Analytics and the Bucs Offensive Line

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  • #1250048
    tog
    Participant

    There was a thread here about the conflicting offensive line rankings of different analytics. I thought this would be a good chance to discuss what analytics is for (and what it’s not).

    Analytics is just information. All it’s doing is providing different information with better context.

    For example, using yards (or even points) to judge an offense or defense is too simplistic to be useful. If a offense has 3 drives start in the opponents end because of TOs, they’re going to score more than an offense that started every drive on their own 25. Context.

    At the same time, while we can use “rankings” and “grades” as short-hand for performance, ideally they need to be understood for what they are measuring. PFF, FootbalLOutsiders’s adjusted sack rate, and ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate are all measuring slightly different things about an offensive line. That they might give us different information isn’t a bug, but a feature.

    For example, FootbalLOutsiders itself will use both it’s Adjusted Sack Rate and ESPN’s PBWR when discussing and evaluating offensive lines.

    One of the challenges of evaluating offensive line is that the scheme and QB have a huge impact in run and pass blocking. The broad consensus in analytics seems to be that sacks are primarily a QB, not offensive line, stat. Because the QB has the ability to get rid of the ball almost every time before taking a sack, he has a lot of control over taking a sack (in over 2.5 seconds). This is also a big reason why Brees’ OL is always so good – Brees gets the ball out insanely fast.

    Arians scheme is also very unfair to OL. Arians has never had a “good” OL and its no accident that Arians’ QBs take a lot of hits.

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    Looking at the analytics:

    PFF has the Bucs offensive line as ranked 7th in 2019. That’s impressive.

    Yet FO has the Bucs as 23rd in adjusted sack rate and 22nd in line yards (rushing).

    ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate has the Bucs at 17th.

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    PFF: What PFF is telling us is that based on their (subjective) grading system, the Bucs players individually graded out as the 7th best starters in 2019.

    This includes pass and run blocking. The Bucs OL definitely graded out higher in pass blocking over run blocking.

    It’s worth pointing out that every grading system is subjective, and the PFF system has a few advantages. (1) They watch every team (2) they’re not biased and (3) we can compare it across multiple years.

    The disadvantage is that, because it’s broad, it’s not factoring in the specific requirements of scheme. What Bruce Arians and Sean Payton demand of their OL is different. As well, it’s not telling us how they performed as a unit. And of course, we don’t know the exact reasons why Marpet or Jensen or Dotson were graded why they were.

    FootbalLOutsiders:
    First, FO’s “Adjusted Sack Rate” (ASR) is “sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent.”

    I’m less of a fan of this because sacks are highly variable. For example, Shaq and Za’darius Smith both had 37 QB hits but Shaq had 19.5 sacks and Smith 13.5.

    The Bucs were 22nd in sacks AND 22nd in ASR. So, the sack total is reflective of where the Bucs pass blocking performed. It’s important to note, this does not separate out the QB (or even the RBs). This is important because Winston had the 7th longest time-to-throw at 2.77 seconds. On top of which, per PFF Barber and RoJo had very bad pass blocking grades.

    So, we have a bad pass blocking unit per FO. Based on context (D&D, attempts, etc) the pass blocking wasn’t great. But how much was the OL? How much the QB? The scheme? The RBs? By bringing in other analytics like PFF, we can see the story is more complicated and the OL’s “stats” were hurt by both the QB/scheme and the RBs.

    A quick note on FO’s run blocking stats. Here, the offense itself was 27th in run blocking, the Bucs best back ranked 23rd, and the OL ranks poorly in their stats.

    The cool thing about FO’s run blocking stats is how they’re broken down: by OL, RB, power runs, stuffs, 2nd level, open field. But it also means you have to do some digging to understand what is happening (no easy ranking). Without going into detail, FO’s stats suggest the Bucs OL was below average (not terrible) in run blocking and the backs stunk. A counter-stat is the Bucs OL was 30th in stuffed runs, which is terrible.

    ESPN PBWR:
    I really like Pass Block Win Rate and think it’s a huge addition to evaluating offenisve line.

    The argument is simple: Using NextGen stats data, how often is the offensive line holding their blocks for 2.5 + seconds? That is the rought measure of how long an offensive line should be sustaining. Beyond that, you’re asking a lot of OL.

    The Bucs ranked 17th. This came down from earlier in the season when the Bucs were top 10 for a while.

    So the Bucs are right around average in terms of sustaining their blocks. This suggests that the Bucs scheme and/or QB is asking more of the OL and increasing the sack totals. That being said, the Bucs OL isn’t great. Not bad, not great.

    —————————-

    CONCLUSION

    I think the Saints provide a useful example of what we’re talking about: the Saints with their vaunted line are 25th in ESPN’s PBWR. Which again, if we take this data seriously shows the impact the QB has on OL sacks – the Saints are 3rd in FO’s adjusted sack rate!

    Yet, PFF grades have the Saints OL 3rd and say that the OL was great in under 2.5 seconds.

    This is why no analytics person thinks you can just look at “stats” (especially a single stat). You have to use your football knowledge to tease apart this information. To me, it seems the PFF OL data really factors in Brees quick release (which ESPN does not via their use of NextGen data). The Saints have a good pass blocking OL that is really, really helped by QB/scheme.

    Conversely, the Bucs have an average pass-blocking OL that is hurt by QB/scheme as well as bad pass-blocking RBs. Further, the unit is bad at run-blocking and made worse by bad RBs.

    Ultimately, it’s really really hard to separate out scheme vs. QB. We know that Arians schemes have always asked the OL to sustain blocks a very long time (long enough to pile up sacks). But Winston also has a long habit of holding onto the ball and has had a long “time to throw” every year.

    We arrive back at a place I think we agree in terms of common sense. The Bucs OL needs a talent infusion at the tackle spots (PFF), it struggles in the run (FO), and is made worse by scheme/QB (ESPN).

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    #1250051
    Detrimental
    Participant

    Good stuff. Dotson and Jensen are the only two changes I can see the FO making, if they decide to at all.

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    #1250058
    Butters
    Participant

    Good stuff. Dotson and Jensen are the only two changes I can see the FO making, if they decide to at all.

    Bruce loves Jensen, And he is still under contract. I doubt he goes anywhere. Dotson is the only guy likely to be replaced and a year too late at that.

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    #1250111
    Mr. Shankley
    Participant

    Good stuff @tog. Thanks for putting that together.

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    #1250124
    Redrum
    Participant

    I think offensive tackle needs to be a very high priority for them this off-season. You have to neutralize Cam Jordan to beat the Saints.

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    #1250130
    cvillebucfan
    Participant

    Jensen had a big comeback year and graded out well too. Didn’t have nearly the penalties he had last year either.

    Financial decisions could be a factor but that would be the only reason to jettison Jensen.

    That said we absolutely must build the OL. Regardless of what the decision is with Winston I’d spend R1 on OT. It’s the biggest deficiency on this team.

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    #1250131
    BucsBay
    Participant

    Andrew Thomas and Austin Jackson will be gone by our pick, but if either is there or maybe even with a slight trade up, either would be significant upgrades blocking the blind side. I like Becton a lot too. He is huge, but he has better feet than Smith. He could start on the right side while Smith finishes his contract.

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    #1250141
    JC5100
    Participant

    PFF is the equivalent to buying a lab coat at the store and pretending to be a doctor.

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    #1250142
    GottaJaboo
    Blocked

    Our Oline is highly overrated. Until you can run block and your QB isn’t getting hit, every time he drops back, you aren’t a top 10 Oline. Pretty simple.

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    GoldsonAges on 2nd round pick, Safety, Justin Evans, out of Texas A&M - "coaching can’t fix this".

    #1250143
    DonkeyHunter
    Participant

    PFF is the equivalent to buying a lab coat at the store and pretending to be a doctor.

    Sounds like someone who plays tons of Madden and then claims they get paid big bucks to make big football decisions.

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    #1250146
    GottaJaboo
    Blocked

    @JC5100 is correct here. It’s a joke.

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    GoldsonAges on 2nd round pick, Safety, Justin Evans, out of Texas A&M - "coaching can’t fix this".

    #1250147
    DonkeyHunter
    Participant

    is correct here. It’s a joke.

    As it pertains to this offensive line, yes, I think PFF got it wrong.

    Are they as good as PFF suggests? Of course not.

    Are they as bad as you (and the other apologists) claim? Of course not.

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    #1250155
    GottaJaboo
    Blocked

    With or without Winston, we need to find a consistent running game. Should be our #1 priority in the off-season.

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    GoldsonAges on 2nd round pick, Safety, Justin Evans, out of Texas A&M - "coaching can’t fix this".

    #1250156
    DonkeyHunter
    Participant

    With or without Winston, we need to find a consistent running game. Should be our #1 priority in the off-season.

    Our #1 priority should be re-signing Shaq, JPP, Nassib, and adding another EDGE via the draft.

    Then we need to address the right side of the line via FA and draft. This, along with better run schemes, should help the run game.

     

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    #1250158
    captain ahab
    Participant

    When your O’line is near the bottom of the league in run blocking and pass protection that should be an indication that there is improvement to be had. I can simply go by eye test to see this O’line underperforms and in my opinion (with the improved play of the secondary) is the weakest unit on this team.

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