Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Apr 2008

Dennis Dixon Tells General Managers to Check His Web Site

My most recent post at the New York Times Fifth Down blog is on Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, who's hoping his personal Web site convinces NFL teams to draft him. Other posts this week were on Malcolm Kelly, how bad contracts have hurt the Lions as much as bad draft picks, one reason this year's draft has no Adrian Peterson, and whether Branden Albert will move to tackle.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 11 Apr 2008

36 comments, Last at 17 Apr 2008, 11:27am by Alex

Comments

1
by Dales (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 1:38pm

Another player on my Giants wish-list.

He'd make a fine backup to Eli.

2
by shockmonkey (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 1:48pm

While I'd like a decent backup to Eli, if he ever got hurt, I'd really want to see Lorenzen start. Hilarity would just be too much to pass up.

3
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 2:16pm

So what IS the reason why the pros don't run the spread-option more? I have my own ideas as well, but I'm curious to hear other opinions. You hear a lot about NFL DE's and OLB's being bigger and faster, and QB's being more valuable and the spread option leaves them too vulnerable, but are there other reasons?

And, more significantly, if most college teams are using it now and most college players are familiar with it, could and NFL team implement a heavy does of spread-option and eat it's inherent disadvantages in the pro game in order to be able to play more young guys earlier, and hence find an inefficiency in the market that could be exploited?

4
by Dales (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 2:18pm

There is that. I root for J-Load, Battleship Lorenzen, The Round Mound of Touchdown, the Hefty Lefty, the Pilsbury Throwboy.

How can't one?

Then again, how can one NOT be a Giants fan? :p

5
by Aaron (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 2:20pm

I'm pretty sure the Falcons did run some spread option with Vick and it was relatively successful.

Relative to the general success of the Falcons and Vick's not-quarterbackery.

6
by Josh (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 3:03pm

So what IS the reason why the pros don’t run the spread-option more?

Um, QB's are valuable team assets? And the spread is less effective as its use has spread.

7
by the original sam (formerly sam!) (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 3:06pm

3:

Vic Ketchman of jaguars.com has theorized that if the cap goes away, a small market team might be willing to try it. Grab a bunch of basically-interchangeable quarterbacks who'd run the spread option in college but who wouldn't make it in a pro offense, and see what happens.

8
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 3:09pm

I'm not sure how one could say that the spread is less effective as it's become more popular; Florida won a title after it adopted it, Oregon was in the title hunt, Illinois beat OSU last year due largely to it. And then there's the fun times of Appalachian state.

The primary reason that it wont' be done in the pros is the abuse it puts on QBs. The secondary reason is the speed; spread option attacks work partially because they're fast, but when you're dealing with NFL-level speed, the fast part kind of gets negated. Not entirely, but kind of.

I would expect a few places to start trying limited parts of it.

Hope Dixon gets drafted; he's a very smart young man who has been a great team member and will contribute whether he's on or off the field.

9
by Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabbadu (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 3:20pm

#6: The spread option isn't used at all in the post-Vick NFL, so it could present some successful wrinkles. Even the ability to make a Tim Tebow-style head fake into the line could freeze safeties for a valuable moment.

If a GM were bold enough to try it, he could assemble a roster of cheap QBs that are lacking one or more qualities to be a successful NFL QB in the traditional sense, e.g. Dixon, D.J. Shockley, or Troy Smith, and have them run the spread option. Their deficiencies in passing could be mitigated by the threat they present in the running game - everyone saw what Vick's running ability did to the YPC of Dunn and Norwood. With the running game opened up by a consistent diet of spread-option, even a mediocre passer might experience some success. And by having a series of fairly inexpensive, replaceable QBs, injury would be less of a concern (Machiavellian, I know).

Seriously, what's to stop a team that currently lacks a viable QB (such as the Vikings, Dolphins, or Chiefs) from trying this? It's not like they have anything to lose...

10
by Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabbadu (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 3:20pm

#7: I guess I don't type fast enough...

11
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 5:11pm

Fascinating ideas. I was especially thinking it might work in the short term because the key players would be cheap, because they're ones that no-one else is looking for exactly.

12
by bubqr (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 6:27pm

M.Kelly article. The man lost loads of money, because he was told he would run on an Astroturf, and learned during the Pro Day that he wouldn't. Losing 0.15 in a 40 time represents millions. I understand him being pissed off, especially after he spent that much time training for that event. I think he's still going to be a 1st round pick, WAS or even PIT(If no value is there at OL) could make a move for him. The guy is 227, ran on a slow surface, show good agility and great hands. If he drops, taht's because of his knee problems.

PS : One player decided not to run(C.Lofton ?)

13
by bubqr (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 6:30pm

In the six N.F.L. drafts since the Cardinals picked Davis, only four guards have been chosen in the first round, and none of them were chosen higher than 23rd.

Shawn Andrews was selected at #14 no ? I think I recall him being picked in the middle of the first round.

Otherwise, all these articles are great reads, thanks !

14
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 8:02pm

Re 13, Andrews went 16th overall, but he was a college tackle who moved to guard in the NFL. I was trying to make clear in that passage that I was talking about college guards who stayed at guard in the NFL. Sorry if that wasn't clear, and thanks for your kind words.

15
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Fri, 04/11/2008 - 10:07pm

#12
The problem is that no one in the NFL uses Astro Turf anymore either.

I wonder why more teams do not use the spread...to pass out of-Hawai'i and Texas Tech's versions of it.

16
by Daniel (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 12:47am

the spread offense isn't sustainable over the long run unless you have a great QB that can make quick reads and get the ball out. Warren Moon ran it and was quite successful. Chris Miller was good until he took so many hits it ended his career. The option shouldn't even be considered. Atlanta tried it with Vick in their opening game against the Bucs a few years back and all it did was expose Vick to some very hard hits. The Buccaneers didn't care if he pitched the ball or not, once he left the relative safety of the offensive line they just teed off on him. You would have to carry two extra QBs and extra receivers and RBs. Most teams aren't willing to give up the roster spots to just a few positions so they can run a gimnmick offense that probably wouldn't work anyways.

17
by Jon (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 2:17am

Interesting point about Peterson. This is such a great class, with a lot of intriguing players (e.g. Johnson, Forte). Ray Rice is the only potential first day RB who plays in a pro-style offense though. That's another reason why I think he has the highest floor of any of the RBs.

18
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 9:56am

Regarding the spread and a spread like offense, WTF do you people think the Patriots ran most of the time?

19
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 10:08am

Re 18, the Patriots ran a lot of four-receiver sets, but if you think the Patriots' offense was similar to the offense that Arkansas, Illinois or Oregon ran, I'm guessing you didn't watch any Arkansas, Illinois or Oregon games last year.

20
by Jeff M (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 11:22am

I can't remember what game it was, but I remember Jay Cutler running the option in the red zone sometime last season (I think with Selvin Young as the pitch-man) and thinking that was possibly the first time I'd ever seen a designed option play at the NFL level.

21
by JoRo (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 12:45pm

Against the Bills Cutler had an option I know that. And I am fairly certain they did it again in a game.

22
by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 1:52pm

the spread offense isn’t sustainable over the long run unless you have a great QB that can make quick reads and get the ball out.

In 1995, the only year we have DVOA for where teams used run-and-shoot offenses, the two teams that used it ranked 2nd and 3rd in offensive DVOA, with legends like Jeff George and Scott Mitchell at QB. Of course, the Cowboys were better on offense, and they did it with that no-talent hack Troy Aikman.

The option shouldn’t even be considered.

Here, I have to agree to some extent. Other than having designed QB runs in the first few years of your QB's career, while he's developing as a passer, and the occasional run just to keep the defense honest, you should avoid QB runs in the NFL. It works fine in college because QBs only play for at most 4 years there. In the NFL, good QBs often last over a decade, but not if they are running a lot in the later part of their careers.

I’m not sure how one could say that the spread is less effective as it’s become more popular; Florida won a title after it adopted it, Oregon was in the title hunt, Illinois beat OSU last year due largely to it. And then there’s the fun times of Appalachian state.

The primary reason that it wont’ be done in the pros is the abuse it puts on QBs.

Only the spread-option offense puts too much abuse on QBs. QBs in other types of spread offenses that don't use the QB as a runner extensively don't generally face more abuse than other QBs. Just so everyone remembers that distinction.

23
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 1:56pm

I've a feeling I saw that play too, but it certainly wasn't the first time I saw a team run it in the pros: as noted by several posters above the Falcons implemented it extensively in 2006. It was somewhat successful for a couple of games, but the Saints figured it out in about Week 3 and from then on it ceased to be terribly effective.

My thought on running the spread in the NFL in general is this: you couldn't build an elite NFL offense on those lines, but you might be able to build a serviceable one very cheaply, due to the minimal expenditure on quarterbacks and wide receivers, ordinarily two fairly expensive positions. I assume you'd keep a couple of extra quarterbacks on the practice squad, and all five guys would be on something close to the minimum. Then you'd spend a fortune and all your first day draft picks on defense, and try to make like the 2000 Ravens.

24
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 1:59pm

Yes, sorry, to be clear, I was talking about running a spread option in #23, not a straight up spread. I think it would be an interesting experiment, but in the current environment I don't see anyone taking that risk.

25
by Tom D (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 3:03pm

In 2003, the Bears ran an option play with Stewart and Thomas. It was not well conceived.

26
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Sat, 04/12/2008 - 4:07pm

Dennis Dixon's site is really well put together. It has to be encouraging to some teams that he's working so hard to dispel the knocks against him and is spending so much time trying to be 100%. If anything, his work ethic will help his draft stock.

27
by Marko (not verified) :: Sun, 04/13/2008 - 4:25am

20, 21: Cutler ran the option in the red zone against the Bears. Andre Hall was the pitch man.

25: With Kordell Stewart and Anthony Thomas, the entire offense was not well conceived.

28
by Quentin (not verified) :: Sun, 04/13/2008 - 9:36am

...as noted by several posters above the Falcons implemented it extensively in 2006. It was somewhat successful for a couple of games, but the Saints figured it out in about Week 3 and from then on it ceased to be terribly effective.

Yeah, it was a nice gimmick for like 3 games. From what I remember, the Saints stopped it by just blitzing the shit out of them.

29
by Quentin (not verified) :: Sun, 04/13/2008 - 9:41am

But of course, back then they had Hole in Zone shutting down the receivers. If they tried that now, the QB could just lob it in Jason David's direction for an easy 14.5 yards.

30
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sun, 04/13/2008 - 11:04am

Unsurprisingly, the Titans have run a decent amount of spread-option since drafting VY. It typically makes an appearance most frequently in the red zone. If you take a look at Tanier's PBP breakdowns, he looks at a play the Titans ran against the Redskins in 2006 that could've been right out of the Texas playbook. VY running out of the spread-option made less of an appearance in 07, perhaps in part because of his injuries, but the look was out there.

In addition to the standard answer of "it'd get your QB killed," the problem is that NFL defenses are too good-too well-disciplined to fall for fakes and misdirection for long, too quick to recover. VY's first start was against the Cowboys, and nothing spread-option-related the Titans tried worked at all-the Cowboy D just didn't bite at all.

31
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Sun, 04/13/2008 - 6:58pm

The Broncos ran TWO option plays that game against the Bears, the first one being moderately successful and the second one gained something like 20 yards. I would guess that the fact that the corners have run responsibilities in Tampa-2 defense somehow created a favorable situation to run the option specifically against the Bears D

32
by Illuminatus! (not verified) :: Mon, 04/14/2008 - 10:43pm

There is that. I root for J-Load, Battleship Lorenzen, The Round Mound of Touchdown, the Hefty Lefty, the Pilsbury Throwboy.

Dales, that was lol-worthy material.

33
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 2:24pm

#26:

I would hope so. Dixon belongs in the NFL, even if he's not actively playing. He'd be a great coach too. I love the concept that a player who knows he has some question marks goes way above and beyond to answer those question marks. The Lewin forecast would've liked him fairly well too; he'd have about a 64% completion average and 35 games either started or played in.

And once you've seen the fake statue of liberty play...wow. (link in my name)

My kids still occasionally say "poor Dixon" to me. Best Duck QB I've ever seen.

34
by aster (not verified) :: Tue, 04/15/2008 - 6:09pm

A while ago there was some mention of Dixon being open to playing another position in the NFL (assuming WR in the Randle-El mold?), but it looks like he's full-on presenting himself as a QB on his site.

Best of luck to him. He's cemented his status as one of the most beloved Ducks players in recent memory, and not just because he was so damn good and fun to watch - also comes across as a really genuine, intelligent guy.

35
by passerby (not verified) :: Wed, 04/16/2008 - 3:31pm

During their second game last season, the Jets used Brad Smith to run the option offense against the Patriots, and it did not turn out well for the Jets.

36
by Alex (not verified) :: Thu, 04/17/2008 - 11:27am

During their second game last season, the Jets used Brad Smith to run the option offense against the Patriots, and it did not turn out well for the Jets.

Yes, but then again, what did turn out well for the Jets last season?