RGIII is vastly outperforming his offensive line

December 5, 2012

It’s hard for numbers to capture the sheer excitement that Robert Griffin III brings to Washington football. Although it seems that his performance already has been sliced and diced in every possible way, there’s one more dimension of Griffin’s play that has gone overlooked in the Redskins’ recent three-game run: He is drastically outperforming his offensive line.

I’ve written before about measuring production using Expected Points Added (EPA). It’s a measure of net point productivity that accounts for down, distance and field position. It captures almost everything about a play, including runs, passes, turnovers and even penalties. Offensive line production can be measured with EPA too, but only indirectly.

If we define the offensive line’s job as preventing opposing front-seven defenders from making plays—tackles for short gains, sacks, hits to the quarterback that cause errant passes—we can tally offensive line EPA by counting setbacks caused by the defensive front seven. (The exception is linebacker play while in pass coverage.) I’ve named this stat “–EPA” because it counts only setbacks to the offense.

Despite the Redskins’ recent surge, their offensive line is not performing well this season. It is 28th in the league in –EPA after twelve games, accounting for about -22 net points for the team this season. That’s almost -2 net points per game. Only Chicago, Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia have lower –EPAs.

Despite his line’s performance, Griffin has been able to produce consistently, ranking third overall with 120 EPA this season. That’s 10 net points per game. Only Tom Brady and Matt Ryan currently have more total production. The distinction of ‘net’ points versus absolute points is important. It means that however many points a typical opponent is able to generate in a game, Griffin is responsible for 10 more points than that.

The difference between Griffin’s personal rank (3) and the Redskins offensive line’s rank (28) is 25 spots. No other quarterback has a bigger rank difference between his own and his line’s performance. Matt Ryan is a distant second at 21 spots of rank difference.

This suggests two things. First, Griffin’s rookie performance is literally transcendent—it is not bound or limited by the players around him. And second, the offensive line continues to be a weak spot, though Griffin’s mobility and other attributes are masking the problems on the line.

On another note, the Redskins’ playoff chances have now climbed to about 44%, most of which is due to the possibility of winning the division. The Redskins have some favorable tie-breaking advantages and a relatively soft slate of opponents remaining. My numbers have them as at least slight favorites in all four remaining games, including Sunday’s contest against Baltimore, thanks to home field advantage and the Ravens’ mediocre leading indicators. Should the Redskins win this Sunday, their playoff chances would rise to about 54%, pending the results of other games.

Brian Burke is the creator of Advanced NFL Stats, a Web site about football, statistics and game theory.

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Mike Jones · December 5, 2012

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