Bobby Massie opened his computer in early October and the numbers were staring back at him.
Only one other tackle in the NFL was ranked lower than him, and it happened to be a teammate. The number of sacks Massie allowed was highest in the league.
It hit home. It was time for Massie to change.
It all happened the week leading up to the Cardinals’ trip to Green Bay. Massie, the rookie right tackle, had, by all statistical accounts until that point, struggled this season. It was one thing for the coaches to ride him or the hometown fans to get discouraged but it was different for the entire league to see the numbers posted on ProFootballFocus.com.
Then it clicked -- the scheme, the instruction, the professionalism. Massie took one long look in the mirror and didn’t like what he saw.
“Just got tired of it, man,” Massie said. “Just getting beat like that. It ain’t cool. It ain’t a good thing to be the worst tackle in the league, man. It hurt, man. I don’t like that. I try to be the best at whatever I do so I corrected it.”
His demeanor in practice changed. He stayed after practice with offensive line coach Russ Grimm perfecting his kick step. His technique improved.
But he honed in on studying film. The approach he was taking wasn’t working and he “had to actually study my opponent.” With the reform comes about 10 hours per week of film at the practice facility and from home.
“It’s basically like watching a good movie,” Massie said. “You try to figure out every plot and try to figure out the stories, watching the guys and see what he does on first through third down, how he plays on the run, how he plays the pass, his inside, outside moves. Just got to study them.
“I had to practice like I was playing in a game. I used that approach out there every day during the week and it all fell together on Sunday.”
Massie said he had allowed just three sacks at Ole Miss. As an NFL rookie, Massie has given up 13 sacks, although they all came during a six-game stretch from Weeks 3-8. He’s played the fourth-most passing plays in the league, according to PFF.com.
Massie still leads all tackles in sacks allowed but he hasn’t yielded one in the last three games. He credits his improved film study for providing a deeper well of information on the defensive ends he blocks and his improved kick step gives him a better angle to deflect the rush. His recent progress has been reflected in PFF.com’s pass blocking efficiency rankings, where he’s moved up a few spots.
If reading about his struggles wasn’t enough, Massie heard about them from nearly every team the Cardinals played. Linebackers and cornerbacks talked the most, Massie said, not letting him forget how many sacks he surrendered.
It was hard to avoid. Everyone saw the rankings.
It was enough.
“I used that as motivation,” Massie said. “I kept getting (pushed) around. They going to come at me head hunting. I had to prove I could play.”
Massie’s offensive line compatriots understood why a rookie would struggle early in his first season. The speed is faster, the teammates are different, there’s more pressure. But they’ve also noticed his progress during the last few weeks.
“He has steadily improved,” guard
Massie is finally feeling comfortable in the NFL. He’s grasping the concepts employed on him and, with the line already thin, he knows there isn’t anyone breathing down his neck for playing time.
Massie turned his 6-foot-6, 316-pound frame and knocked on his wooden locker. He wanted to make sure nothing stops the steady rise he’s been on for the past three games.
“I don’t want to give up no more sacks,” Massie said. “I’m trying to eliminate that and be a good tackle.
“The way I played the last couple of games, I wish my season started off like that.”