Plenty of teams in the NFL are trying to bring the run game back into fashion. The Baltimore Ravens became the league’s all-time single-season rushing leaders with their dominant ground attack featuring Lamar Jackson, while Derrick Henry was able to help the Tennessee Titans grind out big wins in the postseason, followed by the San Francisco 49ers just wiping the Packers defense off the face of the earth with their rushing. Run blocking still matters, and in fact matters more than the quality of the running back taking advantage of it.
Ramczyk has been a dominant force in the run game since the moment he entered the league but took his game to another level this season despite winning this award a season ago as well.
Run-blocking performance can be a tricky thing to try and quantify in numbers, particularly for individual offensive linemen. You would expect it to manifest itself in rushing numbers, but it isn’t always that clean. A successful run play can be torpedoed by one guy blowing his block, and equally terrible run blocking can be bailed out by a running back making a man miss and overcoming the problems up front.
Even looking at numbers by gap can be misleading, since other blocks can easily influence even runs heading either side of a particular lineman. As it happens, those numbers do look excellent for Ramczyk — the Saints averaged 4.3 yards per carry as a team, but 5.4 yards per carry on runs either side of Ramczyk’s block — but his impact is still best illustrated with tape.
Obviously, the tape is what goes into the PFF grade, and he was the best in the league there, but we can pull out play examples of the kind of play we saw from him this season to make the point.
On this play, Ramczyk has to work across a shade to get to his block, and he does it so effectively he is able to completely halt the defensive lineman’s progress and open up a yawning chasm for Alvin Kamara to straighten up into. Ramczyk’s block effectively breaks the gap-integrity of the defense, turning what should be a defender in every gap into a situation where there is a hole all the way from the center to the right tackle. Kamara has open real estate all the way until the safety comes across to make the play, thanks largely to Ramczyk perfectly executing his block through a combination of speed, athleticism, power and technique.
Plays like this were a regular feature in Ramczyk’s tape this season, and these are the kinds of plays that may go unnoticed on the broadcast as we focus instead on the player that carried the ball towards a big gain, but the blocking up front is the engine in the run game, and Ramczyk has been the most powerful component of that engine this season.
For the second season in a row, Ryan Ramczyk is the best run blocker in all of football.