It took a few days, but I finally got around to the reader request about Eric Winston, who was the team's starting right tackle in 2013. Arizona Cardinals fans know that Winston is well thought of around the league, but he did not do well. Yes, he was the starter and was never in danger of losing it, but he was not the same player he was in previous years as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.
The question was basically this -- what happened to Winston?
I was intrigued enough to go back and look at some numbers.
The first thing I asked was if injury could have had something to do with his decline in performance. It did not. In fact, he has set the gold standard of durability. He has started every single game since 2007. He hasn't even shown up on an injury report since 2011.
Since injuries did not have anything to do with what happened in 2013.
From there, the next thing to consider was if there has been a decline in play over time. I used Pro Football Focus grades and metrics for this. We will go back to 2008. He was in Houston then, where he played through 2011. He played as a member of the Chiefs in 2012 and then in Arizona in 2013.
PFF says he allowed nine sacks and 35 other pressures in the passing game. He received a cumulative +3.7 grade for pass blocking and +4.1 for run blocking. The Texans averaged 5.2 YPC over right guard, 5.4 YPC over right tackle and 2.3 YPC over right end.
Winston gave up five sacks and 26 other pressures. His pass blocking grade skyrocketed to a +15.0, but his run blocking grade dipped to -0.5. The Houston running game averaged 3.5 YPC over right guard, 3.7 over right tackle and 4.2 YPC over right end.
Winston had a strong showing again in Houston. He allowed eight sacks, but only 22 other pressures. His pass blocking grade was +11.8 and his run blocking grade was +6.1. Houston averaged 4.2 YPC over right guard, 6.1 over right tackle and 2.5 over right end in the running game.
In his final season with the Texans, the numbers were still good. He gave up seven sacks and 25 other pressures. His grades were +14.0 for pass blocking and +8.9 in run blocking. The ran the ball consistently on the right side -- 5.5 YPC over right guard, 5.0 over right tackle and 4.6 over right end.
Now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, he still has a solid season. He allowed four sacks and 31 other pressures. His grades were +8.0 and +8.8 in pass and run blocking. The Chiefs averaged 4.3 YPC over right guard, 5.1 over right tackle and 5.4 over right end.
This brings us to his one year (so far) in Arizona. He did not get signed right away. In fact, it wasn't until training camp began that he joined Arizona. The numbers say he struggled.
His sacks allowed were no worse than previous seasons, but he gave up a ton of pressures. He allowed seven sacks, but with 51 other pressures, The Cards averaged 3.7 YPC over right guard, 3.7 YPC over right tackle and 4.6 YPC over right end. His grades were terrible from PFF -- a -7.1 in pass blocking and a -8.4 in run blocking. The Cards averaged 3.7 TPC over right guard, 3.7 over right tackle and 4.6 over right end.
If it wasn't injury and there was no steady decline, we can perhaps look at two areas. One, it could be that Winston simply is seeing the end of his career. The other would be offensive schemes. In the Bruce Arians offense, there are longer developing plays.
At age 30, it does not seem like his age would be a huge factor.
It must mean that his skills have simply diminished, right?
I'm not totally sold on that. You typically don't see a decline like that at age 30 unless injuries are involved. But maybe it is the case.
There is some evidence to support the idea that Winston perhaps struggled because of being in a different system. His final two games in 2013 were his best. He did not allow a sack in his final six games. He allowed only seven other pressures in his final four games. He had positive grades for the final two games.
Will he return in 2014? That we don't know. With the Arians coaching staff allegedly not being really high on Bobby Massie, they might try to bring him back. My guess is that a second year in Arizona would bring better results.
Based on the numbers above, what would you say the reason was for Winston's struggles? Do you think he will be back? Would he see a return to the average in 2014? Discuss it below.
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