31 March 2012
In a cost cutting move, the Panthers decided to release left guard/tackle Travelle Wharton a few weeks ago. He was due a $7.6 mil. roster bonus this year and with the Panthers having barely any cap room, they decided it was best to release him. Wharton has always been a solid run blocker but he was not worth the $7.6 mil. he was due this year, especially with the team having other needs. However, it is hard not to be a little concerned about the Panthers' offensive line when you look at how Wharton has helped Carolina's running game.
The Panthers have attempted to soften the blow of losing Wharton by re-signing Geoff Hangartner at a low-cost and picking up former Indianapolis Colt, Mike Pollak. Pollak is a former 2nd round pick from the 2008 draft and is very versatile. He has spent most of his time with the Colts as a right guard but he has alos played right tackle and the left guard position, so the Panthers have some options as to what they can do with him. Assuming that Jeff Otah stays healthy, it is likely that Pollak will be playing left guard here but can he be as effective as Wharton was? More importantly, can Pollak be a starter in this offense?
Finding out how good Pollak is will be important to know before hand, because this will let us know if we have another position to fill going into the draft. As it stands right now, the depth at guard for Carolina appears to be him, Hangartner, Byron Bell, Roger Allen and Bryant Browning. Certainly room for improvement there if Pollak isn't up to standards.
After the jump, we are going to take a look at some offensive line data from Football Outsiders along with other stats that will give us an idea of Pollak's performance and whether or not he is a good replacement for Wharton.
Judging the offensive line is one of the most difficult things to do, so it's tough to evaluate one player if you do not have access to game tape. We do not have that now for the Colts, but what we can tell you is that Indianapolis did not have a good rushing offense last season. They ranked 26th in rushing yards per game and had only 8 touchdowns on the ground. They had one of the worst rushing offenses in the league when it came to run blocking according to Football Outisders & Pro Football Focus, who had them ranked 25th and 29th in the league in run blocking respectively.
While these stats give us a more detailed look at Indy's rushing offense, they don't tell us much about Pollak. To figure out Pollak's performance, we can look at how much success the Colts had whenever they rushed to his side of the offensive line. The results aren't much better unfortunately.
Pollak started five games at right guard last season, three at left guard and one at right tackle, so looking at the Colts rushing stats when running to the right side of the offensive line will tell us a little about his performance.
Going by the offensive line stats on NFL.com, the Colts ranked 31st in the league when running to the right side of the o-line, but were in the top 10 when it came to gaining yards in short-yardage situations and were a middle of the road team in runs over 10 yards and getting positive yards on their rushing attempts. The stats at Football Outsiders seem to confirm this as the Colts ranked high in adjusted rushing yards for runs to the right side of the offensive line. What they do is adjust rushing yards based on how much of a role the offensive line played in gaining those yards. Going by these numbers, the Colts were successful when running to the side Pollak played regularly.
However, Pollak started only nine games at RG and started three games on the other side of the line so these stats are deceiving for judging Pollak's play. To fix this, I went through the game logs of every game he played last season and looked at how much success the Colts had on the ground. The results aren't terribly promising.
The Colts ran to Pollak's side of the offensive line 23 times last season and gained only 90 yards and scored one touchdown. That's roughly four yards per carry, which doesn't sound too bad, but it would put him towards the bottom half of the league if we're comparing him to other offensive linemen. Pollak appears to have other strengths, as Pro Football Focus had him ranked as one of the more improved pass protectors in the league and Carolina could definitely use some help there.
If Pollak is going to be Wharton's replacement at left guard, the shoes he has to fill might not be too big, because he will be playing along side one of the best tackles in the NFC in Jordan Gross. Carolina had a lot of success when running to the left side of the offensive line and I think Gross had as much to do with it as Wharton did. Possibly more. Pollak, Bell or just about anyone else the Panthers play in Wharton's place this year will be a downgrade but how much of a downgrade is a good question.
|< Prev||Next >|