Much of the Raiders improvement from woebegone 4-12 team to scrappy 7-9 outfit rests on the broad shoulders of the NFL’s heaviest offensive line.
After allowing 52 sacks and 89 quarterback hits in 2018, Tom Cable’s offensive front allowed just 29 sacks and a league-low 52 quarterback hits in 2019.
By Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics like adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, the Raiders ranked No. 5 and 6 in the league, respectively, despite many of their starters battling injury throughout the season.
There are many reasons for the jump from 2018 to 2019. Adding a monster Right Tackle who won a Super Bowl on the blindside is a major one. A year of development for Kolton Miller with Cable’s tutelage is another. But perhaps the biggest boost the Raiders offensive line received this year came from Richie Incognito.
To dig deeper into the individual performance of the Raiders offensive linemen, we decided to delve into Sports Info Solutions’ blown block numbers to see which Raiders offensive linemen were winning their matchups most often. Incognito was not only the best of the bunch, he was the best in the entire NFL.
Of all linemen in the NFL who played a minimum of 500 snaps this season, Incognito led the way by blowing only five blocks all season on 742 snaps. His 0.674 percent Blown Block Rate was also the best in the NFL, with Cowboys’ great Zack Martin coming in second with a 0.748 percent mark.
To put that number in perspective, only 12 linemen registered a Blown Block Rate under 1.0 percent this season.
It’s no wonder the Raiders wanted to lock up the oldest guard in the NFL to a 2-year, $14 million extension as soon as the offseason began. The guy arguably just had the best season of his career at 36 years old.
While counting blown blocks is all well and good, Sports Info Solutions has a nifty little stat to give blown blocks some context called Adjusted Blown Block Rate, which “takes the extent to which a player’s defensive opponents had forced blown blocks in their other matchups above those offenses’ averages, and uses that as a strength-of-schedule adjustment for Blown Block Rate.”
Incognito ranked No. 10 in the league in Adjusted Blown Block Rate on pass blocking situations, with Trent Brown and Rodney Hudson placing No. 12 and 13, respectively.
In the table shown below, you can see all of the Raiders offensive line starters blown block numbers from Left Tackle to Right Tackle:
Starter Blown Blocks
|Pass Adj. BB
|Run Adj. BB
|Pass Adj. BB
|Run Adj. BB
Looking at Adjusted Blown Block Rate both on passing and rushing snaps shows that Incognito, Hudson, and Brown effectively stonewalled their opposition completely for Derek Carr.
It also emboldens the fact that Miller was a more effective run blocker than given credit for. His 2.16 percent Adjusted Blown Block Rate against the run is a much better mark than Brown and Jackson, and is ever-so-slightly better than Hudson.
Miller actually had three more total blown blocks this season than in 2018, but he gave up seven less sacks overall. How is that possible? Well, because blown blocks are charted every time an offensive linemen fails to make a correct block which in turn results in a negative play for his team.
That could mean that the offensive linemen that Miller faced were better at converting forced blown blocks into sacks in 2018, or simply that Carr got the ball out of his hands faster in 2019.
While many have been happy with Miller’s development, he was still abysmal as a pass protector by Adjusted Blown Block Rate, finishing as the sixth worst of any offensive lineman who blocked on over 250 passing snaps by said metric.
These numbers also confirm that Jackson didn’t play up to his usual standard in 2019 in both phases of the offense. He was the fourth best pass blocking starter behind only Miller, and was easily the weakest link against the run.
He never looked fully healthy this season, so it may not be completely fair to judge those numbers. But regardless, it’s safe to say that Jackson underperforming held the Raiders offensive line back from perhaps being the best in the NFL.
Injuries are always going to get in the way, however. This is the game of football. It’s violent and we love it for that exact reason. But because of how violent it is, a team needs to have a good stable of backup linemen ready to step up.
In an effort to bolster our understanding of the Raiders hogs in reserve, let’s take a look at how the top five backup linemen fared this year:
Backup Blown Blocks
We left Adjusted Blown Block Rate out of this table since the sample sizes were often too small for a true comparison to the starters. Yet, this chart is still quite telling about the effectiveness of the Raiders backups.
Jon Feliciano was poached by the Buffalo Bills last offseason, signing a 2-year, $8 million deal to help shore up an atrocious offensive line. This year, Denzelle Good could be the guy that gets poached unless the Raiders intend to cut Jackson and promote Good to a full-time starting role.
For a backup, Good was quite the steadying force during his 321 snaps played. His 1.87 percent Blown Block Rate is more than serviceable, and if he could be signed to a modest deal like the one Feliciano received, the Raiders should jump at the chance to bring him back.
If the price is right, they may have their pick of the litter between Good and Jordan Devey, who was even more efficient in limited snaps before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 4. Devey, Good, and Andre James all put up impressive performances across a lean number of snaps, but what this chart truly highlights is the Raiders need for a new swing tackle.
When Brandon Parker was given the starting Right Tackle spot in wake of Brown being put on injured reserve, many questioned why he was given the nod over David Sharpe.
Apparently, Sharpe was hemorrhaging blown blocks on the right side at an even worse rate than Parker. The 24-year-old understudy had double the amount of blown blocks as Brown (16), while playing less than half the amount of snaps.
Parker was barely any better, giving up 10 block blocks on only 187 snaps, but it’s quite obvious that neither player is the answer.
Sharpe, Parker, and James are all under contract for next season, but barring an unexpected move to guard, many don’t expect Parker to be with the team by the time next season roles around.
Perhaps we should start looking at some developmental swing tackle prospects in our next Draft Hunt installment.