewer than 13 QB pressures, they won them all.
Pressures tell a big part of the story and PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency measurement (available in PFF Elite) takes it a bit further, measuring pressures allowed on a per-snap basis with a weighting toward sacks allowed.
Here are the 2016 season’s highest-rated players by position, in terms of pass-blocking efficiency:
LT: Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals
Whitworth had a great season in Cincinnati, his last as a Bengal. He logged 562 pass-blocking snaps and allowed just 14 total pressures on Bengals quarterbacks for a PBE of 98.0. He went an average of 40.1 pass-blocking snaps between pressures surrendered, the best mark among tackles by almost seven pass-blocking snaps.
Whitworth is no stranger to the top of the list of PBE as he has finished with the highest pass-blocking efficiency in three seasons during his illustrious career and in the top three at his position for seven seasons. His PBE has never dropped below a 95.6, which was still good enough for 15th among all tackles in 2013.
With Whitworth part of the line in Cincinnati, the Bengals made the playoffs six times and finished either first or second in the AFC North seven times. He’ll suit up with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017.
LG: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
All Yanda did in 2016 was log 572 snaps in pass protection and not allow a single sack or QB hit. He finished the year surrendering just six hurries for a PBE of 99.2 – which is the second-highest PBE for any guard that logged at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps in a season during the PFF era.
Also no stranger to the top of the list of pass-blocking efficiency, Yanda has finished with PFF’s top PBE among guards twice (2011, 2016) and in the top four on four separate occasions. Since 2009, he has never fielded a PBE lower than 96.7 and the Ravens have enjoyed considerable success, winning their division twice and the Super Bowl in 2012 in which Yanda finished with the league’s second-highest PBE.
C: Rodney Hudson, Oakland Raiders
Hudson was one of just three centers last season to log at least 382 snaps in pass protection and not allow a single sack nor QB hit. Of those three players, Hudson pass protected on the most snaps with 629. His 98.9 pass-block efficiency rating topped all centers and was the third highest among any offensive lineman across all five positions.
Of his four years in which he has played the majority of his respective team’s snap at center, this is the first year Hudson had not allowed a sack. 2016 marked the second consecutive season in which Hudson fielded the league’s highest PBE among centers, and his third in a row in the top two.
RG: T.J. Lang, Green Bay Packers
Zack Martin was the next man up at right guard as he played three more games than T.J. Lang, but the Packers guard allowed just 10 total pressures across the 13 games he started in 2016.
Lang didn’t surrender a single sack or hit across his season and despite missing three games, played almost 500 snaps of pass blocking (496) thanks to Green Bay’s pass-heavy offense. That’s just 43 fewer pass-blocking snaps than Martin played in three more games.
Lang was one of just three guards that didn’t allow either a sack or hit all season and had six perfect games of pass protection. Including the playoffs adds another two perfect games of pass protection and just one additional hurry across three games of postseason action.
RT: Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
Gilbert finished with the league’s fifth-highest PBE among all tackles – allowing 20 total QB pressures on 472 snaps in pass protection. His 96.7 PBE was the highest among all right tackles as only he, Zach Strief and Marcus Cannon could finish among the top 15 in PBE from the right side of the line.
2016 was Gilbert’s best season to date and he logged 10 games in which he either did not allow a pressure, or allowed just one. The Steelers finished 9-1 in those 10 games.
Gilbert’s performance, like that of the rest of the Pittsburgh offensive line, really hit stride over the second half of the season. From the fourth week of the season onward, the Steelers line surrendered just 87 total pressures, the fewest in the league by nine.