How did New England find the right combination of offensive linemen this season, and where are Seattle's biggest weaknesses in pass protection?
26 Jan 2011
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: So, Mike, it's time for another edition of the All-Keep Choppin' Wood team.
Mike: The carnage ... the humanity ...
Tom: For those of you who have forgotten, or have never been exposed to the concept, your Scramble writers go through and pick the player who contributed most to their team's ineptitude this season.
Mike: The players get bonus points for being bad in hilarious ways because -- let's face it -- there are a lot of really bad players, by NFL standards, in the league.
Tom: Oh, yes. There's a reason "Yakety Sax" is the official theme song of the All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team.
Mike: On that note, let's fire it up and get to work!
Tom: We should add that this is not a definitive list of the worst players in the NFL, or those who hurt their team the most. The worst players didn't make it on the field.
Mike: I thought Sabby Piscitelli saw a few snaps?
Tom: And this is an incredibly subjective list, which means that if there's a Browns or Bears player we could mention, we almost certainly will mention him. And right on cue! Yes, Sabby Piscitelli is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.
Mike: It's OK, Tom. He's with his own kind, now.
Tom: I'd actually forgotten that he was now in Cleveland. Apparently Tampa Bay's newfound winning nature was antithetical to his existence. Anyway, Piscitelli started zero games this year, so consider this opening mention more recognition for his performance last year.
Tom: So, Mike, every team has somebody behind center to take the snap, but not all of them can complete a pass.
Mike: No, I think they all can complete a pass, but there are a number of them that are more adept at completing passes to the opposing team.
Tom: Good point. And many of those players played for the Arizona Cardinals this year. It doesn't seem quite fair to the others to single out any of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, or Max Hall, so I'll mention them all.
Mike: Derek Anderson at least has a more complete CV of awfulness, but this isn't a lifetime achievement award, or nobody would have any legs left.
Tom: Why, yes, he was formerly a member of the Cleveland Browns, plus he wasn't a rookie.
Mike: And while this isn't the Cardinals Super Bowl team anymore, they should still be way better than this, especially with Larry Fitzgerald. Maybe he's sleeping? Or just sad that his former teammate Anquan Boldin is now hanging out with the Great Goat of the Bay?
Tom: I must admit I didn't watch enough of the Cardinals this year to answer that question. One question for you, Mike: What do you think about Brett Favre? Last year he was great for the Vikings, but this year his waffling and terrible mediocre player contributed to a down year for a team some thought would be a Super Bowl contender.
Mike: I don't really buy into the idea that one player, even the quarterback, can take an elite team and make it awful with mediocre play and a bad attitude.
Tom: Well, sure, the Vikings had lots of other problems this year.
Tom: Fair enough.
Tom: I have another question for you, Mike. How on earth do you manage to finish next to last in DYAR despite playing on a team that's sixth in Adjusted Line Yards? That seems like a truly remarkable accomplishment by Thomas Jones.
Mike: We've touched on him before, and it is truly astounding.
Tom: We have, and I mentioned then that even a near-replacement level back in LenDale White managed to be valuable in similar circumstances.
Mike: The strange thing is that Jones was a near-average level back in New York last year. He went to another team with a pretty good offensive line, suffered no major injury, but fell off a cliff. It just doesn't make sense.
Tom: And it doesn't, but he still was. Now, Laurence Maroney putting up ungodly awful numbers, that makes perfect sense. It took Jones 246 carries to amass -90 DYAR. Maroney put up -86 DYAR on only 36 carries.
Mike: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
Tom: No, I admit the Broncos did not have a particularly good offensive line. Still, -62.0% DVOA?
Mike: Randy Moss.
Tom: Oh, yes, Randy Moss.
Mike: Do we really need to say more? Yes, we probably should.
Tom: He actually had a positive DVOA.
Mike: True, but he was a complete non-factor for any and all of his THREE teams, and this year was probably the crown jewel of his distractalicious career.
Tom: I remember when Titans fans thought acquiring him meant the team was going to the Super Bowl.
Mike: I remember laughing at those Titans fans right about that point. Good times.
Tom: I went on a podcast over the bye week and said "9-7" when they were 5-3. They pretty much laughed at me. "There's no way the Titans could lose to the Dolphins or Redskins now that they have Randy Moss." They did.
Mike: Indeed they did.
Tom: The best part may have been that Moss could have been the first player ever to score a touchdown with three teams in the same season. Only he didn't score a single touchdown as a member of the Titans.
Mike: I bet that's probably the thing that's haunting him. Next year he's going to get kicked off four teams just to show past-Randy who's boss.
Tom: Are there really four teams who'll take him?
Mike: As far as I know, there are no plans to relegate the NFC West.
Tom: I have a slightly unconventional choice for the starting wideout opposite Moss.
Mike: Let's hear it.
Tom: The bottom of the DVOA table has names from teams like the Cardinals and Panthers. But down there at 81st in DVOA is Harry Douglas of the Atlanta Falcons. He's a bit of a small sample size wonder, with only 53 targets. But your quarterback is Matt Ryan. You have Roddy White drawing coverage. How do you catch 42 percent of your passes? How are you 81st in DVOA?
Mike: It seems he was even worse in his last uninjured year (2008), where he only managed a 45 percent completion percentage off short throws. Is that progress? But I agree -- that is absolutely horrid. After seeing the Falcons try again and again to go to White in their game against the Packers, the Falcons have clearly been harmed by the lack of any viable second or third option.
Mike: Sadly, we no longer have the ghost of Orlando Pace to kick around anymore.
Tom: Alas, no. Do you have another Bears offensive lineman you'd care to nominate, though?
Mike: I want to pick on J'Marcus Webb, but it's really hard to, because he's a low-round rookie coming into an impossible situation.
Tom: We could put Chris Williams at left tackle, since they drafted him in the first round to play left tackle.
Mike: Despite the team's success running to the left, I can agree with that. Cutler has once again spent a year getting plastered all over the grass-like cement in Soldier Field, and Williams did absolutely nothing to stop it.
Tom: But, Mike, the Bears were only, uh, 32nd in Adjusted Sack Rate!
Mike: Indeed they were, Tom. And like I said, they were good running off left end. I think that probably has something to do with the much-improved blocking of Greg Olsen and the still-pretty-good blocking of Brandon Manumaleuna, who should stick around, incidentally, because his name is fun to say.
Tom: I almost wish I yodeled just, just so I could yodel his name.
Mike: That's a bit weird, but OK.
Tom: At the other tackle spot, I'd nominate 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis, who was considered to be a bit raw and played terribly.
Mike: Good choice. Going inward, I would suggest Ramon Foster at guard.
Tom: So long as we can play him at left guard, I'd be fine with that. Leonard Davis needs to get the run-around at right guard.
Mike: As Ben Muth put it, one of Foster's strengths is his ability to play poorly in multiple positions. Since we already have two offensive tackles, Foster is the logical choice ... it wouldn't be an All-KCW line without a Steelers lineman.
Tom: It was almost sad watching Davis play against quicker defensive tackles, as Ben Muth also wrote about.
Mike: It's awesome that we have a writer who is knowledgeable about line play, so that we can pretend we know things about offensive line play.
Tom: Totally. Though Davis's struggles were obvious enough even I noticed them.
Tom: That leaves the pivot position. Two options here: (1) We could put Richie Incognito on the team again. (2) We could mention Vikings center John Sullivan, who wasn't very good again.
Mike: Truly, a question for the ages. I'd go with Sullivan.
Tom: Good choice. He's been a tremendous downgrade from Matt Birk.
Mike: Like the Bears and Steelers lines, the Vikings line was so aggressively bad that one of its weak points must be featured.
Tom: We also neglected to pick a tight end.
Mike: Is it even possible for a tight end to make his team lose?
Tom: DVOA suggests the Broncos Daniel Graham is a good choice. Maroney may have had a -62.0% DVOA and -86 DYAR, but Graham was -60.7% DVOA and -133 DYAR. We don't use the Effective Yards stat very often, but his was -80. It's not literally true that the Broncos would've been better spiking the ball than throwing it to Graham, but I like the idea that they were.
Mike: It's entirely possible.
Tom: Graham's reported strength is as a blocker, but he supposedly wasn't very good at that this year either.
Mike: It's a wonder the Broncos scored any points this year.
Mike: That is interesting because his fantasy numbers were decent. Lots of accumulation off failed plays, I suppose.
Tom: Yes, I guess.
Mike: That formality out of the way, onward to defensification!
Tom: And we have the normal problem: It's easy to fill out the back four, and too hard to fill out the front seven.
Tom: After watching the Jaguars last year for Football Outsiders Almanac 2010, I didn't think their corners could play any worse. Then they started David Jones.
Mike: We'll hand it off to the boss-man to explain just exactly how awful David Jones was this year:
Aaron Schatz: Through six weeks of the season, we have David Jones charted with a 39 percent Success Rate and 12.2 yards per pass. Hole in Zone allowed only 11.6 yards per pass this year, so that kind of sucks. Reggie Wayne got 196 yards off Jones in Week 4. The Jaguars realized what was going on and put Derek Cox back in the starting lineup after six weeks. In fact, we don't have Jones charted on another pass all season; he was basically special teams only from Week 7 on.
Mike: What's astounding is that Jacksonville didn't even have the worst team pass defense this year.
Tom: Nope. They were only 30th.
Mike: Houston's defensive backs left holes so large they could be viewed from orbit.
Tom: There are probably only four or five members of the Texans defense who are legitimate candidates for the All-KCW team.
Mike: "Only" four or five.
Tom: Kareem Jackson at corner is one of them. He was supposed to be very pro-ready after playing for Nick Saban at Alabama, and also better at zone than at man. Well, the latter was accurate. But he wasn't very good at playing the Texans' zone either. Some of the poor Houston secondary play was almost certainly the result of awful coaching, but between Chargers receiver Seyi Ajirotutu and Jackson, you would have guessed Jackson was the undrafted rookie and Ajirotutu was the first-round pick. Oh well.
Aaron: Hi again. We currently have Jackson charted with 10.0 yards per pass allowed, making him one of only four corners who allowed 10.0 or more yards per pass. The others are Mike Jenkins, Rashean Mathis, and Jones. At least Jackson's Success Rate of 47 percent was only a little below average.
Mike: Considering corners are rarely in frame for the broadcast feed, you either have to be very good or very bad to get the average football fan to know who your guys are, so the fact that Houston's secondary is such a joke is a kind of perverse achievement.
Tom: And for a while there, it looked like Houston's secondary must be nudged out by Denver's secondary. As with Houston, we could go a couple different directions in pointing out bad players with the Broncos. Corner Andre' Goodman wasn't very good, but there's nothing like kicking formerly good players when they're down. Take, for instance, Brian Dawkins. And Broncos opponents did, if by "take" you mean, "take advantage of." And I do.
Mike: To be fair, age 37 is way too old to be playing defense.
Tom: Yes, it is. But Dawkins took the paycheck, so I'm fine mentioning him.
Mike: Fair enough, although based on his performance last year, there wasn't any reason to think he'd be this bad.
Tom: We need another safety. Dawkins is officially a free safety, so we should probably name a strong safety. The problem with strong safeties, though, is some of them are reasonably good run stoppers but bad in pass coverage. Bernard Pollard of the Texans falls in this category.
Mike: Abram Elam.
Tom: NFL.com has Elam has a free safety as well.
Mike: ESPN has him as a strong safety, as do we. Also, he was really, really bad.
Tom: And he goes to help fill our "Browns to make fun of" quota, so let's mention him.
Mike: Elam is, as you mentioned, the rare strong safety who is bad at both coverage and run support, although he is slightly better at run support. Not by much. To be fair, his front seven isn't giving him much help; he played three more games with the Browns than the Jets, but recorded 47 more tackles, but that doesn't change the fact that the Browns were 22nd in the league in rush defense.
Tom: Fair enough.
Mike: All this is even more damning because Elam was brought to Cleveland as one of Mangini's guys from New York.
Tom: I didn't see enough of the Browns to comment even semi-intelligently on his play.
Mike: He was supposed to be a somewhat versatile engine for the defense to play around. Instead, they were left with a soft, chewy center against the run and a giant hole in the short zone against the pass.
Tom: Of course, there's a Houston Texans player we could name here. Zac Diles was actually decent, or at least non-terrible in 2009. That was not the case in 2010.
Mike: I guess he got caught in the inescapable miasma of suck.
Tom: No, he's just not very good. He was just especially bad this year. Maybe just because I'm seeing him more than most, but I have to mention Titans outside linebacker Gerald McRath was also especially bad this year. He wasn't very good as a rookie last year, but he got suspended for the first four games. Upon his return, he was, in my opinion, the worst player on a defense that was very un-good the second half of the year.
Mike: I actually didn't see much egregiously bad linebacker play this year.
Tom: I'm trying to find a third linebacker. Ideally I'd find a middle linebacker. Maybe Akin Ayodele could be the linebacker we need.
Mike: Indeed he could be. Astoundingly, he doesn't seem to be that bad against the run, but hideous in coverage. Also, P-F-R has him with a career similar to Andra Davis. I think that's damning enough.
Tom: Davis was also on the Bills this season before going on Injured Reserve in November.
Mike: That's just freaky.
Mike: We should also note that it is fitting that the All-KCW team runs a 4-3. Score one for the superior defensive formation!
Tom: Phfft. I'll state that the 3-4 is a superior defensive formation when run creatively and with superior players. But now that we're running a 4-3, we need to find four defensive linemen. There is, of course, a Houston Texans player I could nominate.
Mike: Go right ahead, the Texans' defense was, again, awful.
Tom: Shaun Cody somehow managed to start 16 games for the Texans and make almost no impact. He could almost be the poster child for why their defense is so bad. He's not strong enough to be a very good run defender. He's not a very good pass rusher, as you might guess from having two sacks in 83 career games. Starting 29 games as a defensive lineman over a two-year period in a 4-man front, shouldn't you at least fall into a sack somewhere? But no, he had half a sack last year and nothing this year.
Mike: Haha. I go to the Bills depth chart on ESPN, get a "this page does not exist: Depth Chart - Buffalo Bills." How depressingly apt.
Tom: Kyle Williams was quite good at nose tackle for them.
Mike: Yes indeed, but I'm checking up on Marcus Stroud.
Tom: The depth chart has Marcus Stroud at left end and Spencer Johnson at right end. I'm guessing that's not the same Spencer Johnson who wrote Who Moved My Cheese?, but it would really help explain why the Bills were as bad as they were despite Williams if it was.
Mike: OK, how were the Bills so bad against the run? They have a pretty good line. At least they seem to. I guess it was all in the linebackers.
Tom: Doug Farrar also mentioned Kentwan Balmer as a player who gave up some big runs for the Seahawks this year.
Mike: Yeah, OK, he looks pretty bad: One pass defensed, zero sacks.
Tom: Oh, should we just reserve a spot on this team for "Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle" every year?
Mike: Probably. I like the Balmer pick.
Tom: Yup. Daniel Muir is our third defensive lineman. I think we need a horribly ineffective 4-3 edge rusher to round out the group.
Tom: I could nominate a Titans player, but that feels slightly homerrific.
Mike: Yeah, let's try to avoid that.
Tom: I will say Jacob Ford was No. 2 on our list of the Top 25 prospects and then was horribly disappointing.
Mike: That's not really KCW material.
Tom: One option is Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers: Sixteen starts, one sack.
Mike: I'm not sure, as sacks seem to be his only really bad stat unless he fell off a cliff this year. Then again, low sack total, and the Bengals were really bad against runs to right tackle. We'll go with him. That makes four.
(Actually, Geathers makes five. We have five defensive linemen on the All-KCW team, but Albert Haynesworth is sitting on the bench and refusing to play.)
Tom: We need a kicker.
Mike: Graham Gano.
Tom: Washington was by far last in our FG/XP ratings. And Gano it is, an easy choice.
Mike: And got there in hilarious fashion. On the bright side, at least he didn't miss any extra points this year!
Tom: On special teams, we have to mention the Chargers' kick coverage units. For putting the "special" in very special special teams.
Mike: And I thought that Steelers fans had it bad. Thank you, Norv, for putting it all in perspective.
Tom: Finally, we need somebody to coach up this mess. The readers will have the chance to vote for the Keep Choppin' Game Film maestro in the FO Reader Awards, coming soon to a website near you. With three quarterbacks to choose from, I feel like we should go with Mike Singletary.
Mike: Yes. I have never seen a team managed in such a random manner, alternating between completely crazy screaming and antics and faux- (I'm assuming?) calm and thoughtfulness, neither of which did anything to help the team win games.
Tom: And not just a systematic devotion to randomness as a team management style, but seeming randomness or simply careening quickly from one extreme to the other. Troy Smith was the quarterback until he wasn't. Alex Smith got himself re-inserted into the game by convincing Singletary he should be pulled. That, really, was all I needed to know.
Mike: And as we mentioned at the start of this season, booting out Mike Martz because he wanted to run a system that the 49ers had some (albeit small) chance of actually being effective with. As you predicted, they went to the air because the ground game was garbage, but had a shaky quarterback situation and a new offensive coordinator. A gigantic mess.
Tom: Would it be mean to point out that Shaun Hill had a 12.6% DVOA with the Lions this year?
Mike: Mean? Yes. Unduly mean? No.
Tom: Well, there you go then. That's the 2010 All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team.
Tom: Staff playoff fantasy update: Sean's still killing us all. He has more than twice as many points as anyone else.
Mike: OK, then.
Tom: Yeah. Ben and Dave are in the very distant second place, but Ben is out of players. Dave has Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, and Greg Jennings left. Sean has Aaron Rodgers. So if Ben throws for 400 yards and three touchdowns, all to Ward, that'll give him ... 90 points. He's down 115.
Mike: Well played, Sean.
Tom: Our other moment of suspense was if Sean would break the playoff total points record, set last year by yours truly. He's 52 short, so that's extremely unlikely to happen, and that's that.
|FO Playoff Divisional Round Results|
|Mike||Matt Ryan||7||Ray Rice||15||LeSean McCoy||7||Marques Colston||6||Anquan Boldin||12||Johnny Knox||9||Heath Miller||12||Matt Bryant||3||Bears||0||71|
|Tom||Tom Brady||20||Matt Forte||29||Pierre Thomas||0||Roddy White||11||Deion Branch||11||Brandon Tate||0||Rob Gronkowski||3||Shayne Graham||7||Patriots||-4||77|
|Dave||Ben Roethlisberger||28||Michael Turner||9||Joseph Addai||6||Greg Jennings||23||Wes Welker||5||Hines Ward||9||Jacob Tamme||4||Adam Vinatieri||14||Falcons||-2||96|
|Sean||Aaron Rodgers||73||Jamaal Charles||13||Shonn Greene||25||Reggie Wayne||0||Santonio Holmes||24||Braylon Edwards||22||Dustin Keller||11||Mason Crosby||19||Ravens||24||211|
|Tim||Peyton Manning||15||Rashard Mendenhall||36||Reggie Bush||4||Mike Wallace||2||DeSean Jackson||4||Blair White||5||Brent Celek||2||David Akers||4||Steelers||16||88|
|Ben||Drew Brees||28||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||5||Ladainian Tomlinson||32||Dwayne Bowe||0||Pierre Garcon||17||Jeremy Maclin||7||Tony Gonzalez||0||Garrett Hartley||12||Saints||-5||96|
Nevic’s Packers-heavy strategy paid off again, as the NFC North wild card team is heading to the Super Bowl. He has 167 points, 16 ahead of batbatt’s similarly Packers-heavy roster. A huge game by Brandon Jackson puts batbatt over the top, while Ian Dembsky is mathematically alive with no Packers but 149 points and Emmanuel Sanders.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: No, it's probably not quite fair to pick on Doug Legursky's work as an injury fill-in for Maurkice Pouncey, but he did participate in two botched center-quarterback exchanges, one of which resulted in a safety.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: What was the Bears brain trust doing on Sunday? Whether it was punting inside the Packers 40, calling a horribly telegraphed toss in a key situation, a questionable fourth-down play call at the end of the game, putting Todd Collins instead of Caleb Hanie as the backup quarterback, or letting Jay Cutler look like he was shirking, neither Mike Martz nor Lovie Smith covered himself in glory this week.
COLBERT AWARD: The Steelers could have gone the conventional route and pounded the ball into the line three times, then punted, but instead Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians elected to trust their quarterback to throw the ball. The result: two completions, including a third-down conversion that enabled them to kneel the clock out and progress to the Super Bowl.
64 comments, Last at 03 Feb 2011, 10:59am by Mr Shush