We've used 2011 playing-time statistics to identify a number of trends and important points, from the perfect attendance of Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs to the reliability of Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew to the curious limitations placed upon Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin. Now let's sift though some other figures that don't demand dramatic conclusions but are of interest nonetheless.
We noted that Briggs played every defensive snap for the Bears last season. Five other players, all offensive linemen, also never missed a play. That list includes Chicago Bears center Roberto Garza and left tackle J'Marcus Webb, Detroit Lions guards Stephen Peterman and Rob Sims, and Green Bay Packers guard/tackle T.J. Lang.
Minnesota Vikings left tackle Charlie Johnson missed a grand total of eight plays in 2011. Lions center Dominic Raiola missed nine plays and Packers center Scott Wells missed 29. Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt played all but 33 snaps.
Depth issues at defensive end surfaced for several teams. The Vikings' Jared Allen led all NFL players at his position by playing on 94.3 percent of his team's snaps, and teammate Brian Robison ranked 11th among defensive ends by playing 84.4 percent. Meanwhile, the Bears' Israel Idonije was on the field for 84.6 percent of his team's snaps, with Julius Peppers close behind at 82.1. Obviously that foursome is a good group of players, but it's also clear that their teams didn't have backups they felt comfortable rolling in.
Consider that conclusion in the context of how the well-stocked Lions rotated their defensive ends. Cliff Avril played on 72 percent of their snaps and Kyle Vanden Bosch was on the field for 67.9 percent. Lawrence Jackson played on 30.1 percent of the Lions' snaps despite injuries that limited him to 11 games, while backup Willie Young saw action 22.7 percent of plays over 14 games.
The NFC North had two workhorse middle linebackers. The Bears' Brian Urlacher missed only 14 plays, most of which came after a knee injury in the season finale. The Lions' Stephen Tulloch, meanwhile, missed only 19 of 1,098 defensive snaps.
Bears running back Matt Forte was on the field for the 10th-most plays (564) among running backs despite missing four-plus games because of a knee injury.