FanPost

Football Outsiders Numbers: Finding the Team's Strengths?




The Football Outsiders numbers are out for this week and they pretty much tell us what our eyes are telling us. I'm posting them here for people's convenience. For those that don't follow these stats they basically are context dependent stats based on field position and situation but also weighted to opponent strength and judged by league averages as well. They usually give an accurate sense of where a team or player is at, at least in the broad sense.

First off, Sanchez is where he has been, down at the bottom of the league. Because these are context dependent stats some of the bigger stat stuffing numbers against weak pass defenses he has had (BUF, IND, NE for instance) really don't count as much.

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sidenote: Pro Football Focus who developed a rating that takes into account dropped passes, spikes and throw-aways actually has it even a little worse for Sanchez, rating him second worse in the league to Weeden by a mere 100th of a rating point of difference: Adjusted Quarterback Rating: 76.65 to Weeden's 76.64. This is news for those who think drops are one of the primary reasons for Sanchez's demise. PFF has Sanchez losing only 125 yards in the air to dropped passes so far this year, while 19 quarterbacks have lost more. In terms of frequency Sanchez has been "gifted" a drop by his receiving core every 15.1 attempts, while Brady experienced this every 12.3, Brees every 11.6 and Rodgers every 12.4 (to name a few). Statistically Sanchez isn't really close to being one of the more victimized QBs, rather he is 16th in a field of 32 in terms of drop frequency, while the fans feel every drop as if it is holding him back unfairly. And most condemningly he is last in the league in what PFF calls "Accuracy Percentage" which considers only "aimed" balls and counts drops as catches at 48.4% - more than half the league is over 60% in this stat and 4 QBs are at approximately 80%. The quality of PFF stats which are based on film-study like breakdown is yet to be tested over time, but well worth consideration. We never know who is breaking down the film, and quality might vary team to team and week to week..

Like it or not, make up whatever excuse or explanation that you want, Sanchez simply is not performing even as a below average QB in this offense. There are some notable names there with him (Rivers, Newton, Cutler) on the Football Outsiders ratings (and other ratings as well) but the question marks on Mark are very pronounced now, almost catastrophically bad, no matter how good he looks at moments. A Bad QB (at least in this offense) and this really isn't likely to turn around fast.

Secondly, Greene is at the bottom of the league as well, giving us arguably the worst backfield in the NFL other than Cleveland (perhaps you can locate another).

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Perhaps symptomatic of Greene's impotence in the offense is that nearly 40% of his runs have gone to the immediate left or right of center, runs averaging a mere 2.4 yards a carry (Powell on the other hand averaged 4.0 yards a carry on these same runs). When the numbers get this bad I'm not sure how one can locate the problem elsewhere. The problem is at least significantly at the skill positions themselves: both Greene and Sanchez. An added expression of their mutual futile relationship is in the passing game: Sanchez has targeted Greene for a pass 20 times this year, but completed only 11. These are basic, easy to complete pass routes (checkdowns, screens, etc). And even more tellingly one is not sure if it is a Sparano strategic decision, but Pro Football Focus reports that Sanchez runs play action only 13.7% of the time on drop backs - 4th lowest in the league with 6 QBs higher than 25% - while holding the 3rd lowest QB rating when using play action: 72.1. 15 QBs have a rating of over 102 when using play action. He doesn't do it often, and when he does it he doesn't do it well. This is something that was supposed to be a strength. With a running back who you can't dependably pass to (accuracy?), and who does not threaten the big run for play action, there is no synergy of effect.

Interestingly, the Offensive Line - which does play a part in RB and QB success grades out okay.

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Pro Football Focus supports the FO protection stat to some degree counting Sanchez as merely the 14th most pressured quarterback in terms of % of drop backs under pressure (31.2%) and the line as the 21st most effective in minimizing pressure by formula (the stat counts hurries as 3/4 of a sack which seems excessive). While Sanchez has the 2nd lowest completion % when under pressure in the league: 38.4%. Sanchez is moderately protected, but performs at league bottom under pressure situations.

We can hold the Offensive line as middle of the road in pass protection I think, but they are 9th overall in run blocking by the Football Outsiders rating. Yes, Greene might be consider a good power runner helping with the short yardage stats which are near the top of the league - but honestly I think it is the line itself and not Greene. Any back who will hit the hole hard with this line would have success. The big difference is the 2nd level and open field yards which we were near dead last in 2011 as well. Looking at this and searching for current team strengths, given how poor some of the phases of the team grade out we have to say that the Offensive Line is actually one of them.

The overall Offensive numbers are what we expect, bottom of the league in everything but rushing, but even there we are not even near average:

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Defensive numbers are definitely better than offensive numbers. We float a little above average, with Pass Defense being our strength. :

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We are used to being in the top 10 of the league so this isn't anything to write home about, but we are looking for team strengths and between the Offense and the Defense there can be no doubt. In a passing league it also isn't bad to have pass defense as a strength, clearly ours.

Defensive Line stats aren't amazing, below average.

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Notable of course is the lack of pass rush (still) 23rd in the league, but also the lack of support on runs is surprising (25th on open field yards). The lack of support in the running game from LBs and the secondary may be a mixture of a hidden effect of the Revis injury, the switch to much more zone and also Bart Scott's sluggishness. In any case we expected both Bell and Landry to be cleaning up the run at a high rate and it isn't showing overall, although Harris, Bell and Landry all have 40+ solo tackles, each poised to smash the high mark of last year when Smith had only 66. The DL does seem to be holding its own at the line of scrimmage for the most part, it's the back 7 or 8 in the run defense that hasn't come together.

It seems pretty obvious that the Offense is dead in the water from a skill position stand point. Only Kerley ranks in the top 60 WRs in the league (34th, and 34th by Pro Football Focus as well) and both our QB and RB are dregs. Keller is ranked 11th DYAR and 5th DVOA among TEs (Pro Football Focus has him rated 20th overall) keep in mind he finished 32nd in the league in DVOA last year. He isn't a guy who is going to transform the Offense (though he certainly helps).

It is said that the definition of madness is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. As fans of course we can be a little bit crazy. Every time Sanchez drops back we can get excited because hope is renewed and it might be a deep dart over the middle. Every time Greene gets the ball he might bang through. But statistics have a way of outlining capacities.If we are to have hope we have to accept the limitations of our team too, and cheer for what likely are its strengths. Thus far it looks like Jets (relative) strengths are the Offensive Line and Pass Defense. Given that RB and QB are ailing only a dramatic personnel transformation of the Offense could create hope, but very likely this is not going to happen to carry this team into the playoffs (needing to win 6 games of 8 at least). Perhaps Defense is the hope as Davis, Coples and some of the secondary (Trufant, etc) were not full time for most of these numbers.

Looking at this picture it looks bleak. I'm not sure how moving to Tebow as a 1 in 10 shot isn't the answer. I would love to hear what others of you see in these numbers.

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