Chicago Sun-Times

Report: Garza was Bears' top lineman, one of league's best guards

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Some observers speculated that Roberto Garza's standing as the right guard was in jeopardy after the Bears signed Frank Omiyale to a contract just hours into free agency.

That's proven not to be the case--Omiyale is the favorite to lock down the left guard job when training camp opens. Just today another observer produced evidence that helps explain why Garza isn't going anywhere. KC Joyner, author and publisher of The Football Scientist, was kind of enough to share with us his run blocking metrics after just completing film analysis of the Bears. He's halfway through the NFC North (having also completed a review of the Detroit Lions) and Joyner has already knocked out the AFC East, NFC West, NFC East, AFC North and AFC South, meaning he's nearly three-fourths of the way through the league with just the AFC West and NFC South remaining after he polishes off Green Bay and Minnesota.

What do his findings show? Not only was Garza the best lineman for the Bears last season, he was among the best right guards in football. His numbers are superior to some Pro Bowl guards. Before we jump into the numbers, let's try to make sense of them.

Joyner's system, which will be published in Scientific Football 2009 a little later on this summer, is based on what he calls the Point of Attack (or POA). It tracks how often a blocker is at the POA where a running play is directed. We'll let him describe it:

"It is not based on the location of the block but rather specifically tracks which blockers were actually at the point of attack. A POA block is considered to be successful (i.e. a POA win) if the blocker created a lane through which the runner could go.


"If the blocker is beaten at the POA, I segment those losses into five categories: Gap stuff (blocker gets stopped at POA); Defeated block (defender gets past blocker at POA); Pushed into backfield/POA (blocker gets moved into backfield/POA and negatively impacts runner's progress); Penetration (defender gets past blocker and makes contact with ballcarrier in backfield); Stringout (defender strings run to outside out). The last formula takes into account run penalties. An offensive penalty (i.e. holding, illegal use of hands, etc.) counts as a POA loss and a defensive penalty as a POA win."

Joyner considers an 80 percent net POA winning percentage to be acceptable. He charts the number of yards gained/lost on each POA run for a lineman. The chart below shows that not only did Garza do well last season, so did Josh Beekman, who will be in competition with Omiyale at left guard.

Lineman POA attempts Yards Avg. POA Pct.

RG Roberto Garza 205 960 4.7 88.3
LG Josh Beekman 175 834 4.8 85.7
RT John Tait 104 443 4.3 84.6
C Olin Kreutz 168 726 4.3 81.5
LT John St. Clair 112 459 4.1 79.5

Joyner's numbers mesh with what Elias Sports Bureau reported off last season for running back Matt Forte:

Run right--4.0 yards per carry
Run left--3.3
Run middle--4.8
Run right sideline--4.2
Run left sideline--3.7

Kreutz may have been fourth on the list but the winning percentage for centers was typically lower than the other positions, possibly a function of them having to snap the ball before engaging their man. The New York Jets' Nick Mangold is tops at 94.3. Kreutz is ahead of Jason Brown, who signed a $37.5 million, five-year contract to move from Baltimore to St. Louis. Brown checked in at 81.0.

Garza is ahead of the three Pro Bowl guards that Joyner has complete metrics on:

Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota INC
Chris Snee, N.Y. Giants 85.8
Leonard Davis, Dallas 77.5
Davin Joseph, Tampa Bay INC

Alan Faneca, N.Y. Jets 87.8
Kris Dielman, San Diego INC
Brian Waters, Kansas City INC

Finally, newcomers Orlando Pace and Kevin Shaffer both fared better than what the Bears had at the left and right tackle positions last season. Here are their numbers:

Lineman POA attempts Yards Avg. POA Pct.

LT Orlando Pace, St. Louis 103 502 4.9 83.5
RT Kevin Shaffer, Cleveland 99 437 4.4 87.9

If the Bears are counting on Beekman and Shaffer as primary backups for 2009, with Dan Buenning also expected to be in the mix, that's a nice foundation when you consider Joyner's run metrics. Later in the week we'll take a look at how the Bears stack up against the rest of the division.

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24 Comments

I think getting knocked on your keister by a safety ought to preclude you from being on any "top lineman" list.

I sure didn't see that one coming.

So the guy that says Cutler is as bad as Grossman also says Garza is one of the best in the league... Whats next? Briggs should be cut?

Good to hear this news from somebody that has actually broken down some game tape. A lot of these dudes have been bagging on Garza based on little to no film study. Go Bears!

By jclasen on July 20, 2009 6:19 PM
Good to hear this news from somebody that has actually broken down some game tape. A lot of these dudes have been bagging on Garza based on little to no film study. Go Bears!

Breaking down game film and knowing what you are looking at are two different things. According to Joyner Garza was number 1 and Beekman was right behind him at number two. According to Harry Hiestand Beekman was not good enough and another guy was brought in for the job. So the question is who do you trust Joyner a writer for SI or Hiestand the O-Line coach for the Bears who is making a pretty good name for himself. Me I will go with Hiestand. Maybe Joyner will next tell Dave Toub how to judge his players on special teams.

What flaws are there is Joyner's system? Well do you see anything about Pass protection? No offense but Mully showed on this site that the Bears could do little more than a 3 step drop last year. Or do you see anything that says the ball carrier juked the defender in the backfield. How many times last year did we see Forte juke a guy in the backfield? I don't know about you guys but I saw it happen a lot. Then you have to ask yourself how many times did Garza get down field to the second level while he was blocking? Or how about those short yardage situations? We didn't exactly bowl anyone over at the line of scrimage did we? 2nd and 1, then third and 1, then forth and 1. Power O baby. Once again Joyner picks one thing to judge a guy on and ignores the rest of his abilities and what they do and what their job is. Garza has always been a decent run blocker, he is just not very good in pass protection and getting to the second level. It has also helped him playing next to Olin and Tait his entire time here. He is a one demensional guard with limited athletic ability.

You can see the lack of quality in Joyner's system with the fact that Beekman the number two guy on his list has been replaced. I would take Faneca over Garza in a second, you have got to be kidding me with this stuff.

Brad why do you love Joyner so much? You cannot stop writing about the guy.

Oh boy Joyner has a new system and it is full proof. I bet Joyner says he has a system to win in Vegas too. Get real.

Ridiculous, as K.C. Joyner's arguments/stats usually are. Garza's been very good in previous years but was the weak link on the line this past year. Forte rarely had anywhere to run up the middle, Garza continuously got beaten.

And, why is Beekman getting replaced by Omiyale?

Beekman was second on the starting OL by these numbers:

RG Roberto Garza 205 960 4.7 88.3
LG Josh Beekman 175 834 4.8 85.7

Beekman is under-rated

The only reasons I can see for Omiyale to replace Beekman are: Omiyale's bigger, signed to a bigger contract, and the Bears believe Kreutz has only 1 good year left and want to move Beekman to center in 2010.

Beekman is capable of being a starter, doesn't have any blaring weaknesses, and should be even better this year.

My prediction is Beekman will see a majority of playing time as the starting right guard this year with Omiyale and Garza splitting time at RG.

I never really paid much attention to this Joyner till this year. He doesn't seem like a very smart guy! He takes a guy Cutler and who's been to a probowl and is for sure a top 10 QB in the league and compares him to Grossman, but He says Garza is better than most guys that went to the probowl at his position? I'm not an expert but I am a big fan of the NFL and I can say this much, this guy is a dork! He goes about making a grading system in anyway he feels and tries to make his point by using his own system. Im for anyone who sticks up for the Bears, but this is a pretty stupid assesment. I agree Cutler is young and forces the ball sometimes, but thats part of football especially when your teams behind. To say Garza's better than guys that went to the probowl last year is a knock against the NFL and the fans. I like every Bear but don't like Joyner! Another overpaid, uneducated, don't know if he ever played(?) analist!

I have felt that Garza was our best lineman last season, and am glad to see some support for that idea. Yes, getting blown up by Chris Harris was bad, but that's two plays out of a season. Taken as a whole, he did a good job. Watching some Forte highlights, I started to notice how quickly he sealed off his guy and opened the lane for Beekman to pull through.

Garza is favored by both Joyner and Hiestand. He is a much better player than many fans make him out to be. Beekman is a solid player, but is not our best lineman right now. He will continue to develop and will be around long after Garza is through. I don't get why some fans are so eager to push Garza out and Beekman in. I have faith that Hiestand will make that move (or Beekman for Kreutz) when it will be the most benefit for the team. Maybe it will be next year, maybe the season after, but it is not the best move to win this year.

With the whole QB comparison thing, what a mountain came out of that molehill. Joyner had good data, and Cutler will make some bad decisions this season. But he was wrong in thinking Chicago fans will treat him like Grossman when he does. The reason most of us turned on Grossman was that he would have a complete meltdown in some games and was all bad decisions for 4 quarters. Cutler will make bad decisions, but his ability to follow those poor choices with good ones will keep fans on his side. It's alright to throw a bad INT if he can then drive the team down field and get a TD.

Sorry but if you get blown up twice by a man 100+ pounds lighter then you then you deserve to get a bouble negative POA.

The thing with Grossman and Cutler is that Rex melted down to pop-warner level and had dismal 4'th quarter performances to go with his sinking ship. Jay did make bad decisions at times just like every other NFL quarterback but Jay righted the ship and performed at a high level in the 4'th quarter of games.

Garza as a whole isn't as good as Joyner scored him to be. A simple 5-minute highlight reel of Forte's better runs clearly show Beekman making a higher percentage of springing blocks at the POA and the second level. Many of the right side runs came courtousy of a trapping Beekman who would pull form his LG spot to lead the way up the gap between RG and RT.

Go Bears !!

With 5 linemen grading out at 79% or better, one would think that our record-breaking running back would average greater than 4ypc.

How often did the Bears run against 8-man fronts? Did low pass protection scores make the entire offense more susceptible to 8-man fronts against the run?

What type of grades do these linemen have in regards to pass protection, backside seal blocks, pulling, cutting, second-level? Weakside blocking during a run play may not count when scoring POA, but is critical for creating the cutback lane.

The statistics show that Garza may be an effective "hammer" capable of driving nails inline. However, it takes a diverse array of techniques and versatile tools to build a dominant running game. I am certain that a deeper analysis of Garza's ability to block on the move and in space would reveal a limited blocker lacking the quickness and athleticism necessary to execute dynamic blocking tactics.

Joyner makes a fair point in decision making. 25 touchdowns to 18 INTs is the scariest stat about Cutler's play.

That being said Cutler made those types of decisions when his team was behind in games and took risks that had to be taken to try and get them back into a game.

The defense the Broncos ran out there put Cutler in the position he was in in which he HAD to take chances at the same rate as Grossman.

Sure looks like ...on paper...we should win the superbowl for the next 10years.

Who's kidding who?

I can't help picturing Biggs and this Joyner guy sitting in a dark room, huddled over a crystal ball.

Biggs is wide-eyed and slack-jawed as Joyner says in a spooky voice...

"And the Lions will not lose another game for 8 years!"

Right. Chris Snee, pro-bowl G for a Giants team that led the league in rushing, produced two 1000-yard rushers and averaged 5 yards per carry scores lower than or roughly equal to the Bears guards?

It's one way of grading offensive linemen (which is difficult), sure, but it's not very accurate.

Garza as a whole isn't as good as Joyner scored him to be. A simple 5-minute highlight reel of Forte's better runs clearly show Beekman making a higher percentage of springing blocks at the POA and the second level. Many of the right side runs came courtousy of a trapping Beekman who would pull form his LG spot to lead the way up the gap between RG and RT.

But what you fail to mention is were Beekmans pulling POA blocks to the right or left. If they were to the right then Garza was doing his job and if Beekman was leading Forte into the second level then Garza and the RT were doing their jobs and sealing off those defenders.

Thank you Angelo Jr for being the voice of reason. This Joyner character and all this scientific B.S. watch the blasted games look at the ypc. Garza never in his career was a true power blocker he has always been a finese guy, he was never a second level guy it's time for a change and all the science in the world will not change the fact he is not a elite guard in this league.

Wouldn't a football scientist be about the same thing as a Linebacker Chemist?


By Bear in Patriots town on July 13, 2009 7:14 AM said it best.

This discussion proves one thing: stats are like bikinis, they show a lot but still hide the vital parts.

Great article! I like what I see out of da bears this year!

Brad- Good article but that headline reads like an obituary! I'm glad to hear that Roberto Garza IS a top lineman in the league. I do agree with most of the comments that this probably overhypes Garza a bit, but I still think he's an above average lineman and I'm glad he's on Da Bears.

Few things on this blog are as entertaining as a Creighton rant.

Glad to have you back aboard, sir.

Last time I looked most lineman are paid more for their ability to protect the passer more so than to run protect.

I agree that I truly don't understand why Joyner is the new super analyst. So far I haven't seen what he has shown about anyone from lineman to QB's all of his analysis is subjective, his subjective point of view. It certainly is not objective.

Why do we need to know about who is the best run blocker in the league when we don't know who does both (run block and pass block) most effectively?

This Joyner guy has only shown us what he subjectively thinks, I do not see the substance to his analysis.

Roberto Garza is better than Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson? Okay, tell you what: I'll take Faneca or Hutchinson and Cutler, Joyner can have Garza and Grossman or Orton. All else being equal, who do you think would win?

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 20, 2009 3:33 PM.

11 days to Camp: Newcomer Pace, 1st round pick Williams key line was the previous entry in this blog.

Embrace training camp experience at ONU, Bears are in minority is the next entry in this blog.

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