Antonio Brown leads the world in everything
Welcome to Advanced Targets. In this episode we go behind the scenes and discover that Harry Truman isn’t coaching in the AFC South. We also employ snap, target, and pass route data to give you an edge in making difficult lineup decisions and in locating those impending breakouts a week or two before your opponents.
Week 2 was a good example of why I believe so strongly in an evidence-based approach to football evaluation. If you don’t know the current state of things, it’s difficult to know what changes to make, and franchises often make them randomly or counterproductively. Take for example the differences in approach between the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions.
In the offseason Bill Belichick faced plenty of questions about cheating, and his response was basically to point at the other franchises and say, “You think we need to cheat to beat these guys?” The takeaway was obvious. The Patriots don’t need to cheat to win. They merely do that to add to the fun. While Belichick was preparing game plans with the goal of winning games, Jim Caldwell was preparing game plans to appease the Platonic Ideals of the Football Gods. “We’re going to run the ball more in 2015. If we don’t run the ball more, you’ll know something’s wrong.”
In fairness to Caldwell, this isn’t the only way you know something’s wrong with the Lions. You only have to look over to the sidelines. But Calvin Johnson (58), Golden Tate (56), and Lance Moore (49) all finished in the Top 10 in routes this week. Something is wrong.
Stafford was heavily criticized after the 2013 season when the PFF numbers actually showed tremendous peripherals in terms of getting the ball out quickly and neutralizing pressure. In 2013 Stafford averaged 2.51 seconds to throw and his average target depth was 8.9 yards down the field. His percentage of passes released in under 2.5 seconds, as well as his passer rating splits in the two categories, almost perfectly mirrored Tom Brady. In part due to his quick release, Stafford was near the bottom in pressure percentage (the amount of pressure faced) and only Peyton Manning allowed a lower percentage of pressures to turn into sacks.
Stafford’s accuracy numbers were not of the Manning or Aaron Rodgers variety, but they were in the same range as passers like Brady and Tony Romo. PFF’s numbers basically confirmed what many seemingly have so much trouble understanding. You do not throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns at the age of 23 on accident, and you don’t do it merely as a result of volume. (That Stafford was able to put an otherwise moribund Lions team on his back that season should be a mark in his favor. Instead, it’s widely held against him.)
The move to Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi was an abject disaster. As they endeavored to “fix” what wasn’t broken, Stafford’s time-to-throw increased to 2.66 seconds while his target depth decreased to 8.3 yards. His sack rate doubled while his accuracy numbers remained unchanged.
It’s worth keeping all of this in mind as we look at the pass route numbers for Week 2. Coaches and general manages who do not know what is actually wrong with their teams will inevitably embark upon quixotic missions to fix what isn’t broken while ignoring glaring holes on their rosters.
Andre Johnson: 31 routes, 7 targets, 27 yards.
Chuck Pagano: “Andrew Luck needs to learn to protect the ball.”
Harry Douglas: 40 routes, 8 targets, 9 yards.
Ken Whisenhunt: “We want to bring Dorial Green-Beckham along slowly.”
DeAndre Hopkins: 59 routes, 11 targets, 53 yards; Nate Washington 57 routes, 7 targets, 63 yards; Cecil Shorts, 52 routes, 10 targets, 32 yards.
Bill O’Brien: “Jaelen Strong needs to practice better if he wants to play on Sundays.”