There are several major factors to measure about the OL. Each area is important in its own right, but they all interact with the others. You can’t change one area without affecting the others. These include, but are not limited to:
OL versus QB or RB
Dallas changed the OL philosophy this last year and we hired a new OL coach in Callahan. Just about every training camp article noted how much individual attention Callahan had with each OL guy.
One issue that shows the interconnectedness is whether a good coach finds player to fit his system/scheme or whether the coach adapts the system/scheme to the talent on the team.
In the short term, one has to adapt to the talent on hand. Long Ball noted
If you’ll remember, Garrett initially wanted a more athletic OL to run stretch plays, pull, and operate in space. Then, the decision was they needed more size to surround Costa. Ever heard the expression “we’re neither fish nor fowl”
Yet in the longer term, a coach has more leeway. Thus, there are many articles each year on the players in the draft and in FA. Long Ball further noted that some players are better for a particular type of scheme. He noted that one FA that many folks want to sign, Levitre is probably better suited for a ZBS. Levitre is a player looking for a pay-day . . .
We have known that a major weakness of several players such as Costa was weakness. When Garrett took over, one of his first hires was a new Strength and Conditioning coach. Woicik has been successful in the past winning SB rings at both Dallas and NE.
Yet that is a long term upgrade. Still we saw Cost improve his strength over the full year last year.
If anything this upgrade for the entire team has been hidden, especially on the Defense. We had players literally hired off the street. Woicik's efforts should be most notable this upcoming year. his work is mostly done in the off-season. His first year was the lockout year. The second year, we had major roster changes, but we still saw most the players in better condition. We certainly were more competitive in the fourth quarter this year.
OCC has written a great article on continuity that should be read in its entirety.
Several key points emerge. It is not just the individual talent of the five OL guys, but how well they play together. Some of that is merely a function of time on the team.
We brought back Holland the year before last after cutting him. One reason why he was a successful as he was is that he had played on the team for years. Thus, the players next to him knew what he could do and vice versa.
This summer, we brought him back along with Dockery and Loper, the King of the Roster Transaction. We ended up with Dockery, who was not good, but had played with the team the year before. At least we knew what to expect.
Some of the continuity is just communication. Cook, individually, played well at center. Yet, it took several games for the team to adjust to his timing. Free had 6 of his 15 penalties and Smith had 6 of his 11 penalties in the first three games. Cook was a late TC addition and started without knowing the playbook or even the terminology.
The formula for calculating continuity has its quirks. OCC noted that Philadelphia was average this year measured in continuity. A major reason for that was that Jason Peters, their best OL player, was out for the season. Thus, the “starter” for the season was a backup. They suffered a great deal with the OL, but it was not due to continuity.
Contrast that with Dallas. We also placed a starter on IR this year, but that was in mid-season. Except for 3 snaps, Cook was the de facto starter even though he was the 3rd stringer. Costa was the starter, but came back too soon in mid-season only to be lost again. We changed centers often this year, with the resulting loss of continuity.
This is the focus of many articles. We draft, sign, and cut players individually. So evaluating their performance is a critical part of a team. Unfortunately, this is just one factor in measureing the OL. OCC starts us out
Tom Ryle adds his comments in
IamIronside posted a classic article on the OL as a whole as part of a series of evaluating each position on the team. Look inside his article and the comments for several others including my own.
One issue about individual talent is that many observers make up their mind on initial impressions and do not see the development over time. OCC discussed this development in an article on trend analysis
A more in-depth discussion of trend analysis is
Rabblerouser discussed how important quality depth is to a team. He noted the effects of injuries to the starters.
Depth is a function of quality and quantity. One has to be able to manage the roster on the OL and all other areas. One has to be able to let guys go who get too expensive, even if they are still talented. In order to do that one better have younger, cheaper guys that you are developing who are ready to step in. I discussed this in
Offensive lines are somewhat like chains. If one link breaks, there’s probably going to be a sack or a tackle for a loss. It may not matter much how strong the other links are, or if one particular link is exceptionally strong.
If a team spends half its salary cap on a single star player and the minimum salary on the other 52 other players, it’s going to have no depth and a very low median salary. But if a team has a high median salary by allotting its salary cap equally among its players, it may not have any superstars, but it will have nothing but depth. (Cap hit is probably the best measure of NFL salaries, because it includes base salary plus amortized bonuses.)
That may be a function of the quality of all the starters.
If you spend too much in one area, then you tend to skimp on quality depth elsewhere. When the inevitable injury occurs, then other teams can exploit the holes that are left by poor backups.
OL as opposed to QB or RB
I can’t find the articles but last year footballoutsiders discussed how the OL interacts with the RB and the QB.
With the RB, we should note the famous lines of Nate Newton – We were just a bunch of fat boys until Emmett started running behind us. The key point is that a great RB makes the OL look a lot better. We saw flashes of that with a healthy Murray.
FO also had a series of articles last year discussing how the QB can have a major effect on the OL in addition to the obvious ways that an OL affects the QB. They measured the time it took for each sack. They divided the time into three segments based on time
The first segment was the fast sacks. In this area, they blamed the OL. In the third segment, the longest time to being sacked – they blamed the QB. In the middle, it was indeterminate.
There is no question that Romo was able to escape many sack attempts. Yet he is also well known to hold onto the ball too long. He is high risk/high return.
There are many factors that affect the OL. It is not just the individual talent. Since Garrett took over, there has been a multi-year process to upgrade the OL. We have seen a massive turnover of the roster, added new coaches and the process continues.