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NFL starting centers 2021 - stats and rankings

Lloyd Cushenberry was better in 2021 than he was a rookie, but by how much?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As a rookie Lloyd Cushenberry III (LC3) was one of the worst, if not the worst, starting centers in the league. He had a PFF overall grade of 40.5. He allowed six sacks and had 35 total blown blocks. In 2021 he improved his PFF grade to 64.2 and SIS datahub shows him as only having 22 blown blocks and only allowing four sacks. Let’s see how that compares to the rest of the starting centers in the league from 2021. This table includes PFF overall grades, but the rest of the data is from SISdatahub.com. The table is sorted by BBR (blown block rate).

Rank TEAM Center - how acquired PFF Grade 2021 OFF Snaps 2021 Blown Blocks BBR (%) Sacks Allowed (SIS) Stuffs Allowed
1 KC Humphrey, Creed 21/2 91.4 1184 7 0.59% 3 3
2 LAC LINSLEY, COREY U/GB 85.7 1076 7 0.65% 0 1
3 NYJ McGovern, Connor U/Den 75.9 973 7 0.72% 2 5
4 AZ Hudson, Rodney 60.9 799 6 0.75% 1 3
5 TAM JENSEN, RYAN U/Bal 70.3 1151 9 0.78% 1 4
6 MIA Deiter, Michael 60.6 546 6 1.10% 0 1
7 CLE TRETTER, JC U/GB 78.7 1039 12 1.15% 1 1
8 BAL Bozeman, Bradley 18/6 73.3 1125 13 1.16% 2 2
9 NE Andrews, David CF15 77.6 1087 14 1.29% 4 3
10 GNB Patrick, Lucas CF16 57.2 911 12 1.32% 2 0
11 CIN Hopkins, Trey CF14 51.4 928 13 1.40% 6 4
12 PHI KELCE, JASON 11/6 84.4 993 14 1.41% 2 2
13 DAL Biadasz, Tyler 20/4 64.8 1202 17 1.41% 1 3
14 JAX Linder, Brandon 14/3 62.9 552 8 1.45% 0 3
15 SF MACK, ALEX U/Atl 70.4 1088 17 1.56% 1 5
16 NO McCoy, Erik 19/2 63.6 746 12 1.61% 1 3
17 BUF Morse, Mitch U/KC 63.4 1167 20 1.71% 1 4
18 DET Brown, Evan SF20 66.8 755 13 1.72% 1 2
19 LV James, Andre CF19 64.1 1139 20 1.76% 0 4
20 SEA Pocic, Ethan 17/2 67.3 600 11 1.83% 2 1
21 IND Kelly, Ryan 16/1 56.9 907 17 1.87% 3 3
22 NYG Price, Billy T/Cin 62.3 985 19 1.93% 1 5
23 WAS Schweitzer, Wes 78.7 401 8 2.00% 1 3
24 DEN Cushenberry III, Lloyd 20/3 64.2 1039 22 2.12% 4 5
25 TEN JONES, BEN U/Hou 77.8 1160 25 2.16% 1 7
26 CAR Elflein, Pat U/NYJ 50.1 534 12 2.25% 3 1
27 MIN Bradbury, Garrett 19/1 60.1 883 20 2.27% 2 7
28 PIT Green, Kendrick 21/3 52.4 975 23 2.36% 1 5
29 HOU Justin Britt 63.9 671 16 2.38% 1 2
30 CHI Mustipher, Sam CF19 51.8 1121 29 2.59% 2 6
31 LAR Allen, Brian 18/4 80.2 903 25 2.77% 4 7
32 ATL Hennessy, Matt 20/3 77.1 988 30 3.04% 2 6

By PFF grade, LC3 was 17th among starting centers (players with the most offensive snaps at center for each team). However, if you sort by BBR as I have done in the above table, LC3 ranked 24th among starting centers. The four sacks that he allowed were tied for second most among starting centers - only Trey Hopkins of the Bengals (6) allowed more in 2021. I should point out that Pat Elflein only played 534 snaps and allowed three sacks, so his sacks per pass block snap was much worse than LC3.

By PFF grade the average starting center in 2021 had a grade of 68. So LC3 was a little below average. If we assume that the average for starting centers in 2020 was close to that, LC3 was well below average in 2020. So he improved from terrible to average. It will be interesting to see if he moves from average to above average in 2022.

There are some that think the Broncos will replace LC3 at center with either Quinn Meinerz or Graham Glasgow. With Russell Wilson now taking the snaps, it may all come down to who he prefers snapping him the ball. In 2020, Wilson threw the ball 440 times from the shotgun and only 118 times from under center. I wasn’t able to fund data on how often each starting center had errant shotgun snaps. The best I could find was fumble numbers. If the center’s snap causes a negative play, it generally is recorded as a run for negative yards by the offensive player (QB or RB) who recovers the bad shotgun snap. If a defender recovers the ball it is credited as a fumble on the center. If the QB is under center and he drops the snap, that fumble is “credited” to the QB. Fumble data for starting centers in 2021 is presented below omitting guys who had zero bad snaps that were counted as fumbles.

Center Fumbles 2021
Mustipher, Sam 5
Biadasz, Tyler 3
Hudson, Rodney 2
Humphrey, Creed 1
Kelce, Jason 1
Bozeman, Bradley 1
Mack, Alex 1
Jensen, Ryan 1
Britt, Justin 1
Elflein, Pat 1

I should note that LC3 had two errant snaps in 2020 that were recovered by the other team. Sam Mustipher is a player that is a warrior (ND grad), but he’s not going to be in the league very long with that many errant shotgun snaps.

PFF dings players hard for getting penalized and that may be why some of the higher graded PFF guys had poor BBR’s and vice versa. It hurts a little to see Connor McGovern near the top of the league in BBR and PFF grade, but he should be there given what the Jets are paying him. According to overthecap.com, McGovern is the 10th highest paid center in the league. Two of the most expensive centers in the league missed all or most of the last season with injury, Frank Ragnow of the Lions and Chase Roullier of the Potatoes (I know they are calling themselves the Commanders now, but to me, they will always be the Potatoes).

Corey Linsley definitely earned his money after singing a big contract with the Chargers prior to the 2021 season. It should not be lost on folks that the two best centers in the league in 2021 played in the AFC West and that one of the them was a rookie, Creed Humphrey. The three centers who were AP or PFF All-Pro were Humphrey, Linsley and Jason Kelce. All three were elite by both PFF and SIS.

Linsley has not allowed a sack since the 2019 season according to SIS. Going back to the 2016 season he has played 3167 passing snaps and allowed 9 sacks. He also has only been called for holding on 7 of those 3167 passing snaps. For comparison, LC3 has played 1190 passing snaps during his career and has allowed 10 sacks.

LC3 was called for holding only once in 2021, but he was called for a false start twice last season. It’s rare to see centers get called for a false start (it’s usually called as a “snap infraction” which means you move the ball slightly after getting set without snapping it). While getting called twice in 2021 was bad, it was not the worst in the league among centers. That was Tyler Biadasz of the Cowboys who was called for a false start (snap infraction) six times in 2021. That was only one fewer time than Alex Leatherwood of the Raiders and Diontae Johnson of the Steelers who were both called for false starts seven times in 2021. Johnson is a wide receiver though. Every other player with three or more false starts in 2021 was a tight end or offensive lineman with the exception of former Bronco, Emmanuel Sanders, who was called three times for a false start. Only two quarterbacks were called for false start more than once in 2021 - Teddy Bridgewater and Justin Fields were both called twice for false starts.

Poll

If Cushenberry is the Bronco starting center in 2022, what are you expecting from him?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Improvement to elite
    (19 votes)
  • 59%
    Improvement to above average
    (347 votes)
  • 35%
    More of what he did in 2021 - average play at center
    (206 votes)
  • 1%
    Regression to below average
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    Regression to one of the worst - similar to his rookie year
    (7 votes)
588 votes total Vote Now