Thursday, December 1, 2011
Where NFL teams rank in line continuity
By Mike Sando
NFL teams strive for continuity along their offensive lines.
Seattle Seahawks fans remember the five players largely responsible for their team's Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 season. Left tackle Walter Jones, left guard Steve Hutchinson, center Robbie Tobeck, right guard Chris Gray and right tackle Sean Locklear started every game.
When the Arizona Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl a few years later, the same five linemen started all season: left tackle Mike Gandy, left guard Reggie Wells, center Lyle Sendlein, right guard Deuce Lutui and right tackle Levi Brown.
Teams shuffling their lines during a season usually do so for negative reasons such as injuries or poor performance.
The chart ranks NFC West teams by percentage of offensive snaps played by the most frequently used combination of five offensive linemen this season. The Seahawks' leading five has played 26.2 percent, third-lowest in the NFL behind those for Indianapolis (19.6 percent) and Buffalo (24.1). Download full NFL rankings here.
The most frequently used five for Seattle featured left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Robert Gallery, center Max Unger, right guard John Moffitt and right tackle James Carpenter. They have played 183 snaps together. That is two more than than a group featuring the same five, but with Paul McQuistan instead of Gallery at left guard. The current group, this one featuring Gallery at left guard, McQuistan and right guard and Breno Giacomini at right tackle, has 130 snaps. Three others line combinations have at least 50 snaps.
The Houston Texans (98.9) and Denver Broncos (95.8) are the only teams to use the same five linemen on more than 85 percent of snaps, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They rank among the NFL's top three teams in rushing yardage, with Denver's totals including 455 yards from quarterback Tim Tebow.
The 49ers' most frequently used fivesome ranks 13th at 62.8 percent. The Cardinals' primary five ranks 16th at 53.1 percent. The Rams' five ranks 29th at 34.5 percent.
San Francisco has averaged 5.1 yards per carry with Adam Snyder at right guard (418 total plays) and 3.1 per carry with Chilo Rachal in that spot (201 plays). No other frequently used combinations in the division feature such disparities. Seattle has averaged 3.6 yards per carry with its current line, down from the 4.2 and 4.3 range with the lines it used most frequently earlier in the year. Sack percentage is also up slightly.