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Lambeau Leap of Faith


February 25, 2010 5:58 AM

Analyzing the Offensive Line, Part I

In doing an analysis of an offensive line, most fans look only as far as sacks yielded. On this point, the Packers would appear to have the worst line in football, and many of its fans have been conditioned to think that.

A good editorial would also include things such as how good a runner the quarterback is, how many times he dropped back to pass, and if (like Aaron Rodgers) he had an issue with holding onto the ball too long.

The problem with this approach is it leads to conjecture, not analysis--it fosters, as my good friend Mark likes to say (and then exhibit himself...sorry, couldn't resist), biases. It is very hard to quantify factors of this nature, and there tend to be points to be made each way.

For instance, Rodgers was the most mobile quarterback to start more than 10 games this year by some accounts, leading the league in rushing at the position. He was also widely considered the worst (or perhaps better than only Ben Roethlisberger) at holding the ball. (According to Pro Football Focus, 14 of his 50 sacks were his responsibility. While that seems about right to me, I am not sure how they determine that, so I was not going to put enough stock in it to compare him to others.)

So which is more vital? Can I honestly tell you that I tracked how many sacks Rodgers avoided vs. how many he should have? I cannot.2179860358_cc697028c2.jpg

This means that a good analysis must factor in as many statistics that are an indication of a line's performance as possible in order to not be an exercise in pure barstool conjecture. Of course, this is the beauty of sports debate, but that does not mean we cannot attempt a more scientific approach so our opinions have more merit.

Therefore, I decided my readers were worth the extra hours of data gathering and interpreting. In addition to sacks, I compiled every team's quarterback hits, carries, average yards per carry, negative running plays, running plays of 10-plus yards, touchdowns, first downs, and power percentage.

These stats are compiled on NFL.com under "Offensive Line statistics." What is not there is the number of pass attempts, so I checked with each team and added up this figure, then used it to program Excel formulae for sack and hit percentages, then programmed similar percentages for all the running statistics.

What I did not go into was the number of sacks and penalties each individual lineman was responsible for. I can be satisfied calling penalties a strong negative variable for Green Bay, considering we led the league in penalties and many of them came from the offensive line. And when I get to individual grades, I have a pretty good idea of who was giving up sacks and who was instrumental in overall unit strength based on other variables I will cite with each player.

Now all that is left is how to put all of these ingredients together to give you something to stew over. With as detailed as this is, I will take some time to make sure of the formula's accuracy (taking time to "sleep" on it) before publishing the grades.

The purpose of part one is to help you understand the process. I posted it now in order to provide regular material and keep readers informed of what to expect; part two will be up by this weekend.


You can also see MJ's work on Shark-Infested Blogger, SportsScribes.net., Bleacher Report, PackerChatters.com, and Examiner.com.

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