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Offensive Lines

Offensive line performance

Raiders, Ravens have been among the best

While watching Pittsburgh's offensive linemen come to Mason Rudolph's defense while Myles Garrett was bashing him with his own helmet late in last night's game, I got to thinking about which lines are best at protecting their quarterbacks in the course of regular game action. Pittsburgh, as it happens, is one of the best lines in this regard.

For these performance numbers, we're looking not only at sacks, which are influenced not just by the line but by the quarterbacks themselves, since some passers are a lot better than others at getting rid of the ball to avoid taking sacks. Some are a lot worse. These numbers include not just sacks but quarterback hits -- plays where quarterbacks get rid of the ball but still get clobbered by opposing pass rushers. They do not include players getting hit with their own helmets, and hopefully that won't be prevalent enough to merit inclusion in future versions.

The five best teams in terms of allowing fewest quarterback hits are the Raiders, Ravens, Saints, Steelers and 49ers. Only the Ravens didn't show up in the top 10 of our latest offensive line rankings. A significant factor in their performance in this area, I think, is the elusive quarterback they're protecting, as well as the run-based nature of their offense (only Washington has attempted fewer passes this season).

When you factor in the number of pass attempts for each team, most of the same teams show up at the top of the performance rankings. The Raiders, Steelers and Ravens are all up there in terms of letting their quarterback get hit or sacked on the lowest percentage of pass attempts. The other two in the top 5 are Kansas City and the Patriots. Again, the quarterback deserves some of the credit. But those teams are also good at dialing up plays that get the ball out of their quarterback's hands quickly, protecting him from a lot of extra hits. (Patrick Mahomes was of course hurt on a quarterback sneak.)

Team Pass AttSacks HitsTot% Hits/Att
New England38616456115.8%
Kansas City38318506817.8%
L.A. Rams35716506618.5%
New Orleans28318385619.8%
L.A. Chargers 36521567721.1%
San Francisco27317415821.2%
Green Bay34722527421.3%
Tampa Bay355346710128.5%
N.Y. Giants 360348111531.9%
N.Y. Jets 334397311233.5%

Nobody watching football this season will be surprised by the teams who have been the worst in this area. Part of it is the quality (and investment in terms of money and talent) of the lines themselves, and part of it is the quarterbacks they've got working behind those lines. Tennessee, Miami, the Jets, the Giants and Washington. Between the lines themselves and the quarterbacks they're sending out there each week, those are the worst teams in terms of getting their quarterbacks hit, and it shows up in the offensive performance itself.

Some of the other worst teams are Houston, Chicago, Denver, Seattle and Tampa Bay. In some cases you have poor talent on the line, and in others you've got quarterbacks who tend to hold the ball, looking to extend plays (or maybe not making decisions quickly enough). The Cowboys, with their excellent line, show up favorably here.

A couple of the teams that grade out favorably are surprising (Rams, Browns). With Cleveland, I think that for all his struggles, Baker Mayfield has probably been a little better at getting rid of the ball than he gets credit for (because he's definitely not getting good protection). With the Rams, they started out the season better, and healthier, on the line. They've lost a couple of starters recently, and the offense has declined markedly in recent games. Will be interesting to see where they stand at the end of the season.

Back to the Raiders and Ravens. What they're doing on offense, and the surprising success they've had, has a lot to do with that line. I'm wondering if they're going to sneak away with the AFC West. It could happen. The Ravens, especially after Pittsburgh's loss last night, look like a lock in the AFC North.

--Andy Richardson

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