So, Just How Bad Was Taylor Decker?

JKH1232's picture
September 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

TL;DR: Not Nearly as Bad as Chicken Little seems to think.
To hear it in the comments, and in the forums here since the end of the Buffalo game, you might think Talyor Decker (Right Tackle) was the worst lineman to suit up since the glorious 1897 campaign, where the Good Guys went 1-7-1.  I didn't think he played well myself, but the idea that he was going to sink the entire O-Line didn't jib with what I saw when I watched the game, either.  Then again, maybe all these guys who joined the site in the past couple of months and complained the loudest were just way smarter or more observant than I am.  (It's well established I'm not very bright.)
As they say, though, the Eye in the Sky Never Lies.  If you want to know what really happened, you have to watch the video tape- otherwise, all you'll remember is going to be the evidence that proves your predetermined point- and we call that confirmation bias, not actual evidence.  So, to see if I was nuts or not, I went back and watched the video tape, concentrating on Decker's play, and trying to keep an eye on Khalil Mack, since he seemed to pick on Decker.  I made some notes, which I'll post now:
Down and Distance                     Play                               Notes
1st and 10                             Run Middle                  Drives back linebacker
2nd and 5                                Run Middle                         Same
1st and 10                               Run Middle                   Stalemate linebacker
2nd and 8                                     Pass                        Single blocks rush end
1st and 10                               Sweep Left                  Stalemates End (Pass Fake?)
1st and 10                                Miller Keeper             Dammit, ESPN.
2nd and 9                               Pass                              Awesome DT with guard against DE
1st and 10                               Receiver Screen R            Dammit, ESPN.
1 and Goal                                Pass                          Chips DB blitzer, but doesn't hold
1st and 10                                 Pass                         Blocks rusher (95) 4 sec.
1st and 18                                 Pass                         Blocks rusher (95) 3 sec (to pass)
2nd and 16                            Option Left                 Releases upfield off camera
3rd and 7                              Pass                             Moves to block Mack, then helps G
1st and 10                                QB Scramble                 Blocks Mack 3 sec, Mack releases
1st and 10                               Rush left              Picks up Mack, forces back before release
2nd and 4                                Rush  middle       Cross body blocks Mack out of play           
1st and 10                                Pass                      Locks down DT
2nd and 10                               Run Left               Blocks DT
1st and 10                                Pass       Driven back by Mack, sack given up (Overload)
2nd and 14                               Pass       Blocks Mack long enough for Miller throw               
3rd and 5                                 Pass           Locks down wide DT (93) G blows up.
1st and 10                                Pass                Stops wide DT, blocks inside
2nd and 10                            Run Power Left      Drives 95 back 5 yards             
3rd and 4                                  Pass                     Locks down 95
4th and 1                                   Run                 Crashes down.  Heuerman misses block.
1st and 10                           Sweep Left               Locks down 92
1st and 10                            Run Left                       Holds off 95
2nd and 10                            Pass                Locks up rusher his side, Miller rolls away.       
3rd and 1                            Pass                     Dammit, ESPN
1st and 10                           Run                       Locks up 95 so Miller can run around him
2nd and 13                           Pass                      Tries to cut 92 (Backside of play
1st and 10                        Rush  Left             Stalemates DT
1st and 10                         Rush                     Crashes down, DT caught against him.
2nd and 12                         Pass                     Locks down 95 for six (6!) seconds
3rd and 12                         Pass                       Just whiffs on Mack, sack
1st and 10                           Pass                      Locks up MLB, pushes off play
1st and 10                           Pass                       Has trouble with blitzing CB
2nd and 10                       Pass                     Locks down 92 whole play
2nd and 20                       Pass/Scramble       Blocks 92 until Miller runs past
1st and 10                          Rush right    Stands up, but doesn't move, OLB 34
2nd and 11                        WR Screen        Walls off to center, no one there
3rd and 6                            Pass                Asks for help, doesn't get any, gives up sack to  43 but recovers fumble
1st and 10                          Rush  Left                    Would you like syrup with that?
2nd and 5                           Rush   Right                   Gets a good shove on DB 30
1st and 10                         Read Option            Chips 95, Miller totally misreads
2nd and 12                         Rush                     Not a super-effective block on LB         
3rd and 8                           Pass                      No one his side, delayed far CB blitz
1st and 10                          Read Option         Misses Mack (?).
2nd and 13                           Rush Right          Puts MLB on the ground
3rd and 1                             Rush Right                   Stalemates MLB.
1st and 10                           Swing Pass  Left           Stalemates man                   
2nd and 9                          Read Option Left         Blocks Nose Guard, moves to 2nd level
1st and 10                          Rush up middle          Gets hands on Mack out of play
2nd and 7                           Midline Option         Cross body blocks 34 out of play
3rd and 1                             Rush Left                 Locks down Mack
1st and 10                            Rush                     Stalemates OLB 34, who then releases
2nd and 8                             Pass                      Locks down rushing DE
1st and 10                          Rush Left              Dives into general pile (GL)
2nd and 9                           Sweep Right         Locks up DT, but gets pushed back
3rd and 8                            Scramble              Locks down blitzing OLB until Miller goes
1st and 10                            Pass                     Locks down DE 95 for 5 secs (throw)
1st and 10                            Read Option        Misread by Miller
2nd and 13                           Pass                    Holds down 95, gets pushed back to Miller
3rd and 13                            Pass/Scramble     Locks down DE, doubles with back
1st and 10                             Sweep right         Chips 95, goes to 2nd level hands on MLB
2nd and 7                            Rush Left            Stalemates 95 at line
3rd and 5                             Pass                     Blocks 95 for seven secs (throw)
1st and 10                           Rush Left             Stalemates DT at line
2nd and 7                            Rush right  Doubles with G on 95, then gets off to block Mack
1st and 10                           Rush Left       Same as above, really
2nd and 8                             Rush Left     Gets up to double team MLB
3rd and 2                              Pass/ Scramble    Locks down 34 for entire running around.
So, references to a guard or G is usually Marcus Hall. (I took notes in Word, and tried to keep it all on one line there.)  Not everything is perfect- I tried to keep track of which number on Buffalo Decker engaged with, unless it was Mack.  That said, he went against 93 and 95 alot, so those can get mixed up, and sometimes you can't see the numbers.  Also, I had to work from ESPN's broadcast.  I don't have access to the Alll 22 or Goaline film, and sometimes that means Decker moved out of the shot, or ESPN cut into the play too late, and I don't have perfect data as a result.  I also didn't overanalyze what play we ran- compare this to the charting charts that the others are going to produce to figure that out.
Line breaks separate drives, and down and distance I pulled off the ESPN play by play chart.
So, what can we learn from this?
1.  Decker is going to be pretty solid if he keeps playing like this.  He clearly outclassed everyone on the field that wasn't going to get drafted in April.  He held his blocks in pass blocking quite well, and did well when he had to out and run block, too, particularly in the early going. 
2.  That said, he had trouble with a couple of things- picking up the one corner blitz they ran at him. (Not surprising, that's the point) and blocking Mack.  He and Mack went about 50/50 one on one, with Decker usually winning on runs and Mack usually winning when he blitzed. 
3.  You know who could block Mack on the OSU line?  No one, that's who.  He made Mewhort look silly, and I'm not going to get upset with a soph for not being able to handle a guy that the senior captain couldn't really block, either.  I hope Mack gets to play for my team on Sunday, he's clearly going to be good enough for the next level, and Buffalo should have just sent him every down.
4.  The strength of this line is clearly on the run- when the chips are down, I'd expect us to run the ball behind Mewhort/Norwell and get a lot of success.  Decker can fit well into that role, and he and Hall can lock down the backside of the line well.  We should be able to run behind Decker in the right matchups, but if you have two seniors on the other side of the line, why not run behind them all day?
5.  Other than Mack, Decker pass blocked very well- he held almost every block to the throw, rarely got pushed into the pocket, and held on for well more than the 3 seconds that's considered "Good enough."  Guys really only got off of him once Miller ran past the line on scrambles.
6.   There is no observation 6.
7.  Based on one game against a potential MAC champion, if Decker's the worst player on our line, that's pretty good, and I'll take it.
NB: I probably made some small mistakes in my chart.  If you want to point them out, I guess I don't care, but don't be all bichy about it.

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