Colts offensive line ratings

(Photo credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

(Photo credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

I recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone.
I certainly do.

-Alanis Morisette

I found that line from the Alanis classic “You Learn” in my head this week for no particular reason. I’m an unabashed child of the 90s and will always love 90s music, but I wasn’t sure why I was thinking of that line. Then Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted this:

Irsay, who is not exactly shy when complaining on Twitter, was criticizing the Colts’ offensive line for its performance against the Raiders in Sunday’s 21-17 win, in which quarterback Andrew Luck was sacked four times (one occurred when he ran out of bounds for a short loss). I had thought the line had its down moments, but in general my impression was relatively positive.

And then it hit me: I needed to bite off more than I could chew and chart the performances of every Colts offensive lineman in every dadgum play.

The result was a multi-hour undertaking and the colorful table you can find at the bottom of this post. I indeed bit off somewhat more than I could chew, and my wife was a little mad at me. But I learned some things. And like Alanis says, you live, you learn.

Since the table is so long, I’m going to make the majority of my commentary up here.

First, some quick explanation. I assigned every block one of five ratings: excellent (blue), good (green), poor (orange), bad (red) and not involved (yellow). The yellow plays are plays on which the lineman had no one to block or was otherwise not in the play; these plays are not included in grades. The color ratings are obviously subjective, but I wanted to give more value to a strong drive block that cleared out a hole in the running game than to a lineman who briefly latched onto his man on the backside of a play. That said, the difference between a green and an orange is much more important than the difference between a blue and a green.

To make things a little more numerical, I came up with a cool new thing: Blocking Point Average (BPA). Like grade point average, it’s on a 4-point scale; blue blocks are 4 points, green are 3, orange are 2 and red are 1. These scores appear in the purple rows below.

Here are the individual breakdowns:

LT Anthony Castonzo
Run BPA: 2.83; pass BPA: 2.65; total BPA: 2.72

Castonzo has a reputation for being primarily a pass blocker, but he performed much better in the running game against the Raiders. He finished with 12 positive blocks and only six negative on runs. His pass blocking was shaky at times, as he had a team-high seven red blocks. Left tackles have the toughest pass blocking job on the team, so it’s somewhat understandable, but Castonzo needs to perform better. In one particularly brutal stretch in the third quarter, he had five red plays in eight snaps, as he gave up three quarterback pressures, missed a run block and couldn’t locate a blitzer in time, leading to a sack. He did have the block of the day on the next drive, when he looked downright angry as he blew up not one but two defenders during a 10-yard Ahmad Bradshaw run. He settled in late and was mostly solid on the game-winning drive.

Something else I noticed about Castonzo: he struggles when asked to block at the second level. Once he gets himself moving, he has a hard time locking onto a defender, and his momentum often causes him to fall over.

LG Donald Thomas
Run BPA: 2.95; pass BPA: 2.92; total BPA: 2.93

Somewhat surprisingly, Thomas was the Colts’ best all-around blocker against the Raiders, earning the best BPA on both running and passing plays. He had a team-high nine blue blocks in the running game and only six negative plays, which tied for the fewest. All three interior offensive linemen finished with three orange and three red plays, but Thomas had the most blue blocks with seven and the most positive plays with 19. He was fairly steady throughout the game.

Unlike Castonzo, Thomas is pretty good on the move. He pulled seven times and had two blue and two green blocks, along with a yellow, an orange and a red, for a BPA of 2.83. He had one particularly impressive pancake block on a pull. (See here for an excellent explanation of what happens when Thomas pulls on passing plays.)

C Samson Satele
Run BPA: 2.53; pass BPA: 2.88; total BPA: 2.73

In another interesting twist, Satele was better in the passing game than in the running game, finishing second to Thomas in passing BPA. He had four orange blocks and four red in the running game, where he frequently struggled to hold his blocks long enough for the running back to get past him.  He also missed two of three second-level blocks.

Satele had a team-high nine yellow plays in which he couldn’t find anyone to block (Cherilus had seven, Castonzo had six, and Thomas and McGlynn had five). It’s hard to say whether that’s his fault, but he could stand to get himself involved more often.

RG Mike McGlynn
Run BPA: 2.57; pass BPA: 2.83; total BPA: 2.71

Anyone who follows the Colts won’t be surprised to hear McGlynn struggled. He had a team-worst 10 red blocks, including seven in the running game, and was the worst of the three interior linemen against the pass. He did have seven blue blocks in the running game, the second-most behind Thomas.

McGlynn is especially brutal when he pulls. He did so four times, all on running plays, and all four were red blocks. Unsurprisingly, the runs went for only 3, 3, 1 and 3 yards. Twice on pulls, he threw his weight into a defender and simply bounced back. Anytime the Colts’ coaches want to get rookie third-round pick Hugh Thornton in at right guard, it’s fine with me. He can’t be much worse.

RT Gosder Cherilus
Run BPA: 2.44; pass BPA: 2.68; total BPA: 2.58

If you’re looking for a culprit for the Colts’ offensive struggles in the middle of the game, look no further than their $34.5 million man. After putting up respectable scores on the first two drives, both of which resulted in touchdowns, Cherilus had BPAs of 1.5, 2.4 and 2.17 on the next three, all of which were at or near the bottom of the line’s scores.  He did improve as the game went along, and he was mostly very good on the last drive.

For the game, he had the most combined orange and red blocks on the team, with 18. They were evenly split, with nine in the passing game and nine in the running game. His 25 positive blocks were the lowest total, as was his overall BPA. Most troubling is that Cherilus had a team-low 2.44 BPA in the running game. A guy who’s 6-7, 316 and has excellent athleticism should not be the worst run blocker on the team.

A few more notes, before we get to the table:

1. The Colts came out with an unbalanced line several times, lining Cherilus up on the left and using either Thornton or tight end Dwayne Allen as the right tackle. They had mixed success on those plays, though running toward Allen tended to work better. They also got a little predictable, as they would almost always run out of those heavy sets, which resulted in moments like this one (Bradshaw somehow squeezed three yards out of it):

10-man box on obvious running play = uh oh.

10-man box on obvious running play = uh oh.

2. In the table below, you’ll notice a play on which four of the five offensive linemen gave up pressure and were assigned red blocks. What, you may ask, does that look like? It looks like this (again, it did end in a positive play, as Luck miraculously broke free of a bear hug and scrambled for nine yards):

This is what four blown blocks on the samme play looks like.

Not so good.

3. I also tracked the non-offensive line players’ blocking (I told you I bit off more than I could chew). Vick Ballard had a 3.2 BPA, with nine positive blocks and only one negative. The Colts lost him for the season Friday with a torn ACL, a crushing blow. Allen was also excellent, with a 2.77 BPA (2.9 on running plays), while tight end Coby Fleener was unimpressive at 2.45.

4. The Colts have been criticized for having fullback Stanley Havili on the field more than wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Some of that is merited, as Hilton is an electric playmaker who needs to be on the field more. But Havili had a 3.08 BPA in the running game, with 10 positive blocks and only two negative, and a 2.94 overall BPA. He’s an asset as a blocker, and when the offensive line is struggling and Luck is having difficulty reading the rush, as he did at times Sunday, it makes sense to use Havili.

5. All five linemen had positive blocks on a total of nine plays Sunday. The results: 12-yard run, 25-yard pass, 7-yard pass, 17-yard pass, 13-yard pass, 10-yard run, 7-yard run, 9-yard pass, 19-yard touchdown run. So, yeah, blocking is pretty important.

Play Castonzo Thomas Satele McGlynn Cherilus Key
Ballard
12 run
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Excellent – 4 pts.
= 4 pts.
Wayne
3 pass
Excellent
block
Missed
block
Not
involved
Not
involved
Good
block
Good – 3 pts.
Ballard
2 run
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Missed
block
Poor – 2 pts.
Heyward-Bey
16 pass
Gives
up pressure
Excellent
block
Good
block
Pushed
into pocket
Good
block
Bad – 1 pt.
Ballard
3 run
Good
block
Can’t
hold block
Can’t
get push
Pulls,
bounces back off defender
Good
block
Block of the day – 4 pts.
Ballard
3 run
Can’t
hold block
Good
block
Falls
down immediately
Pulls,
misses block
Thrown
down like a rag doll
Not involved – no score
Ballard
1 run
Missed
block
Can’t
hold block
Pushed
into runner
Pulls,
bad block
Not
involved
Wayne
25 pass
Good
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Good
block
Excellent
block
Pass
play
Fleener
7 pass
Good
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Run
play
Wayne
12 TD pass
Gives
up pressure
Gives
up hit
Good
block
Excellent
block
Pushed
into pocket
Drive BPA 2.6 2.7 2.67 2.44 2.67
Luck
3 scramble
Excellent
block
Not
involved
Not
involved
Good
block
Not
involved
-2
sack
Good
block
Good
block
Not
involved
Good
block
Can’t
hold block
Wayne
17 pass
Good
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Ballard
7 run
Missed
block
Pulls,
pancake block
Good
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Ballard
7 run
Missed
block
Good
block
Not
involved
Excellent
block
Good
block
Wayne
13 pass
Good
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Ballard
4 run
Good
block
Pancake
block
Missed
2nd level block
Excellent
block
Not
involved
Allen
20 TD pass
Not
involved
Pulls,
good block
Gives
up hit
Pushed
into pocket
Not
involved
Drive BPA 2.86 3.57 2.4 3.86 2.8
Hilton
5 pass
Not
involved
Not
involved
Not
involved
Good
block
Not
involved
Bradshaw
-3 run
Can’t
hold block
Pulls,
misses block
Not
involved
Excellent
block
Misses
block
Bradshaw
7 pass
Good
block
Good
block
Can’t
hold block
Can’t
decide who to block
Gives
up hit
Drive BPA 2.5 2 2 3 1.5
Ballard
10 run
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Missed
2nd level block
Excellent
block
Luck
8 scramble
Good
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Not
involved
Missed
block
Incomplete Gives
up pressure
Gives
up pressure
Good
block
Good
block
Can’t
hold block
D.
interference 6
Excellent
block
Missed
block
Pushed
into pocket
Not
involved
Can’t
hold block
Ballard
1 run
Missed
block
Missed
block
Good
block
Good
block
Can’t
hold block
Incomplete Excellent
block
Good
block
Good
block
Not
involved
Excellent
block
Luck
9 scramble
Gives
up pressure
Gives
up pressure
Gives
up pressure
Gives
up pressure
Excellent
block
Incomplete,
Castonzo face mask
Gives
up pressure, face mask
Not
involved
Excellent
block
Good
block
Not
involved
Bradshaw
2 run
Good
block
Excellent
block
Missed
2nd level block
Good
block
Can’t
hold block
-8
sack
Misses
blitzer
Good
block
Not
involved
Good
block
Can’t
hold block
Bradshaw
13 run
Good
block
Pulls,
good 2nd level block
Good
2nd level block
Missed
2nd level block
Can’t
hold 2nd level block
Drive BPA 2.36 2.7 2.8 2.38 2.4
Bradshaw
3 run
Not
involved
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Can’t
hold block
Bradshaw
10 run
Two
excellent blocks
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Excellent
block
Wayne
15 pass
Not
involved
Good
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Bradshaw
1 run
Good
block
Pulls,
excellent block
Not
involved
Can’t
hold block
Can’t
hold block
Heyward-Bey
8 pass
Good
block
Good
block
Not
involved
Not
involved
Not
involved
Bradshaw
0 run
Good
block
Pulls,
falls over
Can’t
hold block
Missed
block
Falls
down immediately
-13
sack
Good
block
Can’t
hold block
Good
block
Good
block
Falls
down
Drive BPA 3.4 3.14 3.4 2.67 2.17
Ballard
-5 pass
Can’t
hold block
Good
block
Missed
block
Late
getting out for screen
Excellent
block
Ballard
7 run
Excellent
block
Good
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Hilton
12 pass
Excellent
block
Excellent
block
Pushed
into pocket
Excellent
block
Good
block
Ballard
3 run
Not
involved
Can’t
hold block
Can’t
hold block
Pulls,
bounces off defender
Good
block
Incomplete Excellent
block
Not
involved
Excellent
block
Can’t
hold block
Gives
up pressure
Wayne
9 pass
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Incomplete Not
involved
Pulls,
not involved
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Heyward-Bey
9 pass
Good
block
Good
block
Excellent
block
Good
block
Good
block
Ballard
3 run
Good
block
Excellent
block
Can’t
hold block
Missed
block
Good
block
Hilton
3 pass
Gives
up pressure
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Luck
19 TD scramble
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Good
block
Drive BPA 3 3 2.64 2.55 3
Castonzo Thomas Satele McGlynn Cherilus
Total run 4 9 4 7 3
Total run 8 5 5 5 6
Total run 5 2 4 2 5
Total run 1 4 4 7 4
Run BPA 2.83 2.95 2.53 2.57 2.44
Total pass 6 7 6 5 5
Total
pass
12 12 12 13 11
Total
pass
1 3 3 3 5
Total
pass
7 3 3 3 4
Pass BPA 2.65 2.92 2.88 2.83 2.68
Grand
total
10 16 10 12 8
Grand
total
20 17 17 18 17
Grand
total
6 5 7 5 10
Grand
total
8 7 7 10 8
Total
BPA
2.72 2.93 2.73 2.71 2.58

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Avatar of Ben Gundy

Ben Gundy

Ben is a displaced Colts fan living in Pittsburgh who has seen far too many replays of Nick Harper being tackled by Ben Roethlisberger.

2 Responses to Colts offensive line ratings

  1. I’m not a Colts fan but great work on this. Awesome analysis and breakdown of the hardest part of a team to analyze.




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