Pass Protection and Blocking
While Manhertz was used as a blocker on a number of passing plays, on only half of these was he actually asked to set as a pass blocker, instead either being used on RPOs, jet sweeps or play-action rollouts where he was essentially asked to run block. These plays were extremely successful though, with 100% completion percentage, and 12 yards per attempt. However, it’s hard to credit much of this to Manhertz, as while he could have blocked actively badly, plays like the following are more of an achievement in play design and QB play than a great block by Manhertz:
On plays where Manhertz was actually used a legitimate pass protector, however, the Panthers were far less successful, completing less than 30% of their passes for under five yards per attempt. This isn’t necessarily because Manhertz was bad as a pass protector, but rather because keeping a TE in as a pass protector on a straight dropback simply isn’t a great matchup.
The following two plays were the only two completions with Manhertz as a pure pass protector, and in both cases a huge amount of pressure is placed on individual receivers to create separation down the field, with the max protection allowing the defense to have a significant coverage advantage in terms of numbers:
What happened on the majority of plays where the Panthers asked Manhertz to stay in to pass protect, however, was that Manhertz did a decent job with his responsibility, but by keeping extra players in to pass protect the defense was able to blanket the Panthers’ receivers:
There are situations where teams are forced into max protection, such as long third downs and in the red zone, and Manhertz does show an ability to play well in this role, but this isn’t something that the Panthers, or any other team, should be looking to do more than they have to. Also, asking TEs to block elite edge rushers isn’t a great idea:
Manhertz was asked to run exactly three routes as a solo TE in the three games covered here, and two of those were solely to rub another receiver open rather than a genuine attempt to get open:
And even the one route which was presumably an attempt to get open wasn’t hugely successful:
All three of these plays came against the Giants. Against both the Lions and the Browns, if Manhertz was on the field as a solo TE, it was either a run or he was going to be used as a blocker in the passing game in some form. This is the real issue with Manhertz – and to some extent, Armah – for me, it’s not that he is bad as either a pass protector or a run blocker, as he’s pretty solid in both regards, but that he is used so infrequently as a receiver that there is very little difference between putting him on the field and a sixth offensive lineman.
An argument could be made that in recent years the Panthers have had such issues with offensive line depth that Manhertz was probably as good a blocker as the sixth best offensive lineman on the roster, but with the likes of Greg Van Roten, Dennis Daley and Taylor Hearn likely being the depth offensive linemen in 2019, it’s hard to argue that the very occasional trick play where they actually throw the ball to Manhertz outweighs the benefit of using an actual offensive lineman as a blocker in place of Manhertz.
The story for Manhertz is very similar to the one for Armah, it’s not that they’re bad players – they’re not – but the way the Panthers currently use them there really isn’t much different between having them on the field over an extra offensive lineman. If they use Manhertz as more of a receiver, his ability as a blocker could justify a roster spot and a handful of snaps a game – but right now it’s hard to see him as a good blocking tight end and not a bad offensive tackle.
However, an offensive tackle doesn’t at least make a linebacker or safety think that they might run a route when the jumbo package is on the field – something that both Manhertz and Armah offer as they continue to grow.
Of course, there is another reason why the Panthers might use Manhertz even less in 2019, namely the emergence of Thomas as the season went on, something that will be dealt with in more detail in part three…