The advanced statistics accumulated by Pro Football Focus are hardly definitive when judging a player’s production and worth to the Cowboys. The tape tells all, and one must trust his own eyes before deferring to any spreadsheet. My eyes told me guard Mackenzy Bernadeau was a more than capable fill-in for injured starter Brian Waters in the second half of 2013. The statistical analysis disagrees – it says Bernadeau was elite.
Before we examine the stats, what did your eyes tell you the final eight games of last season? Better yet, try and remember what you thought when it became apparent that Waters was done for the year and Bernadeau would play out the string. Doom and gloom, right? But it didn’t play out that way.
In the latter half of 2013, the Cowboys offensive line crossed the developmental divide and became a recognized team strength. Its success was attributed to the dominance of left tackle Tyron Smith, the resurgence of right tackle Doug Free, the emergence of All-Rookie center Travis Frederick, and the influence Waters had on the group during the seven weeks he was active.
“He’s a huge help to the offensive line,” Bernadeau said of Waters after the two-time All Pro tore his triceps in the Week 8 loss at Detroit. “His demeanor, his mentality, his approach in practice, his way of studying film – he’s taught us all a lot. He was the backbone of the offensive line.”
And yet the offensive line didn’t collapse without its backbone. Bernadeau played every snap of every game following Waters’ injury, and his production gave us a glimpse of what he’s capable of when healthy. Your eyes weren’t deceiving you. ESPNDallas beat writer Todd Archer noticed back in December, along with Bob Sturm over at Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket, who deconstructed some fine run blocking from Bernadeau’s Week 12 performance.
Pro Football Focus grades every player on every snap on a scale of -2.0 to +2.0. A grade of 0.0 is defined as doing your job. The site defines its approach like this:
A seal block on the back side of a play, for example, is something that it is reasonable to expect to be completed successfully. Consequently, it receives a zero grade, whereas the differentiation between a good and poor block is a heavy downgrade for a failed seal block to the backside of a running play.
Here are the cumulative grades for the Cowboys starting line the last eight games of 2013:
Bernadeau didn’t simply perform above average. These are elite numbers, by PFF standards. Extend Bernadeau’s grades out for a full 16-game season, and he earns a 21.0 rating for the year. That would have made Bernadeau PFF’s fifth-ranked offensive guard in the NFL last year.