Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Aug 2003

In Focus: NFC East

by Aaron Schatz

This is the second of a series of eight articles taking a closer look at every team in the NFL, division by division, using our new statistics such as line yards and DVOA (explained here).  The format of these articles is explained at the beginning of the one on the AFC East.  Remember, offensive numbers are better the more POSITIVE, defensive numbers are better the more NEGATIVE.  Overall total is offense minus defense, so the more positive the better.  Schedule strength is harder the more negative, with the hardest schedule ranked #1 and the easiest ranked #32.

Beginning with this division, new players on a team are colored blue and players who have left the team are colored red.

TEAM W-L Total Rank Offense DVOA Rank Defense OVOA Rank Schedule Strength Rank
PHI 12-4 20.1% 3 5.3% 12 -14.8% 3 3.6% 32
WAS 7-9 -4.0% 18 -10.0% 25 -6.0% 9 0.8% 19
NYG 10-6 -4.1% 19 6.3% 11 10.3% 27 2.6% 26
DAL 5-11 -21.0% 29 -25.7% 30 -4.7% 12 3.0% 29

SHARED OPPONENTS

OUT: NFC West, AFC South

IN: NFC South, AFC East

HURTS: We're about to see just how badly Chad Hutchinson can suck, because the quarterbacks in this division are in serious trouble.  In fact, no position in any other division is going to get whacked in 2003 like the NFC East quarterbacks.

HELPS: Television ratings, thanks to the Bill Parcells reunion tour.  See Bill against the team he abandoned (Jets), the team he abandoned right after a Super Bowl (Patriots), the team he abandoned before he even joined them (Bucs), the quarterback he abandoned who was then himself traded (Bills), and the team that he led to two Super Bowls before he "retired" (Giants, twice!)

DALLAS COWBOYS

Pass
Rank
Rush
Rank
Total
Rank
OFFENSE DVOA -40.2% 32 -11.2% 25 -25.7% 30
DEFENSE DVOA 0.1% 16 -10.5% 3 -4.7% 12


 

PASSING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Passes
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
QB
Hutchinson, Chad -55.2% 48 281 1480 -54.3% 49 -123.9 48
QB
Carter, Quincy -19.4% 37 238 1393 -20.4% 39 -38.1 40
RUSHING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Runs
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
RB
Smith, Emmitt (ARI 03) -8.4% 38 254 974 -8.1% 36 -19.3 42
RB
Hambrick, Troy -1.3% 30 78 317 0.3% 25 -0.9 28
RB
Wiley, Michael 62.8% 23 164 48.1% 7.9
RB
Thomas, Robert -24.7% 10 31 -26.4% -2.5
RB
Anderson, Richie 5.5% 5 27 18.4% 0.3
QB
Carter, Quincy -45.6% 32 21 98 -47.0% 32 -11.5 33
QB
Hutchinson, Chad -16.7% 27 14 81 -15.0% 26 -2.6 21
WR
Bryant, Antonio -172.2% 6 40 -175.6% -12.0
WR
Galloway, Joey 18.9% 4 31 18.6% 1.0
RECEIVING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Passes
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
WR
Galloway, Joey -13.3% 80 120 913 -15.2% 81 -20.5 91
WR
Glenn, Terry (GNB 02) 0.6% 50 106 891 -1.2% 53 0.8 49
WR
Bryant, Antonio -3.9% 60 93 811 -6.3% 63 -4.5 59
WR
Scott, Darnay -9.3% 35 244 -10.0% -4.0
WR
Rambo, KenYon -20.6% 33 217 -21.4% -8.5
WR
Swinton, Reggie 17.4% 10 63 8.0% 1.9
TE
Campbell, Daniel (NYG 02) -8.4% 34 31 175 -6.3% 31 -3.5 31
TE
McGee, Tony 19.8% 5 30 321 29.1% 2 8.9 8
TE
Whalen, James -24.7% 44 29 152 -25.7% 44 -8.8 40
RB
Anderson, Richie (NYJ 02) -6.7% 35 56 347 -6.1% 32 -3.9 37
RB
Wiley, Michael 3.2% 29 144 1.9% 0.8
RB
Smith, Emmitt (ARI 03) -24.5% 24 169 -32.2% -5.3
RB
Hambrick, Troy -90.8% 24 99 -90.9% -18.8
RB
Thomas, Robert 2.3% 16 80 -5.2% 0.4
Line Yards 
Adjusted 
Rank 
Not Adjusted 
Rank 
10+ Yards 
Rank 
Power 
Rank 
Offense 3.54 21 3.39 17 17% 19 60% 27
Defense 3.52 13 3.23 9 12% 4 68% 12
LEFT 
MIDDLE 
RIGHT 
Line Yards 
Carries 
Line Yards 
Rank 
Carries 
Line Yards 
Rank 
Carries 
Line Yards 
Rank 
Offense 37% 3.70 18 41% 3.05 31 22% 4.19 8
Defense 21% 3.99 26 57% 3.38 10 22% 3.43 11

Other important additions: LB Al Singleton (TAM), RT Ryan Young (HOU), CB Terence Newman (R1), some guy named after a fish.

Other important losses: LB Kevin Hardy (CIN), RT Solomon Page (SDG), DT Brandon Noble (WAS) 

NO, I MEAN *MY* LEFT

Dallas (tied with Detroit) threw a higher percentage of passes to the right than any other team in football, 47%.  Good thing, too, because the Cowboy passing game was horrible to the left side of the field.  -16% DVOA on passes to the left was one of the worst ratings in the league.  The Cowboys were +13% DVOA on passes up the middle and +5% DVOA on passes to the right.  No one receiver is to blame, as the team's top four receivers were all significantly better on passes to the right.

No, the man to blame is Chad Hutchinson.  Even though Hutchinson and Carter both threw roughly the same number of passes in each direction, Hutchinson was far worse to the left, while Carter was surprisingly good throwing up the middle:

Left
Middle
Right
Hutchinson DVOA -34% -11% +15%
Hutchinson passes 82 42 123
Carter DVOA +3% +38% -8%
Carter passes 75 40 102

*note, pass plays with no direction (batted down passes, sacks, etc.) are not included on this table but are included in the standard quarterback stats.

Left and right aside, Quincy Carter was better than Chad Hutchinson in nearly every statistical split -- in close games and far behind, all four quarters, all four downs, all over the field -- with one big exception. In the red zone, Carter had an appalling -212% DVOA in 15 passes, while Hutchinson, below average in every other way, was +10% DVOA in 19 passes.

NO, I MEAN MY *RIGHT*

Dallas was another team that ran more in one direction (left) despite having more success in the other (right).  Here are the adjusted line yards for each back:

Left Middle Right
Troy Hambrick 3.53 3.38 4.76
Emmitt Smith 3.59 2.60 4.26

OTHER NOTES

Check those line yard stats -- the hole in the Dallas rushing defense was on the left side.  I'm looking at you, Ebenezer Ekuban.

Joey Galloway was the target of 29% of Dallas red zone passes.  Only five receivers had a higher percentage: Moss, Moulds, Ward, Gonzalez, and Owens.

Dallas' pass defense was particularly strong on passes to running backs (-13.3% VOA on passes to RB and FB, but +18.2% VOA on passes to WR and TE).  That number is not adjusted for opponents, but it doesn't seem like Dallas played fewer pass-catching backs than other teams did.

Dallas' pass defense also ranked #5 in the red zone (-71.1% VOA).

NEW YORK GIANTS

Pass
Rank
Rush
Rank
Total
Rank
OFFENSE DVOA -23.8% 3 -12.5% 29 6.3% 11
DEFENSE OVOA 7.4% 23 14.0% 30 10.3% 27
PASSING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Passes
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
QB
Collins, Kerry 18.5% 7 569 4052 23.7% 4 91.0 3
RUSHING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Runs
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
RB
Barber, Tiki 0.1% 25 303 1386 -4.6% 31 0.1 25
RB
Dayne, Ron -11.9% 41 125 428 -13.5% 42 -13.6 37
RB
Levens, Dorsey (PHI 02) 14.0% 7 75 411 16.6% 7 7.9 18
QB
Collins, Kerry -62.1% 33 10 30 -64.5% 33 -5.4 29
RECEIVING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Passes
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
WR
Toomer, Amani 34.1% 4 134 1362 33.9% 5 58.5 2
WR
Hilliard, Ike 16.6% 14 47 407 21.5% 9 10.6 29
WR
Dixon, Ron 9.8% 36 372 13.1% 4.9
WR
Jones, Daryl -42.7% 23 90 -46.7% -10.4
TE
Shockey, Jeremy 0.0% 21 127 949 -4.7% 28 0.0 21
TE
Campbell, Daniel (DAL 03) -8.4% 34 31 175 -6.3% 31 -3.5 31
RB
Barber, Tiki 13.5% 14 95 642 7.0% 20 10.6 10
RB
Levens, Dorsey (PHI 02) -5.6% 28 124 -6.5% -1.3
RB
Stackhouse, Charles -33.1% 18 88 -40.4% -5.8
RB
Dayne, Ron -10.4% 12 49 -17.8% -1.0


 

Line Yards
Adjusted
Rank
Not Adjusted
Rank
10+ Yards
Rank
Power
Rank
Offense 3.59 18 3.26 21 23% 2 58% 29
Defense 3.33 6 3.13 5 21% 25 58% 5
LEFT
MIDDLE
RIGHT
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
 
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
 
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
Offense 27% 3.8 14   49% 3.15 27   24% 4.24 6
Defense 28% 3.81 18   55% 2.99 1   16% 3.67 16

Other important additions: K Mike Hollis (JAC), P Jeff Feagles (SEA), DE Keith Washington (DEN), DT William Joseph (R1) 

Other important losses: CB Jason Sehorn (STL), RT Mike Rosenthal (MIN), K Owen Pochman (GNB) 

THE SHOCKEY DILEMMA

(Note: There was originally a discussion here of how Jeremy Shockey rated very low in our numbers. This issue was solved with the invention of Points Above Replacement and is cut for space due to database limits.)

LIGHTNING AND THAT OTHER GUY

It will surprise nobody that the Giants used Ron Dayne up the middle more than 60% of the time, while Tiki Barber went up the middle less than 50% of the time.  And it probably won't surprise you that Barber and Dayne had roughly similar stats running up the middle, but Barber got more than a yard per carry more to the left.  But here's a weird one: Dayne's stats running right were actually better than Barber's!  Is Dayne actually good running right?  Or is this a statistical blip caused by less than 25 carries?  This is where a couple years of statistics will come in handy once we've been doing this for a while.  Here are the line yard stats for each back:

TIKI BARBER Left Middle Right Total
adjusted line yards 4.02 3.15 4.17 3.67
non-adjusted line yards 3.80 2.74 3.63 3.29
number of carries 87 134 82 303
RON DAYNE Left Middle Right Total
adjusted line yards 2.93 3.20 4.35 3.33
non-adjusted line yards 2.93 2.91 4.05 3.10
number of carries 28 76 21 125

Barber got 28% of his rushing yards more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.  That's the highest percentage for any RB with more than 30 carries in 2002.  Dayne got only 9% of his rushing yards on these long runs, one of the lowest numbers in the league.

And that other number on the line yards table, POWER?  You will notice that the Giants were one of the league's worst teams in these situations, third and fourth down with two yards to go or less.  Barber actually handled the ball in 20 of these situations, getting 13 first downs or touchdowns (65%).  The silent thunder, Ron Dayne, only had 8 such situations, and only got first downs or touchdowns in 4 of them (50%).

When the guy you call Thunder is so bad on third-and-short that you give the ball to your lightweight back instead, it is time to find him another town to play in.

OTHER NOTES

Teams ran right on the Giants less often than any other defense in the NFL (tied with Indianapolis). This is called "respect for Michael Strahan."  But the real strength of the Giants came on runs up the middle.  The unsung heroes are linemen Keith Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin, plus linebacker Mike Barrow.  The Giants also had the second-best rushing defense in the league in the red zone with only 2.60 adjusted line yards per carry.

The Giants passing game had major problems in the red zone.  Kerry Collins' passing numbers were -5% DVOA in the red zone, but +21% DVOA on the rest of the field.  Amani Toomer really had problems -- he was -44% DVOA in the red zone and +43% DVOA everywhere else.  In fact, Toomer was +63% DVOA in the FRONT zone, between the opponent's 20 and 40, the best rating for any receiver with more than 20 passes in that zone.  But once he passed the 20, kaput.

Oddly enough, Giants pass defense was even worse in the red zone than the offense was, with a horrid +37.5% VOA.

Kerry Collins had +8% DVOA passing the ball in the first half, but +29% DVOA in the second half and overtime.

The Giants rush defense could learn something from Collins.  They were great in the first quarter (-22.1% VOA) and then mediocre the rest of the game.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Pass
Rank
Rush
Rank
Total
Rank
OFFENSE DVOA 0.8% 18 10.0% 7 5.3% 12
DEFENSE OVOA -10.4% 8 -21.0% 1 -14.8% 3
PASSING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Passes
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
QB
McNabb, Donovan -1.5% 22 387 2184 -4.8% 25 -5.4 23
QB
Feeley, A.J. -11.6% 30 160 983 -11.9% 30 -17.3 31
QB
Detmer, Koy 26.1% 29 216 45.1% 6.8
RUSHING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Runs
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
RB
Staley, Duce 5.3% 17 268 1030 5.1% 19 12.6 12
RB
Levens, Dorsey (NYG 03) 14.0% 7 75 411 16.6% 7 7.9 18
RB
Westbrook, Brian -1.0% 46 193 -4.9% -0.4
QB
McNabb, Donovan 29.3% 4 57 469 27.7% 5 21.6 2
QB
Feeley, A.J. -261.1% 4 15 -244.7% -8.9
WR
Thrash, James -0.3% 18 126 -0.3% -0.1
RECEIVING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Passes
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
WR
Pinkston, Todd 0.7% 49 113 798 -2.7% 57 1.0 48
WR
Thrash, James -22.1% 88 107 637 -24.5% 89 -30.1 96
WR
Freeman, Antonio (FA 03) 3.6% 40 80 623 2.3% 44 3.7 41
WR
Mitchell, Freddie -23.5% 24 105 -25.7% -6.8
TE
Lewis, Chad -26.1% 45 67 424 -29.9% 46 -22.2 47
TE
Thomason, Jeff 93.3% 12 128 81.0% 12.6
RB
Staley, Duce 49.8% 1 69 541 43.7% 6 33.4 3
RB
Levens, Dorsey (NYG 03) -5.6% 28 124 -6.5% -1.3
RB
Westbrook, Brian -60.8% 13 86 -65.0% -5.9
RB
Ritchie, Jon (OAK 02) -32.1% 21 66 -33.9% -5.2
Line Yards
Adjusted
Rank
Not Adjusted
Rank
10+ Yards
Rank
Power
Rank
Offense 3.91 5 3.57 11 15% 24 79% 5
Defense 3.67 17 3.41 16 19% 17 69% 14
LEFT
MIDDLE
RIGHT
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
 
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
 
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
Offense 13% 3.97 11   57% 3.85 7   30% 3.98 11
Defense 24% 3.77 16   52% 3.73 24   24% 3.44 12

Other important additions: MLB Mike Simoneau (ATL), WLB Nate Wayne (GNB), P Kyle Richardson (MIN), RB Correll Buckhalter (injured in 2002), DE Jerome McDougle (R1) 

Other important losses: MLB Barry Gardner (CLE), WLB Shawn Barber (KAN), DE Hugh Douglas (JAC), CB Al Harris, P Sean Landeta (STL) 

HOW IS THE EAGLES RUNNING DEFENSE BOTH GREAT AND AVERAGE?

If you look at those team charts for Philadelphia, you'll notice something odd about the Eagle rush defense.  According to VOA numbers, Philadelphia had the #1 rushing defense in the NFL in 2002.  According to line yards, the Philadelphia front seven had the #17 rushing defense in the NFL in 2002.  Huh? 

I couldn't figure it out myself, until I did some comparisons of the best rushing defenses by each statistic.  The secret lies in the question: are yards more valuable on some downs than on others? 

VOA statistics use the value system developed by Pete Palmer and Bob Carroll, which states that a play is successful if it gets the team closer to the next first down.  As the set of downs moves forward, plays need more yards to count as successful.  On first down, the team needs 40% of distance remaining.  On second down it needs 60%.  On third down, it needs 100%.

Line yard statistics are not dependent on how many yards are needed for a first down.  They simply measure how many yards the back gets, up to a maximum of 10.  There are adjustments for down and a number of other variables, but the need to make the next first down is not considered.

If a defense allows an average of four rushing yards on first-and-ten, it is allowing the average running play to be a success.  But if a defense allows an average of four rushing yards on second-and-ten, it is doing a much better job of keeping the offense from another first down.  And if the defense allows an average of four rushing yards on third-and-ten, well, they must be playing every game against the Houston Texans.

Here is how the Philadelphia Eagles defense did, in both VOA allowed and line yards allowed, based on down:

VOA Line Yards Average "To Go"
1st Down -1.0% 3.69 10.12
2nd Down -50.5% 2.98 8.29
3rd Down -9.2% 4.07 7.66
4th Down (not counting punts) 23.4% 5.00 8.45 

That second down performance explains the difference between Philadelphia's rank in VOA and line yards.  On first down, when 40% of needed yards is a success, Philly allowed 36% of needed yards.  On second down, when 60% of needed yards is a success, Philly allowed the same 36% of needed yards.  And preventing opponents from getting first downs is much more important than allowing fewer rushing yards on every single down, irregardless of how far away the pylons are.

Interestingly, while Philly's rush defense excelled on scond down, the pass defense excelled on third down.  Only Tampa had a better pass defense on third downs.  Philly was below average, +6.9% VOA on first and second down, but -55.2% VOA on third down.

DUCE VS. DORSEY

The Eagles had a very good running game, and extremely well rounded.  They were good in every direction, good at power situations, with two good backs.  Unfortunately, one is now gone, and that might be the better one.  Dorsey Levens (now with the Giants) was better than Duce Staley in nearly every category.  And they weren't used much differently.  They had about the same split of plays from different spots on the field, on first through third downs, when the Eagles were down (rarely) and ahead.  The only major difference was that Levens ran 13 times with more than 10 yards to go, while Staley ran only 8 such plays.

Both Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens got better with each successive down, on both rushing and receiving plays.  These DVOA numbers combine rushing and receiving:

1st Down 2nd Down 3rd Down
Staley 9% 22% 64%
Levens -12% 11% 52%

OTHER NOTES

The Eagles don't seem to have a lot of trust in LT Tra Thomas on rushing plays.  No team ran fewer of their rushing plays to the left than the Eagles.

The Eagles excelled passing on second down.  This effect was consistent with all three quarterbacks: 

1st down    -21% DVOA

2nd down  +28% DVOA

3rd down   -21% DVOA 

The Eagles passing defense was only average on throws right (+16.5% VOA) but one of the best in the league on throws left (+0.3% VOA).  Part of the reason for this was weak-side LB Shawn Barber, but he's left for Kansas City, replaced by ex-Packer Nate Wayne.  If you are curious, the Pack was also above-average on throws left, but not quite as good.

(In case you are wondering why +16% is average, and not 0%, there are a number of negative pass plays like sacks and batted passes that don't have a direction.)

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Pass
Rank
Rush
Rank
Total
Rank
OFFENSE DVOA 18.4% 27 -0.6 15 -10.0% 25
DEFENSE OVOA -12.7% 7 1.5% 19 -6.0% 9
PASSING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Passes
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
QB
Matthews, Shane (CIN 03) -17.1% 36 244 1241 -11.0% 29 -35.4 39
QB
Ramsey, Patrick -13.1% 32 243 1546 -15.8% 33 -25.6 35
QB
Johnson, Rob (TAM 02) -12.7% 31 106 477 -25.9% 41 -11.3 27
QB
Wuerffel, Danny -26.1% 45 102 681 -29.2% 44 -23.4 33
RUSHING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Runs
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
RB
Davis, Stephen (CAR 03) -6.1% 35 207 819 -8.0% 35 -11.8 35
RB
Watson, Kenny 26.3% 3 116 534 28.7% 6 26.8 5
RB
Betts, Ladell -10.7% 65 307 -17.6% -5.3
RB
Canidate, Trung (STL 02) -86.2% 17 48 -84.6% -12.5
QB
Johnson, Rob (TAM 02) -5.4% 18 14 73 -5.4% 19 -0.9 17
QB
Wuerffel, Danny 43.3% 9 77 46.9% 4.9
QB
Matthews, Shane (CIN 03) -8.2% 7 22 -9.5% -0.7
QB
Ramsey, Patrick -15.0% 5 7 -22.4% -1.1
WR
Thompson, Derrius (MIA 03) -8.8% 77 10 77 -8.8% -1.5
WR
Coles, Laveranues (NYJ 02) 19.3% 6 39 21.3% 1.5
RECEIVING
PLAYER
DVOA
Rank
Passes
Yards
VOA
Rank
DV+
Rank
WR
Gardner, Rod 3.1% 42 141 1030 0.2% 50 5.5 37
WR
Coles, Laveranues (NYJ 02) 34.2% 134 1264 36.2% 4 61.2 1
WR
Thompson, Derrius (MIA 03) -5.9% 64 93 773 -7.4% 66 -7.2 68
WR
Doering, Chris (PIT 03) -25.5% 91 42 199 -28.2% 92 -13.3 77
WR
McCants, Darnerian -25.0% 90 41 285 -28.9% 93 -12.7 74
WR
Lockett, Kevin (JAC 03)* -63.7% 29 126 -62.5% -20.9
WR
Johnson, Patrick (JAC 02) -21.9% 24 196 -21.8% -6.9
WR
Jackson, Willie (FA 03)* -24.0% 14 58 -26.3% -4.7
TE
Flemister, Zeron -4.8% 29 26 231 -11.2% 33 -1.5 25
TE
Rasby, Walter -2.1% 13 85 -7.9% -0.3
RB
Watson, Kenny -10.9% 39 43 258 -13.1% 39 -3.9 35
RB
Davis, Stephen (CAR 03) -3.4% 30 33 142 -13.6% 41 -1.0 26
RB
Betts, Ladell 70.8% 17 154 63.7% 9.8
RB
Johnson, Bryan 40.0% 15 114 42.4% 6.6
RB
Cartwright, Rock 60.5% 13 121 60.4% 7.8
RB
Canidate, Trung (STL 02) 29.8% 6 62 11.0% 1.5
*only stats with Washington included
Line Yards
Adjusted
Rank
Not Adjusted
Rank
10+ Yards
Rank
Power
Rank
Offense
3.85 8 3.68 8 14% 25 67% 20
Defense
3.43 10 3.14 6 21% 24 80% 29
LEFT
MIDDLE
RIGHT
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
 
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
 
Carries
Line Yards
Rank
Offense 28% 3.72 17   56% 3.68 11   16% 4.69 1
Defense 26% 3.63 13   46% 3.45 14   28% 3.21 7

Other important additions: LG Dave Fiore (SFO), RG Randy Thomas (NYJ), DT Brandon Noble (DAL), DE Regan Upshaw (OAK), K John Hall (NYJ), FS Matt Bowen (GNB), DT Jermaine Haley (MIA), WR Taylor Jacobs (R2) 

Other important losses: CB Darrell Green (RETIRED), OL David Loverne (STL), S Sam Shade (FA) 

STEVE SPURRIER, OFFENSIVE GENIUS

Those offensive line yard stats are a bit of a surprise, aren't they?  Would you believe that Steve Spurrier's offense was ranked #6 in the NFL in offensive line yards?  It's even more surprising given that the running subplot for the season's second half was "Stephen Davis is washed up."

Washington ran a huge percentage of their plays up the middle, but they ran even better to the right, where they averaged more yards per carry than any team in the NFL.  Despite this, they ran only 15% of their plays to the right -- the third-lowest percentage in any direction for any team.  Only Philadelphia (left) and Baltimore (right) were lower.  So the Redskins may have had the best right-side offensive line blocking in football, and they utilized these men less than any offensive linemen in football.  Steve Spurrier, offensive genius.  For those curious, the gentlemen with the weeds around their ankles are RT Jon Jansen and RG Wilbert Brown (who has now been replaced on the first team by former Jet Randy Thomas).

Kenny Watson was the best of Washington's three backs, averaging 4.01 adjusted line yards per carry.  Davis averaged 3.81, Betts averaged 3.67.  Watson's advantage looks even bigger before adjustments, but that's because he got to play against Seattle.  Watson and Betts will fight for the Washington job against newcomer Trung Canidate, who had bad stats with St. Louis but in so few carries that it was statistically insignificant.  We say Watson would be the best choice for the top spot.

OTHER NOTES

Washington is going to spend the whole season pulling off some great stuff when the chips are down.  First, they have some receivers who can really make it happen in the red zone.  Rod Gardner was 79% DVOA in 12 attempts, the third-highest rating in the NFL for a receiver with 10 or more red zone passes (behind Wayne Chrebet and Billy Miller).  Instead of Darrius Thompson, who was average in the red zone and abysmal from the 20 to the 40, Gardner gets to line up beside Laverneus Coles, who was +68% DVOA on 10 attempts for the Jets.

Both Ramsey and new backup Rob Johnson were far better on third down in 2002 than they were on the first two downs:

1st Down 2nd Down 3rd Down
Rob Johnson (with TAM) -27% -36% +50%
Ramsey -29% -29% +34%
Matthews (gone) -29% +4% -23%
Wuerffel (gone) -9% -50% -36%

The Skins rush defense became suddenly porous on third down.  Besides ranking near the bottom of the league in power situations, they also gave up the most adjusted line yards per carry on third down (4.55) 

Washington was the best team in the NFL at preventing rush success when it led by a touchdown or more -- and close to the worst at preventing rush success when it was behind by a touchdown or more (Jets and Arizona were worse).

Washington's pass defense was much better on passes to the offense's left (-0.9% VOA) than on passes to the offense's right (+18.3% VOA).  This brings up an odd dilemma.  From most of the depth charts we've seen, players listed on the left side of the defense are actually defending the right side of the offense, and vice versa.  So if Champ Bailey is listed as LCB, and Fred Smoot as RCB, these stats would seem to indicate that Smoot was better at preventing passing success in 2002 than the highly-regarded Bailey.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 07 Aug 2003

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