Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Nov 2010

Walkthrough: Less Than Wes

by Mike Tanier

EmperorJerry.blogplace.com, cached on Wednesday, November 10:

Morning. Regular breakfast of poached dodo egg and batter-fried passenger pigeon. Swedish massage, followed by Norwegian fellatio, followed by Danish. I need to relax.

Wade is long gone. His office is so clean you could perform plastic surgery in it. But dang, I am still ticked off. Madder than a hungry fox in an empty chicken coop. And y'all know that the madder I git the more countrified I sound. Any more losses and ah sweah ah soun' jus' like Dollah Pahton. Or Lil Abner.

Gotta focus. This blog is about my true feelings. Maybe I should cut Roy Williams. Nah. Maybe if I just ...

Web Manager: I'm sorry, Mr. Jones. You didn't renew your rights to this domain name. I'm afraid it has been sold to the Amish.

Jones: The Amish? I thought technology was against their cultural norms!

Brother Isaac: Pardon me, English. Brother Ezekiel, kindly move the water wheel thusly so yonder Venetian fountain can power the servers.

Jones: This is madness. I will pay you a million dollars for the domain name.

Brother Isaac: Sorry, English. Money is the root of all evil. Perhaps if thou spared a prize hog that we might butcher into scrapple.

Jones: Rats, Flozell is in Pittsbugh now. Where's my son? He's supposed to be in charge of these things.

Jerry Jr.: Yeehaw! Check out what's goin' on in the 10-gallon-hat-shaped Jacuzzi, daddy! Turns out there's this thing called Rumspringa, and ...

Jones: Son, how can you do this to me? How could you forget something as simple as registering a domain name?

Jerry Jr.: Sorry daddy. It's just the culture around here. Doing a good job doesn't really matter. Guys like Roy Williams keep their jobs because they have an inside track to you. Jason Garrett, well hell daddy, he might be more responsible for the mess the team is in right now than Wade ever was, but now he's the head coach. I just figured I could do whatever I wanted, because I'm your son, and if you won't cut a malcontent receiver or fire a former third-string quarterback turned career yes-man, you sure as hell won't fire me.

Jones: This makes me so mad. Dang ol' su' nuff got me theh boy, I say. Reckon we jus' chow down on sum chit'lins.

Jimmy Raye: Hey, that made sense to me! Are you taking resumes?

Brother Isaac: Chitterlings? Giveth me that prize hog and I shall show thou chitterlings.

Less Than 10 Club

Our friend Wes Welker is currently on pace to catch 88 passes for 710 yards. That works out to fewer than 8.1 yards per reception.

No wide receiver has ever averaged just 8.1 yards per catch with so many receptions. Pro Football Reference lists 277 player seasons with more than 82 catches. Of those, only two were wide receivers averaging less than 10 yards per catch: T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2008, who had 92 catches for 904 yards (9.8 yards per catch) and 163 DYAR, and Troy Brown in 2002, who had 97 catches for 890 yards (9.2 YPC) and 30 DYAR.

Hooch and Brown are similar to Welker in a few ways. All three receivers had a knock-around stage early in their careers as unheralded slot receiver/punt returners. All three then became shifty possession targets, each recording a 100-catch season or two. All three of their "Less than Ten" seasons came on the heels of a 100-catch campaign, a sign that defenses were taking away a few of their bread-and-butter routes and diminishing returns were setting in for all of those screens and hitches. Hooch, like Welker, played second fiddle to a big-name, big-play receiver. Brown and Hooch tailed off quickly after their Less than Ten seasons, though Brown hung around for years as an all-purpose player and Hooch is still making a small contribution in Baltimore. With his ability to kick extra points and provide other services, Welker will probably stick for years as a 40-catch player, like Brown.

If Welker stays on his current pace, his season won't really be all that similar to the other two. It won't be as good: He's more than a yard per catch and around 200 total yards below the others. That puts him into a class with one of the NFL's other receiving oddities: fullback Larry Centers, who still ranks 19th on the all-time receptions list with 827. Here's a list of Centers' Welker-like seasons, plus some other seasons by running backs that fit the mold.

Centers and others
Player Year Catches Yards Average
Larry Centers 1995 101 962 9.5
Larry Centers 1996 99 766 7.7
Larry Centers 2000 81 600 7.9
Larry Centers 2001 80 620 7.8
Brian Westbrook 2007 90 771 8.6
Rickey Young 1978 88 704 8.0
Richie Anderson 2000 88 953 9.7
Derek Loville 1995 87 662 7.6
Earl Cooper 1980 83 567 6.8
Ted Brown 1981 83 694 8.4
Joe Washington 1979 82 750 9.1

We'll get back to Centers in a moment. Washington (Colts), Brown (Vikings), Young (Vikings), and Cooper (49ers) all played in early iterations of the West Coast Offense. They either played for Bill Walsh, or for coaches like Ted Marchibroda, who inherited the same general concepts as Walsh. Loville and Richie Anderson played in the death throes of the two-back era, when most teams had stopped pretending their fullback was anything more than an extra blocker and emergency receiver. You can see the birth and death of a tactic in this list. From 1978-80, opponents are surprised by running backs catching 80 passes, but by 2000, they are surprised that the Jets are still trying to make it work.

Back to Centers -- all roads in Walkthrough lead to Buddy Ryan, and Centers accomplished his 101 catch feat for Ryan's 4-12 Phoenix Cardinals. Centers caught 80 or more passes for three different teams -- the Cardinals, Redskins, and Bills -- but none of the teams he did it for had winning records. As you might guess, he had a lot of dump-off production in blowouts. In 1995, he caught nine passes in a 24-3 loss, seven in a 34-20 loss, 12 passes for 172 yards in a season-ending 37-13 loss. DYAR was kind to him in his 80-catch seasons -- 370 (1), 287 (1), 147 (7), 149 (5) -- but DYAR might not be able to account for the uniqueness of his situation.

Centers and Welker are similar only because there is no one else quite like either of them. I think both of them are destined to be evolutionary left turns in the history of NFL strategy. In Centers' case, coaches abandoned the idea of using a blocking back as a five-catch-per-game weapon. In Welker's, the Patriots found the limit of how many tunnel screens and five-yard smashes a team can run per game. The Patriots have been retreating from that style of offense, and the other teams that run similar schemes (like the Broncos) have reached the saturation point of what can be accomplished by some spread-type plays.

Will Welker stay on his historic pace? The season is still young, and one 80-yard catch-and-run would raise his yards per carry to 9.6. That's still not great, but it's out of Centers territory. He may climb out of the Less Than Ten club, but it's certain that his days in the More Than One Hundred club are behind him.

Run, Run Raiders

The Raiders have become one of the best running teams in the NFL, for several reasons. They have two good running backs and an exciting next-generation fullback. Their offensive line has finally stabilized after years of confusion and disappointment. It is filled with huge veterans who can drive-block, making it a little like the Cowboys line of 2006-08.

Another big reason for their success has been a kitchen-sink approach to running the ball. The Raiders use reverses, direct-snap plays, unbalanced line formations, and any other wrinkle they can think of to gain an edge at the line of scrimmage. Those wrinkles are catching opponents off guard and helping the Raiders compensate for their scaled-back passing game.

Figure 1: McFadden Power Sweep

Let's look at a sequence of plays from the first quarter of the Raiders victory over the Chiefs. Figure 1 shows the Raiders in second-and-3 from their own 30-yard line. Darren McFadden (20) is in shotgun as a "Wildcat." The backs are Michael Bush (21 because of a labeling error) and fullback Marcel Reece (45). Tight end Brandon Myers (89) is aligned as a flanker outside of receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins (15) on the right, with Jason Campbell (8) trying to stay out of the way on the left.

This play is more of a variation on the old power sweep than anything from the Wildcat family of plays. Guard Cooper Carlisle (66) and tackle Langston Walker (70) pull as lead blockers. Reece also lead blocks -- this is no option play, and he doesn't wait for the pitch. Myers seals the inside linebacker, while Higgins takes on the toughest assignment on the field, blocking the outside linebacker long enough for McFadden to get wide. Higgins does a tremendous job, sustaining the block even after McFadden has passed.

For clarity, I marked kick-out blocks in red and seal blocks in blue. Carlisle helps to seal, while Walker and Reece kick out. The Raiders have linemen and fullbacks blocking safeties and cornerbacks, giving McFadden a wide lane to run through. The play gains eight yards, but would have gained more if Reece did a better job on his defender.

Figure 2: McFadden Pistol Option

On the next play, the Raiders line up in a pistol formation, with McFadden handing off to Bush for a seven yard gain (not diagrammed). The Raiders use a similar pistol look for the following play, as shown in Figure 2. Note the unbalanced line, with Walker playing as a covered tight end and Myers aligned at left tackle. The unbalanced line and slot-left formation forces the Chiefs to commit defending the offensive left side. The diagram gives a good indication of how much empty grass there is on the right, with the force defender (cornerback Brandon Flowers) like a lone scarecrow in the cornfield.

The Raiders execute an option play which was set up by the previous handoff to Bush. McFadden fakes to Bush (now wearing the correct jersey), freezing the Chiefs defense. Myers down-blocks, leaving the outside linebacker unattended. This is a basic option principle: It is up to the "quarterback" to read and elude that unblocked player. Because the linebacker (Mike Vrabel) pursues Bush after the fake handoff, McFadden doesn't have to worry about him. Reece stays in option-pitch position, which forces Flowers to stay near the sideline to defend a possible pitch. McFadden doesn't mess around -- he plows straight ahead as soon as he sees daylight, picking up eight more yards.

The Raiders are not the Jets. Last week, I criticized the Jets for running too much junk, and I don't want to contradict myself here. There are a lot of differences between what the Jets did against the Packers and what the Raiders did against the Chiefs:

  • The Raiders executed their direct-snap package as a series of plays, allowing McFadden and the blockers to establish some rhythm. The Jets peppered their Wildcat plays and reverses all over the gameplan, and they sometimes seemed as surprised by their own calls as the Packers were.
  • The Raiders' McFadden package uses their best available personnel. By leaving Campbell in the game, they don't telegraph to the opponent that they are getting funky. The Jets bring in Brad Smith to run their direct-snap plays, and their six-lineman wrinkles leave some of their best playmakers on the bench.

The Raiders emphasized this package because they were compensating for injuries to playmakers like Zach Miller. The Jets were healthy and had plenty of available offensive talent. Every Jerricho Cotchery reverse or Brad Smith trick takes the ball away from Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller, and so on. The Raiders aren't really taking the ball out of anyone's hands when McFadden fields the snap or they run an end-around.

Finally, let's be frank. The Raiders are a desperate team that has been bad for years. They are finally having some success, but they are still grinding out wins by playing field position football, making plays on special teams, and gaining any tiny edge they can. Campbell has played well in the last few weeks, but they still haven't settled on him as their quarterback, and while Jacoby Ford looks like a fun player, their receivers are still just a bunch of sprinters. In educational terms, a little remediation and scaffolding can help them succeed. The Jets are a better team and should be less reliant on chicanery. And when they do use it, they should apply it properly so it doesn't disrupt their offense and take touches away from their best players.

The direct snap package is a sound strategy for the Raiders because it makes the best use of the odd talents of their available personnel: McFadden is a great ball handler for a running back, Reece is probably the fastest fullback in the league, and the receivers hustle and block. When Miller returns and if players like Ford develop, the Raiders offense won't need as many reverses and Pistol formations to move the ball. Until then, they've given opposing defenses something else to think about -- and given us something fun to watch.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 11 Nov 2010

80 comments, Last at 16 Nov 2010, 12:02pm by Shattenjager

Comments

1
by Theo :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 11:56am

Did they run any play towards the site where Campbell was lining up?

2
by ammek :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:18pm

My favorite Walkthrough in ages. The Scandinavians are priceless. I was hoping someone from FO would write about the Raiders — they're one of the season's big stories, after all — and this piece rightly picks up on the funky-conservative offense they're running. The contrast with the Jets is interesting and well-explained; I'd argue that the opponent is important too; you don't want to run much junk against the Packers with their multiple looks: you want to take the initiative away from them by forcing them to defend the basics.

I'm glad you picked up on Marcel Reece, because I'm enjoying watching him and how the Raiders use him. He's a converted WR (hence the ropey blocking in diagram 1) who splits out wide — I think the Browns used to use one of their Pruitts in a similar way, and perhaps in the early 16-game era it was common, which would make Reece part of a new-old generation. Anyway, his versatility just right for the two-back vertical-passing Raiders offense — again, Hue Jackson is developing wrinkles to make use of what he has on the roster, rather than, say, committing the "terminable offense" (© D. Farrar) of playing Toby Gerhart out wide, to no apparent benefit. (A candidate for 'Burn this play'?)

Your argument for Welker's weak season is very persuasive, and much more insightful than the no-Moss and post-injury explanations (which may well be significant). I'm never able to see NFL-wide strategic changes as they happen; only well after the event. It's a great skill to possess, and I look forward to more analysis of what the Patriots, for instance, are moving toward.

PS The text has Brandon Myers as #89. The diagrams are correct: he is #83.

3
by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:30pm

"...much more insightful than the no-Moss and post-injury explanations (which may well be significant)."

So...why is this more insightful? Quoting the article:

"Our friend Wes Welker is currently on pace to catch 88 passes..."

"...it's certain that [Welker's] days in the More Than One Hundred club are behind him."

Really? Losing a player whose talents are poorly understood and coming off a very serious injury doesn't introduce 12 catches (14%) worth of uncertainty into a player's pace?

Sure, it's possible Welker's just aging and fading, but the certainty implied above seems beyond "questionable" and well into "wrong" to me.

"...followed by Danish" killed me, though I think a little tweaking could have solved the grammar issue...

8
by BK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:58pm

I read followed by a Danish about four times. Just awesome.

19
by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 2:07pm

Reminded me of the great shrinklit of Beowulf.

"Monster Grendel's tastes are plainish.
Breakfast? Just a couple Danish."

http://homepage.mac.com/mseffie/assignments/beowulf/beowulfshrinklit.htm...

27
by Bobman :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:19pm

ooh, that's gooood.

4
by rejewvenator (not verified) :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:32pm

Re the Jets comparison, I agree about the scattershot nature of the plays. I will also never understand why Cotchery, a slow, possesion receiver without much YAC-creativity runs the reverse instead of, say, Santonio Holmes. But I disagree that putting Brad Smith on the field takes the ball out of the hands of other players. In his career Brad Smith has turned in big plays and key first downs, and is a legitimate weapon in his utility role.

5
by Cro-Mags (not verified) :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:34pm

I'd like to see Welker's YAC numbers. Obviously he's not 100% back to form from the injury and he misses Moss draws, but he seems to be going down at first contact every time. He had always been a quick, shifty type with the ability to make nice open field one-on-one moves. I haven't seen any of that since the knee.

65
by jackgibbs :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 4:21pm

it was mentioned somewhere on this site, maybe audibles, that tom brady's inaccuracy may have led to the drop in welker's ypc. throws that used to get on him with no adjustment he's now having to lean, reach, and dive for. add to this that defenders are now much closer to the line to begin with, and the run game and therefore play-action is inconsistent at best, and it's not really surprising at all

6
by PantsB (not verified) :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:47pm

Getting through the entire analysis without mentioning that Welker tore his ACL and MCL less than a year ago seems to be a pretty huge oversight. Why assume that his current play is a result of defensive adjustments? He caught 110+ passes a year for three consecutive years and only now the opposition has caught on? "Welker will probably stick for years as a 40-catch player, like Brown" is pure conjecture and wrapping it up in statistics doesn't do anything to bolster the argument. It might be that Welker will never be the same, but jumping to conclusions less than 11 months after an injury that usually keeps a player sidelined for a year and limits them for two is short sighted.

15
by Spielman :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:39pm

My thoughts exactly. Though for humor's sake I'd like to blame the whole thing on the umpires not helpfully setting screens for him anymore.

17
by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:42pm

I wish he had just left that line out of the article - the rest of the Welker stuff is really fascinating and the conjecture that he's toast doesn't add anything.

Also, I didn't realize just how crappy Welker's numbers had been this year - it's crazy that one of his closest comps is a FB...

26
by mawbrew :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:17pm

If you are surprised by this that means you obviously avoided the mistake of drafting Welker for your fantasy team. Wish I could say the same.

30
by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:28pm

It's funny - I completely avoid fantasy football because I want to be able to always root for what is best for my favorite team down to the absolute smallest detail (couldn't ever stomach rooting for a single player on the Cowboys, Redskins or Giants - or any NFC in competition for playoff spots), but it does lead me to not notice when certain players are wildly under-performing expectations. Also, it means I don't know which running backs are compiling the most raw yardage and TD's.

35
by tuluse :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 6:33pm

Just play how I do. I never draft or use players on the Packers (Brandon Jackson has been a free agent now for weeks, I just can't bring myself to pick him up), and I never use players who are playing against the Bears. Do I lose some fantasy games because of this? Sure, but I just don't care.

42
by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 10:15pm

Yeah, I've thought about that, but take tonight's game as an example: I'm rooting for Baltimore because Atlanta is a competitor for the NFC wildcard and I want to make sure they lose - I couldn't bring myself to root for Roddy White or Matt Ryan to do well tonight if they were on my team...

48
by E :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 1:25pm

I used to think the way of chemical burn (well, except that I'm a Giants fan) but I'm now positive that by playing fantasy football I've become a much more well-informed football fan generally and it greatly increases my enjoyment of the games overall. In other words, I like football more than ever not because I have Roddy White or Matt Ryan to root for - where before I might not have cared - but because I actually know most every skill position player, plus I know which teams have good/poor rushing/receiving defenses, injury status', etc. As for the who to root for question, I find it pretty easy to put the Giants first.

49
by Eddo :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 1:30pm

Well said.

51
by chemical burn :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 2:41pm

I'd actually buy what you're saying if fantasy football didn't reward the kind of stats like raw yardage and TD's that I come to FO to avoid seeing stupidly over-praised. FF doesn't tell me anything about good or bad performance of players...

Plus, I'm just inherently far more interested in my own team's 3rd string safety and how he's doing on special teams than I am in the top yardage-accruing WR for some losing team in a division in the AFC that we won't be playing against for another 3 years.

52
by Eddo :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 2:51pm

The thing is, fantasy football doesn't claim to separate the good performances from the bad. Fantasy football rewards counting stats, which most people realize. I don't see Carson Palmer's good fantasy numbers and conclude that he's one of the five or six best QBs in the league; rather, I conclude that he's been forced to pass more than previously, due to a below-average team. I would think that most fantasy football players on a site like FO realize this. Using fantasy football numbers to determine the best players would be like using number of completions; it correlates, but it's far from the best way to judge.

53
by chemical burn :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 3:58pm

Great - so we agree: there's nothing valuable to be had from fantasy football.

57
by Eddo :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 4:49pm

Sure there is, entertainment, competition, etc.

By that logic, there's nothing valuable to be had from following a single team, either.

61
by chemical burn :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 6:25pm

I don't know - I get enough crappy analysis of over-rated players just from watching ESPN and NFL half-time shows. I understand the arguments in favor of playing fantasy football. Once upon a time in this thread you were trying to convince me of its value for purposes beyond entertainment and competition... (you might notice your comment repeated back to me almost exactly what I said to you.)

64
by Eddo :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 12:50pm

I think you're confusing me with someone else, chemical burn. I never tried to convince you that there was "value" to be had, except for entertainment and competition. I'm not sure which comment you think was repeating back something you had just said.

Personally, I never watch ESPN and halftime shows, so I get close to zero crappy analysis. I read articles here, at P-F-R, an Advanced NFL Stats for analysis. I only go to ESPN to get news, since they're generally the most up-to-date.

And I don't take any "analysis" of players from fantasy football. It's a form of fun to me, and you just have to know that what makes a good fantasy football QB or RB doesn't make a good real life QB or RB.

58
by tuluse :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 4:50pm

Except fun.

It also makes it easier to keep tabs on the league in general, even if it's a distorted view.

60
by chemical burn :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 6:24pm

Like its possible to watch NFL games every Sunday and get away from who has the most raw yards and TD's? Give me a break. As I said before, the only thing I miss from not playing FF is that I miss when certain players are wildly under-performing.

63
by Noah of Arkadia :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 11:08am

I'd much rather play Front Office Football. Now that's a real game!

71
by Basilicus :: Sun, 11/14/2010 - 12:40am

Best sports game of all time, hands down.

7
by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:51pm

Welker always reminded me of Jim Jensen. Difference being it took Jensen a while to get onto the field and he was used more as a third down receiver than an every down player. Wide outs were just used different then. The other guy he reminds me of is Haywood Jeffires. In either case you wonder if catching a lot of underneath stuff eventually catches up with you.

9
by andrew :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:01pm

The Vikings of the late 70s (and early 80s) never got as much credit for their pre-west coast offense work, as evidenced here they really focused on throwing out the backfield. Ricky Young lead the NFC in receptions that year, and a few years before that Chuck Foreman did too... .and Foreman is where the Vikings really started that trend. As far as I know they had no connection to Walsh (I think he was in Cincinnati at the time).

Their offensive coordinator was Jerry Burns, who served in that role from '68 till Grant left, and eventually got the head coaching gig (after the Steckel fiasco). Burns had ties to Vince Lombardi, and before that Forest Evashevski. I don't think his path ever crossed with Walsh...

10
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:01pm

There's a typo in Troy Browns 2002 numbers. The numbers listed results in an average > 10.

14
by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:35pm

Whoops. Transposed numbers. Now fixed.

11
by Dean :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:03pm

A Rumspringa reference? Only in walkthrough. Best one in a while.

It seemed like Andy Reid tried to tinker with the FB as receiving option early in his tenure but got away from it when Cecil Martin got hurt. I think in his heart of hearts, he still hasn't abandoned it completely, but with Leonard Weaver injured, he doesn't have the player to make it work. And his version is more of a 2 or 3 catch a game safety valve as part of an offense where all 5 "skill guys" are a threat to touch the ball on every play.

That's not what he has, but I think that's what he envisions and what he's been striving for over the past decade. Nothing would please Reid more than to have 12 different receivers each finish a game with 3 receptions. Unless they all caught 4.

21
by Nathan :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 3:20pm

I've seen Schmitt catching some passes out of the backfield.

23
by Dean :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 4:32pm

Yes. But he's not nearly the dynamic receiver that Weaver was.

55
by AlanSP :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 4:19pm

Weaver's numbers as a receiver weren't really anything to write home about last year. He had 15 catches for 140 yds over 16 games. Schmitt's at 13-106 in 7 games. Weaver's average was a tad higher, but that was pretty much entirely driven by a 59 yard catch and run. The real thing that Weaver offered that Schmitt doesn't is his ability as a runner.

56
by chemical burn :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 4:31pm

I guess we can argue the fine points of "dynamic" but there is almost no chance Schmitt takes a pass 59 yards even once, let alone the smooth thing of beauty that was Weaver's catch and run.

Schmitt's receiving DVOA is 18.9%. Weaver's was 24.8%. There's a good bit of difference there. It's almost exactly the difference in DVOA last year between Reggie Bush and Fred Taylor.

24
by tuluse :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 4:50pm

And one running back with 3 carries

12
by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:13pm

Welker with Moss this year:

6.5 r/g, 8.34 y/r

Welker withough Moss this year:

4.5 r/g, 7.6 y/r

My guess is that the simplest explanation, is most likely the correct one (despite the tiny samples). He's getting covered by much better corners, and the safeties aren't 25 yards downfield anymore.

28
by Bobman :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:21pm

Even before seeing your numbers that would be the logical assumption. Looks pretty clear to me--may not be the whole story but most of it...

13
by drobviousso :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:20pm

I really enjoy seeing teams without a 'franchise QB' throwing everything at the wall in order to try to get a running game working. KC, Miami, and to a lesser extent Tenn all did this while searching for their QB of the future to more or less success.

The Browns last year, the Eagles last year, and now the Jets just didn't/don't seem to get it. It doesn't seem like you can 'catch the offense' by running a single play with funny personnel. It has to be a complete package, and when it's a logical set of plays, it can work for a while.

16
by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:40pm

Eagles had a long TD pass in the playoffs last year based on their pseudo-wildcat... so that has to be worth something, right? The play did exactly what you are saying: it caught the defense off guard. If the trick only works for a huge gain 1 in 10 times, is that worth it? I was never crazy about seeing them call that stuff and it rarely panned out, but it did occasionally...

20
by drobviousso :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 2:56pm

How many other drives did that formation kill, though?

25
by tuluse :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 4:52pm

One problem I have with trick plays or the like is that coaches use them when the offense is working well. Ron Turner was especially bad at this. When the real offense is working, you don't need tricks. You need to use them when you are struggling. Then the failures don't really matter as you were likely to fail anyways. The Vick play in the playoffs is an example of this. McNabb was doing nothing, so they tried a trick to get something going.

31
by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:29pm

Agreed to both the good doctor (which you might notice I said that they didn't work that often... so not sure what you are asking) and tuluse - I think that the Eagles are different from all these other teams in that they had Michael Vick on the bench, not Brad Smith or Josh Cribbs. That is, they had a guy who could pass at an NFL QB level while also offering the threat of run. It made sense to get him involved in a way that getting Smith or Cribbs in wacky formations does not. But, yeah, with Vick on the field (or injured) they obviously haven't had to go especially/noticeably out of their way to use these trick plays, but they definitely have used option runs, fake QB sneaks-turned-deep bombs, Vick lined up as a WR with Jackson taking a direct snap and other trick plays. The difference is that they aren't special packages this year because Vick isn't a back-up. But in raw number of trick/wacky plays, they've done more with Vick this year than last year I would guess.

32
by mawbrew :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:38pm

I guess I don't see the Browns use of the Wildcat/Flash (last year) the sameway you do. I'm not sure what the metrics would indicate, but it seemed to work well to my eye (certainly a success relative to their passing game, yikes). And it clearly was successful in the win over Pittsburg.

(Just went to check Cribbs FO metrics for last year and couldn't find anything for him as a runner - I think his receiving numbers were messed up too. Not sure why he wouldn't be listed, he had 55 rushing attempts.)

33
by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:44pm

Hm. Good point. I guess I don't know why I'm jumping in and slagging the Browns or the Jets because no one has shown any numbers to back up how brilliant the Raiders and Chiefs are and how stupid the Jets, Eagles and Browns are...

38
by ammek :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 6:54pm

Cribbs' rushing numbers appear in the quarterbacks section.

46
by mawbrew :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 8:19am

Thanks for pointing this out. It makes some sense to put his numbers there given that he was taking the snap on most of these plays, but that hadn't occurred to me. I would argue it would be a better comparison to list him with the running backs, but it's not a significant matter.

In any event, his rushing numbers seem quite good for both standard YPC (almost 7) and DVOA (11%) measures. When compared with the disaster that was the 2009 Browns offense (-13% DVOA overall) it was a shining star.

43
by jfsh :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 10:24pm

The Jets did something with Brad Smith last year that I thought was pretty cool. He was a college QB, so every time they ran the Wildcat, I expected the pass (which is an integral part of making the whole scheme work). But it didn't come. I remember talking about it with my dad at Christmas, wondering what they were waiting for.

Flash-forward to the AFC Championship game against the Colts. Second quarter, Jets up 7-6 after a bomb to Edwards. They run the Wildcat bootleg/sweep, and they finally - finally! - use the pass. 45 yard pass that could have easily been a TD with a better throw, and the Jets quickly go up 14-6. I knew they had no "real" offense, so I hoped that might be enough, although of course it wasn't.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty sweet that they set that play up for the ENTIRE SEASON. Smith only threw one other pass during the regular season.

18
by MJK :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:43pm

Another significant factor in Wes's decline was the umpire move. Like Dallas Clark, a substantial part of Welker's game was the "umpire pick", where he runs a drag or a slant exactly keyed off where the umpire was standing...using the ump to rub off his defender in the process.

With a less crowded backfield and this naturla obstacle now removed for 56 minutes of every game, this entire route has been removed from Welker's repertoire.

That said, RichC's assertion that the simplest answer (no Moss) accounts for most of it is probably right. Welker is now covered by the other team's #1 CB (and will be until and unless Tate emerges), and the safeties are generally playing to stop the pseudo-spread the Patriots are now running moresoe than they used to.

22
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 3:39pm

What about real low yatds per catch one game? D. Amendola had 6-28 game this year. A. Boldin 8 catchrs 29 tards vs refskins 2007. Will post more stuff tonighty.

36
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 6:40pm

These only go back to 1960, but they are something at least:

Min. 3 Receptions: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/O2ts6
Min. 4 Receptions: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/hUGkj
Min. 5 Receptions: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/mwynq
Min. 6 Receptions: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/dwOpd
Min. 7 Receptions: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/lzzQF
Min. 8 Receptions: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/LqJkw
Min. 9 Receptions: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/824Tx
Min. 10 Receptions: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny/3SYZz

Unfortunately, no way to look for single games by position to just see WR on PFR (I think). I'm sure you'll come up with more, Raiderjoe.

39
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 7:46pm

Thsnks for postinh. Was thonking of v. Workman game from 92 opener but didnt post becausd couldnt remember if 12 cayches were for 48 or 50 yardds

40
by ammek :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 8:19pm

50.

Who needs PFR when we have the Raiderjoe football encyclopedia?

Oh, and no thanks for reminding me about that game: Mike Holmgren vs Denny Green, round 1. The Packers had 155 passing yards on 42 dropbacks. If internet forums had existed back then, the cyberworld would have been hijacked by (the then-handful of manic depressive) Packer fans complaining about this new-fangled west coast offense and its 3.7 net yards per dropback.

47
by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 8:59am

Is that encyclopedia printed on the back of Sierra Nevada labels?

37
by Dan :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 6:46pm

Boldin had 2 TDs that game, looking like the Jerome Bettis of WRs.

Joey Galloway had 6 receptions for 18 yards for Dallas in a 2001 game against the Bucs... and was the Cowboys' leading receiver. Quincy Carter threw for 34 yards on 9/19 passing.

From non-WRs, TE Ben Coates had a game with 5 receptions for 13 yards (and a TD) and RB Adrian Murrell had 9 catches for 12 yards for the 1995 Jets.

This search mostly finds games by non-RBs; this is with a 5-reception minimum.

41
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 8:56pm

Good idea on the rushing attempts.

I actually thought this game might have been the most interesting I came across. Cris Carter had 10 catches for 46 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, teammate Randy Moss had 10 catches for 171 yards and 3 TDs.

29
by Bobman :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:23pm

Anybody else think of him as Hoosh and not Hooch?

Just wondering.

Now back to my Swedish massage, Norwegian fellatio, followed by a sweet, sweet danish. Okay, maybe I skip the danish.

34
by Eddo :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 6:31pm

When I feel the need for extreme brevity (rarely), I just truncate his name at "Housh".

44
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 5:02am

Apparently my overseas experience whilst studying in Bergen, Norway was incomplete.

(sigh)

50
by mathesond :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 2:19pm

Is it Finnished?

62
by David :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 9:13am

Oof

59
by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 5:09pm

Hey, I was in Bergen this past August. What a great town, and judging by the girls I saw running around the main square during the week, you had a MUCH better college experience than most, my friend.

45
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 7:33am

agree with Raiders comment- most fun tema to watch

54
by AlanSP :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 4:04pm

Random thoughts on the whole Centers discussion:

I was kind of surprised that Tomlinson's 100 catch, 7.25 average season wasn't mentioned in the Centers discussion (nor was his 79 catch, 6.19 average season a year earlier). I guess as a premiere back, he seems out of place among the backs you were talking about, but then so does Westbrook, who made the chart, but not the discussion. Most of the guys mentioned were also their teams' primary ball carriers (Loville, Cooper, Brown, Washington), so they probably aren't great comparisons for Centers.

Anderson and Young do roughly fit the Centers mold, as does Keith Byars, who Buddy Ryan used in basically the same way as he did Centers. Byars managed a bit over 10 yards/catch in his only 80+ catch season, but 10 doesn't really seem like a particularly meaningful cutoff for RBs/FBs, since unlike with WRs, an average under 10 is the norm, rather than the exception.

66
by Nathan :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 5:39pm

im just hoping oakland's pick is high enough to draft aj green with as a moss replacement...

67
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 9:28pm

Raiders pick coudl be 32, so no Greebn for Pates unless trade own pick, Raiders pick and some other stuff to get top 3ish pick. Good chance Panethers get Green at 1, 2o r3 . have to think Panthers goign to pick in top 3. Could be 1, could be 2, or coudl be 3.

A top 3 pick worth at leats 2200 points on draft value chart . Pates own pick mayeb goingn to be low 20s area, maybe 23 or 24 after make playooffs as wild card. that area aorund 730 points. . Raiders pick (32) worth aroudn 600. So Pates golign to trade own pick, Raiders pick, and another pickk and players to get up to top 3

Thought about getting Hibernator long trail tonighte. Six pakc had nice draiwng of bear on it but then see Sierra Nevada 2010 Celebration out so buy that. Goigng to have nice one man party watching resttof college football acion tonight . Gators vs Cocks good battle goging on right now

68
by jackgibbs :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 9:52pm

why would carolina draft a wr when QB is their clear need? unless they think clausen is the answer, they're going luck or maybe locker, if he doesn't look awful the rest of the season, right?

eta. I don't like this brunette chick and her cudgel ta-tas, bring back the blonde!

72
by Basilicus :: Sun, 11/14/2010 - 12:42am

But look at that smile and her earrings. She's totally classy!

75
by Eddo :: Sun, 11/14/2010 - 6:45pm

I like the Sierra Nevada Celebration, too. It's high quality beer, Joe.

69
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 9:58pm

team spent 2nd rond pick on clasuden and 6th roudn on Pike. You think tream gave up on both already?

70
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 11/13/2010 - 10:12pm

Also looked bottle of absinthe with special spoon but saw 110 proof. Think dirnking it cause visions. Dont want to see weirid things that never happened like Ken Stabler weairng chiefs uniform, unicorn mating with dodo bird, or Chargers winnign Super bwol 14 or 15 or 29 or 41

73
by Jerry :: Sun, 11/14/2010 - 1:19am

Mike Tanier wishes he'd written this.

79
by AudacityOfHoops :: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 6:52pm

Have you ever seen Tanier and Raiderjoe in the same place at the same time? I'm just sayin'.

80
by Shattenjager :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 12:02pm

. . . You just blew my mind.

76
by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 8:49am

I believe those are the original lyrics from CCR's "Looking Out my Back Door". Fogerty had to change them, after he couldn't get permission from Stabler. Then the dodo sued.

74
by Jordan Etzel (not verified) :: Sun, 11/14/2010 - 11:23am

I read on ESPN that the most successful teams (based on a yards per play and one other metric, which I forget) this year out of the wildcat formation are the Jets and the Browns. Are the Jets succeeding despite the negatives to their approach you pointed out, and their "Wildcat" formation could be doing even better? Or are they just lucky thus far?

77
by Nick W (not verified) :: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 3:17pm

Amendola is on pace as well. He's on pace to catch 92 passes for 764 yards. That is an 8.3 average- almost as low as Welker.

78
by Crymeariver (not verified) :: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 5:38pm

Perhaps it's time to categorize the success the Pats are finally having with their tight ends as the Welker Effect? BTW, if Welker becomes Troy Brown for the rest of his career, there's hardly a savvy Pats fan alive who wouldn't take it.