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Understanding the Context of Anthony Collins' Success for the Cincinnati Bengals

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Understanding the Context of Anthony Collins' Success for the Cincinnati Bengals
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed former Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Anthony Collins to a five-year, $30 million contract.

Collins was the sixth offensive lineman for Marvin Lewis' Bengals, but he played extensively in 2013. He impressed the Buccaneers enough to not only earn that big contract, but to also be handed the starting spot after the release of former starter Donald Penn.

At 28 years of age, Collins isn't a young player. He is still a relative unknown because he hasn't started more than seven games in a season, and he has never played outside of Cincinnati. That didn't stop him from becoming one of the most celebrated free agents of the offseason.

It can't be denied that Collins was effective for the Bengals last season. However, there are question marks over how effective he actually was.

Jay Gruden, the current Washington head coach and former Bengals offensive coordinator, established an offensive approach in Cincinnati that was very left-tackle-friendly.

Quarterback Andy Dalton was obviously encouraged to get rid of the ball quickly, while there was also a commitment to running the ball. The Bengals ranked in the top 10 in rushing attempts during the 2013 regular season. Furthermore, Gruden was willing to use Dalton's athleticism and his own creativity on aggressive play fakes.

During the games that Collins started, this was very prevalent.

 

Quick Throws

Even though Dalton isn't an exceptionally impressive quarterback, his most positive traits do help his offensive line. He also hurts his line with his movement at times, but that's another story. Dalton's quick release and quick decision making allowed him to be very effective last year.

NFL.com

On this play, Julius Peppers attacks Collins' outside shoulder at the snap. Collins gets back in his stance impressively, but he allows Peppers to knock him completely out of the play with one swing of his arm. Peppers creates a clean path to the quarterback, and he did it very quickly.

Dalton's quick decision and release saves his offensive tackle's blushes.

NFL.com

Sometimes Dalton gets himself in trouble with his movement, but more often than not he helped Collins because he tends to run into the right flat instead of the left. On this play, Collins does just enough to slow down Jarvis Jones of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the linebacker overruns him eventually.

NFL.com

Against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9, Collins was very quickly pushed back into his quarterback. He was eventually able to plant his back foot and withstand the push, but only once the defensive end shifted the point of attack to react to Dalton stepping up in the pocket.

 

Help from Teammates

The value of giving a left tackle a big contract is that you can leave him alone with the opposition's edge-rusher to that side. The very best left tackles can contain the very best pass-rushers without any help. Collins isn't expected to be one of the very best left tackles, but he will likely be expected to contain pass-rushers without much help.

NFL.com

On this play, Collins gets very obvious help from tight end Jermaine Gresham. Gresham doesn't just chip the defensive end; he squares him off before breaking into the flat. Collins has barely touched the pass-rusher before the ball is already released. 

NFL.com

Much like on the previous play against Peppers that was detailed in the Quick Throws section, the defensive end gets inside of Collins again. This time left guard Andrew Whitworth is able to recover position to slow him down before he gets to Dalton.

 

Play Action

Because the Bengals played with good balance last season and because the design and execution of their offense was generally very impressive, they were a very effective play-action team. Their hard play actions that sent Dalton into the flat were particularly effective when neutralizing the initial pass rush.

NFL.com

On this play, Dalton runs a quick play action, but he continues into the opposing flat so Collins and his assignment is completely out of the play.

NFL.com

When the Bengals ran play action to the other side, Collins had essentially nothing to do. However, because of the creativity of the design, there were times when he had to do very little even when Dalton escaped to the left side.

From the left tackle position, Collins is able to block down inside while another offensive lineman pulls to the outside. This is a very simple assignment for any NFL left tackle.

 

Season Totals

Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Approach
Game Quick Throw/Scramble Teammate Help Hard Play Action Pas Blocking Plays
Week 1 7 6 5 36
Week 9 16 10 2 60
Week 13 8 6 2 24
Week 14 13 9 7 43
Week 15 23 4 2 49
Week 16 19 7 5 42
Week 17 23 5 1 38
Wild Card 18 17 4 59
Total 127 64 28 351

Analytical Analysis Through NFL.com

The above chart is a breakdown of the games that Collins started. The final column includes all pass plays, but the first three don't include plays when Collins was a screen blocker or when the Bengals' offensive line was run blocking but the play was officially listed as a pass.

For example, plays when Dalton pitched the ball to a receiver behind the line of scrimmage.

There are 219 total quick plays, help plays and play-action plays on the above chart. Not included in those plays are any plays that were negatively affected by Collins' poor play. That doesn't mean that Collins blocked poorly on each of those snaps, but it does mean that he wasn't left alone in space against a pass rusher on 62.3 percent of his pass-blocking snaps.

Of the remaining plays, 76 were deemed as successful.

That means 21.6 percent of his total snaps were successful in one-on-one situations without significant help from the offense. It also means that he was successful on 57.6 percent of his total one-on-one situations.

When Collins wasn't helped by a quick pass or a teammate, he was negatively affecting nearly one in every three plays.

 

Now that Collins is not playing in Gruden's offense anymore, his skill set comes into focus. The Buccaneers have brought in Josh McCown to be their starting quarterback. That suggests that they will feature more quick throws, but that kind of offense wouldn't play to the strengths of either Mike Williams or Vincent Jackson.

If Collins does have to carry out a more taxing role, he will need to be much more consistent.

He is not an incredible physical specimen, but he does have impressive arm strength, and he plays with good reach. He has the speed to run to space on screen plays or move around to pick up blocks. However, his feet are slow and his overall technique is inconsistent.

When Collins plays with good technique, he can be very effective in space. He needs to engage the defender quickly so he can use his strength to direct him away from the quarterback. Speed rushers don't excel against him because he is smart in how he pushes them past his quarterback, but he does have a tendency to drop his head and lose his balance, which is discouraging.

Collins struggles to adjust when defenders use their hands well or hesitate to make him reset his feet.

What he lacks physically and in his consistency, he makes up for mentally. Collins is very good at handling stunts, and he picks up blitzes with ease on a regular basis. His awareness on the whole when not engaged with an edge defender is his most appealing attribute.

Pass blocking is where left tackles make their money, and it's definitely where Collins made his. He is not an impressive run-blocker. He needs to be given simple assignments to be consistently effective. He cannot be used in a variety of ways like a Joe Staley or Jason Peters because of his physical limitations. When he is used on screen plays, he locates defenders well but doesn't always push them out of plays.

In spite of his reputation, Collins doesn't appear to be a quality starting left tackle.

Much like with the McCown signing, the Buccaneers appeared to ignore all context surrounding the player's performance and have ultimately overpaid for someone who won't be a top 20 starter at his position in the NFL.

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