Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

30 Oct 2006

2006 Quick Reads: Week 8

"The long-awaited maturation of Michael Vick is finally here," say the pundits. Do our numbers agree? Plus, learn how Marc Bulger has turned around Scott Linehan's biggest problem, how Philip Rivers wins with consistency, and who wins the Football Outsiders running back Halloween costume contest.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 30 Oct 2006

49 comments, Last at 05 Nov 2006, 2:13am by hector


by undethebus (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 7:46pm

Is it that Vick excels in games against teams outside his division and especially outside his conference? It seems reasonable that a team that faces him maybe once every 4 years would have a tough time game planning against his unique talents. I of course have no info to actually back this up. (see link for Career splits) Remember his good game from last year, didn't it come against the dolphins? Are there DVOA split stats?

by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 7:59pm

If Vick performs above replacement level for a third straight game, then I'll start believing that he is actually becoming an adequate passer. Its hard to believe that he has suddenly gotten better at passing instead of suddenly getting lucky against pass defenses.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:09pm

OMG, sounds like Brady threw Huard under the bus in 2001. Scandal!

I assumed Plummer would have been higher--seems lke every completion (and there weren't many) was 10 or more yards, and the rollouts and running were giving me ulcers. Of course compared to the past six weeks..... he's now on Mt. Olympus, no?

Joe Addai/Edge James costume. Sans grills.

by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:38pm

So the QB, RB, WR, TE, and line stats are up for this week.

I can't help but notice that Indianapolis' two starting recievers are #1 and #2 in DPAR, while the Giants' two running backs are both in the top three.

This is obviously proof of both the amazing power, and the amazing yin-yang duality of the Super Manning Brothers. For Peyton is clearly the best QB in the league when it comes to passes, whereas Eli is clearly the best QB in the league when it comes to handoffs.

If the two were to ever merge, the NFL would explode in a blinding flash of light and energy, and football would be no more.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:47pm

Can I ask how Larry Johnson wasn't a top 5 RB?

by Xian (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:51pm

D'oh. FO finally praises Vick the week after I trade him away in my FF league.

I'll just cross my fingers until Hasslebeck is back. FO hasn't steered me wrong yet.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:53pm

5: Only 4 yards a carry. The backs at the top of the list averaged near to 6 or more.

Of course DPAR is evaluating based on situational things and blah blah blah, but six yards on first and ten is worth much more than four.

by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:53pm

From the Kevin Curtis comment:

"What's odd is that, despite their terrible lack of depth in the secondary, this is by far the best game any slot receiver has put up against the Chargers all year."

I think this is because Cromartie has been quietly having an excellent rookie season. I don't have any data to back this up, it's just been my general impression of his play. They put him on Torry Holt this last game and Holt had a pretty quiet day (5 catches for 48 yards). This meant that Florence was probably the one covering Curtis for most of the day, and hence why he had such a good game (because Florence sucks).

Kiel has also regressed mightily in the last two games after sitting out the Baltimore contest. It's possible that he's distracted by his off-the-field court stuff, but I just don't think that he is that good in coverage. McCree has been fairly solid but has had some tackling problems.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 8:58pm

Brandon Jacobs: 15.0 DPAR on 51 carries - that just totally boggles my mind. He's the anti-Ron Dayne. If I recall correctly, he's never made the top-5 in Quick Reads, either.

What are the chances of getting a bonus EPC for him (and/or Michael Turner) one of these days? He's not in for many plays, but the numbers suggest he's doing something right every time he touches the ball.

by Michael Zannettis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:06pm

With Philip Rivers consistently outperforming "Little Brother", isn't about time we see an analysis of what the Giants gave up for the privelege of drafting an inferior quarterback?

For one, their first round draft pick turned into the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year/Steroid Abuser, Shawne Merriman.

by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:17pm

Jerrious Norwood is in that one vein too, George, I'd love to see a joint EPC sort of feature for the very effective low-carry backs.

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:21pm

RE: Larry Johnson

Just my quick glance at the gamebook shows about 21 out of his 39 carries that were less than what DVOA considers fully successful (basically 45% of needed yardage on 1st down, 60% on second, 100% on 3rd or 4th). That included a fair number of gains of 1 yard or less on first down.

by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:38pm

Yeah, Johnson was doing the "get stuffed, get stuffed, break off a big one" thing. Or, if you prefer, the Seahawks defense was having their customary third down coffee break. Sigh.

by Irishfan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:39pm

One thing that has gone largely unnoticed is the great season Marc Bulger is having. He has gone from a very good to a great QB. All he is short of for truly elite status is a great long ball (the main reason holts DPAR is so low is that Bulger keeps throwing bad balls long to him)

Still - has moved into top 5 qbs. It will be interesting to see if he even gets into probowl given that vick and mcnabb are assured entry. That leaves Bulger to battle it out with probably Manning, Grossman and Brees. In my opinion (and DPARs) Bulger should be second only to McNabb but he probably wont get in due to his low profile

by Vince (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:40pm

I watched the Atlanta game, and I can confirm for at least one Sunday that Vick was indeed awesome. Frankly, I thought to myself "this is the Vick of 2002." Confident, decisive, planting his feet and throwing laser beams. He even showed touch on short passes. He also used his runningbacks as receivers more than he used to.

I am hopeful he can keep this up, but not yet convinced.

by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 9:42pm

#9: As a Giants fan, I love Brandon Jacobs. Something tells me that his body will break down by the age of 28, but until then he's fantastic. He's every bit as fast as Tiki Barber, and he's strong and agile enough that the first guy virtually never brings him down. I haven't seen much of Michael Turner in SD, but for my money Jacobs is the best backup in the league, nad he'll be a very good starter next year.

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:01pm

Oh, also, I'd just like to say that I picked up Owen Daniels under bye-week duress for my fantasy team. Whee.

by Michael Zannettis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:05pm

I love Brandon Jacobs too, but it's important to take with a grain of salt that the reason his DPAR is so high is because he gets the ball in all the short yardage situations, including the goalline carries.

That being said, he is AMAZING at short yardage.

Take for instance the touchdown in the Dallas game where he was hit behind the line of scrimmage, then ran over three defenders for the score.

I believe he's only been stopped of a touchdown or first down once this season.

How he'll perform when he's given more of a workload remains to be seen, but as a Giants fan, Tiki's retirement doesn't bother me so much looking into next season, specifically because Jacobs looks so good.

by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:37pm

16: Based on what I've seen of both, I think I'd rather have Turner as my every down back.

by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:44pm

8: You mean Cromartie is already having a good year? If he becomes a top CB, I'm terrified it will lead to some NFL team drafting in the 1st-round a guy who played rugby and stepped on to a football field for 10 minutes to play linebacker in the last game of a college team's season and then blows away scouts at the combine. Don't tell me that won't happen if people start saying that Cromartie is the next Deion Sanders and the Chargers were smart to pick him so early.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 10:56pm

Re: Jacobs and other infrequent carriers.

To paraphrase Billy Beane, I'm not sure FO's #$@! works for these guys. Remember, FO's stats love Rock Cartwright, but Cartwright's had at least 4 offensive coordinators NONE of whom thought he was anything more than a 3rd or 4th stringer. When the stats disagree with that many coaches, I'll take the talent evaluators.

Of course, Jacobs' coach AND the stats love him, so I'm not really comparing him to Rock. Just saying he's got plenty to prove.

by Vince (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:00pm

Re: Top backup RBs:

Jerious Norwood in Atlanta is a fine, fine candidate.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:07pm

I've no doubt that Jacobs' equally ridiculous DVOA is primarily an artifact of his short-yardage carries. As I understand it, though, DPAR shouldn't be affected by this. The fact that he's 2nd in DPAR on 51 carries is what strikes me as completely insane; I'd even go so far as to say that DPAR itself might be broken. As a cumulative stat, the small sample size should theoretically be working against Jacobs in this situation.

The ironic thing is Tiki wasn't viewed as an every-down back early in his career because he was undersized; instead, it might be Jacobs who won't last long as an every down back because of the punishment he takes in utilizing his size.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:09pm

IIRC, Barber and Jacobs were 1-2 in the week 1 Quick Reads (before the opponent adjustment could account for just how terrible the Indy run defense was).

As for the post-Tiki Giants, I think that Jacobs still needs to split time with another back (maybe 60-40 or so). He sets himself up for lots of tough hits. He also is a 15-yd penalty waiting to happen (he got one yesterday; also recall he involvement in the Akers brawl). I think they'll draft somebody in the high-mid rounds and let him compete with Derrick Ward, the current #3. Turner will go to someone willing to pay him as a full-time starter (which he deserves to be).

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:15pm

Weird. I wrote the post currently numbered 24 after reading the post by Chris from NJ currently numbered 26. That post was supposedly written at 9:40, and my clock says 9:14.

by Kevin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:17pm


That would be idiotic for the Giants to do. Turner is going to get plenty of interest (therefore MONEY!) and paying someone to split carries is ridiculous. I think the Giants will draft a RB in the 3rd/4th round as a change of pace back with Jacobs. He has the talent to start in this league. However, we won't know because we don't even know who will be the Giants GM next season.

#18. I must respectfully disagree with your analysis of Brandon Jacobs. While his success rate is tremendous because of his short yardage skill, he's been very productive on MOST of his carries. Of all the RBs with 50+ carries, only 6 average more ypc than Jacobs. That's interesting because he's the only one of the group that doesn't have ANY 20+ yard carries to distort the average. He consistently gets 5+ yards a carry. That's production regardless of the down and distance.

by paytonrules (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:18pm

Cedric Benson is not. Can I definitvely state he blows chunks yet? He even allowed a sack of Brian Greise with a block that can only be described as "LOOK OUT!"

Adrian Peterson would be - but he can't get off the bench.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:24pm


Are you referring to my post currently at #24, or one of the mysterious posts from the future? (a late Daylight Savings adjustment, perhaps?) If so, I think you misunderstand me; we seem to agree about how the Giants should address the RB situation next season.

by JMM (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:24pm

Clearly Big Ben is ranked too high because giving up more yards in interception returns than your defense gave up in total offense is no way to win a game. FRED (Football Reporter's Estimated Disposition) is way better than DAVE! Ewe guize shore our tuff! Moore lastings shuch az thes wil reck you're credit-ability fourever in teh webb.

by Kevin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:33pm

#10. You have to look beyond the overall stats to judge the trade. First of all, the Giants would NEVER have drafted Phillip Rivers at all. It would've been Manning, then Roethlisberger. One reason the Giants would never have drafted Rivers is a day like yesterday. Rivers would've been worthless trying to throw in that wind with his arm strength. A QB will never have great numbers playing games late in the year at the Meadowlands. Besides can we not get too crazy about Rivers yet? He's played 3 of the 4 worst DVOA teams in his first 7 starts. Not surprisingly, the Chargers have won those games by a combined 115-26. The Giants could've kept the pick that eventually became Merriman, but they would've had to trade the Chargers another player... 2005 1st team All-Pro Osi Umenyiora to do so.

by Darth Goofy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:38pm

I must say... until there is a change in the future, Joseph Addai is the best back-up in the NFL. He might even become the starter soon :)

by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:40pm

About Jacobs, Turner, et al.

I've always (at least, ever since Jacobs started looking ultra-impressive in the preseason) maintained that Tiki's retirement will be hardly felt in the running game, but will instead bring the passing game down a notch, since Jacobs has never shown much of an aptitude for catching the football (and Barber has always been proportionally better in the passing game).

And sure, always getting the ball in short-yardage situations may help his DPAR, but Jacobs has been starting to get a wider range of carries, and just looks realy impressive the way he pushes forward for extra yardage and drags defenders along with him. It's not just a quirk in the system

As for putting Michael Turner into the discussion, there have been rumors that the Giants want to sign him this upcoming off-season to split carries with Jacobs next year. (I haven't seen him run much, but I will take the word of those who have that he is also highly impressive on tape as well as DVOA.) If they can pull that off, that would just be flat-out awesome.

by Kaveman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 11:59pm

Tatum Bell is #1 in rushing DPAR? This is probably surprising me because the general suckiness of the Denver offense thus far has obscured this goodness.

An interesting thought arises though. In a press conference after the Colts game, Shanahan was asked how come Plummer was rolling out and waggling so successfully in the Colts game. He said that when a D takes away the bootleg, it leaves a cutback lane open, and Mike Bell exploited that a few times. That forced the Colts to respect the run, which opened things out for Jake.

I wish the obvious next question had been asked: why didn't this work in earlier games, with Tatum running?

Either Shanahan isn't telling the full story (probable), or somehow Tatum doesn't make a D respect the cutback lane (is this even possible?), or one can really tell nothing from success against this Colts D (most likely).

Alas, we now go to Pittsburgh, where the schizophrenic Steelers are, I think, due an up game...

by Kaveman (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 12:11am

Oh, and as the reader who griped about the rock-paper-scissors analogy, I must bow my head in shame and grovel before Mike Tanier. Sorry for my bitching.

by Jake (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 4:06am

#3, hehe @ the "Scandal!" comment. Reminds me of the Onion columnist who exclaims "Item!"

by Michael Zannettis (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 4:21am

This is why statistics are great: I've watched every single Giants play this season, and I had no idea that Jacobs was that consistently good.

Sure enough Jacobs is second in the league in success rate (67%), right behind Addai (71%).

Edgerrin James was first last year in success rate by a wide margin. Is this more evidence that the offensive line bears a greater responsibility for success rate than does the running back?

On the other hand, is the Giants adjusted line yards stats, currently ranked first, being helped by Jacobs running over people that should have tackled him for a loss or no gain?

by Truman (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 7:57am

Its hard to believe that he has suddenly gotten better at passing instead of suddenly getting lucky against pass defenses.
The playcalling has looked very different the last two weeks. A lot more use of shotgun formation on first down, more pass plays on first down rather than run-run-pass-punt of previous weeks (and years) and more 3 receiver sets allowing Lelie to get on the field for more snaps.

by Benjy Rose :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 8:43am

RE: Vick (#1,2,15)...
Having watched a bunch of ATL games, I can say with some degree of certainty that these past two weeks have seen a huge transformation in MV. To me, he's always looked like a rookie out there, never sure of himself -- I always pictured him saying "Oh sh*t, oh sh*t, oh sh*t" to himself from the time he received the snap until he passed the ball/ran out of bounds/got hit.

This week and last week, he actually carried himself like a real live Quarterback. His throws were sure. His body language was confident. Prior to the PIT game, he would almost always throw without his feet set, whether scrambling or not, and would make up for it with his terrific arm; these past two weeks, he seemed to use his body more, so his throws were more accurate.

Looks like the Dirty Birds may have found themselves a QB. Of course, it may also be that teams are stacking up on the run and not pressuring Vick so much. In the immortal words of John Wetton, only time will tell.

by Mike B. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 11:07am

Is it possible the "light went on" for Vick? Let's see if he has another good game, but after watching the game against the Steelers, that is *not* the same Mike Vick I saw a bunch of times last year...

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 11:24am

Re: Vick

Looks like they ditched the West Coast offense and went to an offense similar to what they ran under Reeves.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 11:30am

Aaron -- where would Brady and the Pats receivers have gone on the list if MNF were included?

by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 12:28pm

Five people listed after Ben? Amazing!

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/31/2006 - 1:47pm

41: I'm going to guess he'll come out slightly higher than Bulger, but not as good as Vick or Manning. Interesting note when considering defensive-adjustments, Minnesota's pass defense is actually ranked higher than Denver, and below Cincinnati. At least it will be until next week.

by MarkV (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 3:29pm

I was looking at the season DPAR and was very surprised to see how highly ranked Rothelisburger was despite his poor year. Just looking at the stat lines it seems he would probably be ranked lower. Can anyone help me with this question though: is his DPAR as high as it is because mostly
(1) he has played goodagainst some teams but really bad against a few with good defences
(2) He is consistantly mixing solid quarterbacking with the oaccasional really stupid play.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 4:30pm

44: The answer is both. His PAR is 0, but his DPAR is 9.0, so he's had average performances against good defense. Also, he gets most of his value from the KC game and his performance against Atlanta. His DPAR in those two games is 14 & 12. When he's not recovering from a concussion or appendicitis, he's been playing up to 2005 levels.

by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 5:37pm

I thought Sage Rosenfels actually had a few good relief appearances last year for the Dolphins. I was surprised the coaching staff was totally uninterested in him as a back up for this season.

by Vince (not verified) :: Wed, 11/01/2006 - 9:14pm

I watched parts of the PIT-ATL and CIN-ATL replays and have found another big part of Vick's improvement: COMPLETE LACK OF PASS RUSH. Injuries and suspensions have forced new players into the line, but they may be improvements. Also, against Cincinnati in particular, you could see defensive ends who were deliberately NOT pressuring Vick from the outside, because that would open a running lane. They were staying at home on the end of the line. So Vick had all day to scan the field and pick a target.

Contrast that to the Giants game, who sent their (admittedly, great) pair of defensive ends loose and totalled seven sacks.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/02/2006 - 2:40pm


A big part of that is that hes staying behind his line now, and allowing them to protect him. Previously, he was running around all over the place, and a lot of the time a DE or DT would have a straight shot at him, because he wasnt behind his line.

by hector (not verified) :: Sun, 11/05/2006 - 2:13am

I think you hammered the costume joke a few too many times. Otherwise, a fine read.