Explaining the Rationale for Partial Pass Rush Charges
Many folks who read this column regularly are also familiar with PFFs grading for offensive line play. A full differentiation of methodology would be too much for this piece, but I want to take a moment this week to underscore a major difference between my scoring system and theirs.
PFF scores all pass rush events as 1 or 0 for any given player. So on any given play, a player either allowed a sack or they didn’t. Occasionally, PFF will charge 2 sacks on the same play if, for example, both tackles are beaten by their respective opponents independently.
The rationale for the occasional double charge is that neither player should be bailed out by the poor performance of another. That makes a lot of sense, and I prefer PFF’s methodology for a very limited subset of pass rush events involving independent breakdowns.
However, many more sacks are due to a combination of smaller circumstances (blown stunt pickup, compression of the pocket, a block that crosses the pocket, QB holds the ball too long or leaves a clean pocket, etc.). A good example happened in Sunday’s game on the sack split by Jackson and Campbell (Q1, 2:51). To summarize the play:
— Austin Howard stepped outside just a little too far, which left a gaping right B gap for Dante Fowler made more substantial by the fact Malik Jackson initially engaged RG Jermaine Eluemunor slightly to the inside of where he lined up. Fowler moved through quickly and Howard had to block him across Flacco’s face and through the pocket. That distraction brought Flacco’s eyes off the receivers as he tried to find a clean spot.
— Eluemunor initially engaged Jackson, but allowed him to bounce off to the outside, where Howard had turned his back to chase Fowler. Jackson and Campbell arrived simultaneously to deliver a punishing sack.
My understanding is that Eluemunor received a full sack charge on this play from PFF and I assume Stanley did as well, but have not verified.
If forced to charge 1 player with this sack, I would have given it to Howard, since the pressure he allowed broke down the integrity of the pocket first. However, since I don’t have a definitional constraint on dividing charges, I gave 1/3 sack to each of Howard, Stanley and Eluemunor. If anything, I was a little harsh on Jermaine and easy on Howard. As I watched the play a number of times, the question was whether the appropriate charge for Eluemunor was -2 (1/3 sack) or 0 (missed block with no share of the sack), not -2 or -3 (half sack shared with either Stanley or Howard).
I encourage you to watch the play for yourself and leave a comment as to how you would allocate a single sack in that situation including any of the offensive linemen or Flacco himself.
Divisible shares of sacks come with their own problems, but I believe the pros outweigh the cons:
— Total sacks charged match total sacks.
— It allows for allocation of blame in complex situations.
— Contributing elements of sacks, such as pocket compression, which might normally have no charge, are more properly assigned.
— Allocation errors are far smaller than 1 or 0 methods: Using only 1 or 0 is similar to going to a store to buy toothpaste or a gallon of milk, when all charges have to be rounded to the nearest $100, because that’s the only currency available. Many individual transactions would have a big error.
— It’s more complex and adds a 2nd layer of subjectivity to assign shares.
— Occasionally a player will receive a smaller share due to multiple independent breakdowns across the line.
Offensive Line Scoring
The Ravens ran 54 scored snaps versus the Jaguars (excludes accepted penalties which result in no play).
Stanley: Ronnie had his worst game since the 4-penalty meltdown in Week 9 of last season vs. the Steelers. In addition to an illegal use of hands flag and the share of the sack described above, former Terp Yannick Ngakoue beat Stanley for 3.5 pressures (Q2, 3:06 half and Q3, 9:42 and Q3, 4:51 and Q4, 9:49). He had 3 blocks in level 2, 1 pancake and 1 highlight combination block on the first Ravens offensive snap.
Scoring: 54 plays, 44 blocks, 4 missed, 0.75 penetrations, 3.5 pressures, 1/3 sack, 1 illegal use of hands, 27.5 points (.51 per play). With adjustment, that’s still a high F.
Hurst: James also had his worst game since 2015. He was also beaten for 3.5 pressures (beaten outside by Ngakoue, beaten inside by stunting Jackson, beaten outside by Telvin Smith, and beaten inside by Ngakoue on failed stunt pickup). Hurst missed 6 blocks, 4 of which were a result of being beaten and 1 other which was a missed block in L2 on which he escaped a fairly obvious holding flag (Q4, 8:33). He connected on 3 of 4 pulls, but allowed a partial penetration on the 4th (Q1, 3:27). He made 5 blocks in level 2 including a highlight combination on Jackson then Jack in level 2.
Scoring: 54 plays, 42 blocks, 6 missed, 1.25 penetrations, 3.5 pressures, 32.5 points (.60 per play). After adjustment, he’s still 3 points shy of passing, F.
Jensen: Ryan had his best game as a professional by a wide margin. His improvement the last 2 weeks gives hope he can be the center the Ravens have lacked since Birk. However, there is still a gremlin lurking which popped up on one of his best blocks of the day (Q3, 5:28). On that play, Ryan engaged Jags ILB Telvin Smith in level 2, drove him 5 yards, pancaked him, then crawled further on top of him. As Smith attempted to get up, Jensen performed a Superman, lifting his arms and legs off the ground to leave his full weight on Smith. The officials quickly broke it up and had words with Jensen as I hope the Ravens coaches have as well. He had 5 blocks in level 2, delivered 3 pancakes, and had 3 highlights. The best of those was a 1-gap pull to a level 2 cut block that flattened Posluszny (Q4, 8:33).
Scoring: 54 plays, 50 blocks, 4 missed, 50 points (.93 per play). After adjustment, that’s a high A at center.
Skura/Eluemunor: Matt Skura was elevated from the practice squad to be the unlikely starter after Bergstrom imploded in the 2nd half versus the Browns. Matt (41 snaps) shared time with the Jermaine Eluemunor (13 snaps). Each had similar scores by different paths. Skura had obvious difficulty anchoring as he surrendered consecutive pressure events to bull rushes by DT Day (1/2 QH, Q2, 10:16) and Jackson (pressure on the next snap). Matt connected on 3 of 4 pulls, made 1 block in level 2 and did not record a highlight. Eluemunor’s only failure was the partial charge on the sack described above. He pulled twice successfully, but did not have a highlight.
Scoring for Skura: 41 plays, 36 blocks, 3 missed, 1 pressure, ½ QH, 32.5 points (.79 per play). With adjustment, that’s a C+ at guard.
Scoring for Eluemunor: 13 plays, 12 blocks, 1/3 sack, 10 points (.77 per play). That’s too few snaps for a grade (20 is the minimum I use).
Scoring–Combined: 54 plays, 48 blocks, 3 missed, 1 pressure, ½ QH, 1/3 sack, 42.5 points (.79 per play). Their play wasn’t perfect by any means, but their combined C+ was the only passing grade other than Jensen’s.
Howard: Austin’s lack of quickness caught up with him in a game where he faced one of the league’s good young pass rushers, Dante Fowler, and allowed parts of 6 pass rush events in addition to a hold. He was pancaked by Ngakoue at the feet of Flacco for pressure on Ramsey’s interception (Q3, 10:33). He made 5 blocks in level 2, but did not have a highlight.
Scoring: 54 plays, 43 blocks, 4 missed, 3 pressures, 0.83 QHs, 1/3 sack, 1 offensive holding, 26.5 points (.49 per play). That’s another F which is .06 short of passing after adjustment. It’s some small consolation that none of the offensive linemen fell completely off the table with a score .30 or .40 short of passing.
If you’re interested in seeing scoring trends for the players this season, these charts will be updated weekly.
I’ll do a separate piece on Joe Flacco’s performance when time allows. He had ATS on just 7 of 20 drop backs, but it should come as no surprise that this was among the worst performances of his career relative to his opportunity set.