ProFootballFocus has been cranking out a series of articles that summarize and analyze the relative pass protection abilities of all the teams in the NFL..
The first article was rating teams as far as giving up pressure. PFF defines pressure as whenever the QB is sacked, hit, or forced to move out of the pocket.
The Lions gave up 232 pressures in 715 pass snaps for a rate of 32.45% pressures per play. This ranked the Lions seventh in the NFL, ahead of teams like Miami, New England, New Orleans, and Green Bay among many others. Rather surprisingly, Seattle led the NFL in this stat just ahead of the Jets. The article then breaks down the source of the pressures; for example, whether they are the cause of an O Line failure or skill position [TE or RB] failure, or QB induced. The Lions finished tied for 13th in the O Line rating, 27th in skill position blocking, and 17th in number of QB induced pressures.
The second article reviewed the teams' performance regarding how often that pressure was turned into sacks. The Lions gave up 28 sacks on 232 pressures, which is a rate of 12.07%. Good enough to be the sixth best in the NFL, ahead of such teams as New England, the Jets, Atlanta, Green Bay, and Seattle among many others. The best team in this category was the Giants, followed by Indy, the Saints, the Rams and the Bucs.
This is a bit of an odd stat which owes as much to the QB's ability to get out of trouble by dumping it off quickly [Peyton] or just being able to shake off most hits and pressure [Freeman], or a combination of both [Brees]. Then you have Eli Manning who seemed to throw the ball up for grabs when he got under pressure, avoiding the sack but leading the league in INTs.
The next article reviewed which teams used additional blockers besides the five on the O Line. I think this will be surprising to most of us, but the Lions kept an additional blocker back less than any other team in the NFL...according to PFF. The Lions kept in an average of 5.31 blockers per pass play ranking first. Indy was second in this category with 5.39. Green Bay was 25th keeping 5.67 blockers in, which is equivalent to an extra blocker two out of every three pass plays compared to the Lions, who kept one extra blocker in one out of every three pass plays.
I think a lot of people here, including me, believed the Lions went to two TE sets to help the O Line, but according to these observations they rarely kept those TEs in to pass block. And that also includes the RBs. It seems the Lions saw more value in sending them out on routes rather than staying back and blocking. That does not say that those skill players don't pause to chip and slow the on rushing D Linemen.
NOTE: I won't go through the math again, but I showed in a previous post that the Lions ran more three wide sets than two TE sets. Even with our terrible third WR and injuries to Nate and Calvin.
And finally, PFF put all these stats together to qualitatively rank all the teams in their Pass Blocking success in 2010.
The Lions were ranked fourth, behind Indy, the Seahawks, and the Jets. Here is what they had to say about the Lions:
Somewhat surprising, this owes a lot to the Lions being the number one team when it comes to shunning the thought of extra blockers. That isn’t to slight their pass protection unit which still performed extremely well. No, this is, in large part, on Shaun Hill. The quarterback did an extremely good job of getting rid of the ball and avoiding sacks compared to his quarterback peers. A very handy back-up to have.
Frankly, their explanation is a bit off. I think the first line should read, "this DOES NOT OWE a lot to the the Lions being the number one team when it comes to shunning the thought of extra blockers." I do agree with them as to Hill's ability to avoid pressure and dump off quickly. Linehan's play calling is also a factor in the minimizing of pressure and sacks.
For the record, one of the problems I have with the PFF stats is the disconnect between the individual blocking scores and the overall performance of the team in pass blocking or any other measurable for that matter. The Lions players as a group had a cumulative score of -9.8 in pass blocking, good for 13th in the NFL. They were well behind teams like Green Bay and Denver, who they were well ahead of on nearly every other pass blocking stat you could name.
To me this just shows, more than anything, how important the QB and play calling is in minimizing the impact of defensive pressure on the QB. Specifically his ability to recognize the pressure, locate his outlet, and releasing the pass. The ability of the QB to avoid pressure by running around is highly overrated in my opinion. QBs that can stand in the pocket and buy an extra second like Freeman and Roethlisberger, and still get rid of the ball before taking the sack, are much more successful than guys who take off and run [ie. Mike Vick]. That is why Peyton Manning is still the best QB in the NFL regardless of how lousy an O Line he has.
There is a lot here to digest but I thought this would make an interesting addition to some of our marathon debates on our O Line, overall pass blocking ability, play calling, and the overall effectiveness of our passing attack.
As always, questions, comments,
personal attacks [oops], and intelligent debate will be very welcome.