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Football Outsiders: Teams Who Have Consistently Run For 3, 4, 5 Yard Gains Have Had A Pro Bowl Center

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Washington Redskins v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

This year I had the chance to ask Football Outsiders a few questions on behalf of Hogs Haven. Football Outsiders provides in depth stats that you can’t find anywhere else. There signature metric is DVOA which not only takes into account statistics but it measures efficiency and accounts for circumstance. They don’t just aim to through out numbers though their goal is to provide objective writing and analysis backed by their research to improve and change that way football is written about. Their work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, ESPN, SB Nation, CBS Sports, and Bleacher Report.

Here is today’s question and answer:

Hogs Haven: Related to the last question the weakness along the Redskins offensive line is in the LG and C positions what are the positional value of these positions and how does being weaker there really affect a competent running duo/qb?

Football Outsiders: That’s a very tricky question to answer, and it will vary from one team to another based on play design and blocking schemes. We use a stat called adjusted line yards (https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol) to measure each team’s run blocking. In a nutshell, it puts a cap on long runs and adds a penalty to stuffs in the backfield, so it measures a team’s ability to consistently pick up 3, 4, 5 yards on the ground. When I looked at the top all-time teams in that stat, most of them had Pro Bowl centers, but Pro Bowlers at either guard or tackle position were way more erratic. This might mean that great centers are the key to a punishing ground attack. Or it might be a coincidence. Regardless, once you get past a certain baseline of performance, an offensive line’s ability to smoothly function in cohesion is usually more important than any specific player’s talent level. It’s better to have five average starters who are all on the same page than to have a bunch of superior individuals who can’t get out of each other’s way.


Thanks to Vincent Verhei who you can follow on twitter @FO_VVerhei

All is not lost just because Roullier isn’t a Pro Bowler but it does challenge the idea that somehow Center in particular is an offensive line position that can be ‘skimped’ on if one is looking to build a good rushing attack. Positional value along the offensive line was a hot topic in the offseason when Long was departing and LG was - well - in the shape that it is in now.

Roullier is the starter and the coaches trust him right now but the perception that he ‘did well’ during his time starting can still be put to the test and debated. Some might equate positional importance with size of contract which objectively has nothing to do with how one performs on the football field. Others might say - well other teams only have 3 decent starters along the OL, and 2 pro bowlers on the offensive line is a lot - isn’t that enough? As far as perception is concerned maybe it is but I think fans and team should ditch the keeping up with the Jones’s thinking and whataboutism. Such ends my rant about the importance of upgrading the interior OL.

You can pick up a copy of Football Outsiders 2018 Almanac here