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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

OLR Week 12: Standing On The Shoulders...

Another superb week from the Giants offensive line. As we take our weekly dive into The Pulling Linemen's exclusive Offensive Line Rating ("OLR") statistic, the Giants emerge as the cream of the crop once again, playing a huge role in their surprising domination of the Green Bay Packers in week 12, and cementing their position as the best OL in the NFL in 2012.

Just below NYG in week 12, however, is a unit we haven't seen mentioned amongst the best for quite some weeks, mostly because they've been shocking.

So shocking in fact, they were bottom of the NFL in week 11...

In one of the biggest surprises of week 12, the Giants decimated the Packers 38-10 on Sunday Night Football, racking up 5 offensive TDs, 2 on the ground, against what is one of the most explosive defenses in the NFL. Of course, the Pack were missing a number of key pieces for the game, with Clay Matthews missing his second game in 2 weeks and Charles Woodson still suffering from the collarbone injury he picked up in week 7, but don't let that take away from the NYG performance. They carried the ball 31 times for 147 yards, splitting carries between their 2 main RBs Andre Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw. That was until Brown broke his fibula, which will keep him out until at least the Superbowl after being placed on the IR with designation to return, but maybe longer if surgery is required. Both RBs proved effective rushers on the night, putting up 112 yards on 23 carries between them, finding the endzone once each for the Giants' 2 rushing scores.

Browns injury will no doubt hurt the NYG run game going forward, as will the injury suffered by starting RT Dave Diehl. He left the SNF encounter in the 2nd quarter with what was described as a "burner", sometimes also called a "stinger" which basically constitutes nerve damage to the shoulder/neck area. Depending on the severity of the injury, the burner can cause intense pain in the region as well as loss of arm function, but Giants HC Tom Coughlin is hopeful Diehl can play through the pain next week, suggesting the injury isn't as severe as it could have been. Backup OT Sean Locklear stepped in to finish the game for Diehl, and performed pretty well himself, so perhaps if Diehl does need some extra time to recuperate there won't be a huge drop off.

In the passing game, the Giants were just as solid, particularly on the OL. Against a D that is currently 3rd in the NFL with 37 total sacks, they allowed just 1 all night to UDFA rookie OLB Dezmon Moses, and Eli Manning was taken down only twice. His time in the pocket helped the Giants passing O to put up 3 TDs of their own, with standout pair Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz getting back on the wagon with a score each, the 3rd grab going to rookie Reuben Randle.

With this top performance, the Giants have cemented their place as the best OL in the NFL in 2012 so far. Not only are they out in front, they've got a formidable lead, with no other teams posting an average above 0.150, let alone the 0.343 that they've racked up. With just 5 regular season games to go, the Giants lead might be unassailable, but when you look at their remaining fixtures (@WAS, vs NO, @ATL, @BAL, vs PHI) they'll certainly have their work cut out.

The team that came up 2nd in week 12, however, recorded just as surprising a win, and a much more surprising OLR score.

Since week 4 the Miami Dolphins offensive line has sucked. They haven't recorded an OLR score above zero based on defensive adjustments, a far cry from their 4th place in week 2, and 2nd place in week 3. Their terrible play hit rock bottom in week 11, where they finished bottom of the league with a drain-circling score of -1.152.

What a turnaround.

In week 12, the Miami Dolphins pulled out a 24-21 4th Q comeback upset win over the Seattle Seahawks, and the offensive line finally showed up again. Against what has been a great defensive front 7 in 2012 (currently ranked 10th in the NFL by our calculations), the Dolphins put up 189 yards on 28 carries, an average of 6.75 YPC, with a rushing TD each from Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. They only let the Seahawks get to Ryan Tannehill once in the game also, with Chris Clemons recording the only sack of the rookie passer on a unit that has boasted 29 sacks so far this year (9th in the league). Even more impressive when you take into account the length of time Tannehill held onto the ball - up to 3.5 seconds on some downs before firing off the pass. Of course, Tannehills mobility helped on the front, able to step up into and roll out of the pocket to evade the pass rush, but without a stout performance from the OL even this would've been impossible.

Whilst the Dolphins still languish way down in the OLR rankings for the season so far, it's clear from this performance, and from their early season form, that this unit has potential. With a standout OT like Jake Long, an up-and-coming star at C in Mike Pouncey, and a road-grading thug at OG in Richie Incognito, the future of this offense is really in their hands first, and their rookie signal callers second.

- Phil Gaskin (@sosayitisaid)
- The Pulling Linemen

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