By Jim Saranteas. How well the offensive line protects its quarterback can go a long way to helping a team succeed on the football field. Likewise, how well a quarterback protects himself can go a long way to a football team’s success. It’s not enough to rank offensive lines and quarterbacks, or view them, by either quarterback sacks or quarterback hits alone. ‘Quarterback Smacks’ truly shows which teams were worst to first in protecting the quarterback position. Obviously, sometimes the team’s quarterback may have contributed to the inflated numbers, i.e., Russell Wilson, or sometimes the team’s quarterback did his best to help the offensive line unit out and otherwise protected himself, i.e., Eli Manning. Other teams ran the football plenty and exposed their quarterbacks to less opportunities to get hit like the Cowboys, Patriots, and Titans. Some offensive lines were just bad like the Rams, and more so, the Browns.
If you’re wondering whether protecting your quarterback could help the offense perform better, well, it depends on the team. As offenses have become more pass oriented, offensive coaching staffs have been able to implement offensive schemes which sometimes mask the flaws of the offensive line. The Falcons were the number one scoring offense despite allowing the seventh most smacks in the league.
Still, as last season, there is a correlation between protecting the quarterback, offensive distress, and making the playoffs. Four top ten teams with the most quarterback smacks allowed were among the worst scoring offenses in the league (22nd, 23rd, 31st, and 32nd) while six top ten teams with the most quarterback smacks allowed were in the bottom third of rushing offenses in the league (23rd, 24th, 26th, 27th, 31st, and 32nd). In terms of the passing game, seven top ten teams with the most quarterback smacks allowed were in the bottom half of passing offense in the league (16th, 18th, 22nd, 25th, 28th, and 31st). As to the latter, only two made the playoffs in 2016.
Thirteen teams finished top ten in least quarterback smacks allowed. By contrast, four top six team with the least quarterback smacks allowed were among the best scoring offenses in the league (2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 11th). Four top six teams with the least quarterback smacks allowed were in the top ten of rushing offenses in the league (2nd, 3th, 6th, and 7th) while two more were in the top half (14th, 16th). Likewise, among these offenses, four were in the top half of passing offenses, three in the top five (Saints, Patriots, Steelers).
Among the better offenses, who didn’t do a good job protecting the quarterback position than most, were the Colts and Chargers, both of whom did not make the playoffs. And, among the worst offenses, who did a better job protecting the quarterback position than most, were the Bengals and Giants.
Also, if you were wondering whether Cam Newton drop off in production could be blamed on a lack of protection, there is support that he did. By comparison, Newton was under siege as he was the victim of a 30% increase in quarterback hits in 2016. The Panthers fell from one of the best at protecting the quarterback in 2015 to a middle-of-the-road unit in 2016. Other teams who fell off in protection from one season to the next included the Cardinals and Jets.
Tip your hat to the Chiefs, Patriots, and Titans who did quite the good job in keeping Alex Smith, Tom Brady, and Marcus Mariota upright this season, finishing Top 10, and improving upon their previous season numbers, especially the Titans.
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