Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Sep 2008

Any Given Sunday: Bills over Jaguars

by Ned Macey

This week's AGS for ESPN focuses on the Bills' young defense and the massive injuries on the Jaguars' offensive line. The Bills' defense won the game, but the other side of the battle -- Bills offense v. Jaguars defense -- deserves a little more of an explanation.

Last year, Trent Edwards was equally effective as J.P. Losman. They ranked 30th and 32nd respectively in DVOA, and 31st and 32nd in DYAR. Some commentators (OK, just me) thought that the Bills should play Losman because he was able to utilize the team's biggest weapon, Lee Evans. Evans went from 1,292 yards in 2006 to 849 last year. Early this season, Evans is averaging a career-best 89.5 yards per game.

Edwards appears infinitely more confident in the pocket. The Bills ran a fair amount of empty backfield formations against Jacksonville. Edwards would sit in the pocket and wait for plays to develop, rather than immediately throwing the ball away. Despite a conservative offense, Edwards only completed 56 percent of his passes. He still relies heavily on his underneath throws, with Fred Jackson a frequent target on Sunday, but he is now able to run a full offense.

The high quality performance seems more impressive than it likely will be because of the the Jaguars' defensive reputation. They fell to 13th in defensive DVOA last season. Their defensive tackle duo of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud was broken up with Stroud's trade to Buffalo. The secondary remains in flux, with Brian Williams transferring to safety, and the underwhelming Drayton Florence starting at cornerback. The Jaguars will need their young defensive ends to make an immediate impact, or they'll need their offense to return to its 2007 level if they want to make the playoffs.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 15 Sep 2008

27 comments, Last at 19 Sep 2008, 12:44pm by In_Belichick_We_Trust


by Bryan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:29pm

I don't want to seem overly negative, but this just doesn't read like a FO piece at all. Actually, the blurb on this page was more instructive than the article itself.

by Flounder :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:53pm

I tend to agree. My guess would be ESPN edited out the content we've been given here.

edit: And apparently I was correct :)

by ESPN Word Limit (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:46pm

Victory is mine once more!

Soon, with all traces of actual analysis removed from articles, I will rule the world!


by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:50pm

The blurb on this page is our attempt to add content past the ESPN word limit. (Think of it as "AGS Extra.") Remember that AGS articles use a lot of DVOA, so these will become more and more detailed as the season goes on and we have more information to play with.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:05pm

Thanks, much appreciated.

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 5:05pm

Off-topic, but does anyone else miss the different-colored text for official Outsiders' comments?

by Lou :: Wed, 09/17/2008 - 12:57am

yes, made it a lot easier to notice important comments.

by widderslainte :: Wed, 09/17/2008 - 2:17pm

I think someone at ESPN is not well versed in how the internet works.

by Cathedraticum (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:51pm

It is criminal what ESPN is doing to AGS. Can FO have Ned write the old FO version of the article underneath a new name? With last week's and now this week's articles being destroyed I will most likely stop clicking on the ESPN links. I want to remember the articles like they were in all their glory, not like this.
and my spam word was dentistry, fitting for how tortuous the article was

by bowman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:12pm

nitpick - Maurice Williams is on the Injured Reserve. He was placed on IR before Week 2.

by zip (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:33pm

Despite a conservative offense, Edwards only completed 56 percent of his passes.

He went 20/25 against the Jags on Sunday. Are you talking about last season?

by Possuum (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 9:06pm

The 56% would be Trent's completion percentage last year. Though that isn't clear from this excerpt.

by nate28jf (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:38pm

Check the Bills schedule...next 2 vs Raiders and Rams.
Then they still have the Chiefs, 49ers, and 2 vs the Dolphins.
That right there would get them to 8 wins alone...

by poboy :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:41pm

This is much improved over last week. Not as good as it was prior to ESPN, but still much better. Once DVOA gets a little more informative, I think we'll be okay.

by S.K. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:51pm

I guess I just don't understand why this feature is still called "Any Given Sunday". It has absolutely nothing in common with that feature in the past, other than at the most basic level (it focuses on an unexpected result from the most recent weekend).

by BigWhoop (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 9:57pm

Except that it was expected.

by Joshua (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 3:44pm

Like just about everyone else it seems, I'll concede that this was better, but AGS still really loses something through abbreviation. That said, I have a question for FO and Ned about this game. If memory serves, through the years Jacksonville hasn't been the most DVOA friendly team. The Jags consistently play tight against good teams and loosely against bad teams. They seem always to lose to Houston, and they lose a lot of games to Tennessee that they shouldn't, though not as many as they used to. In 2006 they lost to Buffalo 27-24 in a game they should have had. To start with back-to-back hard-fought losses to Tennessee and Buffalo doesn't seem like an emergency--it doesn't even seem out of character for a potentially good year for Jacksonville. Sure, their offensive line is a disaster and their defense is in transition, but you know they're going to put in a monster effort this week, and maybe they'll be right back on track for a win big / lose big type year. I guess the question is, how do these losses really differ in terms of team efficiency and expectations vs. performance when you compare them to similar let downs by Jackonsville in previous years, especially against Houston?

by Tom Gower :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 4:49pm

I agree with the general consensus that AGS really loses something on ESPN, but I think Ned's article does a reasonable job within its constraints at highlighting the Jags' major deficiency this year-the losses of Meester (temporarily) and Manuwai and Williams (both on IR) have ruined the running game thus far, and unlike the Colts, the passing game isn't good enough to make up for the OL injuries. Of course, part of the credit does go to the other team, so it's reasonable to talk about the Bills' defense and how they may be better than expected.

My preseason thoughts were that the Jags would go 10-6 this year, but I thought they'd be able to run the ball effectively and, with the return of the Peterson and adding Florence and the rookie rushers, the defense would be no worse than it was in 2007. So far, though, those are both looking like bad assumptions, and the former may not be true this year at all.

by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 3:49pm

It's not just the word limit. It's the fuzzy-headed bloviation. Last week's win was due to injuries, this week was an escape, therefore the Bills are in ascension. Trent Edward's maturation is most important, so the team will be driven by defense. It reads like you're trying to pad empty content, not like you are being forced to cut deep analysis.

I know ESPN loves to serve up empty calories, but we want some meat!

by ammek :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 4:04pm

Or at least some spicy tofu, for us veggies.

by Stephan Colglazier (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 11:43pm

This pretty much sucks. It is even worse than the ads that magically appear when you go to print the content. Ditch ESPN. They are beneath you. Charge 3x as much for the annual book to cover costs, etc.

by Wondergecko (not verified) :: Wed, 09/17/2008 - 12:24pm

INdeed, this does not seem like FO at all. No interesting analysis or significant stat at all.

by Sergio :: Wed, 09/17/2008 - 11:22pm

Yeah... I'm concerned about the word limit (or whatever it is) too.

Whether you can tell us or not (maybe they make you sign a non-disclosure agreement), it would be *awesome* if you could post "extended" articles on the site, perhaps not quite an "Any Given Sunday" (if in fact ESPN bought out the rights for the name or whatever), but something more like what we're used to.

Because, guys... seriously... this isn't FO.

Still, Ned (well, everyone, really), I have to give you serious props. I'm sure writing these isn't very easy...

-- Go Phins!

by In_Belichick_We... :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 12:52pm

I have to agree with all of the negativity... This is exactly the type of writing we can get from Yahoo sports or some other crappy pretend sports site.

by In_Belichick_We... :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 7:19pm

"the Bills traveled to Jacksonville and escaped with a 20-16 victory over everyone's Super Bowl sleeper."

I still don't get why people were so high on the Jags in the first place. To be a serious contender in the NFL, you must have a dominant D-line. Jacksonville split up one of the best DT tandems ever when they shipped Stroud to Buffalo. What were they thinking? Add that with the answer to this question: Who honestly thinks Garrard's performance could possibly be any better this year than last year? He had an unbelievable year last year.

Weaken the D-line and get less out of the QB = no play-offs. Superbowl sleeper? Huh?

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 10:57am

They drafted d-line heavily, so there was some reason to think their line might be improved. Also, they didn't have Stroud most of last year, so trading him didn't really weaken their line.

by In_Belichick_We... :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 12:44pm

Stroud played half of the season last year.
Jacksonville drafted two pass rushing DE's. Big DTs are o-line cloggers to stop the run. Tennessee pounded the ball at Jacksonville all day and they didn't stop them. They lost to a team with a QB passer rating of 45. If they can't control the line of scrimmage without Stroud, they won't even make the playoffs.