Regular readers of this site know that we like to cite Pro Football Focus (PFF) metrics when talking about the Packers. I wouldn’t call any of us football sabermaticians, but PFF does some excellent work trying to make football analysis as objective as possible.
Too often, people either treat sites like PFF as the be-all and end-all of analysis, or dismiss their work entirely. I do neither. PFF is another tool in the toolbox as we continue to try and understand this complicated game called football.
Anyway, PFF had a doozy the other day: Marshall Newhouse is rated as the fifth-best pass blocking offensive tackle in the NFL. That’s according to PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency statistic.
I’m not kidding. Marshall Newhouse. The guy who was supposed to be the weak link on the Packers offensive line. The guy who PFF rated as one of the wort tackles in football last season. Yeah, that guy.
Don’t believe me? Check out the story for yourself. In addition to all the rankings, you can see exactly how PFF comes up with its pass-blocking efficiency (PBE) stat (also check out their pass-block rating stat because I’ll be talking about that later on).
Marshall Newhouse? For Real?
I’m not questioning PFF’s work, but my immediate reaction upon hearing that Newhouse has been the fifth-best pass-blocking tackle in the league so far was to snort and laugh a little.
“C’mon,” I thought. “Really? I’m all for using numbers and formulas to try to better understand football, but this is ridiculous. I watch the games. Newhouse can’t be the fifth-best pass-blocking tackle in the league.”
But the more I thought about it, the more my mind opened to the possibility (don’t you wish we heard that sentence more often in today’s political world? I digress…)
Our perceptions often lead to a false reality. We’ve been told over and over again that Newhouse is no good, so we probably assume that he’s just not that good, or at least nowhere near as good as the fifth-best pass-blocking tackle in football.
Since the Packers line has been shaky, and since most casual observers follow the ball and not the offensive line when watching games, it’s easy to assume that a big reason for the line’s struggles is Newhouse. He was supposed to be bad this season, so he must not be playing well if the line is struggling, right?
I didn’t go through and watch each and every snap from this season, but I did do a quick review of some film. I also used the footage that’s stored in my brain (unfortunately, football information takes up a lot of space in my brain, which leaves little space for information that’s actually useful in real life).
My conclusion: Newhouse has been fine. Not shutdown dominant, but more than adequate.
A Closer Look
Let’s go game by game. Actually, before we do that, think back in your head for a minute and ask yourself how many bad games you think Newhouse has had this season.
Done? Ok, now let’s go see how many actual bad games Newhouse has had (at least according to PFF):
- Newhouse allowed one hurry and finished with a 3.0 pass-blocking grade against San Francisco.
- He allowed two sacks against Chicago, but finished with a 0.2 pass-block rating.
- The Seattle game was a complete disaster, one sack, two hurries and a -0.2 pass-block rating.
- Newhouse allowed a single hurry and had a 2.2 rating against the Saints.
- Against the Colts, Newhouse allowed a sack, but finished with a 2.4 rating.
- No sacks, no hits, and no hurries (the o-lineman equivalent of a perfect game) and a 1.5 rating against the Texans.
In case you’re not keeping track, that’s eight pressures in a 263 pass-blocking snaps, a PBE rating of 97.3.
The Other Guys
Turns out, there is a tackle on the Packers line that’s sturggling, but it’s not Newhouse.
I already wrote about Bryan Bulaga’s struggles, and PFF agrees. Bulaga’s 92.6 PBE ranks 48th, near the bottom.
In case you’re wondering, here are the pass-blocking ratings for the rest of the line: T.J. Lang: 1.5; Josh Sitton: 7.5; Jeff Saturday: 2.5; Bulaga: -4.9.
As a team, the Packers have a 20.7 pass-block rating, allowing 19 sacks, nine QB hits and 36 hurries. Of those 36 hurries, Bulaga has allowed more than half (19).
Too Many Numbers! Help!
Now that we’re all drowning in them, what do these numbers tell us?
I think they tell us that when the Packers offensive line goes bad, it falls off a cliff. There’s no in-between. They’re either allowing eight sacks in a half to Seattle and melting down against Indianapolis, or completely stonewalling the Texans and Saints.
The numbers also tell us that if Bulaga rights himself, this line could get real good, real fast (the numbers might also tell us that Rodgers likes to hold onto the ball for a long time).
The Original Question
Getting back to the question asked in the title of this post: Is Marshall Newhouse as Good as his Pro Football Focus Numbers?
I say sure, why not?
He’s not dominant, but how many dominant tackles are there these days? A dominant left tackle has become a luxury, not a necessity. If the quarterback is good and somewhat mobile, he automatically makes the tackles better.
Instead of fretting about Newhouse, maybe it’s time we start raising our expectations of him.
Anybody can string together a few good games in a row like Newhouse has. If Newhouse wants to take the next step, he needs to make these first six games of the season his new norm.
Packers fans aren’t asking for the second coming of Anthony Munoz or Walter Jones. Somewhere in the neighborhood of Chad Clifton would be just fine.——————