On this site, we all know who Ryan Clady is. We all know that he's having not only a tremendous rookie season, but one of the greatest seasons an offensive tackle has ever had. We all vote for him in the Pro Bowl at least 30 times per day (right?). But what about the guy on the other side of the line? Ryan Harris is having a pretty damn fine campaign this year as well. Like Clady, he's in his first year of a full-time starting NFL job. Also, he's only a year older than Clady. I'm going to use this post to try to bring our other solid bookend into our attention a little.
Statistice for the offensive line are very hard to come by, and when you discover them, you'll find that they're about as hard to read as our legendarily incognito behemoths in the trenches. Instead of pretty statistics like "yards per carry" and "quarterback rating," you get "adjusted line yards" and "sack rate." The O-line is as hard to statistically document as any position in professional sports, but the stats are out there, and they are telling.
The facet of the game in the trenches that mainstream sports fans and media most closely scrutinize is pass protection. The only widely used statistic to guage an offensive lineman's performance is sacks allowed. Therefore, this is what I will analyze first. As a team, Denver's o-line is tied for the league lead in sacks allowed with eight. However, ridiculous as it may seem, that is an inflated statistic by one factor: the well documented fumble-that-wasn't-and-then-it-was-a-fumble-again against San Diego. Officialy, that is a "team sack" and counts against our sacks allowed total for the year. To use a term I learned at Harvard Law, that is BS. Call that play whatever you will, but it certainly was not the offensive line's fault that the ball slipped out of Cutler's hand. So for the sake of argument I am going to regard our sacks allowed total as seven, which would be a league-leading total.
Amazingly, those sacks come on 452 passing attempts, which means that every time Jay Cutler goes back to pass, there is about a 1.55% chance of him being sacked. At that rate, Cutler goes 64.6 pass attempts between sacks. Seven sacks in 12 games is about one sack every 1.71 games. At that ridiculous pace, the Broncos would finish the season with 9 sacks, which would shatter the team record of 15, set in 2004, and tie the 1966 New York Jets and 1991 Washington Redskins for the fourth-fewest sacks allowed in a season (The record is 7, set by the 1988 Dolphins). By contrast, the most sacks ever allowed in a season was 104, set in 1986 by the Eagles.
I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that our o-line is pretty damn good. Now, on to Harris!
It has been well-documented on this site that Ryan Clady has only given up 0.5 of our seven sacks allowed this year. In fact, Clady is one of only three tackles to have started every game this year without giving up at least one sack. The other two? Michael Roos of Tennessee and Clady's counterpart on the other side of the line, Ryan Harris. Clady and Harris each have only one-half sack given up all year.
Harris actually got off to a slow start in his football development, as he didn't start playing until eighth grade, as his parents thought it to be too dangerous for him. When he first tried out, the other kids on the team made fun of him because he didn't know how to hit.
My parents didn't really want me to play. It was funny because I showed up in my pads and everyone made fun of me because I didn't know how to hit. I guess I've come a long way since then.
Right you are, Ryan. Coming from a pass-happy school at Notre Dame and blocking for fabio wonderkid (right Guru?) Brady Quinn, it is easy to assume that Harris was well-adapted to pass-blocking in the NFL. And, if you did assume that, you would be right. Harris has been a standout pass blocker since he attended Cretin-Dermlin High School in Minnesota, where he earned first-team All American and a full ride to Notre Dame.
Harris's choice of the prestiged Catholic university was somewhat eyebrow-raising, considering he is a devout Muslim and has been ever since converting from the Church of Unitarian Universalism in his early teens.
Religion has played a key role in Harris's development as a person throughout his entire life. He actually had a choice of which faith to pursue early in his life before converting to Islam in middle school.
Growing up, I read from the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran. It was different. I was never really taught a religion growing up. I was able to choose freely and I'm very thankful for that.
However important his religion has been to him, he cannot partake in one of Islam's most important traditions: Ramadan.
I have to keep up my weight, so it's not something I can do. But there are other things I can do. It's very similar to Lent. You can give up other things. Some people stop watching TV or things like that. For me, it's making sure I get all my prayers in and read more Koran.
However strange Harris's Muslim practices may have seemed to his Notre Dame teammates, they never let religion be a factor in his social acceptance. Harris stated that his college teammates were "wonderful in the fact that they accept me for my beliefs and allow me to practice my faith." It seems that religion was never a distraction for Harris in college. Then again, he isn't one to be distracted anyway.
Another factor in the Clady love has been his ability to avoid the penalty. In his 12 starts, Clady has just three penalties for only 20 yards. Say what you want about whether these calls were legitemate, beause to Clady's three ticks, Harris has zero. That's right, Harris has not been penalized at all, all year long. Not for lining up offsides. Not for a chop block. Not even a phantom holding call has been thrown his way, so perfect is his technique.
Where technique is concerned, it is impossible to concoct a stat that would determine a lineman's effectiveness in this area. If only we had access to the grade sheets given out after each game that give pluses and minuses for assignments made and missed...
To get back on the stat train, I'm now going to look at the adjusted line yardage (ALY) ammassed by the two tackles. To be honest, I have no idea how to come up with the formula for ALY, or how widespread its use is in determining an o-lineman's effectiveness. But I do know that it is indicative of rushing success on a particular side of the line. Plus, it's on the page at footballoutsiders, so I am going to use it.
As a team, the Broncos rank first in the NFL in ALY, rushing for 4.97 adjusted yards per carry. They have also been "stuffed" behind the line on only 18 percent of run plays, ranking first in the league in that as well. As one would expect, both Clady's and Harris's numbers are indicitave of our overall rushing success.
When the Broncos rush off the left end, Clady's side, they average about 5.76 ALY per rush, good for second in the league. Harris's right end is nipping on Clady's heels at 5.46, which is first in the league. However, it must be noted that the NFL average for ALY is only 3.93 on the left side, compared to 4.32 on the right. The reason being that right tackles face bigger, stronger ends more suited for run stuffing compared to the lighter, faster ends left tackles face.
I can't put it any more bluntly. The numbers don't lie. We are witnessing something spectacular. These two tackles are coming of age fast. Not only are they having excellent seasons for first-year starters, they are having seasons that compare to any that have ever been produced in the history of the NFL. Magnificent seasons. All time seasons.
Hall of Fame seasons.
So next time you're stuffing the Pro Bowl ballot box with Ryan Clady love, make sure you scroll down a few names to "Harris, Ryan." Because there are two offensive tackles in Denver that are more than worth the honor, and in this town, there's more than enough room for the two of 'em.