It's one of the puzzles of football.
How do you tell when an offensive lineman is doing well?
After all, you know when he is doing poorly. A defensive player beats him for a sack or shoots his gap to blow up the ball carrier. But, isn't it just as important to tell the big guys up front when they are doing well?
Last December, New York Life partnered with STATS, Inc. to create the New York Life Protection Index, an innovative weekly rating index that measures how ell each NFL team's offensive line protects its quarterback.
The Index factors passing attempts and yards (not including yards gained after the catch), sacks, quarterback knockdowns and hurries, as well as holding and false start penalties to rank each team's offensive line on a 0-100 scale.
For more information, go to www.newyorklife.com/protectionindex and bookmark this link.
The Protection Index also has begun to measure the success of recently drafted offensive lineman and how they have impacted their respective teams.
Enter the involvement of one the 2011 NFL Draft's top quarterbacks, Ponder, a three-year starter at Florida State University and the MVP of the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl where he lead the South to a win over the heavily favored North (come back to Bleacher Report for my upcoming exclusive one-on-one chat with Ponder).
“It’s a pretty cool tool to have and I want to bring awareness to it," Ponder said. "There’s a direct correlation showing that the teams with the higher index ratings are going to more likely be in the playoffs and maybe make the Super Bowl."
The top two Index rated teams from last season, the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints did make the playoffs. What about the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers? They finished 14th with a ranking of 65.3.
The strength of the Index is revealed with a closer look. Rookie offense tackle Bryan Bulaga was the last of the first round offensive linemen taken in 2010. However, he improved his team's protection index rating by 13.9 points.
Now, you might notice that Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey who had by all accounts a successful initial year, actually decreased his team's rating by 3 points. But, Pouncey compares quite favorably to the other centers and guards drafted in the first round during the last four years.
A highly cerebral quarterback like Ponder will use every advantage at his disposal.
"Obviously, I want to know that information," he said. "It helps me be successful. When an offensive lineman is doing well, I can throw the ball downfield, make my reads, and have all that time in the pocket."
It also should help a quarterback's relationship with his most important teammates.
"Definitely, (I plan on using it in the future)," Ponder said. "It’s good information to have and relay to the offensive line. I don’t know when their rating is negative that you want to bring it up to them. But, you want them to know that when they are all are doing well, that I am doing well. A lot of my success has to do with their success and now you have real time information to see how well offensive linemen are doing."