I wanted to give you my observations from watching some 2013 video for the Ravens new center.
I didn’t have time to watch the entire season, but wanted to select a representative 4-game sample. Your first question may well be “How did you pick which games to watch?”
- I reviewed PFF’s season and by-game scores
- I noted his season score was 0.2
- I picked 4 games (2 good and 2 bad as PFF scored it) with an aggregate score of close to 0
- Those games included weeks 1 (NYJ, +1.1), 4 (Ari, -2.6), 9 (Sea, +2.2), and 12 (Det, -1.1)
- All were starts where he played virtually every snap and exclusively as a center
- While I chose simply based on the PFF score, this was a truly impressive set of assignments for JZ
Here is a brief synopsis of his performance in each game:
Week 1 (NYJ): Jeremy faced an imposing rotation of big men in the opener at the Meadowlands. He was responsible for Ellis, Harrison, and Richardson at various times and turned in a solid performance. He pancaked Kendrick Ellis as the lead blocker on Martin’s 5-yard TD run (Q2, 6:51). It was otherwise a game of offsetting positives and negatives. He had an awful snap that went for a safety and resulted in Freeman falling awkwardly against the goalpost (Q1, 8:38), but he also recovered Martin’s fumble on the last play of the half. He was flagged for a false start, but he also drew Wilkerson offside by bobbing his backside (Q3, 5:44). Unadjusted, that score would be a C- at center, but I have upgraded him to a C+ with offsetting adjustments for quality of competition and the safety snap.
Week 4 (Ari): Zuttah faced an ensemble cast of Ta’amu, Campbell, Rucker, and Dockett. He was party to 3 QB knockdowns:
- (Q1, 11:11): In a truly unusual blitz, the Cardinals sent both safeties through the A gaps. Yeremiah Bell flew by Zuttah’s right untouched for the sack, but Javier Arenas also got past him on his left side. Interestingly, both guards blocked outside. Since Zuttah was beaten, he gets a share of the sack. I called it 1/3, the equivalent of a pressure.
- (Q3, 12:18): He was overwhelmed by Campbell for a shared QH.
- (Q4, 0:56): He allowed another QH to the stunting Dockett as Glennon through the game-sealing interception.
All 3 pass-rush events ended drives.
Week 9 (Sea): JZ neutralized Brandon Mebane in the middle of his outstanding season. His only negative pass-rush grade was a pressure allowed to Jordan Hill (Q4, 13:34) where he was backed into the pocket forcing Glennon to adjust. He pulled successfully on all 3 attempts to lead gains of 2, 8, and 11. He had 5 pancakes and 6 blocks in level 2 in his best mobility game.
Week 12 (Det): In arguably his most difficult assignment, Zuttah turned in a top-drawer performance against Suh and Fairley. The Bucs beat the Lions in Detroit despite running just 45 offensive plays (not including 4 kneels). Jeremy missed 3 blocks that included a play that would have been a penetration (Q2, 11:21) had not the remainder of the TB line collectively gave up as Rainey was taken down for a loss of 3.
A few general observations:
- His run-blocking style can be described as “get to the body and stick there.” He uses his hands effectively on the jersey to avoid separation.
- He finishes blocks well. He drives his opponent to the ground as a pass blocker frequently when most other linemen are content simply to reposition. The same goes for run blocking, but he does have an internal clock that causes him to stop. On the MO scale (McKinnie is a 1 for indifference to either start or continue a block for more than a brief instant and Michael Oher as a rookie was a 5 because he blocked to the whistle and pissed off his opponents), Zuttah would be a 4+. There can’t be more than a few centers who do it as well.
- He registered 10 solo pancakes in these 4 games.
- I have seen other descriptions of him as quick, but that’s not how I would describe him. He’s ponderous in his movement which shows up in his difficulty getting in front of screen passes and a level 2 blocking rate which is just average (18 for 25 in these 4 games).
- However, he was used to pull on 4 occasions and converted them all.
- He can give ground in the pocket, but he typically stays square with his opponent. That may be a technique issue (he may come off the ball too high).
- He makes up for giving ground by being able to re-anchor effectively as he backpedals.
- Over his career, his low error rate as a pass blocker has stood out. PFF scored him with just 5 career sacks allowed in 6 seasons at both guard and center.
- Another thing I liked about his pass blocking was the way he assists his guards on double teams. He doesn’t simply block at shoulder level, but frequently drops down for the ribs. Combined with his physical run blocking, this is a player that understands tiring a defensive line rotation.
- Unfortunately, nothing about Tampa Bay’s performance with him at center tells me he’s exceptional with line calls. In particular, the play where both guards blocked outside tells me the assignments may not have been understood. However, effective line calls can be taught and Tampa Bay has now jettisoned 4 of its 5 OL starters from 2013.
- While he was flagged just once in these 4 games studied here, JZ’s biggest negative has been his penalty count. Zuttah has been flagged 25 times in the last 3 seasons. An astounding 19 (!) of those were for holding which may have something to do with his few QB knockdowns allowed.
The Ravens like Zuttah and there are some good reasons. If Osemele can return at anything like the same level as the 2012 SB run, the interior line should be more than solid. While it might be reasonable to assume Zuttah maintains himself physically for several more years, any hope to take a step forward will depend on a different system or better line mates.