The PFF 101, No. 7: Evan Mathis
What more is there for PFF to say about Evan Mathis? We have been banging the drum for Mathis since he was splitting time in an ill-advised rotation with Nate Livings in Cincinnati. After a healthy contract from Dallas Livings is currently out of the league while Mathis just earned his first All-Pro nomination.
It has taken a little time for people to warm to what Mathis does because he doesn’t look like Larry Allen. He’s not 330lbs and he doesn’t look like a guy who will drive his man to Nebraska on a running play, which is what people want to see from their guards. It’s why people insisted for so many years that Davin Joseph was so good even though the tape clearly showed he wasn’t – he looked like he should be. Instead, Mathis goes through each game just moving his man away from the ball carrier and opening running lanes on a consistent basis. It’s not necessarily spectacular, but it is very effective.
He has been the model of consistency at the position since getting a starting gig for the Eagles and has played his way from the veteran minimum contract to a pretty healthy money deal.
This last season he was the top-ranked guard in the league by some distance, with a run-blocking grade of +40.2, more than twice as much as the next best guard. He has the perfect combination of size, speed, athleticism and technique and that mix of skills is even more prized within Chip Kelly’s offense that requires its linemen to work well on the move and not simply move a pile in front of them.
Best Game: Week 2 vs. San Diego (+5.0)
Picking out a best game for Evan Mathis is a tough task not because there was a lack of good performances last season but because of his consistency. He had Five games between +4 and +5 in grading terms and another two just below at +3.8. In truth several games could be held up as a model of his impressive performances. Against the Chargers in week two Mathis combined with Jason Peters in particular to generate impressive yardage despite the defense selling out to stop the run.
Though the Eagles only ran the ball 20 times in total, six of which came from Vick at quarterback, Mathis was a large part of them averaging 4.5 yards per carry, with McCoy averaging 4.8 as the primary back. The Chargers couldn’t stop the Eagles running but did find their game plan opened up DeSean Jackson on the deep ball against single coverage. Jackson was thrown at 14 times in the game, hauling in 9 of them for 193 yards and a score. That all comes down to the Philadelphia running game and the power on the line.
Watch the speed at which Mathis gets onto his double team here, driving Corey Luiget back to the second level and then immediately peeling off to get the linebacker. Only LeSean McCoy breaking right instead of left to evade a linebacker in the hole prevents this being a dominant block at the second level as well.
Key Stat: Is on a streak of 48 straight games with a positive overall grade.
When I mentioned his consistency earlier, I wasn’t kidding. Mathis is as reliable a blocker as they come. His pass protection isn’t as good as his run blocking, but it’s still way above average, and you know that he isn’t going to be the reason you’re struggling in the trenches on a given day. When you look at that streak and some of the players that he has gone up against in that span – players like Geno Atkins, Justin Smith, Kyle Williams etc. – it’s a truly staggering achievement.
It’s easy for certain positions to get the limelight and generate buzz – people instantly recognize when a running back is playing well, or a quarterback, receiver or even most defenders, but it’s tough to force your way into recognition on the line. Mathis has done exactly that by playing well for long enough that he became impossible to ignore.
Right now Evan Mathis is the gold standard at the position in the NFL. He may not look like Larry Allen, but there isn’t a guard in the league that is playing as well as he is, and his 2013 season rightfully earns him a spot at No. 7 in the PFF Top 101.
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