Some weeks ago, in the midst of a conversation about our needs on the offensive line, I promised that I would grade out Sullivan for a complete game. I haven't had a chance to do so until this week. I watched every offensive play at least twice, focusing on what was happening in the interior of the line. I'll put the details after the break, but in quick summary: Sullivan was fine against Detroit. I think that's par for the course for him, but come below the fold with me and see if you agree.
First, methodology. I'm not a huge stat guy or a big consumer of the various scouting services out there, so I don't know what people normally do to evaluate linemen, and I made up my own process. As someone who as a senior played varsity starting right guard for his (horrid) high school football team, well, while sharing time with the up-and-coming sophomore, I feel my expert opinion should be enough for you, but I'll break it down anyway.
I used a five unit scoring process as follows:
-2 -- Missed assignment, which led directly to a minus play
-1 -- Missed assignment
0 -- Executed assignment
+1 -- Exceeded assignment
+2 -- Exceeded assignment, which led directly to a plus play
Using this scale, my score for Sullivan today was: +1. The vast majority of plays were zeros, with him doing what is expected of him. This week I didn't score him with any +2 or -2 plays. I've got him with six -1 plays and seven +1 plays.
I didn't start taking detailed notes until the second quarter, at which point my score was -2 for two missed plays. Here's how the rest of the game went:
-- 1st & 10, 10:36 Second Quarter: Sullivan's man pushed him back to collapse the pocket. Result of the play was a Ponder scramble for the first down.
-- 2nd & 10, 10:38 Fourth: Sullivan gave ground to his man, escorting him into the backfield with the two of them keeping Johnson from getting out in front of the play as a lead blocker. Result of the play was a significant gain anyway, I think 8 yards for Gerhart.
-- 2nd & 10, 2:51 Fourth: Sullivan's man forced Webb to scramble out of the pocket resulting in an incompletion. (I graded this play both a plus and a minus, see below)
-- Final drive: two poor shotgun snaps, both handled nicely by Webb
-- 1st & 10, 12:12 Second: Sullivan blocked at the point and got to the second level. Result was Gerhart run to the left for 8 yards.
-- 1st & 10, 1:05 Second: Sealed the point on a Gerhart 14 yard run.
-- 1st & 10, 8:02 Third: Sullivan got to second level for a block on a short gain for Gerhart.
-- 2nd & 10, 2:51 Fourth: (Same play as above) Sullivan's man forced the scramble, but he kept with it to block him twice to keep Webb up and held the initial block for as long as can be expected.
-- 4th & 1, 2:11 Fourth: Sullivan got push at a point that resulted in a Gerhart first down conversion.
-- 3rd & 2, 1:11 Fourth: Sullivan blocked two guys, first at the point and then at the second level as Booker converted the first.
-- 4th & 6, 0:26 Fourth: Sullivan blocked no one at first as Detroit was contained and he was the free man, but got the key block on the back side as Webb scrambled to get to the 2.
Sullivan wasn't great today, and he wasn't perfect. But he was decent, solid, and acceptable. He failed mildly on a few plays, but exceeded expectations mildly on one more than he failed on. He didn't look like an All Pro, but he absolutely held his own against a decent defensive line and showed that at least in this game, he isn't the problem for this offensive line.
I continue to think that upgrades as LT, RG and RT are higher priorities than an upgrade at center, where Sullivan continues to be unspectacular but adequate.