Quick Reads

The best and worst players of the week according to Football Outsiders stats.

Week 3 Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei

Albert Wilson joined the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia State in 2014, and over the next four seasons he established himself as a useful role player -- not a Pro Bowler, not even a full-time starter, but a guy you could rely on to average 25 or 30 yards per game as a receiver, with a couple of scores per year. He signed with the Dolphins in March, and his first two games in aqua and orange were more of the same -- three catches for 31 yards in the opener against Tennessee, then three catches for 37 yards and a touchdown in Week 2 against the Jets. In Sunday's game against Oakland, Wilson was once again limited to just a few plays, but in those few plays he amassed more value than all but a handful of players this week. Officially, Wilson's name shows up in the play-by-play just three times (he had three other receptions wiped out by penalty), all of them in the fourth quarter:

In those three plays, Wilson accounted for 126 yards of offense, the go-ahead touchdown, and the game-clinching touchdown. Not bad for a role player.

The play that's going to get the most attention there is the pass to Grant, because it's always cool when non-quarterbacks throw touchdowns. But right now let's take a look at that last play.

via Gfycat

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This looks like a running play. Wilson gets the ball in the backfield and takes off around left end. The offensive line doesn't drop back into a pass set, it executes a zone blocking scheme to that side. Nobody else runs a route, not even as a decoy; all the receivers are looking to hit somebody right away. Yet this counts as a passing play, because technically speaking the ball travels from one player's hands forwards through the air into another's. Wilson gets credit for a reception, 75 yards, and a touchdown, which is all well and good. It hardly seems right, however, that Tannehill also gets credit for a completion, 75 yards, and a touchdown on this play. For what? Let's look at everything Tannehill does here: he calls the signals, catches the snap, and pops it forwards maybe a foot into Wilson's hands. There's nothing mentally or physically impressive about this at all. Give your average Dolphins fan a couple of snaps in practice to get the timing down and they too could be throwing 75-yard touchdowns in the NFL.

We have seen plays like this a few times over the years, of course. It would not be a big deal if Wilson's touchdown was an occasional thing, but it seems like little pop-passes like this are becoming more and more common across the league. Tannehill also had a 19-yard touchdown on a similar "pass" to Grant:

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It wasn't just the Dolphins making use of this tactic on Sunday. Here's Dak Prescott throwing a touchdown to Tavon Austin against Seattle:

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

And this wasn't a touchdown, but it was a gain of 15 for Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, and the Rams against the Chargers.

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Strategically these plays make all kinds of sense, for the same reason that jet sweeps make sense. It's never a bad idea to hand the ball to your playmakers and get them into space. In an era when many teams are struggling to find quality offensive linemen, it can be smarter to run around defenses instead of going through them. And plays like this can simultaneously exploit and deter the use of aggressive blitz and pass-rush schemes. It just seems inaccurate to label them as passing plays.

Are these kind of passes really becoming more common? It sure seems that way, but it's hard to accurately say so without doing a detailed film study of this and prior seasons. What we can do is take the data we do have and put it through some pretty severe filters. First, we can look only at passes marked as "short middle" in the play-by-play. These, by definition, include all passes to receivers in the middle of the field and within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. We can then further narrow this down to receivers who were behind (not at) the line of scrimmage. We can call these plays Short Handoffs Of Very Little Length, or SHOVeLLs, for short. (No, they are not technically handoffs. We tried some other terminology, but you'll have to find another website if you want to read about "short hookups of very little length.")

This definition is not perfect. It includes this touchdown Trey Burton scored against Seattle in Week 2:

via Gfycat

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

No, this is not the most difficult pass you'll ever see, and it's not what Chicago had in mind when they drafted Mitchell Trubisky second overall in 2017. In fact, this looks like a triple option, with Trubisky choosing between making the pitch to the left, keeping the ball, or shoveling to Burton. But Trubisky deserves some credit here -- he has to read the defense, quickly make the correct decision, and then execute the play. Your average NFL fan would not have pulled this off.

Even allowing for these kind of inaccuracies, though, it's very clear that SHOVeLLs are having a dramatic impact on the NFL this season. Here's a look at SHOVeLL numbers over the past five full seasons, along with the early results of 2018.


NFL SHOVeLL Results, 2013-2018
Year SHOVeLLs Per Game* Rate** PYD Catch% YAC Avg. Suc% YAR VOA
2013 195 0.38 1.1% -2.7 68% 9.9 5.09 31% -5 -13.5%
2014 173 0.34 1.0% -3.0 73% 8.6 4.13 33% -170 -30.1%
2015 200 0.39 1.1% -3.1 72% 9.8 4.84 34% -175 -28.6%
2016 169 0.33 0.9% -3.0 69% 9.0 4.19 30% -347 -46.5%
2017 225 0.44 1.3% -3.0 73% 8.6 4.21 36% -216 -27.5%
2018 47 0.50 1.4% -2.9 72% 12.9 7.26 55% 68 8.4%
* Average SHOVeLLs per team per game.
** SHOVeLLs as a percentage of all targets.

From 2013 through 2016, your average team tried a SHOVeLL every three games or so. That rate went up significantly in 2017 and is up again this season, up to one shovel every other game in 2018. However, SHOVeLLs still make up just a tiny share of passing plays, not even two percent of all targets league-wide. The Bears lead the NFL with six SHOVeLLs so far this season, completing four of them for 19 yards and three first downs. That includes the Burton touchdown, which again shows that there's some serious margin for error in these stats. The Rams are second with five SHOVeLLs, followed by the Chiefs, Ravens, and Bengals with three apiece. (Officially, the Dolphins only have two, but that's because the Tannehill-to-Grant touchdown is actually listed as short right in the play-by-play, not short middle. If other plays like this are being labeled by direction and not where the pass was caught, that would also skew the data.)

So far in 2018, the average SHOVeLL pass has been thrown to a receiver 2.9 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and has been caught 72 percent of the time -- both right in line with historical norms. What players are doing with the ball in their hands, however, has been extraordinary. The average SHOVeLL reception has gained 12.9 yards after the catch this season. That is 3 full yards more than the next-highest figure over the past five years, and almost 4 yards higher than the five-year average of 9.2. Even including incompletions, SHOVeLLs are averaging 7.3 yards per play in 2018, more than 2 yards more than any other season since 2013. Even in 2017, SHOVeLLs never succeeded much more than one-third of the time. This year, they're a better than even money bet.

The final two columns in that table really express how successful SHOVeLL plays have been this year. These columns show the combined receiving YAR and VOA of all players on SHOVeLL plays each season. These are individual DVOAs, not team offense DVOAs, which means the standards for success are higher -- they do not include running plays or sacks, only pass attempts. They also combine stats for wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs into one bucket -- separating them by positions might yield slightly different results. Finally, we should note that since we do not yet have opponent adjustments for 2018, we are not listing opponent-adjusted numbers for prior seasons either. We did calculate DVOA and DYAR stats; they were very much in line with the unadjusted numbers.

From 2013 to 2017, SHOVeLLs were never good plays, compared to other pass targets. They were never even replacement level. They were erratic, inefficient, and unreliable. This season, however, they have shot up past replacement level and are significantly above average. When you consider that the chance for a sack or interception is pretty close to zero, it's clear that SHOVeLLs are working much better this season than they have in recent history.

This is likely a fluke of small sample size to some extent, an outlier based on the outcomes of less than one-fifth of the games we will see this season. Eventually defenses will catch up and devote more time and energy to locking down these perimeter attack plays. Until that happens, however, we will likely see more and more SHOVeLLs each week. As well as these plays are working, every offense in the league should prepare to use them a couple of times a game -- especially if they are playing the Raiders or Seahawks.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Matt Ryan ATL
26/35
374
5
0
3
256
258
-2
NO
Ryan's performance in the red zone was nearly perfect. He was sacked once, but he completed each of the six passes he officially threw for 53 yards and four touchdowns. His two completions that did not produce first downs were gains of 7 and 9 yards on first-and-10. He also picked up 4 yards and another first down on a DPI.
2.
Drew Brees NO
39/49
396
3
0
1
226
209
17
ATL
This is the second time in three weeks that Brees has ranked second in Quick Reads, only to see the quarterback on the other sideline finish first. Looks like it's going to be one of those years for the New Orleans defense. Brees tore up the right side of Atlanta's defense (from his perspective), going 18-of-21 for 196 yards and 12 first downs, including two scores.
3.
Patrick Mahomes KC
24/38
314
3
0
2
191
194
-4
SF
Mahomes shredded the middle of San Francisco's defense, going 6-of-8 for 111 yards. Five of those completions resulted in first downs, including a 13-yard touchdown to Demetrius Harris. The sixth was an 8-yard gain on first-and-10. He also had a 17-yard gain on a SHOVeLL to Travis Kelce.
4.
Deshaun Watson HOU
24/38
385
2
1
3
160
151
9
NYG
DYAR by quarter: 39, 14, 66, 32. Only Matt Ryan had more DYAR in the third quarter this week. In that quarter, Watson went 6-of-8 for 107 yards and five first downs.
5.
Ryan Tannehill MIA
17/23
289
3
0
1
154
141
13
OAK
A very streaky day. Tannehill had one first down in his first seven dropbacks; four first downs in a row; five straight plays without a first down; four first downs in a row; three straight plays without a first down; and finally the long touchdown to Wilson. He gained 289 passing yards this week (including DPIs but not including sacks); 49 percent of those yards came after the catch. That sounds like a lot, but it's pretty close to average (48 percent this week).
6.
Jared Goff LAR
29/36
354
3
1
1
144
138
6
LAC
Goff's first pass was incomplete. Then he completed 13 passes in a row, picking up 141 yards and 10 first downs in the process. The 13th pass was a touchdown to Robert Woods. Goff later had streaks of six, three, and four completions in a row.
7.
Eli Manning NYG
25/29
297
2
0
4
128
128
0
HOU
On third downs, Manning went 7-of-9 for 97 yards with two sacks and one fumble. All seven of those completions resulted in first downs, including a 7-yard touchdown to Sterling Shepard.
8.
Alex Smith WAS
12/20
220
2
1
0
105
97
8
GB
As usual, Smith had a lot of success on shorter passes. Throwing to receivers within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage, he went 9-of-11 for 90 yards and four first downs, plus DPIs of 7 and 8 yards. And he had a lot of success on deep passes, going 3-of-4 for 130 yards and a touchdown, plus another DPI for 22 yards. In between though? Yuck. From 10 to 15 yards downfield, he went 0-for-5 with an interception.
9.
Matthew Stafford DET
27/35
262
2
1
1
96
98
-2
NE
Throwing to his left, Stafford went 9-of-10 for 105 yards and eight first downs.
10.
Derek Carr OAK
27/39
345
1
2
3
80
80
0
MIA
Carr went 8-of-11 for 54 yards in the red zone … but only one of those completions was a touchdown, and only three others were first downs. And one of the incompletions was intercepted.
11.
Philip Rivers LAC
18/30
226
2
0
1
77
77
0
LAR
Rivers was pretty good on third and fourth down, but then, he had to be because he was so bad before that. On first and second downs, he went 9-of-18 for 111 yards with only three first downs and one sack.
12.
Russell Wilson SEA
16/26
192
2
0
2
57
72
-15
DAL
DYAR by quarter: -19, 95, 2, -7. In that second quarter, he went 9-of-13 for 130 yards with two touchdowns and six other first downs.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
13.
Baker Mayfield CLE
17/23
201
0
0
1
53
53
0
NYJ
Remember that DYAR is a counting stat, and Mayfield only had about 32 minutes of game time. On top of that, his second-quarter DYAR was turfed by a fumble-sack that sent him into negative numbers. But only five passers had more DYAR in the second half, when he went 14-of-19 for 154 yards and seven first downs. Every one of those passes came with a deficit, which gives Mayfield's DYAR a boost since the Jets knew he had to pass.
14.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
30/38
353
3
1
3
50
47
2
TB
15.
Cam Newton CAR
15/24
150
2
0
1
44
29
15
CIN
Only Patrick Mahomes had more DYAR in the second quarter than Newton. Cam threw six passes in those 15 minutes, and every one was completed for a first down, including two scores, and a total of 93 yards.
16.
Joe Flacco BAL
25/39
277
1
0
2
44
41
3
DEN
Flacco only had one first down on first down. Granted, that one first down was a 44-yard completion to John Brown, but his other 11 first-down throws resulted in five completions for only 27 yards.
17.
Jimmy Garoppolo SF
20/30
251
2
0
4
42
34
7
KC
Sorry to kick a guy when he's down, but Garoppolo had a bad day on third downs against Kansas City. He went 4-of-5 for 45 yards with a sack, but only one of those plays was a conversion, and that came with San Francisco down by 19 points in the third quarter.
18.
Ryan Fitzpatrick TB
30/50
411
3
3
3
26
18
8
PIT
19.
Marcus Mariota TEN
12/18
100
0
0
1
26
11
14
JAX
Mariota did not start, and it took him a while to get warmed up. His first four passes were all incomplete, and then he closed the first half with three straight completions, but they gained a total of just 10 yards and no first downs. He did not complete a pass more than 10 yards downfield, though he did pick up 17 yards on a DPI.
20.
Aaron Rodgers GB
27/44
266
2
0
4
20
14
6
WAS
Rodgers didn't throw to the middle of the field often, but when he did, it usually worked: 7-of-10 for 124 yards and five first downs, including a 64-yard touchdown to Geronimo Allison.
21.
Andy Dalton CIN
29/45
352
2
4
2
14
14
0
CAR
Dalton gained 352 passing yards this week (including DPIs but not including sacks); 29 percent of those yards came after the catch, lowest in the league among qualifying passers this week. That said, he had mixed results on deep balls, going 5-of-10 for 150 yards, but also throwing three interceptions (though one of those is counted as a Hail Mary for DYAR and DVOA purposes).
22.
Andrew Luck IND
25/40
164
1
0
2
0
-12
12
PHI
Third-/fourth-down passing: 4-of-11 for 10 yards (not a typo) and only one conversion. He also had a 16-yard sack, which means his 12 plays resulted in a net loss of 6 yards.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
23.
Tom Brady NE
15/26
133
1
1
2
-36
-36
0
DET
Brady threw for four first downs against Detroit. Four. Only one in the last 25 minutes. Sam Bradford had six first downs against Chicago and he got benched. Marcus Mariota had six first downs and they all came after halftime. Ryan Tannehill had four first downs in a row -- twice. On deep passes, Brady went 1-of-7 for 16 yards with an interception. (That's not counting the intentional grounding foul that was thrown 47 yards downfield.)
24.
Josh Allen BUF
15/22
196
1
0
3
-39
-65
26
MIN
Allen gained 196 passing yards this week (including DPIs but not including sacks); 70 percent of those yards came after the catch, most of any qualifying passer this week. His numbers were really torpedoed by three fumbles, two of them on aborted snaps. All three of them came on first down, and Buffalo was fortunate to recover each one of them.
25.
Carson Wentz PHI
25/37
255
1
1
5
-49
-54
4
IND
Wentz's first ten throws were all to tight ends. He did not throw a pass to a wide receiver until midway through the second quarter. He only threw seven passes to wide receivers, completing six of them for 45 yards and three first downs.
26.
Sam Bradford ARI
13/19
157
2
2
3
-56
-56
0
CHI
Bradford got off to a hot start. In the first quarter he went 4-of-5 for 92 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Only Jared Goff and Alex Smith had more first-quarter DYAR this week. And then he had the week's worst DYAR in the second quarter, when he went 3-of-5 for 3 yards with no first downs, two sacks, and a fumble. Two of those completions actually lost yards, which means Bradford managed to gain positive yards one time in seven plays in that period. (Josh Rosen, if you're curious, had -9 DYAR for his 4-of-7, 36-yard, one-interception, one-sack performance.)
27.
Blake Bortles JAX
21/34
159
0
0
3
-57
-61
4
TEN
Bortles did not throw a single pass in the red zone. On Tennessee's half of the field, he went 6-of-9 for 42 yards and only two first downs, with one sack. He only threw two deep balls all game; both were incomplete.
28.
Case Keenum DEN
22/34
192
0
1
3
-58
-58
0
BAL
Inside the Baltimore 30, Keenum went 2-of-5 for 13 yards with no first downs, one interception, and one sack-fumble. From the two-minute mark of the first quarter to the seven-minute mark of the third, he had a stretch of 16 straight dropbacks without a first down. In that time, he went 6-of-13 for 41 yards with three sacks and a fumble.
29.
Sam Darnold NYJ
15/31
169
0
2
2
-65
-65
0
CLE
It could have been worse for Darnold, whose receivers made some plays after catching the ball. Darnold was the only quarterback this week to get four first downs on passes to receivers behind the line of scrimmage, including conversions on third-and-7 and third-and-11 by Quincy Enunwa.
30.
Mitchell Trubisky CHI
24/35
220
0
1
3
-98
-96
-2
ARI
I wrote the following in the comments of Quick Reads last week: "I kept thinking to myself the team was putting [Trubisky] in good situations and he was making the absolute least out of them." That was my subjective opinion of Trubisky's performance against Seattle that week, but it's also objectively true of his game against Arizona, when he kept screwing up short-yardage plays. He had the league's worst DYAR with 7 yards or less to go for a first down, going 9-of-12 for 53 yards and only five conversions, adding three sacks, an interception, and a fumble.
31.
Kirk Cousins MIN
40/55
296
1
1
4
-116
-115
-2
BUF
Cousins did not throw for a first down until the Vikings were down 27-0 in the second quarter. To that point he had gone 7-of-12 for 27 yards (yes) with three sacks and two lost fumbles. He did not a complete a pass that gained 10 yards or more in the first 41 minutes of the game. Cousins' DYAR actually got as low as -230 late in the third quarter, and he was seriously threatening David Klingler's all-time worst mark of -302 set in Week 4 of 1994 (Klingler had three interceptions and seven sacks with only 115 passing yards against the Oilers), but then he turned things around once it was too late to matter. His 28 attempts, 23 completions, 200 yards, 16 first downs, and 109 DYAR in the fourth quarter were all the highest totals for any quarterback this week.
32.
Tyrod Taylor CLE
5/14
19
0
0
3
-120
-110
-9
NYJ
Only one first down and one other successful play, and neither happened until Cleveland was down 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
33.
Dak Prescott DAL
19/34
168
1
2
5
-186
-196
10
SEA
Prescott only had one first down in the first 37 minutes of this game. Up to that point he had gone 8-of-15 for 54 yards with an interception and three sacks. Inside his own 25, he went 5-of-11 for 30 yards with no first downs and three sacks. His last five plays went interception, incomplete, incomplete, sack, 20-yard gain on fourth-and-22.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Adrian Peterson WAS
19
120
2
0/0
0
0
47
47
0
GB
Four runs of 10 or more yards, including a 41-yarder (his longest carry since 2015), with two 2-yard touchdown runs. He was hit for a loss just once, and that came with Washington up by 11 in the fourth quarter.
2.
Christian McCaffrey CAR
28
184
0
2/2
10
0
45
44
1
CIN
Seven first downs on the ground, each on a run of 10 yards or more, the longest a 45-yarder. He was hit for no gain or a loss just twice; both came with Carolina nursing a one-score lead in the fourth quarter.
3.
Kerryon Johnson DET
16
101
0
2/3
9
0
44
40
4
NE
As you may have heard, this was Detroit's first 100-yard rusher since 2013. Johnson got off to a hot start, as each of his first three carries resulted in first downs. All told, he had six first downs on the ground, with four runs of 10 yards or more. He was hit for no gain just once, and that came with Detroit up by 13 points in the fourth quarter.
4.
Matt Breida SF
10
90
0
3/3
27
0
43
30
13
KC
Four first downs, on runs of 13, 21, 21, and 26 yards, while being hit for a loss twice. His catches included a 7-yard gain on second-and-9 and a 13-yard gain on second-and-10.
5.
Alfred Morris SF
14
67
1
0/0
0
0
37
37
0
KC
Morris' 16-yard gain in the third quarter was his only run that gained 10 or more yards, but he had six first downs on the day, converting five of his six chances with 4 yards or less to go for a first down. He was hit for a loss twice.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Adrian Peterson WAS
19
120
2
0/0
0
0
47
47
0
GB
2.
Christian McCaffrey CAR
28
184
0
2/2
10
0
45
44
1
CIN
3.
Kerryon Johnson DET
16
101
0
2/3
9
0
44
40
4
NE
4.
Alfred Morris SF
14
67
1
0/0
0
0
37
37
0
KC
5.
Wendell Smallwood PHI
10
56
1
3/5
35
0
29
37
-7
IND
Four first downs on the ground, including an 11-yarder, while being hit for no gain just once. His catches included a 34-yard gain on second-and-6 (good!) and an 8-yard loss on first-and-10 (bad!).


Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Kenyan Drake MIA
5
3
0
2/4
7
0
-30
-18
-12
OAK
Only nine plays, let's just list them all. His runs: 3-yard gain on second-and-9; 4-yard loss on second-and-4; 3-yard gain on first-and-20; 1-yard gain on first-and-10; no gain on first-and-10. His targets: 1-yard catch on first-and-10; incomplete on third-and-16; 6-yard gain on second-and-17; incomplete on third-and-5.


Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Tevin Coleman ATL
15
33
0
2/3
14
1
-20
-35
15
NO
Only one first down on the ground, a 15-yard gain on second-and-12. That was his only run that gained more than 8 yards; 13 of them gained less than 5 yards. He had three carries with 3 yards or less to go for a first down and lost yardage on each one of them.


Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Calvin Ridley ATL
7
8
146
20.9
3
119
NO
Ridley's totals include 112 DYAR receiving, 7 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 9 yards. Each of Ridley's catches gained a first down, the longest a 75-yard touchdown. He also drew a 45-yard DPI.
2.
Jordy Nelson OAK
6
8
173
28.8
1
74
MIA
Five of Nelson's catches produced first downs, including a 12-yard touchdown plus gains of 61 and 66 yards. He also drew a 13-yard DPI.
3.
Robert Woods LAR
10
11
104
10.4
2
67
LAC
Woods' totals include 54 DYAR receiving, 13 DYAR rushing for his three carries for 13 yards. Only two of his catches failed to produce first downs; one of those was a 12-yard gain on third-and-30.
4.
Albert Wilson MIA
2
2
74
37.0
1
67
OAK
Wilson's totals include 26 DYAR receiving, 41 DYAR passing.
5.
Tyler Boyd CIN
6
7
132
22.0
1
64
CAR
Boyd's totals include 61 DYAR receiving, 3 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 5 yards. Four of his catches gained 23 yards or more, including a 49-yard touchdown.


Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Randall Cobb GB
4
11
24
6.0
0
-67
WAS
Only two of Cobb's catches resulted in first downs, none gained more than 11 yards, and one was fumbled away after a 1-yard gain. He was also the target on a fourth-and-2 incompletion.

Comments

28 comments, Last at 01 Oct 2018, 8:05pm

1 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Dan // Sep 25, 2018 - 3:23am

What would be the VOA & YAR of SHOVeLLs if you treated them as running plays?

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2 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by fyo // Sep 25, 2018 - 5:00am

Accounting SHOVeLLs distinctly from "real" passes seems like a dangerous road to go down, particular with the current definition. There are plenty of passes which are very, very easy to execute for NFL quarterbacks and rely almost solely on YAC for any kind of yardage.

A slightly better way of isolating these, to the extent that doing so even makes sense, would be to look at air yards and either scale VOA with air yards or consider anything below, say, 2 air yards a SHOVeLL (and perhaps score it as a running play instead, or apply some sort of VOA modifier).

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3 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Chuckc // Sep 25, 2018 - 7:31am

It's really no different from a pitch except that it goes forwards instead of sideways or backwards. How are WR screens that go slightly backwards scored?

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20 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Richie // Sep 25, 2018 - 1:50pm

From the NFL Statisticians Manual:

"The same statistical rules apply to all types of backward passes: laterals, handoffs, pitch-outs, reverses, etc … In other words, if a statistical ruling is made on a play that contains a lateral, the exact same statistical ruling would be made if the ball had been handed-off instead of lateralled (assuming it was received at the same yard line.) With that in mind, this document will usually refer to the more familiar term, "lateral" instead of "backward pass," however, the latter is always implied.

NOTE: statistically, an exchange of the ball does not qualify as a backward pass unless the exchange is completed to a teammate without first touching the ground. If the ball touches the ground, or is intercepted by an opponent, the player who attempted the backward pass is credited with a fumble."

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22 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by PatsFan // Sep 25, 2018 - 2:25pm

Where can one get/find the NFL Statisticians Manual?

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23 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Travis // Sep 25, 2018 - 3:35pm

The NFL "Guide for Statisicians" can be found here.

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9 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Pat // Sep 25, 2018 - 10:12am

"There are plenty of passes which are very, very easy to execute for NFL quarterbacks and rely almost solely on YAC for any kind of yardage."

It's not all about the quarterback, though. The key there, in my mind, is that the offensive line isn't pass blocking - they're run blocking. And the two types of blocking are obviously very different for offensive lines.

Same reason why I don't like screens being lumped in with passes either, since again, it's an entirely different kind of blocking (I wouldn't want screens lumped in with runs, either - it's pretty much a third class of blocking altogether).

"There are plenty of passes which are very, very easy to execute for NFL quarterbacks and rely almost solely on YAC for any kind of yardage."

I disagree. It's not all air yardage - just because the *pass* is easy doesn't mean it's *situationally* easy. NFL.com's introduction to AWS's Next Gen Stats and completion percentage stresses the point a ton. SHOVeLLs saturate *all* of the variables they use to rate completion percentage. It's not just air yards - no defender, no sideline, no air yards, no pass rusher, no passer speed, and zero time to throw.

To me the key here is no air yards + zero time to throw (which essentially implies run blocking, because you don't need to wait for the pass to start downfield blocking). To me that says "this is a run, not a pass."

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4 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Bobikus // Sep 25, 2018 - 7:37am

"SHOVeLL" is so awkward to type out, as is anything with mixed capitalization. I liked WVU calling them "touch passes."

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16 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by ChrisS // Sep 25, 2018 - 12:09pm

And awkward to look at. I would either capitalize the e or eliminate it SHOVELL or SHOVLL

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5 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by big10freak // Sep 25, 2018 - 8:09am

The Packers best playmakers on offense are its running backs and Jimmy Graham but sure Mike let's have your gimpy qb remain the anchor point of the team.

Mike Sherman in one of his limited good decisions convinced Brett Favre to let Ahman Green be the focus of the offense. At minimum GB needs to get away from throwing the ball willy nilly which stresses an o-line not the best at pass blocking, stresses an injured qb and stresses a receiving corps that drops off dramatically after Adams.

Run the damn ball Mike.

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13 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Arkaein // Sep 25, 2018 - 10:55am

I definitely want to see more Aaron Jones, and the other backs have been good too, but if GB just makes 3 routine catches the passing game looks much better this past Sunday. Rodgers is quietly having a good if not spectacular year (Bears 4th quarter not withstanding).

I'm fairly confident Cobb will bounce back, at least with respect to his hands. He was off to a good start this season, and he's always had pretty reliable hands.

Lance Kendricks on the other hand I had figured as a player who might not make it out of training camp, and I'd be happy not to see him on the field again. he couldn't catch reliably last year either. I'd rather see Lewis in there for run blocking or another real WR to open up the passing game. Or give Tonyan a shot.

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15 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by big10freak // Sep 25, 2018 - 11:32am

The Kendricks roster spot is just weird. But weirder still is GB allowing I guess one would say politics from picking up the phone and signing Eric Reid. Safety is now officially a disaster as Dix has not bounced back and Brice for all the praise from the coaches is getting fooled on a regular basis. I think front offices grossly overestimate fan negative reaction if the player is associated with the team WINNING games.

Rodgers is taking WAY too many hits between the interior line breakdowns and his longstanding habit of holding the ball. Mike needs to accept that his offense has limitations and work to leverage what it can do NOW versus what it MIGHT be able to do once things improve in different areas.

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17 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 25, 2018 - 12:26pm

Yep. So much for "winning is everything."

Is this related to penalizing Washington and Dallas for not breaking any rules back in 2012? It's equally arbitrary and vindictive, at least

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6 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 25, 2018 - 8:32am

It would be interesting to revisit Marino's old shovels passes.

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7 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by bingo762 // Sep 25, 2018 - 10:07am

Wentz first 10 throws went to TEs because they are so injury depleted at WR, they are using TEs as WR. For real, they had 3 TEs on the field most of the day

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14 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 25, 2018 - 11:07am

Sproles was out too, so they didn’t even have a wingback.

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8 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Cythammer // Sep 25, 2018 - 10:09am

Most people have probably already heard this, but last night, despite really having a mediocre game, Fitzpatrick became the only QB to ever have three consecutive 400-yard games. Rather absurdly he's already just one game away from the record total for 400-yard games in an entire season, jointly held by Marino and Manning.

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10 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by billprudden // Sep 25, 2018 - 10:30am

Not the first person to say this, but it is worth repeating all year, I suspect: This is a new era, and them old records don't mean nothin'.

If the old record is 4 x 400 for a season, might a dozen guys break it this year?

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11 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by PatsFan // Sep 25, 2018 - 10:45am

How the heck was Brady as high as 23rd?? Hard to believe there were 9 QBs with worse days.

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12 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Joseph // Sep 25, 2018 - 10:50am

Considering that Mike Thomas of the Saints has more catches than anyone in history through 3 games, and hasn't been listed in the DYAR tables yet, I was wondering if you could give us his numbers so far.
I know that in weeks 1 & 2, he had a fumble--which probably kept him off the tables, esp in week 1 (16 catches!)--but iirc, he had 8 catches in 8 targets this past week. Just curious.

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18 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by AHBM // Sep 25, 2018 - 12:58pm

Last week Roethlisberger was called out for going 0-for-7 on 24+ yard passes. This week he went 1-for-4 with a completion to Smith-Schuster 30 yards beyond the LOS, so yay for improvement (but still not up to 2017 standards).

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19 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by commissionerleaf // Sep 25, 2018 - 1:20pm

Benching a quarterback who is 13 of 19 for decent yardage and two touchdowns is silly unless you think he got his cage rattled but don't want to admit it and get him into the concussion protocol.

Anointing his backup the starter after going 4 of 7 for negative DYAR and no production at all is batshit insane. Bradford looked good in the first quarter (the Johnson TD was a throw and a half).

They should have at least let him play out the game, then said, "Look, this is a lost season let's see what the kid can do."

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21 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Richie // Sep 25, 2018 - 2:00pm

Most of these rookie QB's are being handled with insanity. If you don't think Mayfield, Allen, Rosen, Watson, etc. are worth starting in week 1, why would they be worth starting in week 4? These coaches have some sort of bizarre and outdated attitude that they need to play these "veteran" QB's to start their season and let the rookies learn. Maybe there was a time in the NFL where this made sense. But I think college systems are so much more advanced now than they were 20+ years ago, that if you have a first round grade on a QB, he should be good enough to start in week 1.

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25 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by mehllageman56 // Sep 26, 2018 - 12:34am

If anything, college systems now are so different from so-called pro offensive systems that prospects may take longer to be adjust to the NFL. Unless you are Andy Reid and just use the system that Mahommes used so well in college.

Each quarterback situation is different; in Cleveland, Taylor forced the issue by getting hurt and then Mayfield won the game for them. So Hue Jackson is supposed to leave Baker on the bench when he's responsible for the first victory in two years? In Buffalo, Josh Allen should have sat, but the quarterbacks ahead of him were worse. O'Brien was foolish to not start Watson at the beginning of last year, but nothing Watson has done this year has validated what he accomplished last year. I feel Darnold should not have started the season, because he only had two years of college experience and the Jets had Bridgewater. Now he's thrown 5 picks in 10 days (yes, they played 3 games in 10 days), and the New York media is overreacting to a close loss to an underrated team with 3 days rest. If Bridgewater started the season for the Jets, they might be 3-0, or at least 2-1 right now, and no one would be flipping out in New York. Hopefully the Jets GM doesn't flip out and send a draft pick for a running back that's stated he doesn't want to play for them, and that anyone could sign next offseason.

What the Cardinals are doing with Rosen is foolish. That line may get him killed, and Bradford did look competent against the Bears.

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28 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Richie // Oct 01, 2018 - 8:05pm

"nothing Watson has done this year has validated what he accomplished last year."

Watson has still been pretty good this year. Not quite as good as last year, but not too far off. His touchdowns are down and his sack rate is up. But DVOA is 14% vs 23%. He's at 107 ANY/A+ vs. 111 ANY/A+.

I don't think there are any regrets about making him the starter.

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24 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei // Sep 25, 2018 - 3:50pm

What would be the VOA & YAR of SHOVeLLs if you treated them as running plays?

That's not a question I can easily answer -- it would involve cross-referencing multiple spreadsheets -- but I can tell you the average run this year has gained 4.4 yards with a success rate of 42.3 percent.

How the heck was Brady as high as 23rd?? Hard to believe there were 9 QBs with worse days.

His negative plays weren't killers. He had -55 DYAR on sacks and interceptions, which was right in the middle of the pack this week. Ten players had -100 DYAR or worse on sacks and interceptions. Brady only had two sacks and the one INT, and they all came with New England down by 13 in the fourth quarter so they don't hurt his ranking too much.

Considering that Mike Thomas of the Saints has more catches than anyone in history through 3 games, and hasn't been listed in the DYAR tables yet, I was wondering if you could give us his numbers so far.

7th in Week 1 with 55 DYAR
Not in the top 20 in Week 2
6th this week with 55 DYAR

He went into Monday night fifth among wide receivers in receiving DYAR. The four players ranked above him were all averaging at least 17 yards per catch; Thomas' average is just 10.5

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26 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Joseph // Sep 26, 2018 - 1:50pm

Thanks for answering my question! Your answer explains why he wasn't listed--just missed 2x.

Idea to throw out for QR--how about a comment for either the top 5 -or- everyone who finishes above say, 50 DYAR (maybe 35 for RB's). I know that you get questions like mine several times a year, and usually that player is just outside the list, just like Mike Thomas.

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27 Re: Week 3 Quick Reads

by Subrata Sircar // Sep 28, 2018 - 4:27pm

One critical difference for a shovel pass versus a run is what happens when the pass isn't complete (and people are really goofing that up more than a quarter of the time?); it's incomplete and not a fumble.

Also, if Wilson takes a shovel instead of a lateral, he can't throw the ball for a touchdown later. That's relatively minor considering how often that kind of play gets run as a non-special-teams play.

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