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I’m always to blame. It’s just the same. Stats all - offensive line edition.

a critical and statistical look at the play of the Denver Bronco 2021 offensive line in comparison to 2020

NFL: NOV 14 Eagles at Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Denver Broncos’ offensive line has been fairly bad for the past few years. The 2021 offensive line was supposed to better. Garett Bolles (first round pick) had played his best season in 2020 and earned himself a second contract with the Broncos. Dalton Risner (second round pick) and Lloyd Cushenberry (third round pick) were a year older and more experienced. The right side of the OL was supposed to be improved with 2020 free agent Graham Glasgow and 2021 free signing Bobby Massie making the line the best unit the Broncos have had in quite awhile.

That’s not what happened. Injuries have kept many of the game one starters off the field for extended periods of time (the Broncos have had 10 offensive linemen take offensive snaps this year). Bolles has now missed three straight games with injury and COVID. Calvin Anderson will probably be out for at least a month and could be put on the IR. Risner has been battling various injuries all year with a back issue being the latest. Massie could return for the next game after missing the last two games and most of a third.

So let’s look at the numbers. How does the OL performance so far this year compare to last?

Last season the Broncos were 28th in pressure percentage allowed (27.4 percent). They allowed 168 pressures on 598 passing attempts. League worst was the at 30.2 percent and league best was the Packers at 14.4 percent. The 2020 Broncos were 13th in sacks allowed with 32 largely because Drew Lock has always been difficult to sack. According to PFF’s free data, only 9.0 of those 32 sacks were the fault of the OL.

This season the Broncos OL is currently dead last in pressure percentage allowed at 30.3 percent. The Bucs are currently the best at 11.9 percent. The 2021 Bronco OL has allowed 124 pressures on 367 passing attempts in eleven games - that’s a pace for 192 pressures allowed (in 17 games). For comparison the Bucs have allowed 58 pressures on 466 passing attempts - so less than half the pressures with more than 100 more throws. The 2021 Broncos have already allowed 31 sacks - one less than all of last year. According to PFF, the 2021 OL is to blame on 21.0 of those 31 sacks. To me, it would appear that our pass blocking has gotten worse year over year.

Offensive Lineman PFF grade 12/1/21 2021 Sacks allowed 2021 Total Off Snaps 2021 Pass Blocking Snaps 2021 PB Snaps per sack allowed PFF Grade for 2020 2020 Sacks allowed 2020 Total Off Snaps 2020 Pass Blocking Snaps 2020 PB Snaps per sack allowed
Cameron Fleming 78.0 0.0 171
Garett Bolles 71.7 5.0 494 302 60.4 90.6 0.0 934 583 INF
Calvin Anderson 70.0 0.0 172 92 INF 55.1 1.0 132 79 79
Bobby Massie 67.1 5.0 534
Quinn Bailey 66.2 0.0 40 14 INF
Graham Glasgow 63.7 2.0 384 240 120.0 68.5 1.0 744 429 429.0
Lloyd Cushenberry III 63.2 4.0 705 408 102.0 40.5 4.0 995 613 153.3
Netane Muti 61.4 3.0 206 110 36.7 37.1 1.0 61 64 64.0
Dalton Risner 60.1 2.0 566 339 169.5 61.3 0.0 963 575 INF
Quinn Meinerz 50.1 0.0 247
Austin Schlottmann 48.0 0.0 9 0 N/A 39.8 1.0 224 159 159.0

By PFF grade the offensive lineman who has improved the most is Cushenberry. His overall grade right now is 63.2, which is still below average for centers in the NFL (best in the league currently is Creed Humphrey for the Chiefs at 90.9). That being said, 63.2 is huge improvement over 40.5.

By PFF our highest rated offensive lineman for this season is Cameron Fleming at 78.0. This is a big improvement for him year over year as he had an overall grade of 58.4 in 2020.

Keeping in mind that PFF docks player’s grades for getting penalized (and our OL has drawn many more penalties in 2021 relative to 2020), the offensive linemen on the team are by and large playing better than they did in 2020. PFF overall grades within five units are comparable so guys who are plus or minus five relative to 2020 (Massie, Risner and Glasgow) are essentially playing comparably to how they did last year (admittedly on a different team in the case of Massie).

The only guy who has regressed significantly is Bolles. Like Cushenberry and Fleming, Anderson, Muti and Austin Schlottmann have all improved greatly year over year. Although Schlottmann’s sample size of nine snaps is comically small.

Bailey played well on Sunday once Anderson got hurt. However, he was fairly well “protected” by a game-plan that had him only pass block on fourteen total snaps while run blocking on twenty six. Forty offensive snaps is also a really small sample size.

Let’s look at run blocking now. For this I like to look at football outsiders ALY (adjusted line yards). This stat tries to look at OL run blocking independent of running back talent. In 2020 the Bronco OL was 28th in ALY at 4.02 and had a power rank of 3rd. Power rank looks at how successful runs on 3rd, 4th and goalline are. In 2021 the Bronco OL is 14th in ALY at 4.24 and our power rank is 15th. So we have been much better at run blocking overall this year, but have not been quite as good in short yardage and goalline situations. If you look at RB yards (which basically figures out how well RBs do independent of their OL), the Broncos are currently 5th in the league with 4.63 RB yards per carry. Only three NFL teams currently have a larger difference between RB yards and ALY than the Broncos: IND (0.72), DET (0.48) and CLE (0.46).

Stuffed runs (runs that gain no yards or lose yards) is another way to measure OL performance. In 2021 the OL in ranked 26th in this stat with 19 percent of our runs getting stuffed. While this is bad, it’s still improvement over 2020 when our OL was ranked dead last in stuffed percentage with 21% of our runs getting stuffed.

Another FO stat that measure runner performance is 2nd level yards, which essentially measures how good every teams’ runners are once they reach the second level of defenders. The Broncos currently rank 3rd in second level yards at 1.40.

Another way to measure run blocking success is yards before contact per carry (YBC/att). In 2020 the Broncos were 12th in this stat with an average of 2.64. Offensive lines that make their backs dodge tacklers in the backfield generally fare poorly in this stat. In 2021 the Broncos currently rank 13th in this stat with a value of 2.43. The Eagles are leading the league at 3.58 (due small part to how poorly our run D played against them) and the Texans are in last place by a large margin here at 1.65.

So it would appear that our run blocking has improved year over year.

The Bronco rushers have been the best in the league at breaking tackles so far this season with an average of 8.5 carries per broken tackle. No other team in the league in below 10 and the second place Browns are at 10.5. Javonte Williams currently has 19 broken tackles and Melvin Gordon currently has 13. To put that in perspective the Chiefs have seven total for the season, so Pookie alone has almost three times as many broken tackles as the entire KC team.

With run blocking being better than 2020, but pass blocking being worse, do you think that the Bronco offensive line in 2021 is better than our 2020 offensive line?

Poll

In your opinion is the 2021 Bronco OL playing better than the 2020 Bronco OL?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Yes
    (239 votes)
  • 16%
    No
    (91 votes)
  • 41%
    they are comparable
    (237 votes)
567 votes total Vote Now