The weekend's biggest upset goes under the Football Outsiders lens.
7/19: Corrected a handful of player ages and QB projections.
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21 Dec 2010
Vince looks at whether Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh have had the better rookie season, and whether the Lions or the Bucs need to do more to improve this offseason.
Posted by: Vince Verhei on 21 Dec 2010
18 comments, Last at
23 Dec 2010, 12:22pm by
I really was starting to be impressed with McCoy before his injury, it's just that he isn't a complete freak of nature like Suh. That being said, Suh was oddly invisible on Sunday; Tampa's offensive line started two rookies and was on its 8th line combination for the year, and I figured he'd be living in the backfield. Part of Tampa's awful ALY ranking I would assume lies at the feet of Raheem Morris relying on Cadillac to run his "two yards and fall down" offense for the first four or five weeks; he's been really effective carrying the ball less often, so I have to assume his knee injuries mean he just can't take a constant pounding. That, and Blount's shown a combination of speed/power and a tendency to forget he has speed/power and start dancing behind the line and fall down a lot.
DE is a desperate need, as will be LB because the team has shown no inclination to re-sign Ruud, as they apparently think he isn't big enough to man the middle. Leads the team in tackles every year by a healthy margin. I have no doubt he'll be somewhere like Detroit or Indy next year and make the Pro Bowl.
WR-wise, things look good. QB-wise, things look great. Suffice to say, the future is pretty promising.
I admit I'm biased (as a Packers fan), but I think Detroit needs less to become really good. The Lions have a couple of standout difference makers in Suh and Calvin Johnson. They also have a fair number of decent players and potentially very good players in Delmas, Stafford, Corey Williams, Best, and Pettigrew. Their only weak OL is Backus. Add another playmaker, improve the secondary, and a healthy Stafford, and you could see a good playoff team in the next two years. While the Bucs have some very good players, I don't see any potential superstars on the team, though McCoy or Mike Williams could become one. It's a lot more common to get more really good players than a superstar, even when drafting near the top. Detroit may have a couple more holes to fill (especially at LT), but they can be filled.
Aqib Talib is a phenomenal player, so he'd need to be entered into any discussion. Also, Josh Freeman has shown as much improvement in his second year as could be expected. I don't know how anyone could say Stafford > Freeman at this point; even while Stafford's been healthy, Freeman's been the clearly superior QB. While Mike Williams has had a generally nice year, Freeman doesn't have the advantage of doing the "toss it to Megatron and hope for the best" offense, which this week turned Drew Stanton into the #3 QB in FO's rankings.
Detroit is better at WR (entirely because of CJ) and DL. Tampa is better at QB, OL (Penn, Faine, and Joseph would rank as at least "reasonably solid", I'd think), LB, and in the secondary (though this depends on Tanard Jackson putting the bong down and playing again). Besides, superstars are nice, but you win with depth, and I'd say Tampa's got more of that. We know this because the entire @#$!!! team is injured this year.
I'm not sure how you can say even "when healthy," Freeman is "clearly superior" to Stafford. Looking at this years stats, when healthy, Stafford beats Freeman hands down. Better QB rating, better TD/INT ratio, slightly higher completion percentage, and against better defenses.
Stafford has only played in 3 games this year, and 2 of those 3 games were against top tier defenses in Chicago and the Jets. Freeman has really padded his stats this season against the weak opponents he's played(CAR x2, ARI, SF, and WAS). It's not Freeman's fault, but it is what it is.
Stafford's health is a huge problem, and if he can't stay healthy he's not even as valuable as a QB as Shawn Hill. Drop the "when healthy" quailifier, and I'll agree with you whole-heartedly. But when Stafford has played this year, he's looked better than Freeman.
Stafford: 2.2% passing DVOA
Freeman: 18.5% passing DVOA, over far more plays than Stafford.
And that's not including the value Freeman adds with his feet, which is substantial.
I think it's close
But relying on TD/INT ratios in this case is really, really iffy. Because Stafford got a ton of short TDs to pad his stats. I won't even touch pointing to QB rating. Stafford's yards per attempt: 5.6 to Freeman's 7.0. That just shows Freeman has been more efficient on a per attempt basis.
And, as said, Stafford has Calvin Johnson to throw to, which helps a lot.
Now, I'm not saying Freeman is better than Stafford at this point. I don't think you can answer that question judging by this small a sample size.
What I'm saying is not that Freeman *is* better, it's that he *has been* better. Granted, this is largely because Stafford can't stay healthy (and I do think this is a factor to take into consideration, note how when Freeman runs he slides/gets out of bounds and takes care to actually avoid injury), but Freeman has shown himself to be a very good young QB, and Stafford has not.
I will now refrain from insulting Mark Sanchez. Probably.
I'll say it. Freeman is clearly better than Stafford at this point.
I think this case is an excellent example of why we come to this site for advanced metrics. A cursory glance suggests that the QBs are even or possibly that Stafford has a slight advantage (playing time notwithstanding), but looking deeper, it doesn't seem that Stafford has much in his favor at all, whether it's DYAR (playing time), DVOA (where Stafford not only doesn't have an advantage, he's not even best on his team, or second-best, for that matter), or p-f-r's adjusted net yards/attempt.
And he doesn't look better to me. The issue with him as the #1 pick was his completion percentage in college, and honestly, it still seems to me that he has problems with accuracy. Maybe some of that comes from not having enough pro experience, but then that's not to be discounted: if he ends up missing more than 16 games in his first two seasons, that's going to hurt his development. There is value in being healthy.
As a Lions fan, I like to see that Hill and Stanton can step in and keep the offense running relatively well, but I think that also doesn't say much about Stafford. The three QBs have comparable experience in the current offense; if they're producing comparable results, it makes you wonder if Stafford really has the potential the Lions think he does.
Stafford played half a game against Chicago, and I wouldn't call it a particularly good game, then play well against WAS and NYJ. That's it. Also, per FO's stats, the Jets don't exactly have an oppressive pass D this year; Cleveland, Cincy, and several other teams Freeman has played quite well against have good pass defenses. Also, if you want to go by traditional stats, Freeman's YPA is a full yard and a half better than Stafford's, so that 0.4% completion percentage isn't exactly a marker of accuracy. Freeman also has the second-highest rushing DYAR this year after Vick. His mobility is a HUGE asset. Also, throw in the statistically hard-to-define "good late" factor and the now oft-repeated fact that he has five fourth-quarter comebacks this year, and you have another big plus for Freeman.
Stafford has essentially done nothing this year other than get himself hurt; how could you even suggest there's a competition here? While I'm admittedly being a homer with a Freeman man-crush in full display, this one's pretty easy to call. Maybe in a year or two if Stafford learns to duck and stops getting himself killed there will be something to measure against, but one of these guys has played extremely well. FO's stats do adjust for strength of schedule, and Freeman (as of 12/14/10) was 15th overall in DVOA and 12th in DYAR.
Detroit is dead last in ALY, including 30th up the middle and dead last to both right guard and right end. Their pass blocking is much better, but I would argue that they have five weak linemen.
The OL had improved in places earlier in the year, but Raiola and Backus seem to be showing their age, and when your RT is being spelled by a guy with no previous NFL experience (have we not been down this road before?), it's hard to point to any of the five guys and say that improvement can't be made.
I doubt it will come from any of the backups. Gandy and Ugoh are Colts' castoffs (that sure worked well the last time they tried it), and the rest seem to be roster filler. There's something to be said for OL continuity, but when your OL isn't that good, I think it wouldn't hurt to look for an OL in the first round next year. (That may also play into Stafford's health issues. Keep your QB on his feet and maybe he can play more games.)
That's all well and good, but only if ALY is a perfect stat, which it isn't. Nobody would argue that the Colts have a great pass blocking unit, but there they are atop the ASR list.
The Lions have run the ball well from the Thanksgiving Day game onwards, which also coincides with their decision to stop giving all of the handoffs to one or both of their crippled running backs (Best and Smith).
I don't buy that Maurice Morris is some uber-talented back that is having success in recent weeks in spite of the league's worst run blocking line. I find it far more plausible that the line was made to look worse than they are by two running backs with one one healthy leg between them.
I don't think Detroit's pass blocking is as good as their ASR rank, but I don't think their run blocking is as bad as their ALY rank. They are a perfectly decent quintet, which is good enough to win in the NFL.
The last thing the Lions need is offensive skill position players, which they're stacked at.
They mainly need secondary help (like all 4 guys need to be replaced), and offensive line help.
Delmas was pretty good his rookie year, and I can't imagine he's dropped off that much. Then again, maybe the vortex of suck that is C.C. Brown has tainted Delmas.
I disagree in the secondary. Chris Houston has had a fine year after struggling for Atlanta and Delmas is a quality player. Spievy has been up and down since taking over for Brown, but he's a rookie and has never played safety before, I like his upside. Alphonso Smith played great this year until he tried to play against New England with one arm and his poor game suddenly turned everyone in America into an Alphonso Smith expert (he's on IR now after shoulder surgery). Another corner or safety would be NICE, but Houston and Delmas are fine, and Spievy and Smith are bothyoung with obvious upside.
The biggest need is at linebacker, where both OLBs are horrendous. Another WR would be swell too, as Burleson is only effective in the slot and Bryant Johnson shouldn't be on an NFL roster.
The Lions urgent needs are probably one safety and two OLBs. The current depth chart at OLB is street free agents and the shell of Julian Peterson.
I'd like see Raiola replaced first on the oline, he gets overpowered too much for my liking. We need a third WR who's any good. Derrick Williams has shown nothing in two years and I enjoyed Bryant Johnson jumping for a pass that was about chest-high against the Bucs, which allowed the defender to shove him out of bounds and nullify a first down on the Lions' opening drive.
CB may still be a problem if Chris Houston goes elsewhere next year and Alphonso Smith turns out to be a fluke. I can't recall if Vasher was a street free agent or if made the team in camp. (I can't believe the Lions won that game with Nathan Vasher, C.C. Brown and Jon Wendling playing the majority of the game in the secondary)
I can't imagine they draft anything but best defensive non-lineman available in the first round. I suppose if you can get a LT you really like because I think Backus is servicable, but getting old.
Our season finale of catch radius focuses on the growing size of Josh McCown's talented receiving duos, including breakout stud Alshon Jeffery. Also: Anquan Boldin's incredible year.
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