As part of the release of the Football Outsiders 2014 Almanac FO's Scott Kacsmar has graciously answered a series of questions from Big Blue View about the New York Giants. We are posting the questions and answers one at a time. The first post in our series was a look at Eli Manning and the 70 percent completion percentage goal.
Today we turn our attention to expectations for another key member of the Giants offense -- left tackle Will Beatty. The 2013 season was an unexpectedly awful one for Beatty, who compounded the misfortune by breaking his leg in the Giants season finale. Here is our question about Beatty, along with Kacsmar's answer. As you will see, the question assumes Geoff Schwartz plays next to Beatty. I believe the answer has validity even if Schwartz moves to the opposite side and Weston Richburg slides in next to Beatty.
How much of Will Beatty's poor performance in 2013 can be pinned on the shuffling of players at left guard and the resulting bad play there? How much will he be helped by having Geoff Schwartz next to him?
Kacsmar: These are great questions to analyze, but I first think we have to take a more general approach. We tend to view the offensive line as a unit, but some players still stand out more (for better or worse) than others. Does having a better player next to you really make your job easier or not? Beatty still had to block DeMarcus Ware and various other pass rushers.
Mike Pouncey (Dolphins) was one of the best centers in the league last year, but he had poor play all around him on the offensive line. Not only was Richie Incognito a piece of trash off the field, but he played like one too at left guard. Still, Pouncey was consistent despite what was around him.
Maybe it's easier for centers since they're insulated by two guards. Tackles, unless they have a tight end helping, are pretty exposed on the edges, which is why they're the most valuable players on the line. Geoff Schwartz had a very good year at right guard for the Chiefs. He ranked as fourth-best at his position in blown blocks per snap in 2013. Did Schwartz make rookie Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick, a better right tackle? No, Fisher was one of the worst right tackles in the league according to our game charting metrics for linemen. Now Schwartz will be next to Beatty at left guard, but I'm not sure that guarantees a big improvement. Schwartz has one season in his career where he started more than seven games, and that was for one of the worst offenses in recent years (2010 Panthers).
Beatty should improve in 2014 if only because he can't play much worse than last year when he led all linemen in blown blocks for sacks (11.3). In 2013, Beatty had 35 blown blocks (averaged one per 28.8 snaps). In 2012, Beatty had 19 blown blocks (averaged one per 50.1 snaps). How much of that decline can be attributed to the changes next to him?
Our current methods of tabulating blown blocks, which include shared blame when applicable, only go back to 2012. We'll need a lot more data to start drawing confident conclusions, but I'm not quick to say last year's performance was all about what was around Beatty. His track record isn't established enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. Similarly, I don't think we've seen enough from Schwartz (seven starts in 2013 after none in 2011-12) to guarantee he's the answer at left guard, let alone a fix for the left tackle.