WCt

CA Charting Project: Offensive Line Charting, Wild Card Week

The Indianapolis offense exploded for 45 points last Saturday in what I’ve decided is my third-favorite game of the modern Colts era (1998 on), a 45-44 Wild Card win over the Chiefs. The last time Indy scored 45 points? November 26, 2006, in a 45-21 win over the Eagles. Rocky Boiman and Cato June both had four tackles in that game, and Joseph Addai ran for four touchdowns.

Gaudy point total aside, the Colts’ offensive line wasn’t particularly great. They fell off quite a bit in pass blocking after four straight strong showings. Both tackles had poor games, and Mike McGlynn failed to live up to his modest standards. Hugh Thornton and Samson Satele (!!!) played extremely well, but the real difference was that the offense finished drives. Oh, and Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and Donald Brown were spectacular. At long last, Pep Hamilton has revamped his offense to feature Luck, and it’s working.

I don’t mean to suggest the line had nothing to do with the outburst. On the Colts’ six touchdown plays, they missed only one block: McGlynn’s faceplant on Luck’s fumble recovery touchdown, which we can find funny now because the Colts scored:

Heh. He didn’t even touch anyone.

In terms of percentages, the run blocking was again underwhelming (on just 13 running plays), but the Colts were able to block effectively when they needed to. They had three runs on which no one missed a block, leading to 5-, 10-, and 13-yard carries by Donald Brown (the 10-yard one was a touchdown). Indy’s second-to-last drive, which was the game’s most pivotal to my eyes, started and ended with Brown runs for no gain, but in between he had carries of 7, 6, and 4 yards behind some outstanding blocks by Thornton.

All told, they’ll probably need a better offensive line performance than this to beat the Patriots on Saturday. Then again, if the newly unleashed Luck gets hot, it might not matter.

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: 10/13, 77%
Pass blocks: 39/47, 83%, four pressures, two hits
Total: 49/60, 82%

10-game totals
Run blocks: 146/181, 81%
Pass blocks: 402/446, 90%, two sacks
Total: 548/627, 87%

Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali beat the crap out of Castonzo at times, just as he had two weeks earlier in Kansas City, when Castonzo had similarly poor percentages for him (71% run blocking, 86% pass blocking). Three of Castonzo’s four allowed pressures and both of his allowed hits on Saturday were to Hali, who repeatedly beat him with power moves. Not many guys can beat Castonzo with power, but Hali is a Pro Bowler for a reason. He’s an excellent player and a tough matchup for Castonzo.

Castonzo was off his game most of the day. He was the one most responsible for Trent Richardson’s fumble (other than Richardson, of course), as he missed an open field block on Brandon Flowers, forcing poor Trent to cut back inside on an otherwise well-blocked play:

Quick aside: there’s no excuse for fumbling untouched in any situation, let alone on your first career playoff carry, and it was completely fair that Richardson didn’t get another touch. But you have to feel for the guy. If Castonzo had made that block, Richardson would have easily gained at least five yards, and the conversation would be very different (assuming he didn’t fumble his next touch or anything).

The good news with Castonzo: he got hot late and completed 20 of his last 21 blocks. More than anyone else on the line, he clearly bought into Luck’s “Stay with me” shtick, dug deep, and found an extra gear. Hali overpowered him for a hit on Luck’s last interception, then he didn’t miss a block on the Colts’ last three drives (all of which resulted in touchdowns) except for one apparently broken running play. Early on, he also had this play, on which he basically blocked two guys, with a little help from Coby Fleener and Brown:

Also, see what Samson Satele did there? I’m telling you, he was downright good in this game. More on him momentarily.

LG Hugh Thornton
Run blocks: 10/13, 77%
Pass blocks: 43/46, 93%, one pressure, one hit
Total: 53/59, 90%

10-game totals
Run blocks: 111/161, 69%
Pass blocks: 352/389, 90%, two sacks
Total: 463/550, 84%

Thornton was the Colts’ most effective all-around lineman on Saturday. He’s put up solid games before, including a couple near the beginning of the season, so I don’t want to get carried away and declare that he’s arrived. But this is the guy the Colts were envisioning when they drafted him. He played a fantastic game in pass protection, helping shut down Dontari Poe. He missed a couple run blocks early and one more on the same apparently broken play in which Castonzo missed one; otherwise, he was superb. He was 5/6 on pull blocks and generated real movement, which is often in short supply on this line. Here are his blocks on the aforementioned 7-, 6-, and 4-yard runs:

See how he has his right hand in the guy’s armpit in the first two? That’s perfect hand placement; the defenders have no leverage and no chance of freeing themselves. McGlynn blew blocks on two of those three runs, or they would have been good for a lot more.

Thornton had plenty more blocks that I could gush about. Here’s my favorite. Justin Houston has gotten around Castonzo and is about to uncork a big hit on Luck, who has just released a 46-yard bomb to Da’Rick Rogers. Thornton says to himself, “Nobody gets a free shot on my quarterback. THORNTON SMASH.”

As Marcus pointed out earlier this week, Thornton did nearly cause a problem on the game-winning touchdown to Hilton when he slammed Hali out of Castonzo’s grip and, inadvertently, closer to Luck. I like to call this the Thornton Help Slam, though that’s admittedly uncreative, and one of you clever readers can probably come up with a better name for it. He pulls this move, in which he makes sure Satele has his guy under control before plowing into Castonzo’s man from the side, at least three or four times a game (I counted at least four Saturday). It usually works brilliantly, and it often ends with a defender sailing comically through the air. As I said in a comment on Marcus’s piece, I haven’t seen a Thornton Help Slam result in a sack all year, and I’m happy to give him a pass for being too enthusiastic once in a while. He plays incredibly hard, and that’s why I think he’s going to be a good one.

C Samson Satele
Run blocks: 10/13, 77%
Pass blocks: 44/47, 94%, one pressure
Total: 54/60, 90%

10-game totals
Run blocks: 104/155, 67%
Pass blocks: 349/388, 90%, two sacks
Total: 453/543, 83%

I hope I’ve sufficiently braced you for this with some teaser comments above: Satele looked good on Saturday. Like, really good. Not Pro Bowl-level, but like a genuine, productive NFL center. This must be what Ryan Grigson saw when he forked over a three-year, $10.8 million contract in 2012. He was reasonably effective in the running game and extremely steady in pass protection, where he gave up only a single pressure. He started a little slowly, going a combined 16/21 (76%) on the first four drives, but thereafter, he went 38/39 (97%). His only miss came when he got caught in traffic and couldn’t climb to the second level during a 4-yard Brown carry.

Satele spent much of the day matched up with Poe. Though Poe slowed down after a great start to this season, he’s a formidable player. The Colts – more specifically, Thornton and Satele – held him mostly in check Saturday. When he did beat Satele with his initial move, Satele did a nice job of leaning into him and knocking him off course, giving Luck just enough time to throw, as on this play:

In his worst play of the game, Satele was beaten inside by Allen Bailey, giving up a pressure and a tipped pass and getting away with a hold:

Even that one wasn’t necessarily his fault, as Luck held the ball for a long time, waiting for a receiver to get open. When the worst result of a Satele mistake on the day is an uncalled hold and a tipped incompletion, you have to feel pretty good about things.

I was on the lookout for a WTF is Samson Satele Thinking moment all game, but he was zoned in and focused like I’ve never seen him. So sorry, dear readers, no WTFiSST® this week. Instead, I offer you a rarity: happy Satele frames!

 

And yes, that’s a Satele Help Slam in the last one. He shed his status as the Colts’ least active lineman to offer his teammates help whenever possible this week.

If this guy showed up every game, people wouldn’t hate him nearly so much. My theory: he heard footsteps from Khaled Holmes’ admirable showings in limited duty the last couple weeks and finally woke up a bit. Per Spotrac, Satele carries a cap hit of more than $5 million next year. Cutting him would mean a little over $1 million in dead money and a likely starting spot for Holmes, so we might be seeing the end of his Colts days.

RG Mike McGlynn
Run blocks: 7/13, 54%
Pass blocks: 41/48, 85%, tree pressures
Total: 48/61, 79%

McGlynn did not acquit himself well. He blew twice as many run blocks as anyone else and, as I touched on above, ruined a couple promising runs with missed blocks. He didn’t handle Poe nearly as well as Thornton and Satele or generate much movement in the running game.

McGlynn also gave up three pressures, all to Poe and all on basically the same move. Said move looked like this:

Because Poe is so much bigger and stronger than McGlynn, McGlynn has planted his left foot far outside his body in an attempt to gain some stability. Cheating his foot inside and his leverage outside like this is a curious move, because he has help from Satele to the inside. It appears he’s simply not quick enough to move his body to the right and get outside Poe’s rush.

Sensing an opening to his left, Poe pulls his right arm back, shoves with his left arm and shifts his weight to the left, leaving McGlynn’s left hand grasping at air. McGlynn responds by taking a huge, slow step with his right foot, trying to regain position.

Unfortunately for McGlynn, in addition to being bigger and stronger than he is, Poe is also quicker. By the time McGlynn gets his foot back on the ground, Poe is halfway around him and he’s reaching for Poe’s chest with one arm. And because he set up inside for some reason, Satele is in no position to help.

It’s a good thing Luck was getting the ball out quickly.

If only Joe Reitz would come back. In a game plus a series at guard, Reitz was 56/58 (97%) in pass blocking before suffering a concussion. He hasn’t played since and was inactive for this game. As Kyle put it a few weeks back, #FreeJoe.

RT Gosder Cherilus
Run blocks: 9/12, 75%
Pass blocks: 38/48, 79%, four pressures, three hits, one sack
Total: 47/60, 78%

10-game totals
Run blocks: 135/184, 73%
Pass blocks: 388/441, 88%, five sacks
Total: 523/625, 84%

Like Castonzo, Cherilus struggled with Kansas City’s premier pass rushers. Houston gave him tons of trouble, and he wound up with some ugly numbers in pass protection. At one point, Houston beat him to the inside for a hit on one play and to the outside for a hit on the next. The Chiefs’ one sack came when Houston beat him without even putting on much of a move:

Cherilus was decent in the running game (and certainly better than McGlynn), though he was nothing spectacular. And to his credit, he kept battling. At one point, he even reached over to try to save McGlynn from giving up a pressure, despite having Houston leaning into him:

 

Sadly, Cherilus continues to do that damn thing where he lets go of his man too soon on running plays. On Brown’s 10-yard touchdown run, which is otherwise a thing of beauty, he engulfs Eric Berry at the line, then inexplicably turns back to look at Brown and takes his hands off Berry. He holds onto him just long enough for Brown to squirt through. It still works, but it’s dicier than it should be:

The best thing about that play: Griff Whalen’s out-of-nowhere block on safety Kendrick Lewis. Lewis is settling into the hole and feeling really good about himself, thinking he has an easy tackle coming, then BAM. Whalened. Also, see how open the box looks once Brown gets past the line? This is the appeal of running out of a spread formation.


The Colts used extra blockers sparingly, as they often do when they fall behind. Stanley Havili played only three snaps, per Football Outsiders, and did not attempt a block. Though Castonzo and Cherilus struggled at times, Hamilton (wisely) trusted Luck to feel the rush and get the ball out without the help of lots of extra blockers.

Coby Fleener turned in his second consecutive strong game, going 8/11 in run blocking and 5/6 in pass blocking. The reborn Jack Doyle was 2/2 in run blocking and 1/1 in pass blocking.

As they generally have over the second half of the season, Brown and Richardson turned in outstanding days in pass protection. Brown went 7/7, while Richardson was 5/5.


Play

Castonzo

Thornton

Satele

McGlynn

Cherilus

Hilton 12 pass

/

Pulls, +

+

+

+

Hilton 5 pass

+

+

/

+

+

Hilton 24 pass

+

+

+

-

+

Brazill 0 pass

-

Pulls, +

Pulls, -

+

+

Fleener 18 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brazill 5 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Hilton 10 TD pass

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

5/6

7/7

5/6

6/7

7/7

Brown 4 run

+

-

-

-

+

Incomplete

Gives up pressure

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

Gives up pressure

/

Gives up pressure

Drive total

2/3

2/3

1/3

1/2

2/3

Richardson 0 run, fumble

Pulls, -

+

Pulls, +

+

/

Drive total

0/1

1/1

1/1

1/1

 

Brown 3 run

+

Pulls, -

+

+

2nd level, -

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Whalen 17 pass

+

+

+

Gives up pressure

+

Brown 5 run

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

Gives up pressure

+

+

+

+

Fleener 4 pass

+

/

+

+

-

Luck 21 run

+

+

-

+

+

Hilton 11 pass

/

+

-

+

-

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

Gives up hit

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

/

+

+

+

Drive total

8/10

8/9

9/11

10/11

8/11

Incomplete

Gives up pressure

+

+

+

+

Luck 9 scramble

+

+

+

+

Gives up pressure

Fleener 1 pass

+

+

+

+

/

Hilton 22 pass

+

+

+

+

+

-7 sack

+

+

+

+

Gives up sack

Interception

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

5/6

6/6

6/6

6/6

3/5

Interception

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

1/1

1/1

1/1

1/1

1/1

Brown 3 run

-

Pulls, +

+

-

2nd level, +

Hilton 10 pass

+

+

+

-

+

Brown 11 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Rogers 46 pass

Gives up pressure

+

+

Gives up pressure

+

Brown 10 TD run

+

Pulls, +

+

+

+

Drive total

3/5

5/5

5/5

2/5

5/5

Incomplete; illegal formation

+

+

+

+

Gives up hit

Hilton 16 pass

+

+

+

-

Gives up hit

Hilton 8 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brazill 19 pass

-

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

/

+

+

+

Brown 3 TD pass

+

+

+

+

Pulls, /

Drive total

5/6

5/5

6/6

5/6

3/5

Interception

Gives up hit

+

+

+

+

Drive total

0/1

1/1

1/1

1/1

1/1

Brown 25 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brazill 30 pass

+

+

+

+

Gives up pressure

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 13 run

+

+

+

+

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

+

+

Fleener 12 TD pass

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

6/6

6/6

6/6

6/6

5/6

Brown 0 run

-

-

+

Pulls, -

+

Incomplete

+

+

+

/

+

Hilton 16 pass

+

+

+

+

Gives up pressure

Hilton 14 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 7 run

+

+

+

-

-

Hilton 12 pass

+

/

+

+

+

Brown 6 run

+

2nd level, +

+

-

-

Luck 12 scramble

+

Gives up pressure

+

+

+

Brown 4 run

+

+

2nd level, -

+

+

Whalen 9 pass

+

+

+

+

+

Brown 8 pass

/

+

/

+

+

Brown 0 run, Luck Superman fumble recovery TD

+

Pulls, +

+

-

+

Drive total

10/11

9/11

10/11

7/11

9/12

Incomplete

+

Gives up hit

+

-

Gives up hit

Luck 5 scramble

+

+

+

+

+

Fleener 11 pass

+

-

/

Gives up pressure

+

Hilton 64 TD pass

+

+

+

+

+

Drive total

4/4

2/4

3/3

2/4

3/4


 

Castonzo

Thornton

Satele

McGlynn

Cherilus

Run total

10/13

10/13

10/13

7/13

9/12

Run percentage

77

77

77

54

75

Pass total

39/47

43/46

44/47

41/48

38/48

Pass percentage

83

93

94

85

79

Pressures

4

1

1

3

4

Hits

2

1

0

0

3

Sacks

0

0

0

0

1

Grand total

49/60

53/59

54/60

48/61

47/60

Grand total percentage

82

90

90

79

78

 

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