Saturday, January 7, 2012
Big men in the spotlight this weekend
By John McTigue
The five-man offensive line unit of Will Svitek, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure, Joe Hawley, Tyson Clabo has played 591 of the Falcons’ 1,103 snaps this season. Together, that unit has yielded just six sacks, or one every 58.7 pass attempts .
No line unit that played at least 500 snaps together allowed fewer sacks or a lower rate of sacks per pass attempt. When that specific unit wasn’t on field for the Falcons, the offensive line allowed 20 sacks, or one every 13.6 pass attempts.
New York Giants
This season, the Giants recorded 34 sacks with four or fewer pass rushers, second-most in the NFL. The Giants’ defensive line was at full strength against the Cowboys in Week 17 and it paid dividends.
Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul shared the field for the first time since Week 12. The Giants tallied five sacks on the 26 plays they were on field together. Four of those sacks also came with Justin Tuck on field at defensive tackle.
Not to be forgotten on the defensive line is Mathias Kiwanuka, who was involved in 15 tackles for loss this season, second-most in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints
Jermon Bushrod and Carl Nicks have anchored the left side of the Saints’ line this season, each playing 1,177 snaps. Not only did each player play every snap for the Saints, they tied for the second-most snaps played on either offense or defense in the NFL this season.
This chemistry between Bushrod and Nicks paid off as the Saints are averaging 6.6 yards per rush to the left side this season (second in NFL), compared to 4.5 yards per rush to the middle and right.
Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans
One thing the Lions, Broncos and Texans have in common is consistency on the offensive line. All three teams have a five-man combo that ranks in the top four of most snaps played together.
The Lions’ five-man combo helped produce the most pass yards of any offensive line unit; the Broncos and Texans helped produce the most rush yards.
Heath Miller might be the primary tight end for the Steelers, but he’s spent nearly as much time blocking as route-running. Only Daniel Fells of the Broncos has blocked on more snaps among the primary tight ends on teams in the Wild Card Playoffs.
The Steelers have used a league-high 25 different combinations of offensive linemen this season and with Maurkice Pouncey now out, Miller may be called in to block even more.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins’ 7.5 sacks this season were tied for the fewest of any team leader in the Wild Card Playoffs. However, Atkins’ sacks have been about quality, not quantity.
Of his 7.5 sacks, 7.0 have come on third or fourth down. That’s tied for most in the NFL this season with league sack leader Jason Babin and the Giants’ Pierre-Paul.
No team recorded more sacks from players lining up in the interior line than the 17.5 that Bengals produced this season.
Doug Clawson contributed to this post