Week17l

CA Charting Project: Offensive Line Charting, Week 17

As you may already know if you read Grantland’s Bill Barnwell, momentum in football is an iffy concept (see here for Barnwell’s insightful treatise on the subject). Generally speaking, teams win and lose because they play well or poorly, regardless of any vague notions of being hot or cold over some arbitrary length of time.

Nevertheless, the Colts’ offensive line is playing by far its best ball of the season right now, and that’s a good thing. They finally seem to have figured out how to protect Andrew Luck. All five starters were at 88% or higher in pass blocking Sunday against the Jaguars. It was the fourth straight game in which no starter dipped below 86% in pass protection, after at least one was below 83% in each of the first five games I charted. The linemen have given up only two sacks in those four games. That prorates to eight over a full season, a figure that’s decidedly Peyton-esque.

Tackles Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus have picked up their pass blocking during this stretch, and the rotating cast of interior linemen have managed adequate protection, if not always ideal. Check out a few of the pockets Andrew Luck was working with on Sunday:

Unsurprisingly, when he has that much space, Luck can pick apart a secondary.

I know I’m a broken record on this, but the running game was lousy once again this week, grinding out just 80 yards on 28 carries, a 2.9 average. Every starter blew at least six run blocks. Only six of Indy’s 28 runs went for five yards or more, and they never had two consecutive runs of five-plus yards.

Among many others, Greg touched on this in his excellent Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Chiefs game: the Colts don’t have the personnel, especially on the line, to make a run-first offense work. They’ve taken a big step forward offensively the past four weeks because they’ve opened things up and let Luck find open receivers on quick timing routes. News flash: he’s pretty good at that. Maybe when Donald Thomas comes back and Hugh Thornton is finished developing and Khaled Holmes is permitted to play, this will be a decent run-blocking line, but right now it just isn’t. Here’s hoping we see more of the hurry-up, three-wide, shotgun stuff on Saturday.

DISCLAIMER: Grading offensive line play is inevitably subjective, since it’s impossible to know assignments and how the linemen are coached. Still, subjective scores provide a useful baseline for qualitative analysis. These scores are based on whether the linemen appeared to succeed in their assignments, based on their apparent targets and how the plays developed. I assign all blocks a grade of ‘+’ (good block), ‘-’ (bad block) or ‘/’ (not involved, usually meaning the lineman couldn’t find anyone to block); ‘/’ plays are not scored. My charting table is included at the bottom of this post. I welcome criticism and commentary.

LT Anthony Castonzo
Run blocks: 17/23, 74%
Pass blocks: 41/41, 100%
Total: 58/64, 91%

9-game totals
Run blocks: 136/168, 81%
Pass blocks: 363/399, 91%, two sacks
Total: 499/567, 88%

Castonzo specializes in bounce-back games, and he put up a doozie on Sunday. The week before, Tamba Hali had given him trouble, as he completed 86% of his blocks against the Chiefs, a terrible figure for him. This week, he was a perfect 41/41 in pass blocking. It was his second perfect pass-blocking game in the nine I’ve charted for Colts Authority (the first came in the first Texans game). During the few moments he looked shaky in pass blocking, Thornton was there to help him get things under control. He was so locked-in and effective Sunday, he even held up when Andre Branch grabbed his facemask and pushed his helmet off (and somehow didn’t get flagged):

Castonzo completed his first 29 blocks and 48 of his first 50. With the game under control, he seemed to slack off a little bit late in the game, missing four of eight at one point. The Colts also tried a few stretch plays late, which they’ve done several times in the past few games. Given his prowess in space, one would expect Castonzo to do well on stretches, but he’s often looked lost on such plays. It’s probably a matter of getting adequate practice time; I’d still like to see Indy move toward a zone blocking scheme in the future.

LG Xavier Nixon
Run blocks: 8/9, 89%
Pass blocks: 2/2, 100%
Total: 10/11, 91%

9-game totals
Run blocks: 44/67, 66%
Pass blocks: 61/68, 90%, one sack
Total: 105/135, 78%

Nixon came in for a handful of plays as the sixth lineman and subbed in for Castonzo at left tackle for the last series. He was fine in both roles. Since his deer-in-the-headlights performance in the second Texans game, he’s looked progressively more comfortable and useful. He took out Paul Posluszny twice in three plays when he was playing left tackle. The Colts may have found themselves a decent swing tackle on the cheap; he certainly has more upside than Jeff Linkenbach ever did.

LG Hugh Thornton
Run blocks: 19/26, 73%
Pass blocks: 39/41, 95%
Total: 58/67, 87%

9-game totals
Run blocks: 101/148, 68%
Pass blocks: 309/343, 90%, two sacks
Total: 410/491, 84%

Thornton completed 36 of his first 37 blocks, the lone blemish coming on a pull block on which he bumped into Stanley Havili and couldn’t get a grip on Posluszny. Like Castonzo, he struggled a bit in the middle of the game, but again looked strong toward the end. Since slipping into a funk for a few games and missing a couple altogether with a neck injury, Thornton has righted the ship and played extremely well of late. He completed three of his first four pull blocks, though he slowed down a bit there and finished 4/8. He also went 2/3 at the second level.

As always, Thornton’s best characteristic was his activity level. Effort is tough to coach, and whatever technique shortcomings Thornton may have, his coaches will never have to push him to work harder. His specialty is plays like these, on which he makes sure one guy has his defender under control, then barrels into another guy’s man from the side:

Unfortunately, he also still has plays like this one, in which he apparently doesn’t notice an unblocked Posluszny passing him on his way to tackle Donald Brown:

He’s not a finished product, but I remain high on Thornton – apparently higher than a lot of others are, from what I’ve read.

LG/C Khaled Holmes
Run blocks: 2/3, 67%
Pass blocks: 2/2, 100%
Total: 4/5, 80%

9-game totals
Run blocks: 5/6, 83%
Pass blocks: 5/5, 100%
Total: 10/11, 91%

I’m still confused about the coaching staff’s reluctance to use Holmes. On Sunday, he came in for a couple plays after Thornton lost his shoe (I’m not making this up) and later replaced Samson Satele at center for the last series. Jaguars lineman Kyle Love muscled him out of the way on one running play, but otherwise Holmes looked solid again. Check out his second-level cut block on J.T. Thomas here:

Cherilus could learn a thing or two about cut blocking from Holmes. Hell, so could Castonzo. He chased Thomas down in the open field and drove his helmet into Thomas’s thigh in a picture perfect cut that left Thomas sprawling. Compare that to Linkenbach’s attempt on that play. The sample size is still small, but everything Holmes does makes me think he deserves more time. That probably won’t happen in the playoffs, barring an injury. Next year, though, should be Holmes’ time at center.

C Samson Satele
Run blocks: 14/22, 64%
Pass blocks: 38/41, 93%, one pressure, one hit
Total: 52/63, 83%

9-game totals
Run blocks: 94/142, 66%
Pass blocks: 305/341, 89%, two sacks
Total: 399/483, 83%

Yep, Satele is a terrible run blocker, particularly at the second level. On the Colts’ first two drives, the linemen missed a total of five blocks, and three of those were by Satele when he tried to block linebackers past the line of scrimmage. He’s clumsy in space and lacks any lateral agility whatsoever.

On the bright side, he has settled into Indy’s pass-blocking scheme and become a steady pass-protector. He only missed three pass blocks out of 41 on Sunday, though two of those resulted in a pressure and a hit.

And in the spirit of positivity (because we all need some positivity heading into the playoffs, right?), Satele had a few moments of genuine, lucid awareness this week! Here’s the best one. The Jaguars are rushing six, and the Colts have only six blockers in. Satele, in decidedly un-WTFiSST® fashion, spots the stunt early on and adjusts to it nicely:

Granted, any competent center should probably make that play, but let’s celebrate the little things. Also notice Richardson’s fine work here: a quick step outside to make sure only one rusher is coming, a hop right to ensure Thornton is in good shape, a bigger step right to chip Satele’s man, and a body-sacrificing slide left, into the path of two rushers, to make sure he – and not Luck – takes the hit. The first round pick is gone, so let’s all try to accept what Richardson is, at least for now: an elite third down back. They paid far too steep a price for him, but we can still appreciate his considerable talents.

Back to Satele. He also adroitly picked up a stunt two plays after the one above.

What’s that you say? Quit praising the guy and get to the WTF is Samson Satele Thinking® moment, already? OK, fine. He had one of those. Here it is. I don’t think I need to say anything about it.

RG Jeff Linkenbach

Run blocks: 19/26, 73%
Pass blocks: 37/42, 88%, two pressures, one sack
Total: 56/68, 82%

9-game totals
Run blocks: 43/64, 67%
Pass blocks: 116/147, 79%, two sacks
Total: 159/211, 75%

Linkenbach was a little better than his decidedly mediocre averages on Sunday. He also started and finished strong, but endured a bad stretch in the middle of the game. I’m not entirely convinced Linkenbach is a better guard than Mike McGlynn, or even Nixon, and when Joe Reitz is healthy, the Colts would definitely be better off playing him at right guard. In terms of athleticism, Linkenbach makes McGlynn look like Michael Jordan. He’s not quick at all and isn’t the sort of master tactician he’d have to be to make his limited gifts work. He gave up the lone sack of the day when he and Cherilus took far too long to recognize and address a Jason Babin stunt:

One of his two pressures allowed also came on a stunt. By all appearances, Linkenbach’s problem on stunts isn’t that he doesn’t understand what’s happening, it’s that he’s powerless to do anything about it because he can’t move his feet quickly enough. The fact that he’s even still on the roster, let alone starting games, is evidence of how difficult it is to find quality NFL linemen and how much work Ryan Grigson still has to do in that area.

RT Gosder Cherilus
Run blocks: 20/26, 77%
Pass blocks: 37/42, 88%, one pressure, two hits
Total: 57/68, 84%

9-game totals
Run blocks: 126/172, 73%
Pass blocks: 350/393, 89%, four sacks
Total: 476/565, 84%

Percentage-wise, Cherilus was roughly his usual self Sunday – he was the best run blocker on the day, but that’s mostly because everyone else struggled. He gave up a pressure and two hits, which is a little worse than his typical level since the second Titans game. All three of those plays came during a seven-play stretch in the second quarter, and both hits happened while the Colts were running the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. He may have been wearing down a bit physically, though he usually does well in the hurry-up offense.

I’ve written before about Cherilus’ foibles in cut blocking and his tendency to lose interest in running plays. Both traits were in evidence again on Sunday. Here he is feebly holding up one arm against a defender who has slipped his block:

And here is one of the worst cut blocks you will ever see:

The guy does have some warts, but at least he’s an improvement on Winston Justice.


The non-lineman blockers had a great game for the second straight week, missing on only two of 16 pass blocks and six of 38 run blocks. Jack Doyle again played at a high level, going 10/10 on run blocks and completing his one pass block.

Coby Fleener and Weslye Saunders both went 7/8 on run blocks, while Fleener was 1/2 on pass blocks and Saunders was 1/1. Both were surprisingly effective in the running game (it helps to be playing the Jaguars).

Pep Hamilton is steadily phasing Stanley Havili out, to the chagrin of . . . well, no one. I like the guy as a receiver out of the backfield, and he had some good games early in the year before fading badly amidst a series of injuries. He was 7/11 run blocking and 3/3 pass blocking Sunday.

One reason Havili has become expendable: Brown and Richardson have rounded into excellent pass blockers. Brown was 6/6 Sunday, while Richardson was 2/3. Richardson’s missed block ended up all right; he whiffed on his man, but Luck got the ball out a step before the defender could get to him.

Ricardo Mathews made his traditional single appearance as a fullback and had a pretty cool, athletic block on a running play.


Play

Castonzo

Nixon

Thornton

Holmes

Satele

Linkenbach

Cherilus

Brown 7 run

+


 

+


 

2nd level, -

+

+

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Hilton 11 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brown 3 run

+


 

+


 

2nd level, -

+

+

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Hilton 8 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Hilton 7 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brown 1 TD run

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Drive total

8/8

 

8/8

 

6/8

8/8

8/8

Hilton 5 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Fleener 25 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Saunders 18 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Hilton 4 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

/

Incomplete

+

+

+


 

+

+

+

Richardson 2 TD run

+

+

Pulls, +


 

2nd level, -

-

-

Drive total

7/7

2/2

7/7

 

6/7

6/7

5/6

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

Gives up pressure

+

Whalen 9 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Richardson 2 run

+

+

Pulls, -


 

+

+

-

Richardson 11 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Hilton 37 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Richardson 9 run

+


 

Pulls, +


 

+

2nd level, +

2nd level, +

Luck 3 run

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Richardson 3 run

+


 

Pulls, +


 

+

2nd level, -

2nd level, -

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+


 

+

+

+

Drive total

11/11

2/2

10/11


 

11/11

9/11

9/11

Hilton 2 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brown 2 run

+


 

+


 

+

2nd level, +

+

Hilton 9 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Richardson 2 run

-


 

+


 

2nd level, +

-

+

Whalen 9 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brown 2 pass

/


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brown 9 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brown 2 run

+


 

+


 

+

-

+

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

-

+

Luck 4 scramble

+


 

+


 

+

+

Gives up pressure

Drive total

8/9

 

10/10

 

10/10

7/10

9/10

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Richardson 6 pass

+


 

Pulls, -


 

Pulls, -

Pulls, -

+

-8 sack

+


 

+


 

+

Gives up sack

-

Drive total

3/3

 

2/3

 

2/3

1/3

2/3

Brown -7 pass

+


 

Pulls, -


 

Pulls, /

Pulls, +

Gives up hit

Hilton 12 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brazill 11 pass

+


 

+


 

+

Gives up pressure

Gives up hit

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Havili 15 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Drive total

5/5

 

4/5

 

4/4

4/5

3/5

Brown -1 run

-


 

-


 

2nd level, +

-

+

Doyle 2 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Hilton 41 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brown 7 run

+


 

2nd level, +


 

+

+

+

Brown 0 run

+

+

2nd level, -


 

+

+

-

Hilton 19 pass

+


 

 

+

Gives up hit

+

-

Whalen 7 TD pass

+


 

 

+

/

+

+

Drive total

6/7

1/1

3/5

2/2

5/6

6/7

5/7

Richardson 1 run

-

+

-


 

2nd level, -

+

+

Richardson 5 run

+


 

2nd level, +


 

+

+

+

Richardson 1 run

-


 

-


 

+

+

-

Drive total

1/3

1/1

1/3

 

2/3

3/3

2/3

Brown 2 run

+

-

Pulls, +


 

-

-

+

Brown 6 run

-


 

-


 

2nd level, +

+

+

Whalen 7 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Brown 1 run

+

+

+


 

2nd level, /

+

+

Brown 1 run

-


 

+


 

2nd level, -

+

+

Havili 3 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Drive total

4/6

1/2

5/6

 

3/5

5/6

6/6

Rogers 10 pass

+


 

+


 

+

Pulls, +

+

Rogers 10 pass

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Choice 5 pass

/


 

+


 

Gives up pressure

/

+

Choice 0 run

2nd level, +


 

+


 

-

2nd level, +

+

Incomplete

+


 

+


 

+

+

+

Choice 8 run

+


 

+


 

2nd level, -

+

+

Drive total

5/5

 

6/6

 

3/6

5/5

6/6

Choice 4 run


 

+

+

-


 

+

+

Choice 3 run


 

+

+

+


 

+

+

Choice 3 run


 

Pulls, +

Pulls, -

2nd level, +


 

2nd level, -

-

Drive total

 

3/3

2/3

2/3

 

2/3

2/3

Play

Castonzo

Nixon

Thornton

Holmes

Satele

Linkenbach

Cherilus

Run total

17/23

8/9

19/26

2/3

14/22

19/26

20/26

Run percentage

74

89

73

67

64

73

77

Pass total

41/41

2/2

39/41

2/2

38/41

37/42

37/42

Pass percentage

100

100

95

100

93

88

88

Pressures

0

0

0

0

1

2

1

Hits

0

0

0

0

1

0

2

Sacks

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

Grand total

58/64

10/11

58/67

4/5

52/63

56/68

57/68

Grand total percentage

91

91

87

80

83

82

84

                 
Quantcast