Secret Superstars 2014: Redskins
Our Secret Superstar series ends with a Washington Redskin offensive lineman whose selection will no doubt surprise, and frustrate, many. Tyler Polumbus was unfairly maligned last season – for his struggles in 2012 and for the fact that the franchise QB Robert Griffin, already wounded coming off ACL surgery, took weekly beatings in 2013. It’s unfair to blame Polumbus for that.
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Colorado in 2008, Polumbus was signed by the Denver Broncos, though he would only appear in four games his rookie year, all on special teams. He would find the field properly the following year at right tackle, playing 671 snaps in 11 games with a +3.5 overall grade – though the bulk of that grade came in run blocking and via a lack of penalties.
In 2010 he was waived by Denver, claimed by Detroit, and then traded to the Seattle Seahawks where he’d find more playing time, but at various positions. Playing both tackle spots and at left guard, Polumbus earned a -7.0 overall grade. Seattle noticed his poor play, waiving him after only four snaps in 2011.
The journeyman lineman was signed by Washington late that year and started at left guard for Maurice Hurt in Week 11 vs. the Cowboys; it didn’t go well with Polumbus earning a horrible -4.2 for that game. He would start three more games that year and still struggled (-9.1 overall for that span), but at least he would end up playing his natural tackle position again instead of guard.
In 2012, Jamaal Brown was supposed to anchor the right side of the OL, but was placed on the PUP instead. Polumbus would win that right tackle spot and hold onto it throughout the season; the first near-full season in his career (a concussion suffered in Week 15 did cost him the next game, but he returned after that).
While he was perfect in pass protection in the Week 1 upset win over the Saints, that would prove to fluky as he would finish with the 51st-ranked Pass Blocking Efficiency rating among tackles who played at least 400 pass blocking snap (only one fared worse).
Polumbus did face some fantastic pass rushers that year; Carolina’s Charles Johnson and Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap were especially hard on him and his QB. Although the offensive line that year was seen as a strength (as opposed to last year), it was clear that Polumbus was the weak link.
2013 First Half
Despite the terrible 2012 effort, Polumbus was signed to a two-year contract the following offseason. Looking at the raw stats of the first game, the blowout home loss to the eventual NFC East Champion Philadelphia Eagles, it would appear he was the same old Polumbus, conceding a sack and four hurries. However, those five pressures were coughed up in 58 pass blocking snaps as the offense spent nearly the entire game trying to overcome a deficit.
The rest of the season would find the team similarly struggling to crawl out of a hole in the scoreboard, yet Polumbus began to prove his worth. In the first eight games of the season, he would only allow that one sack, five QB hits, and 12 hurries, earning a spot on PFF’s 2013 Midseason All-NFC East Team.
2013 Second Half
The team continued to struggle with a still-rusty RGIII and then, in the final three games, Kirk Cousins, but Polumbus continued to solidly protect whoever the signal-caller was. He would be responsible for only three sacks, four QB hits, and 16 hurries in the final half of the season, earning only two negatively-graded pass blocking efforts and none in ‘red’.
On the year, despite being asked to protect the passer 215 more times than in 2012 and with a QB nowhere near as mobile as was the previous season, Polumbus actually reduced the number of pressures he gave up by 17; that includes cutting his sacks-conceded by half.
He would end the season with the 14th-ranked Pass Blocking Efficiency (in regular season only) behind fellow right tackle Andre Smith, yet despite his significant improvement, he did not make the PFF All-NFC East Team at the end of the year. This was because of his consistently poor run blocking efforts, especially in the latter half of the year which included three ‘red’ graded efforts in this area.
Still, the undrafted free agent who had been maligned for his turnstile 2012 performance can hold his head high that he showed eye-opening improvement. He was certainly not the reason RGIII took so many hits last year.
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