If you were to take a poll and ask football fans what position on offense is the most important a substantial amount would say quarterback. If we’re looking at individuals I’d agree without hesitation. But what about the guys that protect the quarterback? How important are they?
Looking at Kansas’ past and how bad their offense has been, I’d say pretty dang important. But is it really the offensive line that’s been the cause of it? Let’s take a look at last years offensive line stats:
Taking a quick glance at this you may wonder, what the heck does all of this mean? Well thanks to the lovely Football Outsiders they break it down for us.
- Adjusted Line Yards: Statistic that attempts to, even to a small extent, separate the ability of a running back from the ability of the offensive line. Adjusted Line Yards begins as a measure of average rushing yards per play by running backs only, adjusted in the following way:
- 0-4 yards: 100% strength
- 5-10 yards: 50% strength
- 11+ yards: not included
- runs for a loss: 120% strength
- Presented on a scale in which 100.0 is perfectly average, above 100 is good, below 100 is bad.
- Standard Downs Line Yards per Carry: The raw, unadjusted per-carry line yardage for a team on standard downs (first down, second-and-7 or fewer, third-and-4 or fewer, fourth-and-4 or fewer).
- Passing Downs Line Yards per Carry: The same unadjusted averages for rushing but on passing downs.
- Opportunity Rate: The percentage of carries (when five yards are available) that gain at least five yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job, so to speak.
- Power Success Rate: Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer. Not adjusted for opponent. This is the only statistic among the Football Outsiders offensive and defensive line stats that includes quarterbacks as well as running backs.
- Stuff Rate: Percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.
- Adjusted Sack Rate: An opponent-adjusted version of a team’s sack rate — sacks divided by (sacks plus passes), presented on a scale in which 100 is perfectly average, above 100 is good, below 100 is bad.
- Standard Downs Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for standard downs pass attempts.
- Passing Downs Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for passing downs pass attempts.
The only item they didn’t explain is ‘Rk’ which means ‘rank’ and ranks the team in each category out of the 130 FBS teams.
Now I could go through each one of these stats and break it down even further but what I think people want to know is what does this mean for Kansas. Well, quite frankly it means the offensive line was mostly really bad last year. How bad?
Let’s look at a comparison between all of Kansas’ opponents last year to see how they compared.
*I’m excluding any FCS schools as they’re stats aren’t readily available.
**Red means the team is last in that stat category and yellow means it’s a team that is ranked lower than Kansas in that category but isn’t in last.
Surprisingly enough Kansas isn’t last in every offensive line stat category. In fact when it comes to pass blocking they’re actually ahead of a few teams.
When it comes to run blocking they’re pretty much bottom of the barrel. They rank close to last in just about every category. But when you look at the pass blocking it’s a little better. A lot better in fact. They rank 66th in adjusted sack rate, 77th in standard downs sack rate, and 33rd in pass downs sack rate. With this we can see that Kansas’ pass blocking is about at the middle of the pack in terms of the FBS as a whole.
This doesn’t mean that the Kansas offensive line is good or even mediocre. Actually, judging by these stats they’re well below average. But with their pass blocking being towards the middle of the conference why is their offense so bad? I think this goes to show that it’s not all on the offensive line. The quarterbacks have simply been just as bad and even worse at times.
A strong offensive line can make a mediocre quarterback look like a good quarterback. And even a great quarterback can mask the issues of the offensive line. But a great offensive line can’t make a bad quarterback look good.
I’m not saying the quarterbacks are all to blame but these stats go to show they should shoulder a large portion of it. And this doesn’t excuse the fact that the Kansas line is horrible at run blocking and mediocre at pass blocking. It’s a total team effort and until this team can work together and put a product on the field that’s cohesive and fluent I’m afraid we’ll continue to see them struggle.