clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Playing the blame game for Broncos sacks in 2018

Who is REALLY to blame for the 34 sacks the Denver Broncos allowed in 2018?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

So as aging offensive lineman, I can tell you that the offensive line only gets noticed when they do something wrong - false start, holding, ineligible downfield, or allow a sack. All of these things will get you singled out when you are used to toiling in relative obscurity. In my article earlier this year, I reviewed the performance of the offensive line overall.

In that piece, I shared the data from Stats Inc regarding how many sacks each of the offensive lineman was responsible for during the 2018 regular season. I don’t trust their sack blame assessment, so I have undertaken to do my own (as I have done in previous years). Since I am going to be including screen shots, I’m breaking this into three parts. I may have figured out how to make GIFs by the second part. This part will focus on the first 9 sacks we allowed in 2018. A full blame chart will be included in the last installment.

The Denver Broncos allowed 34 sacks in the 2018 regular season. According to Stats Inc, Matt Paradis did not allow a sack in 2018. However, he was (at least partly) responsible for the first sack that the Broncos allowed this season - more on this later. I’ll include the data from my previous piece below (data from the Washington Post via Stats Inc.).

Player Off Snaps Total Penalties False Starts Illegal Block Total Holding Accepted Holding Sacks Allowed Snaps/Sack
Garett Bolles 1062 12 3 0 9 7 4.0 266
Connor McGovern 1056 6 0 2 4 4 1.5 704
Billy Turner 824 3 0 1 2 2 3.5 235
Jared Veldheer 704 7 4 1 2 1 1.0 704
Matt Paradis 569 2 0 0 2 2 0.0 INF
Elijah Wilkinson 520 0 0 0 0 0 3.5 149
Ronald Leary 383 2 0 0 1 1 0.0 INF
Max Garcia 242 4 0 0 4 3 1.0 242

Sack #1 - game 1

Facing third and 11 with 9:47 left in the 3rd quarter and leading 17-10, Denver went empty backfield. Seattle rushed four defenders with Connor McGovern and Jared Veldheer blocking one-on-one and Garett Bolles, Ronald Leary and Paradis left to block the other two rushers.

Looks like a decent pocket from this pic, but looks can be deceiving.

The DE and DT run a stunt and Bolles, who should try and block Leary’s man so that Leary can switch to his, does not. Leary stays with his guy and Paradis is left to try and block Frank Clark with a head of steam (pic above). This is a difficult task, but one that he should have been able to handle. However, Keenum climbed the pocket (note where he backfoot is) and now Clark only had to move laterally to get to him - making it nearly impossible for Paradis to stop him without holding.

Paradis is getting beat across his face and Keenum is not feeling the pressure so Case does not respond.

At this point, Case does not feel the blindside pressure and is in for the sack. This sack occurs 2.6 seconds after the snap. So the blame for this one is either on Bolles or Paradis. Bolles is standing there holding his d*@k as Alex Gibbs used to say while Paradis is getting beat and getting his QB hit. Which offensive lineman would you blame in this case? While Paradis is the last lineman to block Clark before the sack, Bolles is the guy who screwed up. Bolles gets the blame here.

Sack #2 - game 2

Trailing 6 to 0 with 6:15 left to play in the second quarter the Broncos had the ball 3rd and 7 on their own 39. Paradis snapped the ball high and Case Keenum did a good job to corral it and avert disaster. Oakland showed 7 who could blitz, 5 did.

Booker should be focusing on his right where there appear to be four rushers

The nose tackle was shading to the offensive right slightly so there were potentially four pass rushers on the right and only four blockers. For some reason, Devontae Booker was looking toward the center of the field instead of toward that OLB who was showing blitz.

What is Booker doing?

The ILB over McGovern dropped into coverage. So McGovern should be have looked to either help Veldheer or dropped back to pick up the hard-charging edge rusher (which is very difficult for even elite offensive guards to do). Booker moved to his left - I’m not sure why. He was in the best position to try and slow the OLB who got the sack. Booker didi try and move back to his right in a futile attempt to block the OLB, at the same time, Bolles got beat across his face and Keenum was eventually sandwiched by two Faider defenders. I blame this on either Booker or Bolles with Booker having a greater share here. The high snap did not help this play either. There were 2.8 seconds from snap to sack on this play.

Sack #3 - game 3

With 1:32 left to play in the first quarter the Broncos faced 3rd and 2 at their own 45, Denver lined up in a modified shotgun pro-set.

Baltimore was lined up with two wide defensive ends again and they have seven players who could rush the passer if they wanted to max blitz here. Denver has both Phillip Lindsay and Jeff Heuerman in the backfield.

Baltimore rushes four - three from the offensive right

The DE that would have been Bolles’ responsibility went into the flat to cover Lindsay, so Bolles was left blocking air. Leary, Paradis, McGovern and Veldheer all ended up one-on-one with a defender. Heuerman peaked backside to ensure that there is no delayed blitz from the offense left. In this screenshot above, Veldheer is about to get beat by an inside move. His arms are fully extended and his weight is too far out front. Za’Darius Smith has him set up nicely and handily beats him (as you can see in the pic below).

This is what we jokingly called a “look out!” block because you ended up yelling that at your QB to keep him from getting decapitated by the defender.

The sack on this play happened a mere 2.40 seconds after the snap. This is completely the fault of Veldheer.

Sack #4 - game 3

Down by three (14-17) the Broncos faced 2nd and 1 from the Ravens’ 25 yard line with 2:31 left to play in the half. The Broncos faked the jet sweep to Emmanuel Sanders and Garett Bolles was beaten badly around the edge by Terrell Suggs.

Pre-snap look

Lindsay was the single back with Heuerman in the slot. Both DE’s are split wide leaving a large hole in the middle of the field. This would have been a great chance for Keenum to audible to a run up the middle with Lindsay.

faking both the dive with Lindsay and the jetsweep to Sanders

Had the ball been handed off to Lindsay here, this would have easily gained two yards for the first down and may have gone for much more given Lindsay’s burst. Bolles is already beat in the picture above since he never delivers a punch to Terrell Suggs. There were only two receivers running routes for the Broncos and they were both well-covered.

Sanders was in position to throw a cut block on the Suggs here, but he chose to carry out the fake and gave the defender, who beat Bolles handily, a free blind-side shot on Keenum. This sack happened 3.90 seconds after the snap. Bolles is really to blame here. Sanders does not have blocking responsibility on this play as drawn up.

Notice that the rest of the protection is solid on this play with Veldheer’s man dropping into coverage, McGovern getting help from the run fake by Lindsay to block his man, Paradis and Heuerman picking up the ILB and Leary handling his defender effectively. I don’t think this play would have gone anywhere because of the good coverage, but if Bolles had blocked his man effectively it would have at least given Case a chance to let the routes progress and maybe Courtland Sutton or Demaryius Thomas would have gotten open.

FWIW Keenum fumbled on this play and on the ensuing scrum/fight for the ball, Lindsay gets caught trying to punch the ball out (or punch a Raven) and got ejected.

Sack #5 - game 3

This sack occurred on 2nd and 10 from the Denver 15 with 43 seconds left to play in the half. This sack is the fault of Case Keenum who holds onto the ball to long given the design of the play (no pics for this one). The Ravens rush their front 4 only and the protection is good enough for the Keenum to have time to throw, but the coverage is good and he eats this ball while climbing the pocket, managing to get back to the line of scrimmage for a zero yard sack. If the sack is a coverage sack, I blame the QB. This sack occurs 3.70 seconds after the snap. That is plenty of time for the QB to throw the ball on most plays in the modern NFL.

Sack #6 - game 4

This sack occurred early in the first quarter (13:00 to play) when we had 2nd and 10 from the KC 29.

KC only rushed four players and somehow we ended up with Lindsay trying to block Dee Ford who was their best offside pass rusher. The rest of the protection was pretty solid here.

Lindsay tries, but fails

Lindsay tried to throw a punch to the chest (this is how you are taught to pass block) of Ford, but ended up off-balance and on the ground as Ford easily defeated his efforts and got by him. Keenum saw this coming and was able to only lose two yards on the sack, which happened at only 2.3 seconds after the snap. This was completely on Lindsay for this sack (unless you want to Blame Bill Musgrave who schemed to have a small rookie RB trying to block the opponent’s best rusher).

Sack #7 - game 4

On this sack, the Broncos had the ball 2nd and 4 at their own 31 with 5:36 left to play in the first quarter. KC only rushed 4 and Denver had 6 to block 4.

Veldheer was set up nicely to block Ford. Mcgovern was squared up on their DT. Paradis and Leary are double-teaming Allen Bailey and Bolles appears to be in decent position to handle Justin Houston. Unfortunately Veldheer got beat across his face and Bolles got beaten by an outside speed rush.

McGovern was also getting beaten with an inside rush in this shot, but Houston is the one who gets credit for the sack (which happens at 2.5 seconds after the snap) so Bolles gets the blame here. Veldheer was able to push Ford laterally which would have allowed Keenum the space to roll to his right had Bolles been able to force Houston deeper.

Sack #8 - game 4

This sack was the third sack we allowed in the first game against the Chiefs. The first two were in the first quarter. The second two were in the 4th quarter. This sack occurred when the Broncos had 3rd and 10 at their own 25 with 5:19 left to play in the game, leading 23-20. On this play Keenum rolled right and ended up going out of bounds for a zero yard gain. This really isn’t a sack in my opinion. Bailey got credit for the sack as the nearest defender to Keenum when he went OOB. The “sack” occurred 5.9 seconds after the snap.

Sack #9 - game 4

This sack occurred when Denver had the ball trailing 23-27 with 1:39 left to play in the game and facing 1st and 10 from our own 25. KC showed max blitz with 7 defenders in position to rush the passer.

Both Booker and Heuerman stayed in to block. Heuerman came in motion from offense’s left to right. Billy Turner was in at RT for Veldheer. Turner did a good job on Chris Jones, at least initially.

Booker was doing what he is supposed to be doing, looking inside-out for rushers. Paradis was mirroring the ILB who dropped into coverage after showing blitz. Leary and Bolles were double-teaming Bailey. McGovern was getting beaten by Tanoh Kpassagnon. The DB, Armani Watts (#25) had a full head of steam and at this point neither Heurman nor Booker were in a good position to block him (no angle).

Heuerman’s angle gives him no chance to block the faster/quicker DB here

This sack cost the Broncos 10 yards and a timeout. This sack occurred at 2.6 seconds after the snap. If Heuerman was supposed to block the DB by design, then the blame lies with him. If Booker was supposed to block the DB in this play design, then the blame lies with him. It could be either, but that is a tough job for a tight end to come cross-formation after the snap to pick up a blitzing DB. If that was the design, the blame lies with Musgrave.

Even if Booker or Heuerman had been able to block Watts, Jones was going to force a quick throw on this play as he got past Turner with relative ease.

Tabular Blame for the first 9 sacks

Sack # Blame
1 Bolles with a tad to Paradis
2 Booker and Bolles
3 Bolles
4 Veldheer
5 Keenum
6 Lindsey
7 Bolles
8 nobody
9 Heuerman or Booker

Stay tuned for part 2 next week.