The upgrade at center from Samson Satele to Jake Grove

Last week I highlighted an article by KC Joyner - also known as the football scientist - about whether or not the Dolphins really needed to draft a receiver early on in Saturday's draft.  But this week, Joyner uses his metrics to try to explain exactly why the Dolphins gave up on center Samson Satele and signed Jake Grove.

So what does Joyner use for his analysis?  He watched every snap that Satele played in 2008 and found that on 132 "point of attack" blocks - which are blocks when the ball carrier runs primarily behind him - Satele won 79.5% of the time (80% is what Joyner says is acceptable for offensive linemen) and the Dolphins gained an average of 5.39 yards on those plays.  Those certainly aren't bad numbers.

So what gives?  Joyner did some more analysis and here's what he learned:

After perusing his metrics a bit further, the answer became rather obvious: Satele can’t run-block the big nose tackles in the A.F.C. East. The Jets’ Kris Jenkins and the Patriots’ Vince Wilfork are the types of players who can take over games when faced with the right matchup, and Satele was one of those matchups last year.

In the sixteen POA runs Satele had against Jenkins, Dolphins runners gained only 48 yards (3.0 YPA). Satele also lost three of those battles, so his POA win percentage was only 81.3%, or just slightly higher than his overall mark. That sounds good, but it is also skewed by the fact that Satele received double-team help (either a combination block or a pure double-team block) against Jenkins 11 times. He lost two of the five single-block POA runs, and it was probably that 60.0% POA win total that told the Dolphins that they needed to make a move.

The numbers were worse for Satele against Wilfork, especially in their second matchup (i.e. not the game when the Wildcat was rolled out). In that contest, the two faced off on seven POA runs and Miami ballcarriers gained only 18 yards (2.6 YPA) on those plays. Wilfork also won three of those matchups, so Satele’s win percentage against him was a completely unacceptable 57.1%.

The good news for Dolphin fans, as Joyner points out, is that Jake Grove was particularly stout at the point of attack.  He has a "point of attack" win percentage of 90.6%.  Even more impressive, Grove was "asked to single-block (i.e. block without double-team help) on 67.5% of his runs."

And that is probably why the Dolphins decided to give up on Satele and brought aboard Jake Grove.  While we can't assume that the front office has those exact numbers - because we don't know how much NFL teams use theese kinds of metrics - they definitely watch a ton of film.  So they probably saw this on the film and were confident enough in what they had seen to make the swap at the center position.

Meanwhile, just as an aside, I want to point out that this is yet another reason why I don't think trading Ronnie Brown is a smart idea.  This offensive line is going to be much improved in 2009 - assuming Justin Smiley's rehab goes well - and I believe he'll prove to be every bit as great as I (and many others) think he is.  In fact, the Sun-Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov actually thinks the Dolphins will "re-up Brown before the season starts."

To be honest - that's exactly what I'm hoping for.

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