Week14h

CA Charting Project: Charting the Colts’ Offensive Line, Week 14

Somewhat lost among Jeff Triplette’s ongoing incompetence and another turd of a game by the Colts’ defense on Sunday was the offensive line’s best performance of the season by a wide margin.

Andrew Luck was not sacked for the first time since week three of 2012. That’s right, the last time Luck went through a game without getting sacked, his desperation comeback attempt came up short in a 22-17 loss to Jacksonville that dropped the Colts to 1-2. Kris Adams and Austin Collie played in that game. So, yeah, it’s been a while.

Facing the Bengals, one of the league’s better defensive fronts even without the injured Geno Atkins, the Colts only missed 11 pass blocks out of 226 attempts by my count (95%). All five linemen completed at least 91% of their pass blocks; at least one had finished at 83% or lower in all five games I had previously charted. It was excellent work.

Some of that was due to the new (or newish, in the case of Mike McGlynn) starters at guard. Joe Reitz and McGlynn were both outstanding in pass protection, as Reitz missed only two blocks and McGlynn only one (!!!). Castonzo and Reitz also showed terrific chemistry in picking up stunts, with which Castonzo and the injured Hugh Thornton had often struggled.

Another important wrinkle: in games Thornton has played, the Colts have often slid their left tackle, left guard and center to the left in zone blocking and put the right guard and right tackle in man protection (a scheme called “2 jet” that’s common in West Coast offenses). That scheme has the advantage of giving the left guard help, but it leaves a gap in the center of the line and puts the right guard (usually McGlynn) on an island. With the more experienced Reitz at left guard, the Colts appeared to do a lot more man blocking in Cincinnati, assigning the guards and tackles to one rusher each and leaving Samson Satele in a free role in the middle, as on this play:

I’ve written in the past that Satele ends up finding no one to block on tons of plays, and he led the team again in this one with six such plays. But this time around, it was clearly a schematic choice, and it usually worked. Reitz and McGlynn were generally able to hold their own, and if they ran into trouble they just steered their men toward Satele (Satele had one notable gaffe on such a play when he completely whiffed a one-on-one block, but that’s Samson for you).

The Colts’ run blocking was wildly ineffective, as usual, but as well as they protected Luck, this group deserves to keep starting even when Thornton and Jeff Linkenbach get healthy.

Here are my breakdowns. All grades are subjective and are based on whether the blocker got the better of the man he appeared to target.

LT Anthony Castonzo
Run blocks: 9/10, 90%
Pass blocks: 49/50, 98%, one hit
Total: 58/60, 97%

6-game totals
Run blocks: 73/86, 85%
Pass blocks: 254/281, 90%, two sacks
Total: 327/367, 89%

After two straight games of Bad Castonzo, Good Castonzo came back with a vengeance. He missed one run block on the Colts’ first drive and one pass block on their second, then completed his last 54 blocks successfully. His blown pass block came on what appeared to be a miscommunication with Reitz, as Castonzo set up outside Michael Johnson and gave him a free run to a hit on Luck:

Castonzo doesn’t screw up like that very often, which makes me think it might have been Reitz’s fault, though it might also have been a rare mental error.

Castonzo was smooth and alert in picking up stunts, as on this play:

See how smoothly Johnson (93) gets passed from Castonzo to Reitz to Satele, with Castonzo and Reitz immediately looking for other obligations? That’s been sorely lacking in this past handful of games. Notice also how clean a pocket Luck has, despite the Bengals throwing a ton of lateral movement at the Colts.

Editor's note- I've been saying this since 2011: Reitz and Castonzo have very good chemistry/communication. I love this so much. – KJR

Games like this are a reminder of just how good Castonzo can be when he’s on. Though he probably played himself out of Pro Bowl consideration with his rough recent stretch, he’s still the Colts’ best lineman by far. In an ideal world, he’d be elite as a right tackle, where his lack of recovery speed wouldn’t hurt quite as much. For now, he has his ups and downs, but he’s a solid B+ left tackle.

LG Joe Reitz
Run blocks: 6/10, 60%
Pass blocks: 47/49, 96%, one hit
Total: 53/59, 90%

6-game totals
Run blocks: 11/15, 73%
Pass blocks: 51/53, 96%
Total: 62/68, 91%

Good heavens. Did anyone remember Reitz being this good? He played pretty well amid the craptacular 2011 season and was battling injury last year, but he had really struggled as the extra lineman for the first seven games this season and was supplanted in that role by Linkenbach. He did complete 5/5 run blocks and 3/3 run blocks in his return to the extra lineman role last week.

Reitz was fantastic in pass protection against the Bengals, missing only two blocks and giving up a hit when he missed a stunt. His run blocking left something to be desired, but so did everyone else’s aside from Castonzo. Reitz was also 5/6 on pull blocks.

Reitz was a college basketball player who didn’t play football between high school and the NFL. He’s always been a superb athlete, but he just didn’t seem to have a feel for the game. Maybe this game is a sign that his football knowledge has finally caught up with his natural gifts.

Here’s an example of Reitz’s freakish athletic abilities at work:

Reitz guesses left on a Wallace Gilberry rush and takes a big step that way. When Gilberry immediately cuts back inside, Reitz stumbles backward, and all of his weight is in front of his feet. The vast majority of NFL guards would fall over in that position. Reitz not only recovers his balance, he gets his hips turned, gets in front of Gilberry and shoves him into Satele. It may not look like much, but that’s an incredibly difficult play for a guy who’s 6’7”, 320 lbs. to make.

C Samson Satele
Run blocks: 6/10, 60%
Pass blocks: 40/44, 91%, one pressure, one hit
Total: 46/54, 85%

6-game totals
Run blocks: 59/91, 65%
Pass blocks: 237/265, 89%, two sacks
Total: 296/356, 83%

Rather shockingly, Satele has turned into a very good pass-blocking center (his pass-blocking percentages the past five weeks: 92, 93, 87, 89, 91). Even after watching him carefully these past six games, I’m not quite sure how he does it. He’s slow-footed, clumsy and prone to mental errors, though he’s also powerful and feisty. Those characteristics suggest a good run blocker, but Satele is a disaster in that area; Domata Peko threw him around like a rag doll a few times Sunday. Yet somehow, aside from the occasional moment of mind-bending inattentiveness, he makes it work in pass protection.

Speaking of mind-bending inattentiveness, it’s time for another installment of WTF is Samson Satele Thinking!

This was a really interesting play that came at the start of the drive following LaVon Brazill’s first touchdown catch, with the Colts down 28-14. Either it was a designed rollout or Gosder Cherilus didn’t feel like blocking. In any case, Luck is about to throw a screen to Trent Richardson. Johnson is too focused on Luck to see it coming, and McGlynn is able to keep Peko busy on the left. The only thing between Richardson and a decent gain is Satele laying a hearty block on Vontaze Burfict (55).

So, friends, what does Samson do?

A. Obliterate Burfict.
B. Hold Burfict up long enough that Richardson can catch the ball.
C. Ask for Burfict’s autograph.
D. Inexplicably pull up and gently tap Burfict on the back as he breaks up the pass.

D it is! Satele actually pulls up a bit before he gets to Burfict and puts one hand on his arm and one on his back:

Which leads to this:

Samson, Samson, Samson.

RG Mike McGlynn
Run blocks: 8/10, 80%
Pass blocks: 44/45, 98%, one pressure
Total: 52/55, 95%

6-game totals
Run blocks: 54/71, 76%
Pass blocks: 165/196, 84%, two sacks
Total: 219/267, 82%

Once again, I say: good heavens. McGlynn was a different beast than he had been in his first 11 starts. Only three blown blocks, two in the run game and one in pass protection. 3/3 on pull blocks. Lots and lots of frustrated Bengals rushers.

The popular narrative has been that McGlynn took exception to his benching and came back strong when he got his job back, but that doesn’t really hold up. Effort has never been McGlynn’s problem; it’s always been a question of ability and execution. Maybe taking a seat for a week got him to focus a little more, but it’s not like he suddenly said to himself “I only get to play if I work hard! I need to start working hard!” He’s always worked hard.

Of all the linemen’s Sunday performances, McGlynn’s is probably the least sustainable. He’s not going to succeed on 98% of his pass blocks with any regularity. The 80% run blocking part is a more reasonable expectation, but even that’s a little better than he had been. Again, Chuck Pagano will probably want to give this group at least one more shot to see if it can maintain its level of play. Don’t be surprised if Linkenbach steps in for McGlynn again at some point, or if Thornton goes back to left guard when he’s healthy and Reitz slides to right guard.

Here’s McGlynn at his best, taking a play out of Thornton’s playbook. He tucks Brandon Thompson into Satele’s arms, sees that Cherilus has his hands full with Margus Hunt, and completely levels Hunt.

Again, this is the advantage of having the experienced Reitz at left guard instead of Thornton. Satele doesn’t have to help Reitz on Peko, so he can take Thompson, which means McGlynn can save Cherilus from a difficult one-on-one battle. It’s a trickle-down effect that makes everyone on the line more effective. Thornton hasn’t been a disaster, aside from a few recent terrible games, but he can’t be trusted to work in isolation against wily rushers, which limits what the rest of the line can do. Reitz can also be mistake-prone, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he can duplicate this performance.

RT Gosder Cherilus
Run blocks: 7/9, 78%
Pass blocks: 46/49, 94%, one hit
Total: 53/58, 91%

5-game totals
Run blocks: 67/88, 76%
Pass blocks: 242/275, 88%, four sacks
Total: 309/363, 85%

This is roughly what you get from Cherilus on his good days. He can be an excellent pass blocker, especially one-on-one, which is fortunate because the Colts leave him on an island all the time:

Sadly, Cherilus is generally a meh run blocker. When he gets beaten in run blocking, it can be quite ugly, as on this play, where Carlos Dunlap slips under him almost immediately and blows up Donald Brown in the backfield:

I mentioned last week that Tennessee’s Derrick Morgan gives Cherilus fits. I hypothesized that it might be because of Morgan’s length, but now I’m not sure. Dunlap is 6’6”, 280 lbs. and is a whirling mass of gangly limbs, yet aside from the above play, Cherilus shut him down for most of the game Sunday. Cherilus did an excellent job of keeping his hands on Dunlap, despite Dunlap’s considerable skills in hand-fighting, as you can see in all three of the screen grabs above.

Finally, the backs and tight ends:

As good as the line was, it was disappointing to see the secondary blockers continue their recent miserable play. Coby Fleener was an appalling 1/6 on run blocks and 3/4 on pass blocks, Jack “What the Crap has Happened to Me?” Doyle was 1/3, all on run blocks, and Stanley Havili was 2/5 on run blocks and completed his lone pass block. Weslye Saunders missed his one pass block. Yuck.

Brown was 3/4 on pass blocks. Richardson gave up a hit, but was 2/3 and had two superb blocks.

Xavier Nixon, in his first action on offense, was 2/3, all on run blocks. He looked promising in the role and might be worth an extended look.



 

Castonzo

Reitz

Satele

McGlynn

Cherilus

Luck 3 scramble

+

+

/

+

+

Brown 3 run

-

2nd level, -

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

/

+

+

Drive total

2/3

2/3

1/1

3/3

3/3

Doyle 8 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete, def. pass interference

+

+

/

+

+

Incomplete

Gives up hit

-

+

/

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 2 pass

+

+

Pulls, /

Pulls, /

+

Drive total

4/5

4/5

3/3

3/3

5/5

Richardson 0 run

+

-

-

+

+

Richardson 2 run

+

+

+

Pulls, +

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

3/3

2/3

2/3

3/3

3/3

Brown 3 run

+

-

-

-

+

Fleener 13 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 0 run

+

Pulls, +

2nd level, +

+

-

Rogers 7 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

Gives up hit

+

+

Drive total

5/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

Richardson 8 run

+

+

+

Pulls, +

+

Richardson 2 run

+

Pulls, -

-

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Saunders 11 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Heyward-Bey 11 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 22 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

Gives up pressure

+

Fleener 3 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

9/9

8/9

8/9

8/9

9/9

Rogers 14 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Brazill 5 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

4/4

4/4

4/4

4/4

4/4

Incomplete

+

Pulls, +

Pulls, -

Pulls, /

+

Brown 5 run

2nd level, +

+

+

Pulls, +

/

Rogers 69 TD pass

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

3/3

3/3

2/3

2/2

2/2

Luck 29 scramble

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

Pulls, +

Pulls, +

+

+

Brazill 19 TD pass

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

3/3

3/3

3/3

3/3

3/3

Incomplete

+

+

Pulls, -

+

+

Richardson 4 run

+

Pulls, +

-

2nd level, +

2nd level, -

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

-

Drive total

3/3

3/3

1/3

3/3

1/3

Rogers 7 pass

+

+

+

Pulls, /

Pulls, +

Fleener 5 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete, def. illegal use of hands

+

+

Gives up pressure

+

/

Hilton 3 pass

+

+

+

Pulls, /

+

Hilton 4 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Heyward-Bey 12 pass

+

+

/

+

+

Richardson 4 run

+

Pulls, +

+

-

2nd level, +

Fleener 6 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brazill 29 TD pass

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

9/9

9/9

7/8

6/7

8/8

Incomplete

+

Gives up hit

+

+

+

Fleener 4 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

/

+

+

Drive total

3/3

2/3

2/2

3/3

3/3

Richardson 13 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 14 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 12 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Richardson 7 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 6 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 9 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Rogers 8 pass

+

+

+

+

Gives up hit

Brown 1 pass

+

+

+

+

-

Rogers 2 TD pass

Pulls, +

Pulls, /

+

+

+

Drive total

10/10

9/9

10/10

10/10

8/10


 

Castonzo

Reitz

Satele

McGlynn

Cherilus

Run total

9/10

6/10

6/10

8/10

7/9

Run percentage

90

60

60

80

78

Pass total

49/50

47/49

40/44

44/45

46/49

Pass percentage

98

96

91

98

94

Pressures

0

0

1

1

0

Hits

1

1

1

0

1

Sacks

0

0

0

0

0

Grand total

58/60

53/59

46/54

52/55

53/58

Grand total percentage

97

90

85

95

91

 

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