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 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.