Chicago Sun-Times

10 days to Camp: A closer look at run metrics for Bears' linemen

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We reached out to KC Joyner to go over some of the run blocking metrics he completed after film review of the Bears. The numbers showed that right guard Roberto Garza was not only the Bears' most efficient run blocker last season, he was one of the best guards in the game, ranking ahead of the three Pro Bowlers Joyner has final numbers for--Chris Snee, Leonard Davis and Alan Faneca.

"If you ask me about the 22 teams I've run the numbers on so far, he is probably the second most surprising,'' said Joyner, who will publish the results and more in Scientific Football 2009. "[New York Jets center] Nick Mangold is probably the most surprising. I knew Mangold was good but he is head and shoulders above any other center and will probably be the highest ranked POA lineman [94.3 percent] when I am done in another two weeks.

"The last time I did this, in 2005, Garza was in the low 80's and for him to be [at 88.3] is a little surprising in that he's ahead of these Pro Bowl guards. I love doing the numbers, watching the tape and then running the numbers. In most cases the numbers agree with what you say in scouting, `This player is this and that.' Usually, the metrics follow what you're seeing in scouting. Whenever the two disagree, I lean on the metrics more than scouting. You can see a player have one bad play and in the back of your mind, `He stinks.' The metrics don't care. The one bad play will be registered and then `Let's see the other 150 he had.'''

POA refers to Point of Attack. Joyner breaks down every play over the course of the entire season and evaluates each lineman when they were involved at the POA on a running play. Garza's net success percentage of 88.3 means he lost at the point of attack on less than 12 blocks out of every 100. The Bears were one of only six teams in the league last season to have all five linemen start all 16 games. Here are the breakdowns for their starters (we also covered it here on Monday):

LT John St. Clair 79.5
LG Josh Beekman 85.7
C Olin Kreutz 81.5
RG Roberto Garza 88.3
RT John Tait 84.6

"Beekman did well, especially considering he was a first-year starter,'' Joyner said.

The numbers for centers are typically lower than the other linemen and Joyner said there are a number of factors that go into that.

"Defenses often line up where that is the position they want to attack,'' he said. "They want to attack with the nose right over the center. Centers tend to be the smallest of the offensive linemen. That's why Mangold's numbers are even more impressive. Usually you see a tackle or guard with the best percentages.

"The scouts still talk about Kreutz as an elite guy. I didn't see it on tape. He's not a bad center by any stretch of the imagination, he just got beat more last season than you're used to seeing.''

Joyner pointed out that centers are involved in many combination blocks and that can also lead to them having a lower percentage because if the other half of the combo block fails, the center's half fails too.

New left tackle Orlando Pace recorded a run metric of 83.5 with St. Louis in 2008.

"He's a better pass blocker, and he's not an elite pass blocker,'' Joyner said. ``What I think is he is going to be an improvement over St. Clair. That's a relative term. He's an incremental improvement. The Bears aren't getting the Orlando Pace of a few years back. It's obviously a stop-gap measure. I'll take it over St. Clair and what I saw last year. They're going to need to solve the problem one of these days.''

Projected backup Kevin Shaffer fared very well in Cleveland last season according to the run metrics. Shaffer has played left tackle before, too, so the Bears have solid depth on their line.

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Well that is certainly surprising! Garza and Beekman looked like our worst players on the offensive line last year but these stats tell a different story. Why exactly did Beekman lose his starting job (presumably) then?

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but Beekman had to hold the whole left side down, you see St.Clair's numbers.

Brad, it says Shaffer did well according to the run metrics. I am curious if you have the exact stats for him. Thanks

Roberto Garza won't ever blow anyone off the line, but obviously he can get up field and contain his man [especially losing only 12 blocks out of every 100], and in the end, thats all that really counts. I think a lot of fans are in love with this idea that all guards should be 330 plus, move like a DB, and blow everyone off the line on every play, not gonna happen. If Garza's winning on most of his blocks, he's doing his job. Again, it might not be pretty i.e. blowing people back/pancake blocks, but still effective.

Another thing people are quick to forget while evaluating Chicago's o-linemen, think about how many 8 man boxes Chicago's line faced? When people judge an offensive line, especially their run-blocking ability, they go by the yard per avg on every run. Chicago's was around 3.9, not exactly the leagues best. But again, think about all them 8-man boxes, 3.9 is actually not that bad considering. If Garza and the rest of the Bears line would have had a QB of Cutlers caliber last season, I'm betting there wouldn't have been as many 8-man boxes and the avg would have been up around 4.0-4.1.

Where a mauler move the pile type lineman comes in handy is on goal line and short yardage situations. The only guard close to this type Chicago has on the roster is Dan Buenning. I think with Jay Cutler's abilities, Turner will be able to open up the playbook a little more and Chicago will have an easier time on short yardage. The threat of a passing game should help Chicago's run game.

Bottom line, Chicago likes the more mobile guards like Garza vs the mauler types like Buenning. More proof, take the one guard Chicago brought in this season via the draft. Lance Louis of San Diego St, Louis is only 303lbs, but he can run a 4.8 40 at 300lbs, and has a 30-inch vertical jump. Louis 30 reps on the bench press show he's not weak either. Louis fits the mold for the type of lineman Chicago seems to like, and with his speed to strength ratio, he could be one to watch in a couple seasons. Also, free agent pickup Frank Omiyale isn't exactly big at 6-4 and only 310lbs. But he could be an effective pass blocker at left guard, I still wouldn't count out Josh Beekman. Beekman could still end up as the starter, I also think Beekman would surprise a lot of people this season in only his second season as a starter. The left guard position battle should be an interesting one to watch in a couple weeks here. I think Chicago is gonna be fine at guard GO BEARS!!

Long story short with the o line grading so high, Joyner thinks Forte should remind us fondly of minimal gain enis or cedric benson.

The Bears problems in shortage yardage had as much to do with the push at the line of scrimage as the play calling. In Turners defense, you have to have faith in your players to execute but to his fault, he relied on them too much especially vs the Vikings and that infamous Goal line stand.... If you can't move the pile the RB's won't have anywhere to go.... It's simple and obvious.

Kruetz, Beekman, Garza, Tait, St.Claire all had issues at times getting blown up on the LOS. I know short yardage plays when lined up with a (2) TE set are predictable but you have to have the guy's up front get low and move the pile for those plays to work. Everyone runs those plays, we just didn't have beef to win them consistantly.

Angelo went out and paid to Beef up the O-line. Omiyale, Shaffer and Pace are all bigger and stronger then the parts they replace. Chris Williams replaces John Tait who was a warrior but obviously was declining. His faulty ankles did him. Both Tait and Williams share identical measurables.... 6'6" 315 pounds.

Finesse blocking is fine for zone blocking schemes and fancy draw plays coupled with a legit passing game. Last year Orton and Rex weren't very good verticaly and Forte and company had a burden of facing many 8-man fronts. Jay Cutler will keep opposing defenses honest and the extra Man-meat in the trenches will only aide Forte and Jones in improving the pedestrian ruhing numbers and woe-ful short yardage conversion percentages....

Go Bears !!

Fantastic story. Really just superb.

Have you ever tried to watch a game, then concentrate on the O-line? Ughh, it's exhausting and hard to evaluate to say the least. I can never tell one guy from the next. It's even tougher for me to determine who is good or not over an entire season. Give me Matt Forte and I'll watch him make magic. I know when a receiver messes up. I can actually see them.

Where else do you get that kind of a breakdown, other than on specialty Web sites and magazines. This wasn't too dense, and it specialized on the team we're all interested in. Tell me, who's not going to try and watch games this year and see if the metrics measure up?

Sean Quincey, I admire your honesty because guys on this blog never admit things like that. But what you don't understand is that some guys replay the game and watch everything over and over. We have to excuse you for having a life and not doing that.

and it's surprising what you see when you run those plays slomo.

Yes the line has to move the D line, right, we don't have that type line and the Vikes are a tuff line to push, but someone had a grudge match on the Goal line play calling. It was a big gamble, if we score we win that game on intimidation if not we lose.
I felt Beekman was dong alright overall, even looking at slomo, Garza did not stand out to me. But it was really Beekman I was watching as everyone was down on him, but I felt he did pretty d.. good. It's good to see he scored that high.
Basically we have replaced the worst 2 percantages, not counting Olin as centers tend to score lower anyway - not a bad thing.
But we all knew going in we needed Tackles, and sure enough we got what we paid for

The metrics don't mean a thing if they don't factor in all the veriables, which they don't. You can get any answer you want if you factor something out of the equation which Joyner does. All of this is based off running plays, what about passing downs, the Bears pass more than they run.

"The scouts still talk about Kreutz as an elite guy. I didn't see it on tape. He's not a bad center by any stretch of the imagination, he just got beat more last season than you're used to seeing.''

Se this comment is not based of his system it's just his observasion and he is right. We all saw it last year and i have been arguing this for awhile. Joyner would do better if he just talked about what he sees instead of talking about what mathmatical statistic he can come up with and think he has solved the NFL. None of this stuff will ever factor in all the things that happen in a game. On some downs a lineman blowing a play may have little effect on the play on others he may be exposing the QB to regular hits. His system does not care about that, it doesn't care about short yardage or sacks, or sustaining a long block on a deep pass as apposed to a quick block on a short pass. While it does not mean a thing to his system it counts in the game.

Their is a reason Beekman was replaced. If anything he should be talking about that, how come his system cannot explain Beekman getting replaced. According to Joyner Beekman played at near Pro Bowl levels yet the Bears thought he did not play very well. According to him the interior of the line looked pretty good given the numbers he placed on these guys, yet we did not have a good running game, and we stank in short yardage.

Trying to solove the NFL by math is like trying to say you figured out life because you know long division. The chances my 13 year old daughter will not rebel in the future are good because she sustains her relationships for an average of 3 years and likes to eat carrots 3x a week. Se I have just solved the questions of life using a formula. Personally I think we would all do a little better if we just observed a little more. But Joyner can keep trying to solve problems with math, even if the problems are loaded with intangibles that can't be calculated. It only serves to amuse me. It's probably why he is so bad with his predictions.

I will give him this, Mangold is a pure beast, would love to see him in the orange and blue.

Maybe I am just clueless, but this seems to be a rating of offensive lineman's ability to run block? My impression is that it truly does not combine both the run block and pass blocking effectiveness?

Please someone tell me I am not losing my mind? I could see how Garza fared fairly well with his run blocking ability but I swear I saw Garza get blown out at the point of attack in the pass rush the last few years.

Say it ain't so Joe?

The numbers are misleading.

You have two Gs on a team that was 26th in the league in rushing, scoring better than or equal to a pro-bowl guard on a team that was 1st in the league in rushing.

This is one instance where the numbers aren't speaking for themselves. I'm sure KC Joyner's putting in a lot of hours here, but when the numbers aren't making a whole lot of sense, I'm not sure you should be just throwing out the numbers like this and pretending it's a fair evaluation. It seems like one slim aspect of how the linemen are playing, and I would hope that KC would go further and provide explanations as to how this aspect explains the team's performance, or a broader spectrum of criteria to evaluate individual performance.

One thought; Were those failed goalline attemps the 12 in 100 blocks that Roberto Garza lost?

I have to say something about those that say the Bears o-line wasn't good against the run last year. Because of the lack of the vertical threat in the passing game Bears opponents were putting 8 in the box to stop the run. I don't care which team it is, if you constantly put 8 men in the box against them then their run numbers aren't going to be great. I say that this season we will see Forte's true abilities.

While I can agree that having 8 in the box against you will have an effect on your rushing stats, I don't think that's the whole story.

I didn't watch that many non-Bear games, but I would imagine that teams that run a lot (by design or because of weak passing attacks) will face a lot of 8-man fronts. So you look at the stats on and you check out team passing attempts and you see the Bears at 14th in the league, and you look at yards-per-rush and you see the Bears at 26th. Teams with less pass attempts than the Bears, more rushing attempts and better yards-per-rush than the Bears include the Redskins, Vikings, Ravens, Falcons, Giants, Dolphins, Panthers, Raiders and Bills. They're not teams with great passing attacks, so I'm guessing that many if not all of these teams were facing a lot of 8-man fronts.

I don't see how you can blame last year's less than stellar performance (in terms of yards-per-rush) on 8-man fronts alone. We just didn't perform well.

By William R. Donald on July 21, 2009 7:33 PM
"Sean Quincey, I admire your honesty because guys on this blog never admit things like that. But what you don't understand is that some guys replay the game and watch everything over and over. We have to excuse you for having a life and not doing that."

And that is why I call you 'Sir William.' You come on these boards and talk with such overwhelming haughtiness and then you put everyone down for not living up to your "royal standards."

I don't understand how you can criticize Bears fans for watching replays of game film when you spend countless hours on sports blogs like this one and FCP. Maybe you can explain that to me, Your Highness?

While you have a valid point, Anonymous, I think there is a place for pure statistics in evaulating performance. While you're rightly skeptical about whether all relevant variables are being accounted for, we should also be skeptical of our own observational biases. Remembering the incredible pancake block, or the time when Chris Harris trucked Garza, are excellent examples of the availability heuristic: that is, when a event is spectacular, we tend to remember it and thus it disproportionately influences our understanding of events. It's one reason why people believe flying is particularly dangerous, but eating fatty foods, not so much.

We also start to see what we think we should be seeing. That's classic, too. So if Garza gets a bad reputation early on (maybe for getting trucked), we have a tendency to start looking for, and noticing, every time he screws up. We might disregard good plays as aberrational. We tend to see what we think is already true.

Not to say that you guys don't have a point. (This is, by the way, the most knowledgable comment board on Chicago sports that I've ever seen). But I think there's a place for hard-headed math, assuming it's done well. There was a recent article in the NY Times magazine on the value of Sean Battier to any basketball on which he plays that was pretty interesting. He doesn't otherwise have eye-popping stats, but through a pretty rigorous analysis, it shows that when he's on the court, his team usually wins. (I know it's not football, but I thought it was pretty informative.)

Mike, please go and suck a grenade. Who did I offend ? Did I strike a nerve with you not having a life? I read several blogs all over the place and never see where anyone else even come up with half the stuff a lot of these guys do. That goes for NFC North opponents as well. How can anyone rattle off most of the stuff that some guys here rattle off and still be able to go to work, take their wives to a movie, play with their kids and socialize. It's not a matter of watching replays, it's watching the whole game-not once or twice- but several times. Who can really do that and still have a life? The thing is that they don't really know everything, they're just taking a stab at it. No one could know this much and not have a show named after them. Even Jimmy Kimmel started off by predicting a few things. It was a joke on my part. But today you saw I posted and said "hey look it's William posting today. What can I do to get him to notice me". I didn't name not one person. You are the only one who replied. You must resemble that fact more than anyone. You call me Sir William because you are a dork who constantly use this blog to insult someone regardless of what they are saying. You are always trying your comedy material out. I can't kid anyone, only you can. Dude, I can compliment a person and you will still feel the need to acknowledge me.

haughtiness? What real man uses words like that? You accuse me of being some sort of aristicrat but I never use words like haughty. Go back and read a lot of the blogs between here and FCP and you will see that I rarely post at all. You do all the time in response to what someone else writes. And don't think that I don't know that you are the one who write those illiterate posts. It has your desperation written all over it.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 21, 2009 5:12 AM.

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