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Offensive Line Average, Not Terrible

by Alex Weisse

Last week’s loss dampened the Packers’ playoff hopes. However, the Vikings are a quality team; beating them would have been a coup. The Packers were able to keep the game competitive, despite the number of times that Aaron Rodgers has been sacked. This is a trend for the Packers, but this is no excuse. Actually, the offensive line performance is not nearly as bad as it seems.

Those that have seen the Packers play should not be surprised to read that the Packers lead the league in sacks – in the bad way. The Packers’ line has given up more sacks than have the Giants, Patriots, Falcons, and Titans combined. Note that the Titans are included in this grouping. Therefore, not giving up sacks is not the sole criteria for success of a team, with only the Colts having fewer losses amongst those teams than the Packers.

Statistics are known to lie, especially in the NFL. A frequently cited statistic in the NFL is that teams rushing the ball more often than their opponent are more likely to win. For example, the undefeated Saints rush the ball for 10 more plays than their opponent; whereas the winless Bucs saw their opponents rush the ball for 11 more plays than they rushed the ball. That statistic could lead one to believe that merely the act of running the football is a reason for success in the league, whereas the reality is that teams that are winning try to run down the clock by running the football. These late-game rushes tend to make the statistic about the success of teams that run true. The cause-effect relationship of the statistic goes only one-way.

This cause-effect relationship might also challenge the reading of the offensive-line quality through statistics. Being sacked is sometimes not as much a fault of the offensive line, but can be the fault of a quarterback. This is not to say that Aaron Rodgers should just air out some balls in order to avoid being sacked. However, giving praise to Aaron Rodgers for being the second-highest rated quarterback in the league should be muted by placing a few of the sacks on his shoulders. Perhaps another quarterback would be rated higher had he been willing to eat the ball at the expense of his offensive line’s rating.

There are other statistics which can be used to determine the quality of offensive-line play – average yards per rush. Giving the push and opening the holes to produce longer runs is certainly a sign of a quality offensive line. Only 11 teams have average yards per rush better than the Packers. Though this might not be a stellar number, with 12 teams making the playoffs, this number is certainly adequate. Also, the team with the best yards per rush is the Titans. The Titans, with the best yards per rush, and giving up the fewest quarter-back hits along with the least second-least sacks in the league, may have the best offensive line, but that does not equate to winning football.

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Packers Mix blog featured writers John Linn, Zach Letter
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