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Investigating strength of schedule for NFL offensive tackles

Baltimore, MD, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) is defended by Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (79) in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The statistical evaluation of individual offensive linemen has come a long way in recent years. We’ve gone from looking only at the number of sacks given up by the whole offense to the number of sacks given up by individual linemen and have now finally arrived at individual pressure rates and PFF grades.

Most recently, tracking data has become available to NFL teams and analysts, a development that prompted ESPN’s analytics team to create a metric called pass-block win rate, which is built off that tracking data.

With more nuanced metrics available, our understanding of offensive line play and the pass-blocking prowess of individual linemen has sharpened over time. And most recently, PFF's own Eric Eager has added to our understanding by noting that not all pass-blocking snaps are the same

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One thing that has rarely been investigated up to this point, however, is the difficulty of pass-block snaps depending on the caliber of pass-rusher an offensive lineman faced.

Luckily enough, PFF's play-by-play grading allows us to do precisely this. We will focus on offensive tackles in this article. For each snap a tackle took, we look at the pass-rusher lining up across from him and consider his pass-rushing ability as measured by his career posterior mean pass-rush grade (calculated by using Bayesian Updating up to the play in question). By averaging this number for all of a tackle's pass-blocking snaps, we can quantify the difficulty of his pass-blocking schedule.

Offensive tackles who faced a tough schedule

According to our numbers, the offensive tackle who faced the toughest schedule on true pass-block sets in 2019 is none other than Trent Brown of the Las Vegas Raiders — on an average pass-blocking snap, Brown faced a 71st-percentile pass-rusher. To give that hypothetical average opponent a name, this is roughly the career posterior mean of Jason Pierre-Paul and Danielle Hunter.

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