The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line was bad in 2009 – a statement most people would agree with. It’s the reason the Packers are potentially looking for new starters at several positions this offseason.
That statement doesn’t tell the full story, though.
The Packers’ offensive line was raked over the coals largely because they gave up a league-leading 51 sacks in 2009, one more than the second worst pass protecting unit in football, the Pittsburgh Steelers’.
The running game was a different story, though. Although they weren’t world beaters, the Packers’ offensive line fared fairly well when they ran the ball.
Green Bay ranked eighth in the league in Football Outsiders’ run blocking rankings, which are based on a fairly complex formula where teams are ranked by adjusted line yards. The Packers’ unit trailed, from first to seventh, the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles.
The rankings reflect how well the offensive line did their job in the running game by focusing heavily on negative yardage and short yardage runs. The thinking is, when someone like Chris Johnson breaks into the secondary and runs 80 yards, the offensive line isn’t doing much after creating the initial hole. Looking at the negative and short gains shows where the line is or isn’t doing their job.
If you look at where each of the above mentioned teams ranked in total rushing yards in 2009, you’ll see a different story. Miami was fourth, New Orleans was sixth, Dallas was seventh, Baltimore was fifth, New England was 12th, Denver was 18th, Philadelphia was 22nd and Green Bay was 14th. Essentially, Denver and Philadelphia ranked lower because they had shitty running backs rather than shitty offensive lines.
The Packers had a decent running back and a decent run blocking offensive line.
What the Packers didn’t have is a decent pass blocking offensive line. They ranked 30th in Football Outsiders’ pass blocking rankings. Only Tampa Bay and San Francisco were lower.
The reason the Packers weren’t last is because they threw the ball far more than the Buccaneers and 49ers, giving them a lower adjusted sack rate percentage.
But then, we already knew the Packers haven’t been able to protect their most valued commodity in the two years he’s started at quarterback, something that may ultimately prove costly. What is surprising is the Packers’ offensive linemen are fairly decent in the running game.
Unfortunately, a unit that does half of their duties at a high level isn’t going to get it done.