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ESPN ranks Seahawks tackle duo as one of the best in the NFL at pass blocking

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve said it before (recently) and we’re saying it again (today): The Seattle Seahawks offensive line can pass block. And after years of passing up big name free agent tackles, many of whom you’ll see listed as being poor in pass blocking in 2018, the Seahawks may have done absolutely the right thing to ignore criticisms of their young right tackle and stick with him for as long as they could.

Because according to ESPN’s Seth Walder, Brian Burke, and the Pass Block Win Rate metric, Germain Ifedi is right on the edge of being in the top-third for right tackles in pass blocking, while the combination of him and Duane Brown is the fifth-best pass blocking tackle tandem in the NFL ... my fingers hurt from typing that sentence.

Most of the story is behind ESPN’s Insider paywall, so let me get across the information that I can. Beginning with the not-behind-paywall breakdown of PBWR:

Our new Pass Block Win Rate metric tells us the rate at which linemen can sustain their blocks for 2.5 seconds or longer. Likewise, our Pass Rush Win Rate metric tells us how often a pass-rusher is able to beat his block within 2.5 seconds. Our model of pass blocking harnesses player tracking data from NFL Next Gen Stats.

Seeing “2.5 seconds” probably gets you asking questions like, “What if Russell Wilson chooses to scramble?” and so on, that could skew the numbers for or against the Seahawks and other teams. Well, for one, let’s always assume that guys like Burke have thought of this. Even if a metric doesn’t catch this, let’s at least give them the benefit of the doubt that they too see the obvious. Here’s what Burke says:

Metrics like QB pressures and time in pocket might be useful, but they can be misleading. A QB pressure can occur for several reasons other than unreliable pass protection, such as good coverage, poor route-running or missed reads by the quarterback. Our win rate metric isolates line play from those other factors. Also, time in pocket metrics don’t know the difference between a quick read and release by the quarterback and ineffective pass protection. If a passer throws at 1.8 seconds after the snap, does that mean he only had 1.8 seconds to throw, or did he execute his read quickly? Our metrics know the difference.

After Week 4, Brown ranked 9th in the NFL among tackles for PBWR at 87%. Two games later, he’s still at 87%, and only two left tackles in the entire league are ranked higher: Andrew Whitworth (93%) and David Bakhtiari (92%). Laremy Tunsil of the Miami Dolphins is also at 87%, an impressive feat for the 24-year-old who was once considered a potential number one overall pick before he Bane’d himself. (“No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.”)

There were many who wanted Seattle to address the left tackle situation immediately when Russell Okung left via free agency in 2016. Okung now plays for the LA Chargers and his PBWR is the same as Brown’s ... if you flipped the numbers. The Chargers’ tandem is ranked 23rd. The New York Giants made Nate Solder the second-highest paid tackle in the NFL, $15.5 million per season, and he is currently the worst pass-blocking left tackle of 2018. The only one overall who is worse is his tackle teammate Chad Wheeler at 54%.

The Detroit Lions spent a first round pick on Taylor Decker and gave $47.5 million to Rick Wagner and are ranked 30th on this list.

The Cincinnati Bengals traded for Cordy Glenn, taking on an $11 million cap charge in 2018 while moving down in the draft from 12 to 21, and they’re ranked 29th on this list.

The New England Patriots gave a $32.5 million contract to their right tackle and he’s one of the worst rated in the league in this category.

Here are some more tackle combos you may be surprised to learn are doing worse in pass blocking this season than Seattle’s tandem of Brown and Ifedi, who is at 83% in the metric:

  • Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder
  • Jason Peters and Lane Johnson
  • Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey
  • Tyron Smith and La’El Collins
  • Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk
  • Trent Williams and Morgan Moses
  • Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin
  • Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert
  • Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz

Seattle got to where they were at without a top-15 pick like Matthews, Johnson, McGlinchey, Smith, Williams, Lewan, Conklin, and Fisher. They basically traded a second round pick for Brown and used a late first on Ifedi. Brown didn’t need much coaching from Mike Solari, I’m sure, but Ifedi has now gotten two years of training from Tom Cable and less than a year from Solari, and he’s become one of the better pass blockers in the league for now. Perhaps the only comparable (or better) cheaply-acquired duos are Jordan Mills and Dion Dawkins of the Buffalo Bills, or Bryan Bulaga and Bakhtiari of the Green Bay Packers. Charles Leno, Jr and Bobby Massie of the Chicago Bears, plus Garrett Bolles and Jared Veldheer of the Denver Broncos, also deserve some credit in line with that.

Still, no team can even come close to competing with what the LA Rams have.

At present, left tackle Andrew Whitworth is playing like the best tackle in the NFL (93%), while right tackle Rob Havenstein ranks fourth in that category (90%). The rest of the Rams line is playing similarly well. Whitworth cost $33 million a year ago, but is a bargain because right now he’s only the 13th-best paid LT in the league, just a hair behind Brown and his new extension. Havenstein ranks third in pay for right tackles.

Seattle will next eventually have to decide what to do with Ifedi, but he’s entering the fourth year of his rookie deal in 2019, then has a fifth-year option for 2020. At this point it seems inevitable that the Seahawks will pick it up, something that few thought feasible prior to this season. Or even prior to a month ago. Now instead Ifedi looks like a key building block for the offensive line, especially when it comes to protecting Russell Wilson.