Ode to the O-line

3 Feb

by Greg Bing

When I was in high school I got into my first fight… with the second string running back. Once the head coach, and about 40 other players, broke us up, he had this confused look on his face. He’d never seen me so upset with a teammate. So after I had run about four miles, he walked over to me and asked me what happened. I told him that the running back said we don’t block.

I’ll never forget the following practice the next day.  The back up running back took about 25 snaps… AFTER the coach told us to let our blocks go. Needless to say he never said anything about the line again.

With all the focus on the Maurkice Pouncey injury, I figured I’d take a twenty second time out to give my own personal ode to the O-line – THE HARDEST JOB IN THE NFL. Excuse my biased mind, but offensive lineman are the realest on the field, the warriors, the ones who defended you when you got knocked out (sorry Ben, lol).

There are defensive schemes designed specifically for the O-line, and strategies like placing Mario Williams over your weakest tackle all year long to exploit their weaknesses. The war in the trenches is essential to the outcome of the game, let’s take a look at the facts…

Cutler after throwing a pick against San Francisco

I’ll start with passing stats and correlate those to the O-line. Jay Cutler was sacked 52 times in the 2010 regular season. Think about it like this, in a 16 game season, he was sacked an average of 3.25 times a game. This means that over the course of a game, Jay has three and a quarter opportunities to do one of the following:

  • Get hurt
  • Try to throw the ball away
  • Throw a pick (which we all know he’s quite inclined to do)
  • Or the best option, take the sack and lose the play

 Why is that relevant?

On average an offense gets 60 to 70 snaps a game. The quarterback usually gets 30-40 of those snaps. Of those 30 to 40, Cutler’s eating grass for three of them, leaving 27 to 37 snaps to get productive plays. Each time you get sacked, however, it messes up the next two plays. So now you’re looking at nine plays a game that have been corrupted due to sacks. But wait there’s more, we haven’t even touched on hurries yet. So let’s say Cutler gets hurried about five times during the course of an average game (and I’m being reeeeeeeeaaally nice here); of those 40 passing plays the offensive coordinator called, nine were corrupted by sacks, and five by hurries, leaving Cutler with a grand total of 26 passing attempts to make something happen.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Peyton Manning was sacked only 16 times in 2010, and never wastes an opportunity with the football, which of course is why he’s so dangerous. *Disclaimer* This isn’t really a fair comparison, as Culter is to Manning as Roy Williams is to Andre Johnson, but you get my drift, better protection equals more opportunities for the quarterback to make smarter decisions with the ball.

How about the running game? A prime example of the effectiveness of an offensive line is on goal line scenarios. The goal line is not about the running back, it’s about the lineman. If the coach feels like your nasties can’t handle their nasties… he’s going to pass. Sorry guys, but you put any running back up against most (key word most) NFL linebackers in a head on collision and the linebacker is going to win everytime. Running backs make huge plays when linemen get to the second level (linebackers). This is dangerous when you have a running back like LeSean McCoy, who has the ability to make the first guy miss. Well when the first guy who misses is the cornerback or safety, you’re chasing his back now (pause).

So with the Super Bowl rolling up, everyone is worried about the Steelers trying to replace big Pouncey, and for good reason, he was voted the Pro Bowl starting center as a rookie! Yes, the cheese heads love to blitz, and Big Ben seems to like getting hit, however, Pouncey’s back up – Dan Legursky is holding his own. There were those two fumbled snaps in the AFC Championship game, but Pittsburgh has had two weeks to get that together. 91 of Rashard Mendenhall’s 121 rushing yards actually came after Pouncey went down – and that was against one of the best rushing defenses in the league! Will he be able to mesh with that offensive unit for a whole game, though? Will Dom Capers load him up with blitzes? Will Legursky fold under the pressure, or man up and become a hero? I’m not God, so I’m not going to pretend to know. What I do know is that this is his moment, and should he grasp it and run with it, when the smoke has cleared on Sunday night, his name is either going to be “The Big Legursky” or “The Big Legloser”.

The big men get far too little shine, but if you pay attention to NFL salaries, offensive lineman are the second highest paid players in the league (behind quarterbacks). All I’m saying is show the big men some love (pause). They can make or break the game for you… I’ll leave you with this, “I can snap the ball to the running back and let him run with no quarterback; I can snap the ball to the quarterback and throw with no running back, but I can’t do either of those without my O-line.”

Ode to the Big Nasties!!!!!!
Enjoy the Super Bowl

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One Response to “Ode to the O-line”

  1. Amar February 3, 2011 at 4:07 PM #

    Great article Bing. The way you tied the story from high school practice to prove your point was dope.

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