Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Blindside Hypothesis: Part 2

I previously started to investigate the Blindside hypothesis by wondering why the LT is the second highest player on an NFL team and why they are paid 64% more than their line mates. Additionally, I wonder whether the difference can really be attributed to some sort of insurance policy on the QBs health or whether there are other factors involved.

In order to continue this investigation, I went back to a data set that I collected during the first four games of the 2007 NFL season. For seven teams I, along with the assistance of Jesse Weinstein-Gould, charted four games, focused entirely on the offensive line. The question we were trying to answer at the time was "how can we begin to measure the impact an individual offensive linemen has on a team's passing game". In order to begin to answer this question we look at each pass play for those games, recorded the time to throw (time from the snap of the ball until the QB starts the throwing motion), whether each offensive linemen successfully held their blocks during that time, whether there was a sack, the distance the throw traveled in the air, yards the receiver ran after the catch and several situation variables such as down, distance to go etc.

The table below summarizes the average Time in the Pocket, Completion Percentage, Sack Rate, Distance of Throw, the percentage of plays in which the QB had no pressure, and the percentage of plays that each position successfully held their blocks (TEs, RBs and WRs were grouped together in Other). Before reviewing the data though, refresh your memory on the win/loss records of the teams involved in 2007: Bengals (7-9), Bills (7-9), Colts (13-3), Dolphins (1-15), Jets (4-12), Patriots (16-0) and Redskins (9-7). This of course was the magic perfect season for the Patriots and the record setting year for Tom Brady.

Column1 Bengals Bills Colts Dolphins Jets Patriots Redskins Max Min
Time in the Pocket 2.12 2.47 2.41 2.36 2.25 2.34 2.53 2.53 2.12
Complete 68.3% 54.5% 64.7% 59.0% 56.6% 73.5% 50.0% 73.5% 50.0%
Sack 3.2% 11.4% 2.4% 4.8% 11.7% 4.3% 7.9% 11.7% 2.4%
Distance of Throw 8.29 6.61 10.41 9.09 6.08 7.86 11.95 11.95 6.08
No Pressure 68.3% 54.5% 69.4% 79.0% 62.3% 84.1% 73.7% 84.1% 54.5%
Left Tackle 93.7% 88.6% 84.7% 96.2% 90.9% 91.3% 92.1% 96.2% 84.7%
Left Guard 92.1% 90.9% 96.5% 95.2% 90.9% 95.7% 97.4% 97.4% 90.9%
Center 96.8% 93.2% 100.0% 96.2% 92.2% 97.1% 94.7% 100.0% 92.2%
Right Guard 90.5% 90.9% 95.3% 98.1% 92.2% 98.6% 94.7% 98.6% 90.5%
Right Tackle 98.4% 95.5% 92.9% 98.1% 90.9% 97.1% 92.1% 98.4% 90.9%
Other 92.1% 81.8% 95.3% 93.3% 80.5% 91.3% 89.5% 95.3% 80.5%

The first of these stats that grab my attention is the No Pressure rate. In this limited sample, the overall average No Pressure rate was 70%, while Tom Brady had no pressure on 84.1% of his pass attempts. This appears to be exceptional line play including near perfection from the Right Guard position (only Colts' Center Jeff Saturday was better, and he actually was perfect in the sample). This exceptional line play assisted Brady in completing 73.5% of his passes in the sample, but only the 3rd best sack rate in the sample (the Bengals and Colts both had lower sack rates).  This means that on roughly 25% of plays in which Brady faced pressure, he was sacked, while Manning was sacked on only 8% of the plays on which he was pressured. This suggests that the line as a whole may have had a significant impact on Brady's ability to put up the record setting numbers that he did that season.

But what about the Left Tackle? Patriots LT Matt Light was successful on only 91% of plays in the sample (Redskins, Dolphins and Bengals all had superior play from the LT), so can one linemen have that much more of an impact? In my next post I will start to explore this with the play by play charted data, to try and determine if in fact the LT has a bigger impact than the rest of the line.

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