There are some things that are extremely difficult to assess from watching a football game on TV and looking at the numbers afterwards.
The performance of defensive tackles. The route-running of wide receivers.
And the offensive line's success in the run game.
Sure, we can tell when Brian Westbrook gets the handoff whether he's got a hole right away or not. But unless you're breaking down film or watching the game from a coach's perspective on the sideline, it's tough to tell whether he chose the right hole or if the timing was off, etc.
Which brings us to a blog post from The Fifth Down, The New York Times' NFL blog.
Writer KC Joyner breaks down the Eagles' offensive line performance in terms of run blocking, using a POA win percentage. POA stands for point of attack. In Joyner's system, a POA percentage of 80 is the low-end acceptable number.
Here's his breakdown of the Eagles' individual offensive linemen from last season:
Tra Thomas - 86%
Todd Herremans - 88.6%
Jamaal Jackson - 89.3%
Max Jean-Gilles - 76.5%
Nick Cole - 81.1%
Jon Runyan - 83.6%
As Joyner points out, right guard (the spot filled by Jean-Gilles and Cole after Shawn Andrews' injury) was the weakest link in the run game, according to the numbers.
Drew Rosenhaus may not want to use Jean-Gilles' 76.5% win-rate when he tries to get his new client a better contract.
Joyner makes the argument that the Eagles' woes in short yardage last year were due to lapses from the tight ends and running backs, not the offensive line. He points out that they addressed those weaknesses by signing fullback Leonard Weaver and drafting Cornelius Ingram.
I agree with him on Weaver, but Ingram is an unknown commodity in terms of blocking.
And the offensive line of course will look different this year with Jason Peters replacing Thomas at left tackle, Shawn Andrews at right tackle and Stacy Andrews at right guard.
So what do you think of Joyner's breakdown?
Some other items of note:
** As some of the loyal readers may know, I'm in Portland, Oregon on vacation visiting my sister and brother in-law. Yesterday I caught that thrilling Phils game on, which started at 4 p.m. local time, on ESPN. Not sure I'd be able to deal with that during football season. Would have to be in front of a TV at 8 a.m. Sundays to catch the first pre-game show. Although Monday Night Football ending at 9 p.m. would make for less-tired Tuesday mornings.
** Stark contrast between the homeless in Philly and Portland. Not to make light of the situation, but here the homeless seem to travel with state-of-the art equipment. I noticed a group of six walking together and asked if they were "backpacking" through the city. I was told they were homeless, but they had what appeared to be top of the line backpacks, sleeping bags and camping material. Just an observation.
** In the middle of two football books I finally got a chance to delve into on the plane ride over. One is War Without Death: A Year of Extreme Competition in Pro Football's NFC East. Washington Post reporter Mark Maske takes a look at the major players in the division and the decisions they make during the 2006 calendar year. It's a great insider's look at how the division's most prominent names got to where they are, and how they run their franchises. I'll definitely be sharing some anecdotes from the book in upcoming posts.
** The other book is The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis. Lewis takes a look at the evolution of the left tackle, the growth of the passing game and the change brought on by devastating pass rushers. Much of the book focuses on the unbelievable story of first-round pick Michael Oher. Anyway, both are great and highly recommended.