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Pat Kirwin: Digging inside numbers unearths some finds

Discussion in 'American Football' started by O'reilly, Dec 6, 2006.

  1. O'reilly

    O'reilly Well-Known Member

    Aug 29, 2005
    Digging inside numbers unearths some finds

    By Pat Kirwan
    NFL.com Senior Analyst

    (Dec. 6, 2006) -- There are some interesting production areas that give a better understanding of what talent and success are based upon. Here are some critical areas that coaches and personnel people look at every week:

    1. Percentage of rushing plays that produce at least 10 yards: This is a way to identify explosive backs with some special talent. On the negative side we have Edgerrin James, who only has 14 runs over 10 yards in 252 attempts. Basically, five percent of James' runs are considered explosive. The quick conclusion is that it's the Cardinals offensive line and the offense in general that has caused his demise, but his percentage of 10-plus-yard runs in a Colts uniform wasn't much better. And when you consider that almost every defensive coordinator played to stop Peyton Manning and the passing game when he was a Colt, James should have done a lot better when he played for Indianapolis.

    There are a number of running backs that are exceptional this season when it comes to 10-yard pops, but no one compares to quarterback Michael Vick. Vick just hit his 40th run for 10 yards or more this season and he has run only 105 times. That's an explosive run 38 percent of the time he takes off, but Vick is a quarterback who shows pass first and scrambles. Among the real running backs, there are three players with the numbers and three players who need more carries because their explosive-runs-per-carry is too good to be true.

    The top three "workhorse" runners with the most 10-plus-yard carries are Frank Gore (34), Larry Johnson (34) and Tiki Barber (33). These backs hit a 10-plus-yard run about 13 percent of the time, which is excellent.

    The 49ers' Frank Gore has broken free for several long runs this season.
    But there are three backs that jump out at me for the number of 10-plus-yard runs they have in limited opportunities, and the question is why not give them the ball more?

    Marion Barber of the Cowboys now has 18 runs of 10 yards or more in just 109 rushes. His backfield mate, Julius Jones, has 21 runs over 10 yards but it took him 116 carries more to have two more 10-plus-yard carries. Barber has an explosive run 16.5 percent of the time compared to 9 percent for Jones.

    Maurice Jones-Drew is another running back who may need to see more opportunities. Jones-Drew has 14 runs over 10 yards in only 95 rushing attempts, a 16 percent success rate. Meanwhile, teammate Fred Taylor, a great back in his own right, is operating at 12.6 percent.

    Finally, Brian Westbrook has recorded 25 runs of 10 or more yards and he did it in 177 plays, which translates to 14 percent. With their backs to the wall in their run for the playoffs, it may be time for the Eagles to feed Westbrook the ball.

    2. How many yards can a running back pick up after contact? The top-five backs in average yards after contact are all significantly better than the 2-yard after contact average in the NFL. The top-10 NFL backs with a minimum of 150 carries that make something happen after the first tackler strikes are Gore, Travis Henry, Laurence Maroney, Taylor, Cadillac Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Westbrook, Chester Taylor, Kevin Jones and Tiki Barber in that order.

    3. Who knocks the quarterback down the most? We see young pass rushers so cautious about the quarterback that it's taking some of the aggressiveness out of the defensive players. But when you consider that hits on the QB are almost as important as sacks, it might be a good time to check in about the defenders who have knocked the quarterbacks down the most.

    The top-five players to knock the quarterback down the most don't necessarily show up as the top sack numbers, but most coaches are happy to get some big hits on the signal-callers.

    Bart Scott is ranked 18th in sacks, but QBs should still fear the Ravens linebacker.
    Kyle Vanden Bosch is tied with Kamerion Wimbley at 22 knockdowns. Right behind them are Aaron Kampman (21) and Julius Peppers, Adalius Thomas and Bart Scott with (20). Defensive coaches want the quarterback hit as much as legally possible and they want them totally out of their comfort zone all game long. These guys are the best in the business right now at getting the job done.

    4. Impact tackles by linebackers: When linebackers stop ball carriers and quarterbacks for 2 yards or less, it is a reflection of great diagnoses of plays, athletic ability and technique. Combining tackles for 2 yards or less with sacks is an important way to see the playmakers on defense down in the combat zone. Here are the top impact tacklers in the league after thirteen weeks: Brian Urlacher (39), DeMeco Ryans (31), Kirk Morrison (31), Will Witherspoon (30), Lance Briggs (29) and Bart Scott (29)

    Finally, sometimes you have to dig down inside the obvious numbers. When I hear a linebacker has 100 tackles in a season, it sounds impressive but no where near as good as 40 impact tackles. I watch players every week make 10 tackles in a game but most of them are downfield after big gains. As for yards after contact in the NFL, an unblocked defender is going to show up most of the time and the real question is which backs can get something done in traffic. When I was negotiating contracts in the NFL I spent a lot of time looking at critical factors like these to determine the true value of players.
  2. boltssbbound

    boltssbbound Well-Known Member

    Jun 16, 2006
    Interesting analysis, but Kirwan fails to realize that the reason so many backups have 10+ yard runs is because they are fresh and the defense has been worn down by the workhorse back.
  3. underoath

    underoath BoltTalker

    Sep 2, 2006
    so basically Kirwan just showed why DeMeco ryans is the DROY this year.

    drafted with the first pick of the second round, i would still say he is a steal. linebackers like carpenter, chad greenway, many lawson...even AJ hawk havnt performed to Ryans' level and they were all taken before him.

    Wimbley on the other hand was going to be a beast in the NFL and is exactly that.
  4. Bergo23

    Bergo23 BoltTalker

    Sep 28, 2006
    Hopefully we can get an impact type ILB, who can defend the pass like Donnie..........Buster Douglas may be available at the bottom of the first round!!!!

    Donnie is good, but not 4 mill a year good......we need to spend some of those bux on signing Philips long term!!!!

    I do think Dobbins will become a stud run stuffer in the middle for us (either he or Cooper will replace Godfrey), maybe Cooper can be the Donnie guy, he made one good play on sunday at Buffalo...he seems atheltic enough. All I know if Donnie pass D skills are underrated, his tackling as this article points out isn't that valuable in the run game, and its one reason why our red zone D isn't great.

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