NFL Analysis


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NFL Week 16 Injury Analysis: Why Losing Offensive Linemen Hurts More than Receivers

Frank Ragnow snaps the ball to Jared Goff vs. Broncos
Dec 16, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow (77) snaps the ball to quarterback Jared Goff (16) in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

This week, we’re looking at injuries to three key offensive linemen and the most electric wide receiver in the league to see how their absences could affect the playoff picture.  

Week 16 Injury Analysis

Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions

Frank Ragnow returned to the lineup last week despite suffering a knee injury against the New Orleans Saints that required surgery on his meniscus. He has also been on the injury report week in and week out with other nagging injuries, including turf toe, calf and back injuries. 

His return was vital to the Detroit Lions’ 42-point offensive outburst against the Denver Broncos on Saturday night. 

On FieldOff Field
EPA/60 Plays4-5

The Lions’ offense is 9.0 EPA per 60 plays better with Ragnow on the field. Both ADoT and Yds/Att decreasing with pressure percentage increasing signals that the ball has to come out faster with Ragnow off the field. 

Detroit can clinch its first division title since 1993 with a win in Minnesota this Sunday. Ragnow will be crucial against the blitz-heavy Minnesota Vikings led by defensive coordinator Brian Flores. 

Ragnow is the glue of one of the league’s best offensive lines, and his availability is crucial if the Lions are going to win their first playoff game since 1991. 

Zack Martin prepares to  block Fred Warner
Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin (70) during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

Zack Martin played only 10 snaps in Sunday’s blowout loss against the Buffalo Bills before exiting with a quad injury.  

He’s been a mainstay on the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line since the day he walked into the league, and he has shown no signs of slowing down. This season, he ranks 11th in Total Points among all offensive guards. 

An extended absence for Martin would devastate the Cowboys’ hopes of overcoming their recent playoff woes. 

On FieldOff Field
EPA/60 Plays6-4

Interestingly, Dallas’ offense is 10.0 EPA per 60 better with Martin on the field, which shows in Dak Prescott’s TD:INT ratio split. With Martin on the field, Prescott has a 27:5 TD:INT ratio with Martin and a 1:2 ration with him off of it.

Let’s break Martin’s EPA/60 into Passing and Rushing metrics:

On FieldOff Field
Passing EPA/60 Plays9-9
Rushing EPA/60 Plays-12

This table makes it clear Martin is influential in the Cowboys’ success in the passing game, which had Prescott garnering MVP consideration before last week’s woeful performance. 

Similarly to the Lions with Ragnow, the Cowboys need Martin to give Prescott time to push the ball down the field to their dynamic group of receivers. 

Rob Havenstein blocks 49ers DE Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) moves in against Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Rob Havenstein (79) during the second half at SoFi Stadium. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Rob Havenstein, Los Angeles Rams

Rob Havenstein is having a good season, ranking seventh among all offensive tackles in Total Points (fourth if you include only right tackles). He has quietly been a critical player for the Los Angeles Rams.  

His absence has been felt in the three games he has missed. The Rams’ only win in that span came last week against the Washington Commanders. 

On FieldOff Field
EPA/60 Plays3-7

Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles is 10.0 EPA per 60 better with its star tackle on the field. Unlike the Lions' and Cowboys' offenses, the Rams’ ADoT is basically unchanged, while the other metrics act as expected. 

Havenstein should return to the lineup Thursday night against the Saints, and no one will be happier about that than Matthew Stafford. 

Tyreek Hill warms up before Dolphins vs. Titans
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs on the field during warm ups prior to the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. (Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

Tyreek Hill missed his first game of the season last week against the New York Jets with an ankle injury he suffered in Week 14. However, despite the Miami Dolphins missing their best skill player, they cruised to a 30-0 win with great performances from the offense and defense. 

Hill missing his lone game against the Jets presents us with a unique opportunity to examine his on-off splits during the season. It also allows us to compare his game against the Jets with the game he missed. 

SeasonOn FieldOff Field
EPA/60 Plays36
vs. JetsOn FieldOff Field
EPA/60 Plays-73

Comparing the full-season data with the data from Miami's two game against the Jets shows some trends. First, the Dolphins’ ADoT decreases by three yards when Hill is off the field, a significant drop. 

Conversely, completion percentage increases and yards per attempt are similar, suggesting the Dolphins can be successful on offense without Hill but in a different style. 

Hill is having a monster season, ranking first in Total Points, EPA and Yards per Route Run among all receivers. Even though Miami's offense has performed 3.0 EPA per 60 better with Hill off the field, we can still see the Dolphins miss his presence, as their ability to push the ball downfield greatly diminishes. 

Final Thoughts

These four players are all important to their respective teams, and an extended absence for any of them would be a devastating blow to their team’s playoff chances. 

The above data suggests losing your anchor on the offensive line, no matter the position, will hurt your offense’s on-field performance more than losing an electric playmaker such as Hill. 

As we approach awards season, skill guys will dominate the headlines, but remember to give love to the big fellas up front. They are always underappreciated. 

This article was written by JD Allen.