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LeSean McCoy’s “Pass-Pro” ratings…

Here’s LeSean McCoy getting beat on a pass protection assignment as he tries to pass-block New England linebacker Pierre Woods, during first half action at Lincoln Financial Stadium in Philadelphia back on August 13, 2009 (pre-season game)….but thankfully, according to latest anlysis by Pro Football Focus, McCoy has improved greatly in this category since then…

Give credit to Pro Football Focus…. they have isolated stats on pass-pro by running backs in the NFL…

That’s a big deal to a layman fan like me…

Running backs. They break tackles. They juke defenders out of their shoes. They push the pile. They catch the ball…

Sometimes, though, as NFL writer Khaled Elsayed says, what they do doesn’t leave a mark. Sure, there’ll be the odd bone-jarring hit that makes those highlight reels, but more often than not, there’s an element of back play that gets lost in the chatter:

Blitz pick up. And pass-protecton assignments…

How efficient have the backs around the league been when left in to pass-protect ?

We’ll begin with which backs are staying in the most often. Giants fans will probably expect Ahmad Bradshaw to feature prominently in this argument… and rightly so, given the ferocity with which he attacks rushers. No back stayed in as much as Bradshaw, who was kept in on 36.72% of the passing plays he blocked on… It meant he had one more block than Darren McFadden, and two more than Cadillac Williams (the Bucs apparently didn’t trust LeGarrette Blount to stay in)…
Here’s a list of the 15 backs who stayed in to pass protect on the most plays (note: chip blocks aren’t counted as pass blocks):

Pass Blocking Snaps, Running Backs, Top 15, 2010:

Rank Name Team Pass Blocking Snaps
1 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 159
2 Darren McFadden OAK 158
3 Cadillac Williams TB 157
4 Matt Forte CHI 140
5 Ronnie Brown MIA 135
6 Ray Rice BLT 132
7 Fred Jackson BUF 132
8 LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ 126
9 Justin Forsett SEA 124
10 LeSean McCoy PHI 122
11 Brandon Jackson GB 121
12 Peyton Hillis CLV 121
13 Arian Foster HST 120
14 Tim Hightower ARZ 119
15 Jason Snelling ATL 111

As you can see, McCoy is being asked to do a lot more than running and catching the football. But that’s the NFL game— you need to be competent in more than one or two disciplines in order to excel.

The biggest question by far about Eagles RB LeSean McCoy in 2009 was his ability to handle pass protection. He rarely was asked to do it in college at Pitt, whose coaches taught a cut-block technique that the Eagles do not coach their backs to use. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg implored McCoy to work on pass protection over the 2010 offseason, and the work appears to have paid off. McCoy looked markedly improved in this area through the 2010 season… and his added muscle bulk from the offseason also helped a lot (as our own GK Brizer had advised he should accomplish by “hitting the weights”)… McCoy can now better stand up to power rushers, who previously had success bulldozing him in his limited chances on third downs as a rookie. The coaches simply did not trust him in that capacity in 2009, and the team offense suffered after Brian Westbrook, who had excelled in that area, was lost for most of the stretch run.

I find it fascinating that we now have stat-keepers who track the number of times a running back has to pass-protect in a game…and actually record his success-rate.

Here are the top 15 NFL running back pass-pro guys based on “Pass Blocking Efficiency“….

Pass Blocking Efficiency, Running Backs, Top 15, 2010:

Rank Name Team Pass Blocking Snaps Pressures PBE
1 Quinn Johnson GB 63 0 0.00
2 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 159 3 1.42
3 Brandon Jackson GB 121 3 2.07
4 Justin Forsett SEA 124 4 2.42
5 Matt Forte CHI 140 5 2.68
6 Peyton Hillis CLV 121 4 2.69
7 John Kuhn GB 107 4 2.80
8 Fred Jackson BUF 132 5 2.84
9 Felix Jones DAL 107 4 3.04
10 Cedric Benson CIN 68 3 3.31
11 Darren McFadden OAK 158 8 3.80
12 Maurice Jones-Drew JAX 79 4 3.80
13 Ronnie Brown MIA 135 7 3.89
14 Jason Snelling ATL 111 6 4.05
15 Darren Sproles SD 65 3 4.23

Maybe it’s not fair to McCoy to be judged against the above list, considering that many of his pass-pro assignments occur with Michael Vick at QB in the pocket…and Vick prematurely running out of it. Let’s face it, Vick with a slow-read trigger in the pocket is a pass-pro pressure waiting to happen. Of course, McCoy could not be held accountable for a “pressure” on Vick if Starship 7 lingers too long on a read and then decides to high-tail it out of Dodge… but statisticaly, McCoy will be charged with a “pressure”… And that kind of statistical interpretation definitely skews the ratings.

So I won’t overreact to McCoy’s not being included in Pro Football Focus’  top Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) group for 2010… But knowing what we know about McCoy’s overall improvement as a pass-blocker in 2010… and about Mike Vick’s “escapability effect” on the PBE ratings…. I’d have to say the Eagles are pretty satisfied with the pass-pro improvement made by a bigger and wiser Shady McCoy in 2010-2011…

And understanding a little more about a running back’s role in pass-pro, maybe some of us layman posters should lay off the acid-tongue criticism of the Eagles’ offensive line… Obviously, successful pass-pro has a lot more variables to account for than just the OL…