Diagnosing 2-14: Offensive Line


Eugene Monroe’s disappointment has a very real basis.  Source: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next week or so we will be going through the Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 roster to try and find the problems that led to the franchise’s worst-ever record: 2-14.  There were so many problems with this team that it goes well beyond one article. So, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll take it one position at a time.

This Week: the offensive line.

Here are the other parts of the series: QB

Calling the offensive line one position is not really a fair way to treat all of the individual players’ contributions.  While all linemen block, the positions have different responsibilities.  The left tackle’s role is decidedly different from the role of the right guard.  While both block, the value of that position to a specific scheme or play varies, with the left tackle generally being considered the most valuable position on the line.  Despite a strong left tackle like the Jags’ Eugene Monroe, the offensive line as a whole can look bad.  Therein lies why we will treat it as one position: it is a unit.  Of all positions in football, the offensive line positions require the most cohesive play.  If the line has one weak spot, then the entire line is weak.  If the line is not all on the same page, it is likely the play will fail.

That failure is a major reason why the Jaguars finished the season 2-14.

The Jaguars have two solid contributors on the offensive line: Monroe and right guard Uche Nwaneri.  Center Brad Meester is an older veteran who is just grinding out his last few playing days.  He can get the job done on occasion, but it is difficult for him to look good or perform well without the rest of the O-line performing well.  Two positions (left guard and right tackle) are completely unsettled and filled with underperforming players on the roster.

Despite a top left tackle and good right guard, the entire Jaguar offensive line has failed.  As a unit, they have failed.

The only offensive linemen with overall positive grades- according to Pro Football Focus – were Monroe and Nwaneri.  PFF breaks plays down by player for every play, so even if the entire line has a terrible year a player may still be graded positively.  The only other players to receive a positive grading in a blocking category were Austin Pasztor (three games), and Herb Taylor (two games).

Every other offensive lineman failed miserably.

The Jags had 10 offensive linemen take snaps during the 2012 season.  That’s two linemen for every one position – if that doesn’t tell you of the O-line turmoil the Jags had, then nothing will.  Combined, they allowed 33 of 50 sacks (28 on Chad Henne, 22 on Blaine Gabbert), 46 of 51 QB hits, and 129 of 138 hurries.  To give you an idea of how much that affects a quarterback, Gabbert and Henne combined had pressure as a result of offensive line play on 31.6% of their drop backs.  As we examined when diagnosing the quarterback play, this gravely affected Henne and helped knock Gabbert out of the regular season.

Name# of Pass Block PlaysSacks AllowedHits AllowedHurries Allowed
Eugene Monroe70557722
Uche Nwaneri6085618
Brad Meester7053315
Cameron Bradfield5096921
Guy Whimper2165615
Herb Taylor28102
Austin Pasztor151125
Mike Brewster3672817
Steve Vallos90022
Eben Britton1665312

But pass blocking is not the sole duty of the offensive line.  They also have to run block.  Run blocking is a little more difficult to grade because things like QB hurries, hits, and sacks are not a measurable stat for running backs.  For that, we either have to trust that statistical sites like PFF did their homework correctly and properly graded each run blocker, or we have to trust our eyes to see how well they did.

Center Brad Meester was particularly bad at run blocking this season.  Source: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t trust my eyes because to me it all looked like it had gone to hell in run blocking.

The Jaguars couldn’t run this season even if they had Barry Sanders in the backfield.  Maurice Jones-Drew posted some gaudy numbers (4.8 yards per attempt) without a passing attack to balance him before being injured.  Yet, of is 4.8 yards per attempt, 2.3 yards per attempt came after contact.  Jones-Drew was getting hit and still managing to keep going, but the other Jaguar running backs simply couldn’t do that.

The offensive line was not getting enough push to move the play forward and they were letting players get to their running backs too often.

The Jaguars’ woes happened largely due to the O-line’s inability to protect its quarterback and provide running room for its running backs.  When the O-line fails to protect the quarterback, entire plays break down quickly.  Most of the players on the offensive line for the Jaguars do not deserve another shot with the team because of their inability to protect the players they are tasked with protecting.

The offensive line is just a part of the problem, but a very big part.  Next time we’ll look at what many consider to be a bright spot for the 2012 Jaguars, the wide receivers.

– Luke N. Sims

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