I did an analysis last season that showed the 2021 Denver Broncos had the most injured offensive line in the NFL. The 2022 Bronco offensive line was not the worst in the league in terms of injuries, but it was close.
I gathered the information for the entire league for 2022 and then decided how to “score” the health of an offensive line unit as a whole. Four factors were used to give an overall OL health score - two positive and two negative:
- number of offensive linemen who started all 17 regular season games (heavily weighted)
- number of OL guys who started 10 or more games
- number of OL guys who started four or fewer games
- number of OL guys who started a game (heavily weighted in the negative)
These four numbers are plugged into a formula which gives each team an overall OL health score for the season. The scores can range from +12.5 to -15.5 (the average is about 0 - by design). The data for 2021 is below. Note that Buffalo and Cincinnati only played 16 regular season games in 2022 so for their OLs, 16 GS = 17 GS.
|Rank||TEAM||OL with 17 starts||OL with 10+ starts||OL with 4 or fewer starts||# of OL that started a game||OL Health Score|
The Broncos had the most injured offensive line in 2021 with an OL health score of -5.0 and they were in with a bunch of teams who had zero offensive line guys start all 17 games. In terms of OL health score they were also tied with the Bengals in, who were able to make it to the Super Bowl, despite having the most injured OL in the league. The Super Bowl champion Rams from that season were tied for 10th in OL health. The Bucs had far and away the healthiest OL in the league in 2021 with a score of +9.5.
Does OL health correlate strongly to scoring points? For 2021 it didn’t. In fact it was negatively correlated (value of -0.37 between scoring rank and OL health). While the top four scoring teams in 2021 all had very healthy OLs (DAL, TAM, BUF, and KC), team like ATL and LVR had very healthy OLs, but still were in the bottom half of the league in scoring. On the flipside, you had the Colts, Chargers and Bengals all in the top 10 in scoring despite having low OL health scores. This made me wonder what the correlation would be for 2022 when the Steelers had the healthiest OL in the league (all five guys started 17 games) yet the team finished 26th in scoring because of limited QB play.
Keep in mind that while health is good for any NFL player, a terrible player who starts all 17 games my not be helping the team much. Even on the OL where unit cohesion and communication are critical to performance, having a terrible player at center or right tackle start all 17 games will most likely do more to sink than to buoy the offense.
Another way to look at this is the total number of starts missed by the OL “starters”. For example the Eagles OL in 2022 missed a total of 4 starts and the Steelers OL missed zero (something about Pennsylvania maybe?). Where this gets problematic is if a putative starter is lost during training camp, preseason or in the first few games. Since I just sum the total for the top five, there is no way to capture lost OL starts (like FO does in AGL) without an intimate knowledge of every OL in the NFL (which I don’t have).
For 2022, the 49ers are an interesting example. They only had two offensive lineman start all 17 games, but their five starters only missed five total starts. Another interesting team from 2022 was the Bucs. They had the healthiest OL in 2021, but were in the middle of the pack for OL health in 2022.
If we look at the correlation value for 2022 between OL health and scoring rank, we find that it is almost identical to 2021, -0.35. Again meaning that while it is nice to have a healthy OL, some teams were able to overcome OL health issues and still score points. While teams like the Panthers and Steelers had very healthy OLs in 2022, but were both in the bottom third of the league in scoring.
That being said, of the teams in the bottom tier for OL health score in 2022, only the Giants finished in the top half of the league in scoring and they finished 16th. I have included the scoring rank in the table for 2022 (I did not for 2021). You should also note that three of the teams with the healthiest OLs in 2022, CIN, KC and PHI, finished 8th, 1st and 2nd in scoring. Which goes to show what you can do on offense with elite QB play AND a healthy OL. It also should be noted that the Eagles and the Chiefs OLs were both healthy and elite. Four of ten first or second team AP All-Pros on the OL came from KC and PHI (Joe Thuney, Lane Johnson, Creed Humphrey and Jason Kelce). No other team had more than one.
|Rank||TEAM||OL with 17 starts||OL with 10+ starts||OL with 4 or fewer starts||# of OL that started a game||OL Health Score||Scoring Rank|
The team with the most injured OL in 2022 was the Rams. Their OL health score was -10.0 and they had 14 different players start a game for them on the OL. Only Rob Havenstein and Coleman Shelton started more than 10 games, which makes the injury woes of the 2021 Bronco OL pale in comparison (whad 4 guys start 10 or more games on the OL). I wouldn’t be surprised if Sean McVay hired a coach just to help him keep up with all of the different guys who were starting for the Rams OL from week to week. In their blowout win over the Broncos, they were starting their fourth left tackle, fourth left guard, third center and fifth right guard of the season. In twelve of their seventeen games, they had a different player starting in at least one OL spot than the game before. In many they had two different guys.