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Will the Broncos have improved offensive line coaching?

The Denver Broncos invested heavily into their Offensive line coaching this offseason.

By whatever metric you wish you use (and I have tried almost all of them) the Denver Broncos offensive line was poor in 2016. Some here attribute that to poor coaching (and player development) as much as poor performances by the players. Those who lay part of the blame on the offensive line coaching last season, like to point to the new offensive line coaches as a great improvement over the OL coaches from the previous two seasons.

Clancy Barone was the OL coach for the Broncos in 2010 and from 2015-2016. He is currently the TE coach for the Vikings. Jeff Davidson is the current offensive line coach for the Broncos and Chris Strausser is the assistant offensive line coach. Let’s look at the track record of these two gentleman to see if this faith in their ability to turn our poor OL into good OL is rational or unfounded. We’ll start with Chris Strausser since he has no previous NFL experience.

Chris Strausser

Here is Strausser’s full coaching resume:

  • 2017 - Denver Broncos - Assistant Offensive Line
  • 2014-2016 – Washington – Associate Head Coach/Offensive Line
  • 2010-2013 – Boise State – Offensive Line /Run Game Coordinator
  • 2007-2009 – Boise State – Tight Ends/Run Game Coordinator
  • 2006 – Colorado – Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line
  • 2001-2005 – Boise State – Offensive Line
  • 2000 – Portland State – Offensive Line /Run Game Coordinator
  • 1997-1999 – Foothill College – Offensive Coordinator
  • 1995-1996 – San Jose State – Offensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator
  • 1993-1994 – Portland State – Offensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator
  • 1992 – Sonoma State – Offensive Tackles/Tight Ends/Special Teams Coord.
  • 1990-1991 – Oregon State – Graduate Assistant
  • 1989 – Menlo College – Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Let’s focus on the recent “major college” stops in his career: 2001-05 and 2007-2013 at BSU, 2006 with CU and 2014-16 with Washington. I could only find data from 2004 onward but here are the running games under Strausser. See the Table Below.

School Year Run plays Rushing yards ypc Primary RB Pass plays Pass yds Run % Run yd %
BSU 2004 596 2758 4.63 Lee Marks 355 3154 63% 47%
BSU 2005 560 2632 4.70 Lee Marks 390 2892 59% 48%
Colorado 2006 461 2070 4.49 Bernard Jackson 254 1422 64% 59%
BSU 2007 518 2404 4.64 Ian Johnson 460 3672 53% 40%
BSU 2008 449 1980 4.41 Ian Johnson 438 3751 51% 35%
BSU 2009 508 2605 5.13 Jeremy Avery 458 3698 53% 41%
BSU 2010 485 2603 5.37 Doug Martin 424 4174 53% 38%
BSU 2011* 492 2235 4.54 Doug Martin 477 4022 51% 36%
BSU 2012 478 2186 4.57 D.J. Harper 394 2901 55% 43%
BSU 2013 563 2578 4.58 Jay Ajayi 466 3610 55% 42%
Washington 2014 607 2640 4.35 Dwayne Washington 400 2801 60% 49%
Washington 2015 477 2130 4.47 Myles Gaskin 396 3110 55% 41%
Washington 2016 529 2774 5.24 Myles Gaskin 408 3623 56% 43%

I don’t know how much effect/control Strausser will have on the OL or the running game in 2017, but we can see from his work in college that he offensive lines have done a decent job generating running lanes (and yardage) for their RB’s. I found it interesting the everywhere Strausser has been since 2003 they have run the ball more often than they have passed it. It should also be noted that Matt Paradis played for Strausser at BSU. Paradis was actually recruited to play DT (listed on their roster as a DT as a freshman) and was converted to center by Strausser. It should also be noted that Strausser worked with two very good NFL RB’s while at BSU - Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi.

Below is some context to the numbers that Strausser’s teams put up in the running game. Here are the top FBS teams by year in terms of ypc average going back to 2004 along with where Straussers team ranked in the FBS in terms of YPC.

Year Team YPC Strausser's Team YPC Rank
2016 New Mexico 6.61 27
2015 Georgia Southern 6.48 62
2014 Georgia Southern 6.98 63
2013 Ohio State 6.80 48
2012 Oregon 5.98 46
2011 Oregon 6.66 34
2010 N. Illinois 6.27 10
2009 Nevada 7.39 10
2008 Oregon 6.22 48
2007 West Virginia 6.15 32
2006 West Virginia 6.68 29
2005 S. California 6.44 23
2004 California 6.05 27

Note that there are roughly 120 teams in the FBS, so being ranked in the top 30 means being the top quartile. Also not that Strausser’s two best seasons as an OL coach/running game coordinator came when he had future NFL All-Pro Doug Martin carrying the ball.

Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson was most recently the offensive line coach for the San Diego (LA) Chargers, but he was only there for one season. Prior to that he was the with the Vikings for a long time. He actually got his start in the NFL working under Pete Carroll when he was the head coach of the P*ts prior to the rise of Darth Belicheat. Let’s see who how the running game has fared where Davidson has been.

Jeff Davidson - Coaching the Running Game Rushing Off - Lg Rnk
Year Team Position Att Yds TD YPC
1998 New England Patriots Asst. O-Line Coach 26 27 22 23
1999 New England Patriots Asst. O-Line Coach 18 20 23 26
2000 New England Patriots Asst. O-Line Coach 18 26 24 28
2001 New England Patriots Asst. O-Line Coach 8 13 7 24
2002 New England Patriots Offensive Line/Tight Ends 28 28 26 27
2003 New England Patriots Offensive Line/Tight Ends 12 27 24 30
2004 New England Patriots Offensive Line/Tight Ends 5 7 8 18
2005 Cleveland Browns Offensive Line 26 25 31 21
2006 Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator 31 31 28 29
2007 Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator 9 14 28 15
2008 Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator 6 3 1 2
2009 Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator 2 3 10 3
2010 Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator 15 13 31 12
2011 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 13 4 3 2
2012 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 8 2 9 1
2013 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 18 8 1 2
2014 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 18 14 14 11
2015 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 4 4 4 4
2016 San Diego Chargers Offensive Line 22 26 22 26

We see that while he was with the P*ts his team never fared better than 18th in YPC. We’ll skip over what he did while with the dumpster fire otherwise known as the Cleveland Browns. While he was the OC in Carolina, his teams were quite effective at running the ball - ranking no lower than 15th in terms of YPC. Those 08 and 09 Panthers had Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams as the best RB duo in the league. They combined for 2351 rushing yards in 08 and 2250 in 09.

When Jeff Davidson moved to Minnesota as the OL coach in 2011 he inherited Adrian Peterson in his prime. So it is no surprise that his teams in 2011 through 2015 ranked at or near the top of the league in terms of YPC with the exception of 2014 when AP missed almost the entire season (played in 1 game). I would argue that 2014 shows what Davidson is most capable of. He was able to take two backup RBs (one who had been mostly a FB) and get over 1110 yards rushing out of the two (Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata). He did that with a rookie QB, Teddy Bridgewater, taking the snaps and a fairly unheralded (and lowly drafted) offensive line. Here are their primary starters on the offensive line that year and their draft position:

  • LT Matt Khalil - 4th pick in 2012
  • LG Charlie Johnson - 199th pick in 2006
  • C John Sullivan - 187th pick in 2008
  • RG Joe Berger - 207th pick in 2005
  • RT Phil Loadholt - 54th pick in 2009

Jeff Davidson had a veteran offensive line to work with that year even if three of them were 6th round picks.

It’s also informative to see what that 2014 Viking’s offensive line did in pass protection. I tend to trust sack% is the best measure of this (sacks allowed/total dropbacks). The Vikings Ol was 27th that year allowing a sack on 9.1% of their passing plays. By comparison the 2014 Broncos offense was the best in the league (mainly because of Manning’s quick release and brain) at 3.7%. So this begs the question of where Davidson’s offensive lines have ranked in terms of sack% for his career I only have data back to 2000).

Year Team Position Rank Sack%
2000 New England Patriots Asst. O-Line Coach 19 7.90%
2001 New England Patriots Asst. O-Line Coach 26 8.70%
2002 New England Patriots Offensive Line/Tight Ends 7 5.10%
2003 New England Patriots Offensive Line/Tight Ends 13 6.00%
2004 New England Patriots Offensive Line/Tight Ends 5 4.80%
2005 Cleveland Browns Offensive Line 25 8.20%
2006 Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator 27 9.20%
2007 Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator 15 6.40%
2008 Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator 9 4.90%
2009 Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator 21 7.10%
2010 Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator 31 10.30%
2011 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 28 9.60%
2012 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 16 6.60%
2013 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 22 8.10%
2014 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 27 9.10%
2015 Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line 30 8.80%
2016 San Diego Chargers Offensive Line 24 6.60%

It’s sobering to note that Davidson’s offensive lines have not been very good at preventing sacks except in two of the seasons when he had T*m Br*dy at starting QB. In fact, over the past decade has has only had one offensive line that ranked in the top 10 in preventing sacks - the 2008 Panthers with Jake Delhomme at QB.



This post first appeared on Mile High Report, A Denver Broncos Community, please read the originial post: here

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Will the Broncos have improved offensive line coaching?

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