Jets' line carrying Geno Smith

Pass protection key to rookie's success, Nick Foles' big day for Philly

Updated: November 12, 2013, 11:38 AM ET
By Dean Oliver | ESPN Stats & Info

Geno Smith Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesGeno Smith has often had a clean pocket to throw from this season.

New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has his team thinking playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles threw for a record seven touchdown passes against Oakland last weekend.

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has his team heading into Week 10 as the favorite to win the NFC, despite spending most of the season on the run from an opposing pass rush.

All of these stories start with big names at a position where they accumulate a ton of statistics that illustrate their success or shortcomings. But quarterback is a dependent position, and coaches will tell you that every single play begins with controlling the line of scrimmage, a position often lacking in statistics.

In the three storylines above, the performance of the offensive line is directly affecting the performance of the quarterback. And we now have a metric lens with which to view that offensive line impact. The introduction of our Pass Protection and Pass Rush metrics go beyond sacks and provide some needed data on the unsung heroes on the line of scrimmage.

You can find a much more detailed explanation of these metrics here, but briefly, these numbers work by assigning partial credit to the offensive or defensive line based on whether there was pressure on a quarterback and whether it happened quickly or late. If a quarterback holds the ball for four seconds, not many offensive lines can resist that long, so Pass Protection would still be high and Pass Rush would be relatively low. Both are represented in terms of percentages, with 100 percent Pass Protection being best for an offensive line and 100 percent Pass Rush being best for a defensive line. A value of 50 percent is average.

That measurement lends insight into all of the above stories in terms of keeping pressure off the quarterback -- or in Wilson's case, the impact of poor protection on a good quarterback. We'll dive into the defensive impact of a good pass rush on another day, but for now, let's focus on the offensive side, starting with why the Jets' linemen should get a lot more credit for New York's current position in the playoff race.