Neil’s NFL Daily: April 12, 2013

PFF's Neil Hornsby opens up today's NFL Daily to your questions, and offers an insight on how to properly grade a fullback.

| 4 years ago

Neil’s NFL Daily: April 12, 2013

Considerably the slowest NFL news day for well over a week means a large portion of today’s feature will be given over to answering questions that have come in recently. I’ll concentrate on some questions that came in as a result of yesterday’s column, which can still be found here

Friday, April 12th

Jason Smith Signs with the Saints

In an interesting move, New Orleans picked up the 2009 draft’s second overall pick, Jason Smith. What makes this fascinating is that while he may not have been everything the Rams wanted, on and off the field, when he did play, he wasn’t a complete disaster — certainly not by the pass-blocking standards of, say, 2007 fifth overall selection Levi Brown in Arizona, who is still with his team.

Of course he had bad days — in 2010 Lamar Houston and Tamba Hali both made hay against him, and in the last game of that season he gave Raheem Brock a career game (3 sacks, a hit and 7 hurries). However, that same year, he had perfect games in pass pro against Washington, San Diego, Denver and San Francisco, with only a single hit allowed against Arizona. That, his only full season in the NFL, saw him register a poor but hardly criminal -6.5 grade with at least 12 other starting RTs grading more poorly, including Phil Loadholt, Bryan Bulaga and Anthony Davis.

Last year, with the Jets, he played almost exclusively as a sixth offensive lineman in the tight end position. Clearly it’s difficult to properly evaluate him there, but in his 265 snaps he generally graded positively, particularly as a run blocker.

That’s a very similar record to a certain Zach Strief in 2010 who fulfilled an almost identical role for the Saints before subsequently moving on to become their starting right tackle. Much as we like Strief, he struggled badly with injury last year and it’s possible the Saints see a similar career path for Smith — initially playing him as an extra OL and if all goes well (or if Strief gets injured again), promoting him to right tackle.


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.  

More on Defensive Packages

Yesterday I published a table giving the frequency of defensive back packages used by team. This drew questions in the comments section which I felt I could better answer here.

Can someone explain to me why HOU and KC never (essentially) play nickel? – Colin William Weaver.                 

The Texans effectively run only two packages, 3-4-4 and 2-3-6. They stay in base 47% of the time, which is significantly more than the NFL average of 43%, but against likely passes they use the dime which they feels offers them better coverage capability than retaining stand-up linebackers. In formation terms this normally works out as a 4-1-6 because the two OLBs put their hands in the ground leaving (what would normally be) Brian Cushing as the only stand-up LB. Brice McCain comes in to man the slot while another safety (usually Quintin Demps last year) is brought in to play deep with Danieal Manning. The key here is the role previously played by Glover Quinn (now with Detroit) who would cover either the tight end, play the slot against 4 WR or take up position next to Cushing as an extra LB.

With Kansas City the scheme was very similar, excepting Justin Houston and Tamba Hali almost always stay in a two-point stance. Simply substitute Javier Arenas for McCain, Eric Berry for Quinn and Travis Daniels/Tysyn Hartman for Demps.

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. Which player wasn’t on the field? – Kevin Byrd

Here are all the 12 plays with 8 DBs broken down:


Charles Woodson3227
Jerron McMillian32311212
Jarrett Bush32311212
Casey Hayward32311212
Sam Shields321129
Tramon Williams32311212
Morgan Burnett32311212
M.D. Jennings32311212
Davon House3115
Sean Richardson33


Fullback Stats

I often hear people measure fullbacks by the results the back they are leading for had. As in he has blocked for three 1000 yard rushers or HB so and so has rushed for over 1000 yards every year FB has been here. Do you have any analysis on underrated fullback success in that sense? – Herbert (via email)

Truthfully, we are not big in to trying to correlate one player’s success based on another, particularly when it comes to something as complicated as the running game. We often get questions like how come X was poorly graded when he ran for 1,000 yards or (yesterday) McClain must be awful as a run defender because the Raiders are. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that, and Sam Monson put together a great article about that type of thing here.

The bottom line on this is we think our grades (where we rate the fullback based on each individual block) are far better indicators of success, and in that context the Vikings’ Rhett Ellison fits the description.


This series started last week and for those that didn’t catch them here are the first seven 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 Ronaldo 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

Thursday – A defense of Kevin Kolb, and how will Emmanuel Sanders fit in New England?



Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil


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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.

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