FanPost

A closer look at Bears OL coach Aaron Kromer

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Aaron Kromer spent the last five years with the New Orleans Saints. He was Sean Payton’s Offensive Line Coach from 2009-2012 after one year as the Running Backs Coach in 2008. Although he will not call plays, looking at Kromer’s body of work will give us a better idea of what to expect in 2013. Let’s look specifically at two areas: selection and production.

Selection

Much of the offseason talk will revolve around who the Bears plan to take early in the draft. There will be a number of possibilities thrown around as draft day approaches. Pundits have suggested Chicago target an OL or two. For example, Mel Kiper had the Bears taking Alabama T DJ Fluker at 20.

Kromer actually does not have much experience in the area. The Saints only took two OL during his tenure, USC T Charles Brown in the 2nd round in 2010 and Nebraska T Marcel Jones in the 7th round in 2012. Both players on still on the roster, but do not see much playing time.

In 2009, Kromer inherited a stable offensive line, assembled by Payton starting in 2006. Outside of 2003 draft pick RT Jon Stinchomb, the rest of the 2009 starting unit was acquired at some point during Payton’s first three years, 2006-2008:

LT Jermon Bushrod

2007

4th Round, 125

LG Carl Nicks

2008

5th Round, 164

C Jonathan Goodwin

2006

Free Agent (NYJ) [2002, 5th Round, 254]

RG Jahri Evans

2006

4th Round, 108

That unit stayed intact through 2010. No other OL recorded at least 25% of snaps during those two years.

In 2011, the Saints were forced to replace two players. New Orleans promoted C Brian De La Puente and RT Zach Strief from within the organization. De La Puente bounced around the league after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He found a home on the Saints practice squad in 2010. Strief was part of New Orleans’ 2006 draft class, but did not see playing time until 2011. Both would go on to start all 16 games. Finally, in 2012, New Orleans signed Ben Grubbs away from Baltimore for $36 million over 5 years.

New Orleans built an offensive line through late round picks in multiple drafts before Kromer arrived. He only took two players from 2009-2012, instead relying upon offensive linemen who already had experience in the system. In four years he made one big free agent splash.

Production

Before Kromer took over as Offensive Line Coach, the Saints already had success on the field:

2008 New Orleans Saints Offensive Line Statistics

Adjusted Line Yards

4.41

5

Power Success

64%

18

Stuffed

15%

7

Adjusted Sack Rate

2.9%

2

Pass Blocking Efficiency

81.9

14

*The third column represents ranking among all 32 teams.

With four returning starters and Kromer’s guidance, the Saints became the best run blocking unit according to Adjusted Line Yards. Pro Football Focus graded RG Jahri Evans at 40.2, best among all guards. LG Carl Nicks was #4 at 31.4. Despite a -8.9 grade for LT Jermon Bushrod, New Orleans maintained solid pass protection numbers, regressing in Adjusted Sack Rate, but improving in Pass Blocking Efficiency.

2009 New Orleans Saints Offensive Line Statistics

Adjusted Line Yards

4.5

1

Power Success

69%

7

Stuffed

18%

14

Adjusted Sack Rate

4.2%

4

Pass Blocking Efficiency

80.9

9

*The third column represents ranking among all 32 teams.

There were no changes along the front in 2010 (LT Jermon Bushrod, LG Carl Nicks, C Jonathan Goodwin, RG Jahri Evans, RT Jon Stinchomb). They maintained a top 10 unit in every measurement outside of Stuffed percentage.

2010 New Orleans Saints Offensive Line Statistics

Adjusted Line Yards

4.42

6

Power Success

68%

7

Stuffed

18%

14

Adjusted Sack Rate

4.2%

4

Pass Blocking Efficiency

80.9

9

*The third column represents ranking among all 32 teams.

In 2011, New Orleans went through structural changes. The Saints let C Jonathan Goodwin walk after grading out at -4.3. He followed that up with a -0.6 in his first season with San Francisco. RT Jon Stinchomb called it quits after a 7 year NFL career. Kromer started the year with the idea C Olin Kreutz and RT Charles Brown would take over at those positions. Kreutz played 4 games and by week 6 had “lost his passion for the game.” Brown was up and down through the first half of the season with a particularly bad performance against St. Louis in week 8. Kromer turned to a practice squad player and perennial backup to fill the voids. Brian De La Puente took over at C and Zach Strief slotted in at RT. De La Puente graded out at 7.6, Strief at 19.2, good for 13th and 14th at their respective positions. LT Jermon Bushrod improved to 20.1 after two years in the red. As a unit, the Saints offensive line reclaimed the top spot in Adjusted Line Yards and was rated in the top 5 for both pass blocking metrics.

2011 New Orleans Saints Offensive Line Statistics

Adjusted Line Yards

4.95

1

Power Success

65%

11

Stuffed

15%

1

Adjusted Sack Rate

4.4%

3

Pass Blocking Efficiency

83.6

5

*The third column represents ranking among all 32 teams.

2012 was the roughest year for Kromer’s unit. The Saints faced a lot of adversity with the bounty scandal and loss of Head Coach Sean Payton. New Orleans went out and signed Ben Grubbs away from Baltimore and he made an immediate impact, grading out at 19.2, good for #7 at the position. The rest of the line carried over from 2011. De La Puente improved to the second best C in the league. Despite these positive notes, the Saints struggled at tackle. After a good 2011, LT Jermon Bushrod regressed to a 1.5, or 44th at the position. Strief went negative after a surprising 2011 campaign. He graded out at -1.4 for 49th. New Orleans fell to the back half of the league in two of the rushing statistics, but remained in the top 10 for pass blocking.

2012 New Orleans Saints Offensive Line Statistics

Adjusted Line Yards

4.05

17

Power Success

71%

3

Stuffed

19%

14

Adjusted Sack Rate

4.9%

7

Pass Blocking Efficiency

80.9

9

*The third column represents ranking among all 32 teams.

Overall, Kromer’s record indicates he is a top offensive line coach.

New Orleans finished #1 in Adjusted Line Yards twice. The Saints consistently ranked in the top half of the league in Power Success and Stuffed Percentage. They did all of this with a revolving door at RB i.e. Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Ladell Betts, Darren Sproles, and Mark Ingram, among others. New Orleans finished in the top 10 in all passing blocking metrics every year of Kromer’s tenure. Some of that is due to the play of QB Drew Brees, but at least some of the credit has to go to the OL.

Kromer was directing this with seemingly spare parts. He has coached one 1st round draft pick, Ben Grubbs, his big ticket free agent last year. Most of his starters were 4th round selections and beyond, including a former practice squad player, who went on to grade out as the #2 C in the game in 2012. When he did make a mistake, Kromer addressed it right away, replacing Olin Kreutz and Charles Brown by the middle of the season.

No Bears OL graded out positively in 2012, but I am not so sure Chicago will go with an OL in the first or even second round. Kromer has made positive contributors out of anyone from established OL to practice squad players. Their best option might be to trade back and pick up multiple pieces. Kromer has had enough success with late rounders where I would not be too concerned should this scenario play out. In 2012, he picked up the right free agent in Ben Grubbs, so I think Andy Levitre fans should feel pretty good right about now.

Does this data mean anything? How much of New Orleans’ success up front was due to Sean Payton? Drew Brees? Aaron Kromer?

<em>This FanPost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.</em>

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