Decided to change some things up and just scrap the week 18 report. With the season being over and everything that's going on with Carolina, I figured nobody cared to see a week 18 report followed by the season report. The line as a whole has been a very controversial topic all year for Panther fans.
Many thought going into the season that this line was gonna be a strength of the offense. But then disaster struck and Christensen went down after week 1 and Corbett was out the 1st 6 weeks or so. Even when he did return, he wasn't near as effective as last year before going on IR again as well. Even the back ups saw injuries. All in all, Carolina managed to cycle through 9 different guards either due to injuries or them just not being good. It left a very weak interior and problem all year long that never got solved. Then came the other issue, Frank Reichs overly complicated blocking scheme. This is something that hurt Indy while he was there, only for the line to have a huge rebound the year after him leaving and something Indy fans came to warn us about. Honestly it was something I struggled to believe until he got fired and over the last 6 weeks I witnessed a complete 180 in level of play and success between the 3 mainstays of the line (Moton, Ekwonu, Bozeman). This is something I'm gonna highlight 4 different ways for those to see the difference. I'm also gonna bypass grading the guards as there were so many and they were all just bad.
Let's take a look at weeks 1-12 for the 3 lineman vs weeks 13-18. As always there's limited ways to quantify a lineman's play. So for this I'll use 4 different ways. PFF grades for both run and pass, pass blocking efficiency, my own lost pass reps film analysis and PFFs overall Ranking. I'll also include their end of year ranking with a short analysis for each. For those who don't know, Pass blocking efficiency is a score out of 100 that is essentially pressures per snap given up with a weighting towards sacks. Unfortunately in regards to my film analysis, I only started that from week 9 on as it was incredibly time consuming to do each week. But only having those 4 weeks pre Brown helps highlight what a huge obstacle Reich was to the line succeeding. Weeks 1-12 will be the 1st set of numbers and weeks 13-18 will be the 2nd set.
- 76.5 Run / 56.5 Pass VS 71.5 Run / 73.9 Pass
- 96.4 Eff. VS 94.9 Eff
- 20 Losses VS 17 Losses
- 42nd Ranked VS 17th Ranked
- 33rd Overall for Tackles for the Year
Ekwonu was a night and day difference pre and post Reich in the passing game. He went from averaging 5 lost pass snaps a game down to 2.8 under Brown. His PFF pass blocking grade going up 17 points also happened to match up great with that positive change. I know many are iffy about PFF so I started doing film review with my own simple stat from what I saw. Was also curious on how both would match up and I'd say over 10 weeks of doing it they matched up great. His efficiency took a minor dip due to sacks given up as he gave up 4 over the final 6 weeks. Both tackles had a tough job blocking for Young due to his deep 10+ yard drop backs, but Ekwonu in particular due to being the blind side and Young not seeing them to avoid them. While he got rightfully charged and blamed for a number of sacks and QB hits this year, Young made that job extremely difficult due to dropping so deep. It allowed speed rushers to take a wider angle than one normally could and in most scenarios where they'd just wash out behind the QB, against Carolina it was right into Young since he'd also never step up. These types of plays led to a huge amount of hate towards Ekwonu during the season by fans, though I'm not sure all or many realized just how deep Young was dropping back. Unfortunately Ekwonu is gonna have to find a way to help protect better against that next year unless the coaching staff can find a way so Young doesn't have to drop back 10-12 yards every time. Outside of suffering to speed rushers out wide in those scenarios, Ekwonus biggest issues came with mental mishaps or communication issues with the rotating set of guards next to him. In regards to his run blocking, just like year 1 it was great. He helped lead the way for Hubbard and some very successful outside zone runs the last 6 weeks of the season once Brown finally utilized his athletic tackles in the run game.
In regards to Ekwonus year 1 to year 2 progress there was definitely a lot made despite what many believe. Last year he ranked 41st overall among all tackles and this year he came in at 33rd. But what's most impressive about that is he went from blocking in one of the easiest schemes last year with some of the most help and some of the least amount of high pressure pass blocking snaps. To this year where Ekwonu and Moton led all tackles in blocking on an island and most high pressure pass blocking snaps in the NFL along with a QB that made their lives even harder. So despite a huge jump in difficulty of blocking he responded with a higher overall end of year ranking. That's success in my books. I really wanna see him clean up his mental mishaps and penalties next year over the course of the whole season. That alone would probably place him in the top 20 tackles.
- 65.7 Run / 46.6 Pass VS 67.0 Run / 56.8 Pass
- 96.8 Eff VS 97.8 Eff
- 21 Losses VS 18 Losses
- 23rd Ranked VS 14th Ranked
- 20th Overall for Centers for the Year
Ekwonu was my long one as he's a developing young player and probably the most controversial starter on the line, this will be quicker. Unlike Ekwonu, every single facet of the game improved for Bozeman. He saw a 10 point jump in his pass blocking grade and went from 5.25 to 3 lost pass snaps a game. There were clear communication breakdowns that led to some ugly sacks but it's hard to prevent that when he had to play with 9 different guards over the season. Most of which were horrible. The running game was much weaker up the middle this year but I think a lot of it had to do with the guards. Less so on Bozeman. He's not great, he's consistent and steady. Not creating a dire need, but definitely a spot that can use upgrading when the chance comes along.
- 64.1 Run / 72.0 Pass VS 65.6 Run / 86.4 Pass
- 96.3 Eff VS 98.3 Eff
- 23 Losses VS 9 Losses
- 28th Ranked VS 6th Ranked
- 17th Overall for Tackles for the Year
This guy had me sweating early in the year before Reich left. I know PFF gave him a good pass blocking grade early on but as you can see I also gave him the most lost pass snaps of the 3 pre Brown. But post Brown he immediately morphed back into the tackle of old that I remembered. He was nothing short of elite his last 6 games averaging only 1.5 lost pass snaps a game. The guys speed off the snap into his stance is just unreal. I was particularly impressed with his run blocking on the outside zone stuff Brown started calling. Moton's never been known as a great run blocker, but those last 6 weeks he was very good at that stuff. As always, he was this lines best blocker.
- ESPN Pass Block Win Rate: 23rd
- ESPN Run Block Win Rate: 30th
- PFF Pass Blocking: 27th
- PFF Run Blocking: 28th
In terms of end of year rankings, it wasn't great for the line. But the final 6 weeks was very encouraging going forward. The crutch of the line all year was having 2 of the worst or close to worst starting guards which brought down the entire line in both phases. With both Christensen and Corbett going into the final years of their contract and coming off multiple season ending injuries, I'm personally hoping for a highly drafted interior lineman in the 2nd or 3rd round this year. Their 4th rounder Zavala was beyond awful before his injury, their 6th rounder Mays from the year before is a very good run blocker but bad pass blocker and Jensen their UDFA this year was bad at both as a rookie. Not a great outlook for those spots. When Brown stopped forcing his RBs behind bad interior guards, stopped playing Sanders for Hubbard and opted for a more McVay style outside zone run game. Utilizing Hubbards speed and his athletic tackles, it was actually good. More and more teams seem to be moving towards the outside zone run scheme with speed at the running back spot unless they have a true top tier elite RB. I think this is because coaches are realizing it's a lot easier to find explosive electric athletes at running back who can highly excel on outside zone if you have athletic enough tackles and TEs vs trying to draft a do it all elite RB high in the draft. I'm personally a fan of this philosophy as it tends to lead to more explosive plays and you can get RBs who can do that anywhere in the draft.
Now onto my final criticism, the QB. Without a doubt Bryce Young made everybody's job on that line harder. According to PFF, Bryce Young had the 8th most amount of pressures created due to his own incompetence. Whether it be holding onto the ball too long or poor pocket movement creating pressure by being somewhere he shouldn't be. He had a very bad habit of never stepping up into a clean pocket, likely due to his height and just completely bailing the pocket when all it took was a step up or side step. This was extremely evident when he'd take a snap from shotgun 5 yards deep and then take another 5 step drop to end up 10-12 yards deep. This gave edge rushers a really easy path to the QB. He made this worse by almost never stepping up into a pocket when it was clean after he dropped back. You'd just see a giant dead empty space of grass before he gets hit or started bailing outside. According to them he was also 3rd in amount of sacks that they deemed were strictly his fault. Bryce was notoriously bad at picking up a free blitzer. I know this sounds like shitting on Bryce but this was just the cold hard truth about him. I wish him the best of luck and hope to see a Goff level turn around this upcoming season for us fans sake.
So what did you guys think?