Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Assessing the Pass Protection Efficiency of the Tackles

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Assessing the Pass Protection Efficiency of the Tackles
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Uh oh.

Looks like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have yet another problem on their hands. 

In a survey of the NFL's best/worst pass protectors of the last three years, ProFootballFocus found that both of Tampa Bay's starting offensive tackles are among the 15 least efficient in the league.

The following table is lifted from the PFF page. It has been cut down to only show how the Bucs rank on the list of the least efficient tackles of the last three years.

Rank

Player Team Pass Protects Sacks Hits Hurries Total Pressure PBE
4  Jeremy Trueblood TB 1465 14 20 109 143 92.44
13  Donald Penn TB 1784 20 23 97 140 93.83

The "Pass Blocking Efficiency" statistic "shows which players are giving up the most (and least) pressure relative to how much they’re on the field in pass-blocking situations, factoring in the nature of the pressure as well."

So what does this mean?

Basically, the Bucs aren't too sharp when it comes to protecting the quarterback.

Is Donald Penn a Top Ten Left Tackle?

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That much is obvious, but I have some big questions about the what the metric says about the players themselves.

From Jeremy Trueblood, who is almost universally acknowledged as a mediocre right tackle, I expected a poor score. He was benched in 2010 because of his terrible play, and starts only because the the Bucs lack of a better option.

Donald Penn, however, is widely seen as a top 10 left tackle. NFL players voted him into the Top 100 Players of 2012, so it is apparent that the men actual involved in the game respect him for his skills.

So are the numbers misleading, or is popular opinion incorrect?

This article, posted on BucsNation, believes it's the former. 

It appears only three NFL tackles were asked to pass block more frequently than Penn, and that naturally will expose him to more failures. When Pro Football Focus took the amount of snaps into account, Penn came out as the 13th worst tackle—which is significantly better, but still not great. Another fact that doesn't help Penn: they treat right tackles and left tackles identically, while left tackles often face much better pass rushers. 

I believe that that explanation is incorrect. 

The statistic relies on efficiency; so while Penn did play more, he still let up more pressure per snap than most other NFL tackles. 

Ranking left and right tackles equally should, in theory, hurt the left tackle when we look at metrics. But in this case, it does not. The top two PBE scores were both awarded to left tackles. If anything, left tackles did better.

Also, Penn still was in the bottom 15. In any given week, NFL teams start 64 offensive tackles. Over three years, imagine how many tackles have recorded 1000+ pass plays.

And Penn was in the bottom 13.

For shame.

I believe that Penn did poorly because of Jeremy Trueblood. With a weak spot on the right side, opposing teams could stack the left, forcing Penn into difficult matchups and double teams. Penn would do his best on each snap, but ultimately he was doomed.

While Jeremy Trueblood should be replaced, we should not judge Penn until he gets to play opposite a competent offensive tackle.

Actually, his numbers might in fact be quite good, considering the situation.

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