Incorporating analytics into football conversation isn’t easy.
Especially when it comes to the Chicago Bears. And particularly in recent years, when the numbers and the eye test were showing bad things when it came to Chicago football. But it’s not *ALL* bleak. In fact, ESPN is the source of a rare bit of optimism when it comes to diagnosing what’s up with the Bears’ offensive line.
ESPN Analytics churns out win rates for blockers in the run and pass game. And through two games, the Bears are looking GOOD from a pass-protection point of view:
- Cody Whitehair has the best pass block win rate for guards. His 100% success rate is tied with Justin Pugh, Zack Martin, Landon Dickerson, and James Daniels (I remember him!).
- Sam Mustipher‘s 100% pass block win rate at center is tied with Will Clapp, David Andrews, and Justin Britt as best in the league.
- Not to be out-done, the tackles are also putting in work. Braxton Jones has the 5th best pass-blocking win rate as a tackle (96%).
- Larry Borom checks in tied with Jones (as well as Taylor Lean, Lane Johnson, and Terron Armstead) with a 96% pass block win rate.
That’s four of the Bears’ five starting linemen getting high marks for their pursuit of pass-blocking excellence. Way to go, gang!
This isn’t the first time ESPN has shared an optimistic appraisal of the Bears’ offensive line situation. And I hope it isn’t the last time, either. It sure would be nice to see this group build and finish the year with same positive vibes that it has going for it right now.
On the other hand, PFF doesn’t see it things as going well for Chicago’s pass-blockers right now. For instance, Jones ranks 44th of 66 offensive tackles in pass-blocking grade. Borom isn’t that much better, checking in at 36th. Whitehair grades out as 49th among the 67 guards. Meanwhile, Mustipher is 26th (of 35 qualifying centers) in that category. In other words, each of these linemen who ESPN grades as a top-10 blocker in their position groups gets bottom-half-of-the-league rankings from PFF. How, Sway? Do you have the answers, Sway!? You don’t have the answers, Sway!
The year is 2022.
We have the technology to put a man on the moon, but have yet to find a catch-all metric everyone can agree on when it comes to grading offensive linemen. Go figure.
In the end, all of this serves as a reminder that grading offensive line play is like putting a number value on art. There is a lot to take into consideration, but there isn’t a single, formulaic catch-all to perfectly evaluate offensive linemen. For now, the best we can do is consider the thoughts, opinions, perspectives, and grades from the outside. Then, we can blend it with our own evaluative metrics. Ultimately, we hope to spit out what we think is a fair assessment of things. It isn’t perfect, but it’ll due for the time being.