Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Look At the Offense--The Line

I'll be honest--as I was thinking about the performance of this year's offense, I was fully prepared to place a lot of blame on the offensive line. After watching all the penalties, the lines inability to protect the quarterback and the Vikings' average rushing game, I thought the unit was mediocre at best, and possibly as bad as the one from last year, despite the additions of Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk.

Before I started typing however, I went searching for some numerical backing. And I'm thankful I did, because I was dead wrong. The offensive line was not the problem this year. In fact, the offensive line was the only aspect of the unit that improved from last year, according to the stats used by Football Outsiders and Cold, Hard Football Facts. Both sites use different measures, but both agree--the 2005 Vikings had one of the worst offensive lines in the league (31st according to FO, 30th according to CHFF) while the 2006 line was above average (14th according to FO, 11th according to CHFF). Clearly, the talent infusion worked well enough (at least on the left side) to vastly improve the performance of the offensive line.

That does not, however, mean that the line does not need to be upgraded this off season, or that it should not be a priority. The penalties are still an issue, and a sign of a line that is either undisciplined or not talented enough or both. Nor did my eyes deceive me--the stats also say the Vikings' line was awful at protecting the QB. And last time I checked, inexperienced quarterbacks do not mix well with continuous pressure. So while the offensive line was not the black hole of suck that I thought it was, if the Vikings want to improve their offense, one of the their goals for this off season should be to continue upgrading the offensive line, particularly on the right side and focusing on linemen that can protect the Tarvaris Revolution.


cheswick said...

one thing that will certainly help the protection numbers is the relative hyper-mobility of tavaris compared to brad the statue. Once tavaris is THE full-time starter, I think we'll see far fewer sacks and linemen not having to sustain their blocks for so long. (which maybe means fewer penalties too).

Do you think it will make a difference now that the the O-line has played a season under the new coaching regime? It always seems to take players time to adjust to new coaches and philosophies.

Plus there's the fact that now they've played a full season together. And that has to be critical for linemen - continuity.

I expect big things from the vike's line next year. They weren't all that bad this year despite some killer penalties.

Remember that old saying, "good teams don't have bad o-lines and bad teams don't have good o-lines"? That should lend some optimism for the 2007 season!

TBird41 said...

I think Ryan Cook is going to be the key to the line next year. Last year, none of the linemen had worked with each other. This year, if Cook can win a starting spot on the right side, they'll have at most one new guy. If they feel it necessary to bring in two new guys on the right side, then that familiarity might not be there.

Personally, I'd love to see the line go McKinnie-Hutch-Birk-Joe Thomas?-Cook

If the Vikings can swing that, combined with Tarvaris' mobility, the team should be a lot better offensively. And you're definately right about lineplay--9 of the top 12 on CHFF's o-line rankings made the playoffs.

twins15 said...

I'm really anxious to see what happens with the right side of the Line... Hicks wasn't all that great, but he's one of Childress' guys. As for RT, is it Ryan Cook? Does Marcus Johnson get another chance? Free agency? Should be interesting.