Week13e

CA Charting Project: Charting the Colts Offensive Line, Week 13

I would love to have a nice, clean answer as to why the Colts’ line looked so competent during their 92-yard march to the game-clinching touchdown after they galumphed their way through their first 11 drives and managed only five field goals. I watched those plays over and over, trying to figure out some wrinkle they had thrown in to make everything change. They did make a couple small adjustments, such as giving up on outside runs, running away from Jeff Linkenbach more often and mixing up whether they pulled Hugh Thornton. Pep Hamilton, whose play calling remains shaky, dialed up a perfect play action call on Andrew Luck’s 24-yard scramble. And there were a few other factors that I’ll get into below.

But, as coach-speaky as it may sound, most if the difference was a matter of execution. Among 55 total blocks on that last series, the Colts’ offensive linemen missed only five, with no more than one on any of the 11 plays. That’s a 91% completion percentage that blew away everyone’s ratings for the day. They were simply generating movement on both run and pass plays, which they hadn’t done before that drive. Why that is, I have no idea. Maybe Luck and/or Reggie Wayne gave them a tongue-lashing. Maybe Chuck Pagano threatened wind sprints. Maybe they just got tired of being embarrassed.

Whatever it was, wouldn’t it be nice if they’d show some inspiration for a full game? It’s been a while since that happened.

As always, my grades are based on my subjective interpretation of whether the linemen successfully blocked their targets and may not be completely accurate, since I can’t know their assignments. New this week: compiled totals from the five games I’ve tracked. (After the Texans game, the first one I charted, I realized that I was being overzealous in assigning pressures and hits, so I revamped my standards slightly. As such, I didn’t include cumulative totals for pressures and hits below.) My charting table is at the bottom of the post.

(Quick aside: one common complaint I’ve heard about these pieces is that I don’t provide numbers for other teams’ linemen to contrast with the Colts. I would love to chart every team’s line in every game, but it’s a very time-consuming process, and I love my wife and don’t want to get divorced. Therefore, for now, I’m stuck with comparing the players to each other and their own past performances. If anyone knows of someone else out there doing similar percentage-based work, let me know.)

LT Anthony Castonzo
Run blocks: 15/17, 88%
Pass blocks: 36/42, 86%, one pressure, three hits, one sack
Total: 51/59, 86%

5-game totals
Run blocks: 64/76, 84%
Pass blocks: 205/231, 89%, two sacks
Total: 269/307, 88%

Castonzo had the best run-blocking mark on the team, missing only two blocks. Again, I’m starting to suspect the Colts have been reading my posts and following my advice, because they pulled him twice on early runs, as I suggested last week. Castonzo made a good block on the first of those runs, but the play only gained three yards because Darrius Heyward-Bey and Stanley Havili blew their blocks. The second was an almost identical play later in the same drive that failed miserably, in no small part because George Wilson was able to get under Castonzo’s block:

Jack Doyle, Havili and Heyward-Bey also blew their blocks on that play, in what was something of a theme Sunday. I’ve been high on Doyle for weeks, but he was lousy in this game, going 3/7 on run blocks (he did complete his lone pass block). Havili also struggled, going 7/12 on run blocks and 1/3 on pass blocks. To put that in perspective, Coby Fleener, a well-known stiff in blocking who gets pushed around regularly, was 7/12 on run blocks and 2/3 on pass blocks. Havili blew five of his first seven blocks before a decent stretch late. He has taken a big step back after playing well early in the season.

Back in October, the great Ben Muth examined Trent Richardson’s struggles in the Colts’ offense. He said at the time that Fleener, T.Y. Hilton and Wayne were all having difficulties as blockers. “As a result,” Muth wrote, “I think Hamilton has been a little gun shy about calling plays that are designed to go out wide where he needs those guys to hold up right at the point of attack.”

And that was with Reggie, who was easily the Colts’ best blocking wide receiver. Since he went down, the blocking on the outside has been downright ugly, which has forced Hamilton to keep his runs inside. As we’ve seen, running inside, behind Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach, is not a recipe for success, but neither is trying to run behind overmatched skill position players. During that epic last drive, the Colts were running more off-tackle plays and getting behind Castonzo. I wish they’d do this more often; he’s not a perfect run blocker, but he’s the best on the line, and the percentages bear that out.

On the other hand, Castonzo’s pass blocking was bad this week. He blew six blocks, a high figure for him, resulting in a pressure, three hits and a sack. As I’ve discussed before, when he guesses correctly and locks onto a defender, Castonzo is virtually unbeatable one-on-one. But when he gets caught leaning inside or outside and the rusher goes the other way, he’s toast, as he doesn’t have the quickness to recover and ends up in positions like this, desperately leaning into a rusher’s hip:

 

 

LG Hugh Thornton
Run blocks: 12/20, 60%
Pass blocks: 34/41, 83%, three pressures, three sacks
Total: 46/61, 75%

5-game totals
Run blocks: 54/81, 67%
Pass blocks: 203/231, 88%, six sacks
Total: 257/312, 82%

Thornton is in the midst of a rough stretch. His run blocking has always been a mixed bag, but after scoring between 87 and 95% in pass blocking in the first three games I tracked, he dropped to 83% last week and stayed there against the Titans, also surrendering three pressures and three sacks.

Thornton had a heinous start to the game. On the Colts’ second drive, he blew five of seven blocks in one stretch and finished 4/9. Later, he gave up a pressure and two sacks in a three-play sequence. The two sacks resulted in Luck’s two fumbles. On pull blocks, usually his strong suit, Thornton was just 4/9 for the game, frequently missing in space.

Thornton’s pull-blocking was another factor in the Colts’ early struggles in the running game, as well as their late successes. Hamilton loves to pull him, and often for good reason, but it gets a little predictable, as they almost always run behind him when he pulls (the opponent’s linebackers usually shoot to the right side of the Colts’ formation as soon as they see Thornton pulling). Also, he almost always pulls right, which is the weaker side of the Colts’ line. On that late scoring drive, Thornton didn’t pull until the eighth play, after Brown had busted off 5-, 14- and 14-yard runs. When he planted and drove straight ahead, he generated consistent movement on Antonio Johnson, including on my favorite play of the game, which I’ll discuss in Linkenbach’s section.

Here’s a play that sums Thornton up perfectly. It’s an 11-yard run by Richardson on 3rd-and-20. It doesn’t come close to a first down, but the Colts are just trying to give Pat McAfee a little room to punt. Thornton is on Karl Klug. He takes a half step back to sell the draw, then flings himself at Klug. His technique is terrible, and he’s off-balance and falling over the whole time, but he moves Klug from the hash to midfield, opening a hole for Richardson. It’s clumsy and overzealous, yet it gets the job done. That’s Thornton in a nutshell.

Also notice how high Fleener is. That’s usually his problem: he’s too tall and thin to anchor effectively, so he ends up with no leverage, being pushed back on his heels. Sometimes being 6’6” is a bad thing in football (Dwayne Allen, whom we all miss dearly, is three inches shorter and 15 pounds heavier).

Despite his recent play, I remain a big believer in Thornton. I love his attitude and effort. At some point, his mind will catch up with his body and he’ll be a good one.

C Samson Satele
Run blocks: 15/19, 79%
Pass blocks: 33/37, 89%, one pressure, one hit, one sack
Total: 48/56, 86%

5-game totals
Run blocks: 53/81, 65%
Pass blocks: 197/221, 89%, two sacks
Total: 250/302, 83%

Continuing his transformation from abysmal to mediocre, Satele had the best pass-blocking score on the team for the second time in five games. Four of his eight missed blocks came during an eight-play stretch in the first half; otherwise, he was reasonably solid. He went 10/11 on the clinching drive and, like Thornton, had some impressive drive blocks to open lanes for Brown. He did get back to his old tricks in not finding anyone to block, with a team-high seven such plays.

And now, that moment you’ve all been waiting for: “WTF is Samson Satele Thinking?”! Brought to you by Lumosity. Lumosity: Because you don’t want to end up like Samson Satele, do you?

(Side note: it’s been great fun seeing this thing take on a life of its own among you readers. You guys are the best.)

This week’s WTFiSST® moment comes to you in GIF form, thanks to Kyle, who is better at computers than I am. It’s a stunt with the Titans’ defensive tackles; Klug goes left, while Jurrell Casey loops behind him to the right right. At first, Satele leans to his right to help Linkenbach with Casey, but he reaches out with his left hand to keep track of Klug. When Casey loops behind Klug, Satele should, hypothetically, pay some attention to Klug. But he keeps his hips turned toward Casey’s vacated area, despite having help there and knowing that Klug is coming inside Thornton. He spins in slow motion, reminiscent of a turnstile, as Klug bursts through for a sack (Thornton and Cherilus also do their part to screw up this play).

Glaring mental lapses aside, I want to emphasize that Satele has gotten better these past few games. Though the Colts will need to replace him before they can have a strong line, he’s less of a problem than the right guard spot (and, for the last couple games, the left guard spot).

RG Jeff Linkenbach
Run blocks: 13/19, 68%
Pass blocks: 33/39, 85%, two pressures, two hits
Total: 46/58, 79%

5-game totals
Run blocks: 24/38, 63%
Pass blocks: 79/105, 75%, one sack
Total: 103/143, 72%

Mike McGlynn’s 5-game totals
Run blocks: 46/61, 75%
Pass blocks: 121/151, 80%, two sacks
Total: 167/212, 79%

The Colts switched out McGlynn for Linkenbach for this game, which is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Or, more accurately, it’s like trying to bail out the Titanic with a colander, realizing that’s not working, and switching to a slotted spoon. Over the past five games, Linkenbach has blown only one fewer run block than McGlynn on 23 fewer attempts and only four fewer pass blocks on 46 fewer attempts. I’m not sure Joe Reitz would be any better, but the switch to Linkenbach isn’t what I’d call inspiring. Khaled Holmes, anyone?

Linkenbach was a little better than his five-game percentages in this one, but only a little, and his six blown pass blocks led to two pressures and two hits. He was overmatched on Casey and Klug. While he did outplay Thornton slightly, Thornton has a body of work that shows he can be effective when he’s on. Linkenbach does not.

On the Colts’ second drive, when Thornton was 4/9, Linkenbach was 3/10 and gave up a hit and a pressure (Cherilus went 6/11 and gave up a hit). That drive included five of the Colts’ 13 runs before their closing series. Possibly the number one reason they couldn’t get a running game going before then was that Linkenbach and Thornton couldn’t get any movement.

On that last series, though, Linkenbach was solid, completing 10 of 11 blocks. The third play of the drive, a 14-yard run by Brown, was my favorite and is fascinating for a number of reasons.

Here’s the play design. It’s a pretty straightforward lead play with man blocking.

The Titans have one more man in the box than the Colts have blockers, so the Colts will be relying on Brown to make someone miss.

As Brown gets ready to make his cut, he sizes up the free linebacker. Notice how much space Castonzo, Havili, Thornton and Satele have generated; Brown has a huge empty plot of grass in which to figure out his next move. I’m not sure where this was the rest of the day, but for some reason everybody was getting way more push on this drive:

Notice also that Linkenbach has been driven backwards and is losing ground to Sammie Hill. I doubt this was intentional, as Linkenbach was in similar positions all day. But in this case, the fact that he couldn’t contain Hill was the best thing that could have happened.

In the overhead view, you can see what I mean. The push upfield by the left side of the line, combined with Linkenbach falling into the backfield, opens an enormous running lane:

Brown, with his ample vision and decisiveness, sees it, cuts sharply to his right, and blasts through that corridor. I hate to sound like a broken record, but if that was Dwayne Allen at tight end instead of Coby Fleener, it could have been an even bigger play. Here it is in GIF form:

RT Gosder Cherilus
Run blocks: 14/20, 70%
Pass blocks: 32/42, 76%, one pressure, one hit, two sacks
Total: 46/62, 74%

5-game totals
Run blocks: 60/79, 76%
Pass blocks: 196/226, 87%, four sacks
Total: 256/305, 84%

Cherilus also had a howler of a day. He checked in far below his five-game percentages on both run and pass blocks and coughed up a pressure, a hit and two sacks. This came a week after he was the team’s most effective lineman in the Arizona debacle. It was somewhat less surprising considering he also had a rough time in the last Tennessee game a couple weeks ago, when he was 80% in both run and pass blocks and gave up two pressures, a hit and a sack.

Titans end Derrick Morgan is simply a bad matchup for Cherilus. He has great length, which negates one of Cherilus’ biggest advantages over most defensive ends. As you can see in the GIF in Satele’s section, Morgan has a good punch and is able to keep Cherilus from locking onto him.

I’ve noticed that the notes about Cherilus I jot down as I’m charting are rarely positive, though I also don’t end up writing too many notes about him (I had a few more in this game, probably because of his tough matchup). Cherilus rarely stands out in run blocking and only shows up in pass protection when he screws up. Most of the time, he’s quietly efficient, which is fine, but hardly what you’d hope for a guy on a $34.5 million contract.

Early in the game against the Titans, the Colts tried a few zone runs and stretches, as I mentioned above. They were largely ineffective for a number of reasons, not least of which were the foibles by the receivers and tight ends. On such plays, it’s vitally important that the weakside blockers take out pursuing defenders, often with cut blocks, so that the back has time to find a cutback lane. Cherilus’ efforts at cut blocks are, shall we say, lacking. Instead of firing his shoulder into the defender’s thigh and knocking him off his feet, he tends to lie down gently in front of him, giving the defender plenty of time to see what’s happening and take a leisurely step over Cherilus’ sprawling body. I noticed this at least three times in this game, including this lame effort at a block on Morgan that barely slowed him down:

Given Richardson’s skill set, I’m guessing the Colts will try to run more zone at some point, though it’ll likely have to wait until next year considering the current personnel. If they do move in that direction, Cherilus will need to get a whole lot better at cut blocking.

As for the other blockers:


·         {C}{C}As noted above, Fleener was 7/12 on run blocks and 2/3 on pass blocks, Havili was 7/12 on run blocks and 1/3 on pass blocks, and Doyle was 3/7 on run blocks and 1/1 on pass blocks. I find Doyle’s regression crushing, though I’d like to point out that Cherilus was at least as much at fault as Doyle was on Heyward-Bey’s failed end-around. On the last drive, all three improved at least a little, as Fleener was 3/4, Havili 3/5 and Doyle 2/2. Not a coincidence.


·         {C}{C}Joe Reitz clearly wants to play more. After being relegated to special teams duty the previous four games, he came roaring back with 5/5 run blocking and 3/3 pass blocking as the extra lineman. I doubt the coaching staff shifts away from Linkenbach after just one game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give Reitz a shot at right guard if Link continues muddling along.


·         {C}{C}Brown had been doing quite well in pass blocking the past few games, and he was 6/8 in this one, but he gave up a sack. Richardson was 2/3.


·         {C}{C}Mario Harvey was 2/2 as an extra run blocker on two goal line plays at the end of the Colts’ touchdown drive. McGlynn came on as an additional blocker on the latter of those plays and completed his block.


Play

Castonzo

Thornton

Satele

Linkenbach

Cherilus

Brown 2 run

/

-

2nd level, +

+

-

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Interception

Gives up hit

+

+

+

+

Drive total

1/2

2/3

3/3

3/3

2/3

Hilton 3 pass

+

+

+

Gives up hit

+

Brown 3 run

Pulls, +

+

Pulls, +

+

-

Fleener 21 pass

+

+

+

-

+

Fleener 16 pass

+

Pulls, /

+

Gives up pressure

-

Brown 4 run

/

Pulls, -

+

-

2nd level, +

Brown 5 run

+

Pulls, +

+

-

-

Incomplete

+

Pulls, /

+

+

Gives up hit

Richardson 1 run

+

Pulls, -

+

-

-

Brown 7 pass

Gives up hit

Pulls, -

Pulls, -

Pulls, -

+

Brown -4 run

Pulls, -

2nd level, -

+

/

+

Brown 3 pass

+

Gives up pressure

Gives up pressure

+

+

Drive total

8/10

4/9

9/11

3/10

6/11

Heyward-Bey 23 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete, def. pass interference

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 1 run

+

+

-

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

Gives up pressure

Gives up hit

+

+

Drive total

5/5

4/5

3/5

5/5

5/5

Incomplete

+

Pulls, +

/

+

/

Brazill 17 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 0 run

2nd level, +

-

+

+

+

Havili 19 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete, def. pass interference

+

+

+

+

+

Brown -5 run

+

Pulls, -

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

Gives up hit

-

Incomplete

+

2nd level, +

/

/

+

Drive total

8/8

6/8

6/6

6/7

6/7

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

-10 sack

Gives up sack

+

+

+

Gives up sack

Richardson 11 run

+

+

2nd level, -

+

+

Drive total

2/3

3/3

2/3

3/3

2/3

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Luck 12 scramble

+

Gives up pressure

/

+

+

-7 sack, fumble

+

Gives up sack

+

+

-

Brazill 13 pass

+

+

+

+

+

-6 sack, fumble

+

Gives up sack

+

+

Gives up sack

Drive total

5/5

2/5

4/4

5/5

3/5

Hilton 17 pass

+p>

+

+

+

+

-6 sack

+

+

+

+

+

Havili 4 pass

Gives up hit

+

+

/

+

Hilton 20 pass

+

+

+

/

+

Drive total

3/4

4/4

4/4

2/2

4/4

Hilton 3 pass

/

+

/

+

+

Heyward-Bey 8 pass, off. pass interference

-

+

+

+

-

Hilton 3 pass

+

+

+

+

+

-10 sack

+

Gives up sack

Gives up sack

+

-

Drive total

2/3

3/4

2/3

4/4

2/4

Heyward-Bey -11 run

2nd level, /

+

Pulls, /

Pulls, +

-

Incomplete

+

+

/

+

+

Brazill 12 pass

Gives up pressure

+

+

/

+

Drive total

1/2

3/3

1/1

2/2

2/3

Richardson 6 run

+

2nd level, -

+

-

+

Incomplete

+

Pulls, +

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

3/3

2/3

3/3

2/3

3/3

Brown 3 run

-

+

-

-

+

Incomplete

+

+

/

Gives up pressure

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

Gives up pressure

Drive total

2/3

3/3

1/2

1/3

2/3

Brown 5 run

+

+

+

+

+

Luck 8 scramble

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 14 run

+

+

+

+

+

Havili 6 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 2 run

+

+

-

+

+

Luck 24 scramble

+

+

+

Pulls, +

-

Brown 14 run

2nd level, +

+

+

Pulls, +

-

Brown 7 run

+

Pulls, +

+

+

+

Fleener 13 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 0 run

+

Pulls, -

+

+

+

Brown 4 TD run

+

+

+

-

+

Drive total

11/11

10/11

10/11

10/11

9/11


 

Castonzo

Thornton

Satele

Linkenbach

Cherilus

Run total

15/17

12/20

15/19

13/19

14/20

Run percentage

88

60

79

68

70

Pass total

36/42

34/41

33/37

33/39

32/42

Pass percentage

86

83

89

85

76

Pressures

1

3

1

2

1

Hits

3

0

1

2

1

Sacks

1

3

1

0

2

Grand total

51/59

46/61

48/56

46/58

46/62

Grand total percentage

86

75

86

79

74

 

 

Quantcast