Pro Football Focus has been releasing their "3 Years of ..." articles in the past few weeks, and it's always interesting to see a Bengals name pop up here and there at the bottom or top of some list. Andrew Whitworth ranked the third best offensive tackle in the league in pass blocking effeciency. Defensive ends Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers ranked among the four worst edge rushers in the league in pass rushing effeciency. Geno Atkins ranked second best in the league in pass rushing productivity for defensive tackles.
These articles are interesting and informative, but they always must be taken with a grain of salt, and looked at on case by case basis. For example, Chris Crocker was the most effecient pass rushing defensive back in the league by a mile, but we attributed that to the scheming of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, more than the ability of Crocker himself.
In their most recent article, Bengals starting center Kyle Cook, ranked fourth worst in the league in pressure allowed in the past three years. That sounds really, really bad. But, in reality, he amounts to just a below average pass blocker, who has simply been on the field more than anyone else.
Yup, Kyle Cook, a name some casual fans might not recognize, actually leads the entire Bengals team in total number of snaps in the past three years. He also places second in the league in total number of snaps for a center. Only Detroit's Dominic Raoila has taken more snaps at center in the past three years, and he's allowed 4 more pressures.
The article actually addresses this issue, and introduces the more important part.
Total pressure numbers can often be misleading. Sure, Goodwin, Meester, and Raiola [and Cook!] gave up the most pressure, but they also spent a larger portion of their time pass blocking. This is where the PBE formula demonstrates its value and adds a whole new level of context by taking into acount who was giving up the most pressure relative to the number of pass-protecting snaps.
So, while Kyle Cook is ranked fourth worst in the league in total pressures allowed, he isn't in the bottom ten in pass blocking efficiency, which is the next part of the article. That's the important one. It's a ratio of how often you are on the field and how many pressures you allow - which they call Pass Blocking Efficiency.
Since Kyle Cook wasn't in the bottom ten himself, I added up his own numbers and found that he would have fallen just outside the bottom ten. He received a 97.46 Pass Blocking Effeciency rating, just above tenth place's 97.45. So, while that's not good, remember that there's only 32 starting centers in the league, and you can rightfully conclude that Kyle Cook has been a below average pass-blocking center for the past three years. And, hey, guess who ranks as the 4th worst pass blocking center in the last three years? It's the Pittsburgh Steeler's 2011 Pro Bowl Center Maurkice Pouncey.
Like Pouncey, Kyle Cook is generally better at run blocking. Pro Football Focus rated Cook as the sixteenth best run blocking center in 2009, the tenth best in 2010 (Pouncey was fifteenth), and the fourteenth best in 2011 (Pouncey was seventeenth). Therefore, Cook has proven himself as a slightly above average as a run blocker.
Put that all together and you can statistically prove (at least through the eyes of Pro Football Focus) that Kyle Cook is a below average pass blocker, and an above average run blocker. All from an undrafted player who had the much criticized Nate Livings as his
right left hand man.
Cook's biggest weakness is his inconsistency. Like Livings (but not as extremely bad), he can make a Pro Bowl block on one play, then allow pressure up the middle on the next play. He has stretches of very good games, and stretches of very bad games. If Cook can eliminate those mistakes and improve on his consistency, he can play like one of the best centers in the league. The Bengals certainly believe so. When the Bengals extended players in the 2011 offseason, they chose to extend Leon Hall, Andrew Whitworth, and Kyle Cook. They signed Cook to a four year extension, worth over $2.5 million per year.
He's signed through 2015, so if you don't like him, you should get used to him. He has been the Bengals second best run-blocking lineman for the past two years, and he finally is getting some good run-blockers around him in free agent left guard Travelle Wharton and first round right guard Kevin Zeitler. We'll see how the season plays out, but we know for sure that the Bengals organization is optimistic about the future of Kyle Cook.