FanPost

Has the OL finally got out of the transition phase?

Most would agree that this year was the best OL that we have seen in several years. The overall measurement of a unit is difficult, but two major organizations, Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus have ranked the OL well this year. FO and PFF use slightly different methodologies, but their results are similiar.

PFF measures the unit on their Pass Blocking Efficiency. PBE is a weighted formula that combines sacks, hits, and hurries (with hits and hurries three quarters the worth) relative to how many snaps an Offensive Line was in pass protection.

PFF also measures run and pass blocking for the entire team. They do so by summing all the individual run and pass blocking for every member of the team. Those scores are not just the OL, but also includes WR, TE, and RB.

Org...block....2010.....2011.....2012.....2013

.....................rank.....rank.....rank.....rank

FO.....run..............12.........09.......22.......04

FO.....pass.............11.........13.......11.......10

PFF....PBE............07.......14.......23.......08

PFF....team run...01.......13.......07.......03

PFF....team pass..14.......15.......25.......09

Background

Garrett took over a non-productive, high cost, aging team that had drifted under Phillips. This was particularly true on the OL as we tried to eke out "one more year" for too many years and was a big reason why Jerry fired Phillips in mid-season.

Garrett immediately tried to rectify that situation even at the cost of eating dead money. Every year, we have made major changes to the OL. In fact, there are only two OL men still on the roster that pre-date Garrett as HC. These players are Free and Costa.

Age as of 1 September of the year

POS..2010..................2011...............2012..............2013

LT...Free.............26.....Free........27.....Smith.......21.....Smith.......22

LG...Kosier..........31.....Holland..31.....Livings.....30.....Leary.......24

OC...Gurode.......31.....Costa......24.....Cook.........29.....Fred........22

RG...Davis..........31.....Kosier.....32.....Bernie.......26.....Bernie.....27

RT...Colombo....31.....Smith......20.....Free..........28.....Free........29

............total...ave....total......ave....total......ave.....total......ave

W Free....150...30......134.......26.8.....134.......26.8.....124.......24.8

W/O.........124...31......107.......26.8.....106.......26.5.....095.......23.8

Note that Free in 2010 was the youngest player starting on the OL and became the oldest in 2013. Yet even in 2013, Free is still younger than any other OL starter of 2010. Taking Free out of the equation, makes the point even more clear how much younger the OL is now.

http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2013/7/10/4509316/Dallas-cowboys-o-line-one-of-youngest-in-nfl-regardless-who-starts

OCC has written about the age of the OL:

Last year, ESPN's John Clayton wrote about a "Theory of 150", and explained that if the combined age of your starting offensive line exceeds 150 years, you should expect a decline in performance. A combined age of 150 years means the average age of your linemen is 30 years, and as a group, that may be too old:

If a team lets its starting offensive line exceed the total age of 150 years for five starters, the clock is ticking on its remaining success. Three teams hit that mark over a three-year period -- the Bears, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. The New York Giants hit the 150 mark a couple years ago and, even though they won a Super Bowl, they had concerns along the offensive line.

The 150 number that Clayton chose for his cutoff point is a little arbitrary, but it chimes nicely with the widely held belief that for NFL players, decline inevitably sets in at age 30. There are many arguments to be made for why the cutoff point should be a different number, but the 150 is a simple number and most people can actually figure out that five linemen aged 30 adds up to 150.

Games played

The age of the OL affects their health. This is reflected in the number of games that each has played. This in turn shows the continuity of the OL.

.........2010......................2011..................2012...................2013

LT...Free..............16.....Free.........16.....Smith.......15.....Smith.........16

LG...Kosier.........13.....Holland..10.....Livings....16.....Leary........16

OC...Gurode.......16.....Costa......16.....Cook........11.....Frederick...16

RG...Davis...........16.....Kosier.....16.....Bernie.....14.....Bernie........11

RT...Colombo...15.....Smith......16.....Free..........16.....Free.............16

total games.......76......................74..........................72...........................75

The players are listed as the one who played the position most often. Bernie started this season and was replaced by Waters. Waters is a better guard, but we eased him into the lineup. Then when Waters got injured, Bernie took over again.

In the M*A*S*H unit OL last year. Cook was signed as insurance depth as Costa and Kowalski were both injured in the off-season. Costa opened the season as the starter but lasted only three snaps. We eventually used Bernie as the 4th string center, even though he had never played center in a NFL game before. That meant we had to use Dockery to replace Bernie at RG.

Production

Garrett's strategy was to get much younger and healthier at OL. After years of talking about it, he made changes. Yet we still had to deal with the salary cap. The strategy was to draft young guys and develop them internally. While much cheaper than FA, rookies are rarely productive their first year and take several years to develop.

Garrett brought in Livings and Bernadeau as relatively cheap mid range free agents to give time to develop the OL. Livings was older and could only play guard. When he got injured in the off-season the team made an injury settlement and cut him. Yet we would have preferred to have one more year to develop Leary.

.........2010.......................2011...................2012....................2013

LT...Free.............95.....Free..........42.....Smith......49.....Smith.....94

LG...Kosier.........69.....Holland...75.....Livings....80....Leary.....33

OC...Gurode......82.....Costa........14......Cook.......48.....Fred......80

RG...Davis..........80.....Kosier......45.....Bernie.....39.....Bernie....73

RT...Colombo...03.....Smith......97......Free..........18.....Free........77

Leary was the weak point of the OL. Yet he improved as the season wore on and should be much better next year. Bernie showed why he was the first FA signed last year. When healthy, he is a better than average guard and he is relatively young himself. Free returned to form at the end of the previous season and was playing at a high level throughout most of this season.

Free took less money overall in exchange for more guaranteed money this year and the ability to earn more guaranteed money the coming year. I suspect that we have the starting lineup for next year already on the roster.

Now we should focus on building for the future to avoid getting into the same predicament we had. I don't know what we have in backup tackles - Parnell was hyped last year, but that was more of anti-Free. Still he did come in and start at LT and rotated with Free at RT. Weems and Wetzle are more unknowns. We should find out more at OTA and TC next year.

At guard, we have relatively young guys in Leary and Bernie. Yet Leary has knee damage and his long term situation is shorter than it would normally be. Waters may return, but his clock is ticking. We need one more guard to develop and NOT to have to start immediately.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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