Neil’s NFL Daily: April 11, 2013

So, just what have the Patriots seen in Emmanuel Sanders that has moved them to try and trade a 3rd-round pick for him? PFF's Neil Hornsby takes a look.

| 4 years ago

Neil’s NFL Daily: April 11, 2013

Even the most trivial Patriots-related move draws interest, so when New England did something that no one else has done before — namely, sign a restricted free agent to a one-year deal — Twitter went mad for a while. Obviously we’ll get into the Emmanuel Sanders thing in a moment, but before we do, it’s worth noting the Baltimore signing of Rolando McClain to bolster their linebacking corps after the losses of Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe. I commented on his release on Monday, but a much more detailed article on him and his skill set can be found here when we prematurely anticipated his departure in November.


Thursday, April 11th

Emmanuel Sanders Signs One-Year Deal with Patriots as RFA

If you don’t already know the ins and outs of this move I’m not going to try and rework what people have already done far better than I could achieve — Jason Cole does an excellent job here of the giving you the mechanics of what transpired and the implications.

As usual, we’ll concentrate on Sanders as a player and his potential impact on the field. In my most recent podcast reviewing team needs I highlighted the Patriots’ No. 1 issue as wide receiver. When the team goes into the year with Vikings cast off Michael Jenkins and oft-injured slot man Danny Amendola as likely starters you start to have visions of three tight end sets becoming the norm. So, from a need standpoint trying to get a WR makes sense, but is Sanders worth a third-rounder (assuming that a long-term deal is already in a sealed envelope), and does his ability complement New England’s existing talent?

The first thing to note is that of players running more than 200 routes Amendola was in the Top 10, with 80% run from the slot — Sanders was Top 20 with 67% (65% in 2011). So have they just ended up with two slot guys, and is that what they want?

Secondly, for someone who played 740 snaps, the majority of which were with a top flight QB, he didn’t really ‘wow’ anyone. He played perfectly well, grading +1.1 as a receiver, but if you are going to throw a third-round pick at your problem perhaps you want more than a receiver who had three times as many picks as touchdowns thrown his way, and nearly as many drops (3) as forced missed tackles (5).

I’m not totally down on the ploy because I do see potential in Sanders (I even highlighted him as a potential breakout player for 2012), but unfortunately my abiding memory of him in 2012 was the catch he dropped when wide open in the middle of the field against the Redskins.

Defending Kevin Kolb

So Kolb hasn’t been in Buffalo for a week before questions start arising about his record of taking sacks. Clearly there are a number of quarterbacks who do hang on to the ball and take sacks as a result, but is this always a bad thing? Usually the worst culprits are among the best at their position, and the sacks they bring on themselves are as the result of trying to make things happen. At PFF we attribute sacks to quarterbacks if it was clearly their fault, and joint worst in 2012 were Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson with 10 each.

We gave Kolb three of these, but on reviewing the tape every one of these sacks was for zero yards as he attempted to run — in no instance would he have been better off by throwing the ball away.

Additionally, of all his sacks only Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Lindley had a lower average time to pressure on sacks. His average of 2.18 seconds is nothing and almost 0.7 seconds less than QBs like Alex Smith who enjoyed playing behind a competent unit.


PFF Mailbag

I get questions nearly every day, either directly or on twitter (@PFF_Neil), and I felt this was a good forum to share the answers. Any questions I get that can be better answered without a character restriction I’ll respond to here.  

Defensive Packages

Do you guys have a report on how frequently a team used nickel, dime and base defensive formations? – @Ninersnation                 

The following table gives the number of defensive backs for any play where the team lined up in a defensive formation, and includes the playoffs and penalties.


Team0 DBs1 DB2 DBs3 DBs4 DBs5 DBs6 DBs7 DBs8 DBsTotal Plays
Grand Total472179623158641562740561901236627



This series started last week, and for those that didn’t catch them, here are the first six issues:

Wednesday – Nnamdi Asomugha, a myth? And Carson Palmer’s underlying weakness in 2012

Thursday – Daryl Washington’s suspension, and why the Cardinal’s O-Line may be better than you think

Friday – Why Right Tackle is not the place to be from a salary perspective, and Jason Hanson’s retirement

Monday – 49ers excel in O-Line Cap Management, and things to like about Rolando McClain

Tuesday – The Mike Jenkins story, and are the Patriots losing their FA mojo?

Wednesday – Oakland’s Defensive Reformation, and why Seattle should have looked at Tebow instead of Quinn


Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil


| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Clay

    Crazy how Chicago generally played well on defense this year and they never even played a snap with more than 5 DBs on the field.

  • Colin William Weaver

    Can someone explain to me why HOU and KC never (essentially) play nickel?

  • Kevin Byrd

    Amazing how much more GB plays with 5+ defensive backs than other teams. Also only team to play with 8… Shields, Williams, Hayward, House, Burnett, Jennings, McMillian, Woodson, Bush. I’m not sure if they were all ever completely healthy at the same time. I wonder which player wasn’t on the field and who were the other 3 players… Kind of interested about this.

  • JaTerrance Dwayne Young

    Is there a way these sub-package numbers can be included in the premium section…like a breakdown from game to game