Some think line play to blame for rising QB injury rates

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NFL quarterbacks are going down at an incredible rate, which can be determined from a simple study of the numbers.

The reasons why continue to baffle teams, which are spending more and more on passers and watching more and more of them go down.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, 11 teams will have changed quarterbacks already this season when Sunday’s game start, and 45 quarterbacks will have started at least one game.

It’s Week Eight.

This is not exclusive to us. There are risks at the quarterback position,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who has plowed through three and could be circling back to one of the first two this week because of Josh Freeman’s concussion. “You’re going to take some hits. Those guys are in a vulnerable position a lot of times. So, it’s a premium on having a good backup because of that.”

A look at the injury report also shows the arrow climbing steadily.

So far this year, there have been 17 designations of doubtful or out for quarterbacks. Last year at this time there were six, and in 2011 there were 10.

While many will point to the increase in running quarterbacks, several of the injuries were on non-designed scrambles, such as the season-enders to Sam Bradford and Brian Hoyer.

But at least one executive thinks the problem could be a function of pass protection rather than passers or play-calls.

Only six teams have started the same five offensive linemen in every game, and many of the young players coming from spread offenses in college simply aren’t prepared to block at the NFL level.

“The splits are so much wider. They’re getting rid of the ball that much quicker. Your offensive linemen aren’t protecting for as long,” one personnel executive said. “There’s not the 2½-, 3-second time allotment where the offensive linemen will hold their blocks. I know I’m reaching, but, . . . I don’t know what it is.

“The offensive line play in the league is just bad.”

And while that’s not as glamourous an explanation as looking for a shift in the way teams are calling plays, it might hold as much water as any of the other theories as to why players at the glamour position keep going down.

46 responses to “Some think line play to blame for rising QB injury rates

  1. Really good teams build from the Inside out. Most games are won in the trenches on BOTH sides of the ball.

  2. And some people think the rate at which humans get bigger, stronger, and faster, is more impressive than the rate of bones evolving their density. The small sensitive parts aren’t able to keep up with the big guns.

    There’s also still a lot of late hits and illegal hits that QBs take that should be callled, or that could be called. You either like seeing players get hurt in a game of action, or you modify and enforce rules to protect them. Which do you want? If they make more rules or stricter rules to protect QBs, then people will complain about that too.

    Although the OL comments are good, a lot of teams use a pretty funky style of blocking for pass protection, and there seems to me to be a lot of potential for breakdowns with the way some of these Defenses try to expose blocking deficiencies and these DL coaches seem to be a little more effective than the OL coaches. I think a lot of these OCs are calling goofy play packages and that creates some exposed plays, not only are the QBs getting some pressure, but I have seen it with the Lions in particular where they have breakdowns in blocking on certain types of running plays.

    I think each team has their own coaching system and philosophy that collides with what the OL and OC are doing, and right now there seems to be a trend of those groups of people not knowing how to get on the same page with each other.

  3. Injuries are up at every position, not just QB. Why? Because of the softer practices mandated by the new CBA. When game day rolls around, these guys bodies haven’t been prepared for the beatings they’re about to receive.

    It’s like a callous on your hand.

  4. As a Giant fan I can attest, they have had some of the worst line play I’ve ever seen from them as a team. For as goofy and silly as he looks at times, Eli sure can take a beating though. Must’ve been from his younger days of Cooper and Peyton beating on him.

  5. Could it be that pass rushing athletes are evolving quicker than O-Line athletes? It seems to me that it used to be rare that any pass rusher would come close to 20 sacks. Now it seems like every season, there are multiple players with 17, 18, 19 sacks.

    It would be nice to see some stats in that regard. Have there been more sacks in recent years? More QB hits and hurries? It sure seems like it.

    I’m just too lazy to look it up myself.

  6. I would not blame the offensive line for Hoyer or Bradford’s injuries. They need to learn how to get out of bounds. Or better yet, learn how to slide!

  7. Back in the day – 28 team league, you had better oline depth/depth in general.

    Let’s take away the 4 worst teams now, give all their good players to the remaining teams – Now we have a league where the Marshall Newhouses of the world are nowhere near an NFL roster.


  8. I agree it’s likely that poor pass protection is a contributing factor. Regardless, I think Andy Reid (from the linked ‘USA Today’ article above) is correct in saying: “The more you throw the ball, the more chances they have of getting hurt.” Offenses are throwing it more and more, so as a result, QBs (see: Cutler, Ponder, Locker, Schaub, Foles, etc) are going to be increasingly susceptible to injury.

  9. Could it be the effort to make the game faster while somehow pretending to make it safer has backfired?

    Perhaps the slower, pound the rock, tough defense football of yesteryear was actually safer after all. We may never know, now that the league has “evolved” so much in recent years.

  10. .
    Every year the top of the draft is heavy with OL. Brian Waters walked into Dallas after being retired for 2 years and played so well there’s talk about putting him in the ring of honor.

  11. I can explain it. In recent years the NFL has been adding rules that regulate what defenders can do against teams when they throw the ball. These new rules are increasing the quarterback’s effectiveness on football and thereby increasing the value of top level quarterbacks. An increased value means a higher demand in the NFL which means larger money contracts for QBs. The more money you shift towards the QB, the more money you take away from middle class players such as o-linemen, RBs and defensive players. If there is not enough money for these players then you won’t be able to keep talented player or bring in talented players from other teams. Every team with $100 million QB have huge holes in these areas. If you have no o-linemen, RBs or defense then your QB will face more pressure and an increased chance of getting hurt.

  12. It is because and only because the leagues stupid rules about practice… no hitting except for one day? Plus QB doesn’t get hit in practice – so when they do get hit by these guys were born to hit and can’t wait to hit, they get hurt. Tom Brady and the NFL’s protection of him has harmed the game. Let em play, nobody is making them sign up for the NFL, they want it. They can live with issues after the game. What happened to this country? Too many softies… need to toughen up and build character.

  13. Had Brian Hoyer had poor line protection he’d still be starting today. The same team barely protected for Weeden and he’s still healthy enough to overthrow his receivers.

    Moral of the story. Stop protecting running quarterbacks because if they’re running in the open field they’re taking bigger hits at the end.

  14. Rule changes designed to increase the output in the passing game.

    Increased passing puts QBs in harms way more often.

    Poorer OL play (possibly due to unconventional college offences) leads to more hits.

    More hits lead to more injuries.

  15. thestrategyexpert:

    For someone who calls themselves a “strategy expert,” your post sure was vague. What are these “funky” styles of pass protection, and “goofy” play packages? If “a lot” of teams use these funky and goofy styles, wouldn’t that make them more “normal,” and less “funky”?

    And what makes you think DL coaches are more effective than OL coaches? Do you have anything to back that up, or is that just conjecture?

  16. According to the stats I’m looking at, only three teams – Seattle, San Francisco, and Carolina – run the ball more often than they pass the ball.

    Eighteen teams pass on more than sixty percent of their offensive plays. Seven pass on more than sixty five percent of their offensive plays.

    And QB injuries are up?


  17. It might also be because coaches create fake injuries so they can remove bust quarterbacks without having to admit that they made a mistake in starting that guy in the first place. Of course, that may only apply to the vikings….

  18. steelerfanjo says:
    Oct 24, 2013 2:19 PM
    It is because and only because the leagues stupid rules about practice… no hitting except for one day? Plus QB doesn’t get hit in practice – so when they do get hit by these guys were born to hit and can’t wait to hit, they get hurt. Tom Brady and the NFL’s protection of him has harmed the game. Let em play, nobody is making them sign up for the NFL, they want it. They can live with issues after the game. What happened to this country? Too many softies… need to toughen up and build character.


    You do know it was the NFLPA, not the NFL that came up with the new practice rules, right? Also, QBs haven’t been allowed to be hit in practice for decades. That is not new at all.

  19. I was watching the redzone channel and whenever rams had the ball, jake long was getting beat bad, he was always on the ground in that game, if you pay close attention, i hate to say this but i think bradford can now be considered a bust now, right?

  20. so the league starts throwing ridiculously high fines for random b.s. at the highest paid DT to scare the rest of the league into playing soft

  21. If you throw more, then the risk of the quarterback getting hurt increases. Have you controlled for that in your statistical analysis? That being said, OL play has looked shaky from a eyeball test perspective.

  22. pass pro sucks. today’s line coaches are looking for big body players. that lack foot quickness and are not able to slide and protect. all in all they lack the basic skills to really play the game right. its not the players fault. its the coaching. it starts with their stance and starts. their set ups. bend and hands. then the real technique really starts. I haven’t been able to watch to much ball because of the lack of skills. this is also true with the way they tackle today also.

  23. Wasn’t it just this year that the officials have been told to treat running QBs like a running back? Seems to me it used to be that the defense was wary to lay a big hit on a running QB for fear of flag.

    Has the percentage of blitzes gone up? More teams using get the QB schemes…which can be caused by a lack of secondary talent..

  24. yaryers:

    Well my post was already long, but I tried to sum it up the best I could by saying a lot of teams seem to not be on the same page with their OL coach and OC coach and the schemes they come up with. I see a disconnect there, and as far as the Lions are concerned there have been some heavy dosages of slow to develop inside run plays that just don’t make sense as well as having curious execution concerns. It’s a lot easier if we can get into the film room and I can break some stuff down for you. The visuals meshed with this kind of thinking really bring it all full circle.

    And for your last question, I don’t think it’s a lack of performance per se, just that the OL coaches aren’t getting a strong enough foundation to be successful with the way their OCs and HCs etc leave them to hang out to dry. The DL doesn’t have that problem because they just attack and look for the holes and either holes are there to expose or they aren’t. So it’s almost like a first-mover game here where the first check is does the OL handle their responsibilities without logical breakdowns in execution or planning? If the answer is yes, then the DL has more opportunities than if the answer is no. These teams aren’t doing a good job to adapt offensively and the learning curve is shorter for how to take advantage of those mistakes than it is to stop those mistakes from happening from the reverse perspective.

  25. Going back to what Bill Walsh said about the run and shoot offense, which actually had a running back in the backfield, as opposed to the empty sets that a lot of teams commonly run these days:

    “You can’t run that offense. You’ll get your quarterback killed”. Yeah, great idea. Go empty backfield and send 4 of the 5 receivers on go routes. Then wonder why your quarterback is laying 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage in a puddle of his own blood and piss.

  26. Hoyer was hurt because the former high school baseball player didn’t slide properly. It was not a protection problem, it was “My receivers can’t get open ” problem

  27. thestrategyexpert says:

    And some people think the rate at which humans get bigger, stronger, and faster, is more impressive than the rate of bones evolving their density. The small sensitive parts aren’t able to keep up with the big guns.
    Wow! You’re a biology expert too!
    Are you saying there are parts of the human anatomy that are evolving at different rates than other parts?

  28. mackcarrington:

    It’s more of a cute way to transition to talking about a more technical analysis of the subject. Just a hint to the topic that some players are actually “beefing” up unnaturally, but didn’t want to get too into it. Just tossing a mild concept to churn the thought process on realizing that is part of the equation to some extent. Sorry I think my colorful ways of expression are more humorous than most people would say. But I keep trying, just trying to keep things light-hearted as an occasional break from my more comfortable exercise of delivering the boom.

  29. @thestrategyexpert: I thought that was what you were getting at. But instead of trying to be “cute” or “colorful”, just come out and say “players are juicing up”. I mean we are talking about football here.
    Also, as an aside; Tim Tebow thinks that he is a better quarterback than most people would say.

  30. mackcarrington:

    Yeah sorry I post a lot and just try to do a few different things to keep from getting stale. I figured most people already consider the juicing up and didn’t need a direct speech on the issue.

    And yeah it’s a big problem in football when you have players on your team that believe they are worth more than they are, but more importantly it’s worse when a GM overvalues what he has and that’s a big part of the problem over in Tampa. If they had people that thought they knew how to be a good GM that were actually good at being a GM, then they could be the best team in the NFL if they planned accordingly and logically in the past. So up to them to craft what their future will be from this point going forward.

    I can’t wait for the game tonight, it’s huge for what the Bucs might do to start next week, plus a win that the Panthers really need to get to maintain credibility in their playoff run. That last wild card spot right now could be up for grabs between the loser of PHI/DAL and GB/CHI/DET. So naturally a huge game for DAL and DET matched up against each other.

    Thanks for your clarifying question so you and I could be on the same page, maybe the Bucs can learn something from this.

  31. LOL, you think??? I listened to Farve talking about the Rams offer and wished he would have told the truth:

    “The Rams? If Sam was getting killed why in the heck would I want to go there? And they were a joke anyway”

    Do you think if Fox or Belicheat called he would say no?

  32. I think it is simple. The current NFL rules favors the offense. The only way a defense can stop an offense is by attacking the QB. So you have DCs that are coming up with more creative ways of getting to the QB.

  33. Wow. You spend 10% of the team cap on the QB and likely 10% on the entire 6 guys (including TE) blocking for him. And you wonder why he gets hurt so much.

    Who do you want more: A standing good QB or a flat on his back All-Pro?

  34. In fact I believe there is at least a thread of truth/accuracy in most everyone’s post. No hitting in practice (TY NFLPA), bigger, and faster bodies. More.. much more passing. Colleges running the spread, which does little to prepair linemen on either side of the ball. One more issue – hurry up offenses cause fatigue and anyone that’s ever played will tell you that is a huge factor in injuries. Those offenses also produce significantly more plays per game I presume (too lazy to look up the stats) If Rog and the owners get their 18 game shedule, they’ll have to increase rosters to 78….

  35. I agree line play is bad! The problem is as we bring up QBs that do read option or run a lot, that is what the line that we are bringing up is also used to. They are not used to having a QB stand in the pocket and HAVE to protect him. This is the price you pay for RGIIIs, Russell Wilsons, Colin Kaepernicks, etc..

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