“Versatility” is a buzzword with offensive linemen that is often identified as an asset, but is subject to misuse.
It’s nice to have someone on the bench who can play C/G or a guard who can play tackle decently if the need arises. It’s also nice to have a guy who won’t be a big downgrade if forced to move from RT to LT.
However, it’s not a positive to have a set of tackles that “might be more effective inside”. That’s not versatility, it’s an inability to play the primary position well. It is analogous to having 3rd basemen and 2nd basemen on your roster that “might be more successful at 1st base”. In general, if you have tackles, you want them to be able to play tackle effectively, because there are many more athletes of the appropriate size and shape to play guard.
Over the past few years, the Ravens have failed to find a long-term solution at LT. In an attempt to compensate, they have stockpiled a large number of RTs, perhaps with the hope one will pan out as a LT. To use another baseball analogy, accumulating RTs in hopes of finding a LT is like trying to improve a weak starting rotation by accumulating relievers.
With strong guards now in place, the Ravens have distinct questions at the other 3 OL positions:
- LT: Do the Ravens try to find another stopgap and either draft a developmental LT this year or move up to draft a physically gifted player either this year or next?
- C: Who do they acquire or draft as a backup to Gradkowski? Alternatively, should Yanda practice as the backup C?
- RT: With several candidates signed (Harewood, Reid, Oher), how does the organization determine who can step up if it is determined they will not offer Michael Oher a long-term deal or injury forces a replacement?
Each player has 3 grades:
- The Play grade is a representation of how well he played vs. his positional peers last season. It is not a representation of value relative to salary.
- The Value grade is a representation of the player’s contribution relative to 2012 cap expenditure. Great players, at mid career (after signing their first FA contract), will almost never be graded an A in this category since they are typically paid the market price for their services. It’s not a slap in the face to be graded a C here, but the best front offices will have many more As and Bs than Ds and Fs because they consistently uncover value in the draft and sign bargain free agents. A player who does not miss time due to injury, but otherwise performs exactly as might be expected by his contract would be graded a B-. In the case of linebackers and secondary, this grade includes consideration for their contributions on special teams.
- The Developmental grade is an indication of how much the player improved relative to expectation as well as a measure of future expectations. The primary reason to expect growth (or decline) is age, but injuries (particularly changes to prospective durability), leadership, position changes, etc. were all lumped in this category. Even a 35-year-old gets a developmental grade.
Snap totals and percentages include only non-penalty snaps which were played competitively (excludes kneels and spikes) for both regular and postseason games unless noted otherwise. The 2012 Ravens had 1,286 such offensive snaps as a unit in 20 games.
I did not complete a box for Gradkowski. He played just 71 snaps, so I don’t think I’d have much meaningful to say.
Individual Player Comments
2012 Role: Starting Center (1,215 snaps, 95%). For all of the regular season, Matt played next to a LG that was between below average and awful (Harewood, Reid, B.Williams). I have him scored for 4.33 sacks, 6.5 QH, and 13.25 pressures in 20 games, all of which are on the high side for a center, but I don’t doubt some of that was based on the men to his left. With Osemele at LG for the playoffs, Birk put together his best 4-game run.
What was there to like about his season? He remained a consistent run blocker with relatively few misses. He got to level 2 regularly and was generally able to find a block.
When did he play best? He did not allow a sack and had an aggregate score of .88 in the final 8 games, including the playoffs. His best game of the year was probably the Super Bowl when he had 3 missed blocks, but no negative events (.96).
When did he play poorly? He had trouble picking up the blitzes of Larry Foote in the Week 13 loss to the Steelers at home. Foote beat Birk for a QH and a sack and Matt also missed a season-high 5 blocks.
What was his signature play of 2012? He rode Cofield as the Ravens zone blocked left to help clear the path for Rice’s 46-yard gain versus Washington in week 14 (Q1, 9:06).
What does he need to do better? Play with his kids, improve his golf game, and catch up on all those video games he’s missed out on the last few years.
Grades: Play C+, Value C, Developmental: B. He beat the aging curve and stayed healthy the entire year. While his play was far from where he was 3 years ago, he continued to provide value.
2012 Role: Starting Left Guard for the first 5 games (316 snaps, 25%).
What was there to like about his season? He filled in just above the replacement level for the first 5 weeks.
When did he play best? He seemed to adapt well to guard in the opener vs. Cincinnati. In that game he pulled successfully on all 4 attempts and made 3 blocks in level 2. For a converted tackle, that’s unexpected.
When did he play poorly? He was bullied all game by Landri in Week 2 versus the Eagles.
What was the matchup he most dominated? He did a solid job against Love, Warren and Wilfork in week 3 vs. New England.
What does he need to do better? He can be slow out of his stance. There should be a training program for this problem.
Grades: Play D, Value C, Developmental C. Prior to the season, Harewood appeared to be a lost draft pick. Improvement was expected and he played a new position with some flashes of skill. Now that the Ravens have their best OL talent at guard, he’ll need to be able to play tackle, or be a swingman to provide depth. He was not tendered as a 4th-year player, but was resigned.
2012 Role: Starting LT for the playoffs plus spot duty during the regular season (383 snaps, 30%). For the season’s first 16 weeks, he played a total of 53 snaps.
What was there to like about his season? He stepped in at the right time and the line improved at 2 positions with the 3rd (RT) staying at a similar level.
When did he play best? His best game was his Wild Card effort against the Colts. He scored a .85 for that game and I’d adjust that to a B+ based on competition. His aggregate score for the playoffs was .74 which I’d adjust to a C+ for the level of competition. He faced Dwight Freeney, Elvis Dumervil, Chandler Jones, and Aldon Smith. I scored him for 8.5 pressures and 2.17 sacks (1 + ½ + 2/3), no other QHs, and no penalties in those 4 games.
When did he play poorly? He did not play well in week 17 in 66 relief snaps at LT versus the Bengals (.58) when he missed 9 blocks, allowed 2.5 pressures, 2/3 sack, and had a false start.
What was his signature play of 2012? He had some good blocks, but the play which I believe lost him his playing-time incentive was a penetration shared as a 6th offensive lineman vs. NE (Q4, 10:56). Chandler Jones drove back Oher, but McKinnie brain farted and failed to either double Jones or pick up Patrick Chung as Pierce was dropped for a loss of 1 on 4th and 1. McKinnie actually blocked well in limited opportunities through the season prior to week 17 (45 points on 53 snaps, .85).
What does he need to do better? Process and act on the best available run block, particularly when the play is run to the right. Oher and Osemele both did a lot of cut blocking when playing tackle. McKinnie doesn’t do that (not sure if that’s the team’s decision or his), but he needs to find someone to hit on those plays.
Grades: Play C, Value C-, Developmental C+. These are tough grades to assign because he didn’t play that much, but he was distinctly better than Oher at LT. When he played, he was a solid C. Developmentally, his play is actually a slight positive surprise, because it was better than 2011 in the season he turned 33, but I left it at C+ because he didn’t play enough for me to be confident it would have held up over a full season. Despite the pay cut the Ravens got McKinnie to accept, I’d have to label the value as below average for the playing time. However, it was weighted towards the most important games.
2012 Role: Starting LT for the regular season, Starting RT for the playoffs (1,256 snaps, 98%).
What was there to like about his season? He was an iron man, playing the most offensive snaps of any Raven.
When did he play best? Von Miller wreaked havoc across the Ravens’ front, but Oher handled him well in the divisional game at Denver.
When did he play poorly? He lowest 6 scores among his starts at LT were all in the .50’s, so picking the worst of those is like choosing the worst episode of Three’s Company. In a listless season finale versus the Bengals, he missed 13 blocks and allowed 2.5 sacks in action split between LT and RT, but several of the Ravens linemen didn’t look like they were trying that day.
What was the matchup he most dominated? Oher’s best performance of the regular season came in week 10 versus the Raiders when he handled (primarily) Andre Carter as the Ravens cruised to a 55-20 win. He scored a .85 that game, but otherwise did not score over .77 during the regular season.
What does he need to do better? He needs to rediscover the block-to-the-whistle physicality which made him an effective RT in his rookie year. As a pass blocker, he’s always had the advantage of timing mechanisms the Ravens have employed with Birk at center that helped him get off quickly. It will be interesting to see if those will still be in place with Gradkowski. During the regular season, I charged him with a total of 11.17 sacks. PFF does not score them as I do, but they show only the Arizona turnstiles (Batiste and Massie) as tackles that allowed more sacks than Oher during the regular season. There were another handful of tackles who had more sacks allowed per snap played.
Grades: Play D+, Value D-, Developmental D. If I were to break down his play grade, I’d say he was a D- at LT and a C+ at RT. His aggregate score was .64 in his 16 starts at LT, but .76 in his 4 playoff starts at RT. His set of circumstances has never been easy and 2012 was no different with no good blocking TEs and a weak group of LGs playing next to him prior to the playoffs, but I don’t see any reason to project success at LT prospectively.
2012 Role: Starting RT during the regular season, starting LG during the playoffs (1,216 snaps, 95%). He stood out in preseason as a player that would demand a position, but it wasn’t clear if that would be at guard or tackle.
What was there to like about his season? He peaked in the postseason, played well at LG, and finished with the 2nd highest snap count among the linemen.
When did he play best? He did not have any negative events in the Super Bowl with his primary assignment Justin Smith. He had another A+ performance against the Colts in the Wild Card game with an outstanding set of run blocks.
When did he play poorly? Justin Houston beat him like a drum in their week 5 matchup in KC.
What was the matchup he most dominated? He steamrolled Antonio Johnson, Lawrence Guy, Pat Angerer, and Jerrell Freeman in the Wild Card game against the Colts.
What does he need to do better? He’s only started 4 games at guard and played well, so it’s hard to pick something he needs to do better. However, I’d be more concerned with his pass blocking continuing at a high level than his run blocking dropping off.
Grades: Play: B- (that would break down as a C at RT and an A- at LG), Value A-, Developmental A-. His value grade is dragged down a bit for his play at RT. That’s no longer relevant unless he is forced outside due to injury. Prospectively, I’d expect him to be a standout guard.
2012 Role: Starting LG for weeks 10 through 17 (533 snaps, 41%).
What was there to like about his season? He was the best of 3 bad solutions at LG before Osemele.
When did he play best? Reid held up well to lots of stunt traffic versus the Broncos in Baltimore.
When did he play poorly? He did a little of everything wrong against SD with a penetration, 2.25 pressures, ½ QH, 1/3 sack, and a false start that stalled a drive.
What was the matchup he most dominated? He didn’t have a truly dominant game.
What does he need to do better? The Ravens will need a RT who can actually play RT in 2014. That might be Oher, but it might have to be someone else due to cap concerns. The opportunity is there for Reid.
Grades: Play D+, Value C, Developmental C-. He looks like he can be an adequate swingman, but he’ll have to play one position or the other well.
2012 Role: Backup G (6 starts, 338 snaps, 26%). He was hurt and what was his starting spot at LG was filled by Harewood, then Williams, then Reid, then finally Osemele in the playoffs. Neither Harewood nor Reid played well, but Williams was easily the worst. Williams started weeks 6-10 (4 games) at LG then filled in for Yanda in weeks 15 and 17 at RG.
What was there to like about his season? By most accounts he’s a hell of a guy in the clubhouse. He seemed to be genuinely enjoying his retirement ride in the postseason and will return to Baltimore to get a ring on September 5th.
When did he play best? His only good game was the win at Cleveland in week 9.
When did he play poorly? I will score, but not grade a player with less than 40 snaps. However, in the Oakland game, Williams accumulated just 2 points in 14 snaps. Since that would have required a perfect 26 snaps to recover to a D-, he earned an F that day. He was graded an F in 4 of his 6 starts.
What was his signature play of 2012? Williams had his arm pushed backwards and up by Geno Atkins who flew by for a sack in the opener (Q4, 10:16). He looked like a matador on that play.
What does he need to do better? He’s been released by the Ravens and I assume he’ll retire.
Grades: Play F, Value F, Developmental F. For the 2nd consecutive year, the Ravens acquired a washed-up interior lineman (Gurode in 2011) who hurt the team both in terms of cap and on-field play.
2012 Role: Starting RG (1,118 snaps, 87%).
What was there to like about his season? He was not party to a single sack in 18 games played. Per PFF there were 3 full-time regulars who did not allow a sack (Yanda, Rob Sims, Jahri Evans), but since I award partial sacks, it’s possible Sims and Evans were responsible for at least a portion of a sack.
When did he play best? He had a rare perfect score vs. Cleveland in week 4. That included 8 blocks in level 2 and a 4-for-4 performance on pulls.
When did he play poorly? Marshal’s worst game for score (.73) came against Dallas in week 6. He allowed a QH, a pressure, has a false start, and missed 3 blocks in just 48 offensive snaps.
What was his signature play of 2012? He pushed Ray Rice forward for the yardage needed to give the Ravens a first down in the playoff game at Denver (OT1, 0:47). Tucker connected on the game winner 4 plays later.
What does he need to do better? He was penalized more in 2012 than at any time previously in his career (3 false starts and 3 holding penalties). I believe that to be correctable, since it’s not a function of him getting beat regularly for pressure. Otherwise, he’s at the top of his game, but getting to the age (29 in September) that he’ll need to put in more work each season to remain healthy, conditioned, and competitive.
Grades: Play A+, Value A-, Developmental A-. Yanda is one of the 2 or 3 best guards in the NFL. If you saw my scoring for the season, you’ll see that Yanda received just a single A+ for a game score, but his consistent high marks give him an aggregate contribution that is at the top of his positional peers. In general, a starter who is above the C level consistently will get some bump to his full-season grade in this manner.