Can the Redskins and Robert Griffin III survive and even thrive if Tyler Polumbus ends up playing right tackle instead of the ailing Jammal Brown?
Many Redskins fans and analysts are cringing at the thought of the journeyman lineman taking over a key spot on the offensive line. They fear that Griffin will not get a chance to succeed, as he will spend most of the season running for his life.
But are people saying this because they have really examined what he has done? Or is it because Polumbus was signed off of the street by the Redskins in the middle of last year and they really haven’t heard of him?
Let’s take an objective look at what Polumbus has done on the field the last couple of years and what the offenses of the teams he was playing for were able to do when he was in the lineup at tackle.
Polumbus started three games at right tackle for the Redskins last year and one at left guard. We’re only going to look at his games at tackle here.
He started at right tackle and played every snap against New England at FedEx Field, and at the Giants and Eagles. According to the folks at Pro Football Focus, in those three games he gave up no sacks, three QB hits, and 10 QB hurries. Two of the hits and six of the hurries came against the Eagles, where he was lined up against Jason Babin most of the game.
Earlier in the season, Brown started and played every snap against the Giants and Eagles. He gave up a total of one sack, three hits, and four hurries in those two games, a total of eight pressures. Against those two opponents Polumbus gave up no sacks, three hits and eight hurries, a total of 11 pressures.
How did the Redskins’ offense do when Polumbus played? Let’s take a look, with the caveat that we are dealing with a small sample size of three games.
In the three games with Polumbus at right tackle, the Redskins averaged 141 yards per game rushing; in the other 13 games, they averaged 92. With Polumbus, the Redskins gave up 1.3 sacks per game; without him the averaged was 2.8.
Again, take into account the small sample size, especially the fact that the Patriots’ defensive was one of the worst in the league last year (although they were in the middle of the pack in the two areas we’re looking at, 14th in sacks and 17th in rushing yards allowed). But the Redskins’ offense did not come apart at the seams when Polumbus was playing right tackle.
We have a larger sample size to look at during Polumbus’ 2010 season in Seattle. He played six games at left tackle and one at right tackle. Polumbus also started three games at left guard including two playoff games but, again, we’re going to disregard those games and focus on his play at tackle.
In his seven games at tackle, Polumbus gave up five sacks, four hits, and 11 hurries. Two of the sacks and five of the hurries came in one game, when Seattle visited the Rams and Polumbus was matched up against defensive end Chris Long.
When he was at left tackle, he was filling in for rookie Russell Okung, the sixth overall pick in the draft. In the nine regular season games where Okung played all of the snaps (he started one game but left after being in for nine plays), he gave up four sacks, five hits, and 14 hurries.
We do have a better sample size to work with when it comes to the team’s performance while Polumbus was in the lineup as he started almost half of their regular season games.
Seattle’s rushing performance was virtually the same with our without Polumbus at tackle, with an average of 88 yards per game with him and 89 without him. On average, however, the Seahawks’ pass protection was considerably leaker. They have up an average of 3.4 sacks per game with Polumbus at tackle and that dropped to 1.2 per game without him.
The “with Polumbus” average was pushed up by a bad two-week stretch. They gave up five sacks to the Cardinals in Week 7 and the Raiders sacked Matt Hasselbeck eight times the next game. Individually, Pro Football Focus charged Polumbus with one sack in each of those games.
Can they survive?
Based on this limited look, it appears that an offense can function with Tyler Polumbus at tackle. Given his struggles against top ends like Long and Babin, the coaches should consider giving him some help when he is lined up against the better right-side pass rushers. But the rushing game seems to function reasonably well with Polumbus in the lineup rather than the more heralded Brown and Okung.
Again, this is a small sample size but it seems to be a more systematic way of looking at it than the “Tyler Polumbus is at right tackle, the offense is doomed” level of analysis that we have been getting.