Most NFL fans only pay attention to the play of the OL when things are going wrong - sacks, holding penalties, defenders getting TFL - but how often do offensive linemen truly have a bad game?
For runners, or receivers or quarterbacks, it’s fairly easy to look at their game stats and quickly determine if they had a bad game, but for offensive line guys this is not very easy. My go-to for football stats is pro-football-reference.com but if you go there and look at game logs for OL players you find a dearth of information beyond the fact that they played and how many snaps on offense and special teams they had in a given game. SISdatahub.com provides a little more granularity showing how many blown blocks an OL guy had in a given game and how many were on passing plays vs running plays.
I decided to use this data and look for a way of defining a “bad game” for an OL guy. I chose to use a game with four or more blown blocks as my definition of a bad game. Let’s define blown block first (using SIS’ definition)
A blown block, any time a blocker does not successfully block the defender they attempted to engage with and, as a result, gives the defender an opportunity to negatively affect the play
So a blown block doesn’t have to lead to a negative play. In other words, a blown block on a passing play may or may not result in a QB pressure. If the blown block occurs on a quick pass play, the defender may not have time to pressure the QB before the ball is thrown. The blown block still occurred, but the defender couldn’t take advantage of it.
The Denver Broncos signed two free agent offensive linemen recently,
Austin Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey. As you will see later, one is much better than the other at avoiding bad games.
Mike McGlinchey has played in 69 games in his NFL career, starting all of them. He has 118 blown blocks in those 69 games. He has had ten “bad games” during his career.
If that sounds like a high rate of bad games, that’s because it is. For comparison, Ryan Ramczyk has started 89 games and had only one bad game. Lane Johnson has had three bad games in 127 starts. Ten in 69 is pretty bad.
Lane Johnson, who had a great season in 2022, had a total of 11 blown blocks. His high in any game in 2022 was two and in six of his 15 starts, he had zero blown blocks. For comparison, McGlinchey had four games with zero blown blocks in 2022, but he was much less consistent than Johnson. Johnson’s consistency (and his amazingly quick reflexes) might be why he has twice been named first team All-Pro. Johnson’s worst season for blown blocks was 23 in 2017. McGlinchey’s best season in terms of blown block rate was 2022 in which he had 22 blown blocks in 17 starts. In other words, McGlinchey’s best season is comparable to Johnson’s worst.
Cameron Fleming, who started nine games for the Broncos at RT in 2022 (and six games at LT), had zero bad games. Billy Turner, who started 6 at RT, had zero bad games (although he did have two games with three blown blocks). Fleming only had one game with three blown blocks in 2022 (the win over McGlinchey’s 49ers).
Two other elite offensive tackles of interest are Trent Williams and David Bakhtiari (both 2x 1st team All-Pro). Bakhtiari has two bad games in his career (4 blown blocks in both) in 130 career starts - one in 2018 and one in 2019. Williams has been playing in the NFL since 2010, but SIS only goes back to 2015. Since 2015 Williams has started 92 games and had four bad games. He actually had two bad games in a row to end his 2017 season (6 BB in one and 5 in the other). I think he was playing through injury in those games. He was put on the IR shortly after those games. Back then the IR was season-ending.
Ben Powers, who has only started 36 games in his career, has never had a bad game by this definition. His worst game from a blown block perspective came in Baltimore’s 34-31 win over Minnesota in 2021. He had three blown blocks in that game. Admittedly, guards generally don’t have bad games as often as tackles. That being said, Dalton Risner, the man who Powers is replacing, has had five bad games in 62 career starts. Risner has 89 career blown blocks (60 pass, 29 run) while Powers has 29 (22 pass, 7 run).
It’s rare to have seven blown blocks in one game, but Dalton Risner did that in the Broncos 2020 win over the Jets. Another Bronco OL guy who had seven blown blocks in one game was Ty Sambrailo in 2017 in the loss to Buffalo. Not to be outdone, Garett Bolles had eight blown blocks in the Bronco loss to Washington during his rookie season.
Below is a list of all 9 of Bolles’ bad games.
Bolles has 124 blown blocks in 84 career starts but, unlike McGlinchey, he was able to get through an entire season without having a bad game.
The most elite guard in the league currently in Quenton Nelson (who played with MM at ND - the Irish have had some really good OLs recently). Nelson has started 78 NFL games in his career and has four bad games. He has one per season. The worst game of his career happened in 2022 against that deadly Eagles pass rush. Nelson had six blown blocks in that game, five on passing plays.
I would be remiss if I were to leave out centers in this discussion, since we’ve already talked about some tackles and some guards. Lloyd Cushenberry III has 74 blown blocks in 40 career starts. He has six bad games in his career. His worst game was the win over the Jets in 2020 where he had six blown blocks. Apparently the Bronco OL was absolutely mauled in that game. In terms of blown blocks, LC3 has been one of the worst centers in the league over the past three seasons.
An example of a good center would be Creed Humphrey for the Chiefs. Humphrey has 20 blown blocks in 34 career starts. In six fewer starts than LC3, Humphrey has 54 fewer blown blocks.
Below is a look at the blown block rates (by GS) for the putative starting Bronco OL in 2023.
|Bronco OL guy||GS||Blown Blocks||BB/GS||BPB||BRB||BPB/GS||BRB/GS|
I’m not even going to touch on holding penalties in this other than to say that Bolles has been much better over the last three seasons relative to his first three seasons.
Since I mentioned some elite tackles and elite centers, I need to include the BB/GS for some elite guards. Zack Martin and Joel Bitonio were the two first team AP All-Pro guards in 2022. SIS data does not go back to 2014 when Martin entered the league, but he has 105 starts 2016-2022 and 66 blown blocks. He only shows as having two blocks for the entire 2016 season (he started every game). Bitonio has 103 starts 2016-2022 and 88 blown blocks, however, 26 of those were in one season early in his career. In 2018 he started every game and only had eight blown blocks or the one more than Risner had in a single game in 2020.
Coming back around to McGlinchey, let’s see how he compares to the guys who played RT for the Broncos in 2021. Bobby Massie started 13 games for the Broncos at RT in 2021 (before he retired - assuming he did since he was not in the NFL in 2022). The other four starts at RT were made by Fleming. Massie only had one bad game in 2021. In the Bronco snow loss @ KC, Massie had five blown blocks. He only had 20 blown blocks for the entire season in 2021. In 2020 RT for the Broncos was manned by Elijah Wilkinson and Demar Dotson. Wilkinson had two bad games that season for the Broncos (both starting at RT) and Dotson had zero. Dotson retired after that season.
Wilkinson started the majority of the games at RT for the Broncos in 2019 and had two terrible games that season. He blew six blocks in the loss to the Packers and then blew five blocks in the win @ LAC.
Another FART who retired after playing RT for the Broncos is Jared Veldheer. He started 12 games at RT for the Broncos in 2018 and only had one bad game in those 12 - he had four blown blocks in the 17-19 loss to Houston (the game where Bill O’Brien called Vance Joseph a f%#$ing idiot after VJ decided to attempt a 62 yard FG with 25 seconds left in the first half when Houston still had two timeouts). Veldheer played decently at RT for the Broncos, but he had been terrible in Arizona the season before. He had four bad games in 13 starts. In one of them he had seven blown blocks.
If your definition of a “good game” is zero blown blocks, then Massie only had two good games at RT for the Broncos in 2021. Veldheer in 2018 had five good games. Wilkinson had three in 2020 and six in 2019. MM has been consistent. McGlinchey appears to have really good games and really bad games much more often than either Elijah Wilkinson, Cameron Fleming or Bobby Massie (while in Denver).
For what it’s worth, the last Irish OT to play RT well for the Broncos, Ryan Harris, really likes the signing of McGlinchey. I know. Because I asked him about it. He also thinks we should resign Fleming if we can get him on another vet minimum deal.
Cam is very good. MM is great. Physical, tested, ready.— Ryan Harris (@salaams_from_68) March 22, 2023
Does this change your perception of the signing of Mike McGlinchey?
This poll is closed
Yes - for the better
Yes - for the worse
Not really - I already knew he struggled to pass protect against small quick edge guys while at ND and in San Fran