2014 Adjusted Games Lost: By Unit

2014 Adjusted Games Lost: By Unit
2014 Adjusted Games Lost: By Unit
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

In our first part of this year's Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) study we looked at team results and found that the 2013-14 New York Giants have the two highest AGL totals in our database (2002 to 2014). Eli Manning has been an ironman with 167 consecutive starts, but which positions were hurt the most for the Giants? That's where the breakdown by unit comes in handy.

For those unfamiliar with this metric, with AGL we are able to quantify how much teams were affected by injuries based on two principles: (1) Injuries to starters, injury replacements and important situational reserves matter more than injuries to bench warmers; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why AGL is based not strictly on whether the player is active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player's listed status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable or probable).

The following data only includes regular-season games.

Quarterback

Since there were 11 teams with 0.0 AGL at quarterback, we listed every team.

Rk Team AGL Rk Team AGL
1 ATL 0.0 17 OAK 0.5
2 CIN 0.0 18 JAC 0.7
3 DET 0.0 19 CHI 1.0
4 IND 0.0 20 KC 1.0
5 NO 0.0 21 DAL 1.1
6 PIT 0.0 22 NE 1.3
7 SEA 0.0 23 CAR 1.5
8 BAL 0.0 24 CLE 2.0
9 NYG 0.0 25 MIN 2.4
10 NYJ 0.0 26 TB 2.6
11 SF 0.0 27 TEN 5.8
12 BUF 0.1 28 WAS 7.8
13 GB 0.1 29 PHI 7.9
14 MIA 0.1 30 HOU 9.1
15 SD 0.2 31 ARI 11.2
16 DEN 0.4 32 STL 16.8

Injuries to Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin III, and Jake Locker probably won demented office pools more often than they surprised people at this point. The Texans were so hard up for a fourth quarterback in December that they actually signed and started Case Keenum the last two weeks of the year. Next time they may just try J.J. Watt.

The costliest quarterback injury of 2014 was easily Carson Palmer's ACL crumbling against the Rams when Arizona was 8-1. Palmer had just signed a new contract extension days before the game. Backup Drew Stanton was also lost for the year in the Week 15 rematch with St. Louis, leaving us the dreadful experience of watching Ryan Lindley start a playoff game. The Cardinals netted 78 yards of offense behind Lindley in Carolina.

Oddly enough, this was the fifth time since 2009 that the team hosting the Super Bowl suffered a significant quarterback injury.

  • 2009 Miami: Chad Pennington lasted three games before another shoulder injury.
  • 2010 Dallas: Tony Romo broke his collarbone and missed the final 10 games.
  • 2011 Indianapolis: Peyton Manning missed the entire season after a series of neck surgeries.
  • 2012 Saints: Drew Brees was healthy, but his telekinetic partner Sean Payton was suspended for the season.
  • 2013 New York: Technically, Mark Sanchez was lost for the season during a preseason competition for the starting job.
  • 2014 Arizona: Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton did not escape the Rams.

Good luck to Colin Kaepernick in 2015.

Running Back

These totals include fullbacks.

Top 8 AGL Bottom 8 AGL
CHI 0.0 SD 25.4
PIT 0.0 IND 22.4
STL 0.1 NYG 21.7
GB 0.1 CAR 17.0
ATL 0.4 NE 14.4
PHI 0.4 MIA 14.0
DAL 0.5 NO 13.6
SF 0.7 TB 11.8

Last year in this space we focused on the Giants and Colts. Here's some déjà vu. The Giants dealt with the reality that David Wilson's career is over because of a severe neck injury. While Rashad Jennings was a good signing, he also missed five games due to lingering leg injuries, and Peyton Hillis finished on injured reserve. The Colts had a bleaker situation with Vick Ballard landing on injured reserve for the second year in a row before Week 1 even ended. We debated including him as a situational back, but when the other options are Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson, there's a good chance Ballard was going to get his share of plays. Bradshaw eventually broke his ankle and the Colts finally gave up on Richardson at season's end. That's how you roll into the playoffs with Dan Herron and Zurlon Tipton in your backfield.

However, San Diego stole the show with Ryan Mathews missing half the season and reliable receiver Danny Woodhead lost after just three games. Even "Goddammit Donald" Brown, who only averaged 2.6 yards per carry in 2014, had a concussion when it should have been his time to shine in his first year away from the Colts. Cue Branden Oliver and his fleeting Darren Sproles comparisons, but the Chargers were stretched thin all season long at running back.

This season had a good share of running backs in committee offenses that frequently appeared on the injury report. We marked Carolina's three-man crew of Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Mike Tolbert as all being significant to that offense, but for the 49ers we still acknowledged Frank Gore as the workhorse, hence a small AGL for San Francisco that did not include Kendall Hunter (lost in the preseason) and rookie Carlos Hyde (95 touches in 14 games).

Part of what enabled Denver to seize the No. 1 overall spot in lowest AGL was our decision to make Montee Ball a reserve. Expectations were high to start the season, but Ball failed to deliver as the lead back and was outplayed by Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. When Ball returned to action in Week 11 against the Rams, he did not get the start and played just four snaps before another injury that eventually landed him on injured reserve. However, by that time Anderson was far ahead of him on the depth chart and performed as a workhorse down the stretch for Denver.

Wide Receiver

Top 8 AGL Bottom 8 AGL
GB 0.0 NYG 28.5
PIT 0.1 CIN 18.6
PHI 0.3 KC 16.9
DAL 1.2 OAK 16.4
DEN 1.2 CHI 14.6
BAL 1.2 JAC 11.9
BUF 1.2 STL 10.0
SEA 1.2 ATL 7.6

Chicago had the best AGL for wide receivers in 2013, but a litany of injuries to Brandon Marshall and some hamstring issues for Alshon Jeffery put a damper on their production this year. No. 3 receiver Marquess Wilson broke his clavicle right before the season, so he missed nine games while the Bears experimented with reanimating the corpses of Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan.

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The eight healthiest units all had winning records, including some of the best passing offenses in the league. They also include some of the best quarterbacks in the league, but it helps to have a healthy supporting cast too. Steve Smith and Sammy Watkins brought some big-play excitement to their teams. Emmanuel Sanders exploded with Peyton Manning in Denver, but the Steelers had to be satisfied with the way Martavis Bryant performed as a rookie. Jeremy Maclin was Philadelphia's big injury in 2013 and he returned to easily have his best season yet.

Among the most injured, it was disappointing to see Brian Quick suffer a torn rotator cuff after he finally seemed to be putting things together in St. Louis. I was also hoping to get more Marvin Jones data to look at his catch radius, along with Andy Dalton's erratic accuracy. Jones missed the entire season with a broken foot.

The Jaguars have so many young receivers that we may have given too many starting designations to the group of Cecil Shorts, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee. Then again, all four of those guys started at least eight games with at least 69 targets. This does not even factor in the suspended Justin Blackmon, who has more talent than all of those receivers.

The Giants have the third-worst wide receiver AGL in our database. Odell Beckham's amazing season helps us forget that Victor Cruz was lost for the last 10 games, or that Jerrel Jernigan opened the season as the No. 3 receiver before a season-ending foot injury. Even former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham had to be released with an injury settlement as he just has not been the same since tearing his ACL and PCL in 2012.

Tight End

Top 8 AGL Bottom 8 AGL
ATL 0.0 SEA 18.9
DAL 0.0 CIN 15.6
GB 0.0 BAL 15.1
OAK 0.0 CLE 8.9
NYG 0.0 JAC 8.2
PHI 0.2 TB 7.9
CHI 0.5 MIN 7.7
PIT 0.5 SF 7.5

Not everything was bad for New York. The Giants actually had another healthy year at tight end. The same can be said for Atlanta, even if Levine Toilolo's production rivals that of a 50-year-old Tony Gonzalez.

Minus Pittsburgh, the AFC North had a rough year with a lot of missed time from Dennis Pitta, Tyler Eifert, and Jordan Cameron.

Seattle has the fourth-worst tight end AGL in our database, and it could be worse depending on what you think of Anthony McCoy's role. He tore his Achilles for the second year in a row very early in the offseason. Zach Miller was the team's obvious No. 1 tight end, but he missed 13 games with an ankle injury. This led to a three-headed monster of Luke Willson, Cooper Helfet, and Tony Moeaki. They too were no strangers to the injury report. Willson clearly emerged as the receiving favorite down the stretch, though I will never be able to tell you why the Seahawks threw zero passes to a tight end in Super Bowl XLIX against a New England defense that ranked 30th against tight ends in DVOA. They were healthy enough that day.

Offensive Line

Top 8 AGL Bottom 8 AGL
HOU 1.1 SD 52.6
DEN 1.7 ATL 52.6
PIT 3.4 IND 28.4
TB 4.1 CHI 25.0
NE 4.6 TEN 23.9
NO 4.7 PHI 23.3
ARI 4.8 MIN 21.1
WAS 5.1 SF 19.2

Denver's offensive line had the third-worst AGL in 2013, but finished as the second-best in 2014. Performance is another story as the team asked three players to change positions with a significant midseason shuffle in the starting lineup. The performances of other "healthy" lines like Washington, Arizona, and Tampa Bay were often criticized last season.

Chicago had the best AGL in 2013 with all five starters playing at least 95 percent of the snaps. In 2014, only Kyle Long (93.9 percent) came close to that figure as injuries ravaged the line, which certainly did Marc Trestman no favors in keeping his job.

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Indianapolis has tried investing into its offensive line, but outside of stalwart Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, the Colts started at least three different players at each of the other four positions in 2014. By season's end the Colts had three of their intended Week 1 offensive line starters (Donald Thomas, Hugh Thornton, and Gosder Cherilus) on injured reserve.

By the slimmest of margins, San Diego edged out Atlanta, but both have easily the worst AGL totals for any offensive line in our database. San Diego's biggest problem was starting five different centers in 2014. Yes, five: Nick Hardwick, Rich Ohrnberger, Doug Legursky, Chris Watt, and Trevor Robinson. Three of those centers went to injured reserve. Hardwick was Philip Rivers' long-time center and he was lost after one game. He retired this offseason, as did guard Jeromey Clary, who missed the entire season.

The Falcons placed five linemen on injured reserve, and four of them were lost by Week 5. That includes left tackle Sam Baker for the second year in a row. Rookie Jake Matthews had to take his spot in Week 1. Lamar Holmes took over at right tackle before a season-ending foot injury. Center Joe Hawley was also lost early, followed shortly by his backup Peter Konz. Offensive line coach Mike Tice did some solid work with this MASH unit.

Defensive Line

Top 8 AGL Bottom 8 AGL
PHI 0.2 TB 26.6
DEN 0.6 SF 24.6
ATL 1.1 DAL 23.0
MIA 1.4 WAS 21.2
CIN 1.4 ARI 20.9
BUF 2.3 NE 19.2
SD 2.4 CLE 18.9
TEN 3.3 GB 18.9

Some good teams had big injuries in the trenches. This was the hardest hit area for the Patriots in 2014 with Chandler Jones missing six games, Sealver Siliga on short-term IR, and first-round pick Dominique Easley limited by injuries (a pre-draft concern). Yeah, definitely sounds like the unit against which you want to throw the ball from the 1-yard line.

The Browns were a nightmare to classify, with practically the entire rotation showing up on the injury report. Phil Taylor is the big name in the group and he missed 11 games, but most of the rotation (Billy Winn, Armonty Bryant, Desmond Bryant, Ahtyba Rubin, and John Hughes) frequently appeared too. Green Bay was right there with them on the strength of B.J. Raji's entire season lost to a torn biceps.

Linebacker

Top 8 AGL Bottom 8 AGL
NYJ 0.8 DAL 31.7
BAL 1.1 SF 29.2
CAR 1.4 CHI 24.8
STL 1.6 KC 24.7
GB 5.5 ARI 23.8
NO 5.9 NYG 23.7
TB 6.0 MIA 23.7
CLE 7.0 DEN 23.4

Dallas has the third-worst linebacker AGL in our database. Sean Lee was lost back in May, but no one would have imagined a formerly-retired Rolando McClain could adequately fill that void. Justin Durant also missed 10 games and even Bruce Carter had a quad injury that cost him a few starts.

However, no team can say it lost more linebacker talent than the 49ers. Patrick Willis missed 10 games, denying him the chance to become the 13th player with eight Pro Bowls in his first eight seasons. NaVorro Bowman started on the PUP list, but he never made it back to action after tearing his ACL in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. Even third-round rookie Chris Borland went down with injury after flashing some real potential. The linebackers are the driving force of this defense, so it was still impressive to see the 49ers finish fifth in defensive DVOA.

Most of Denver's AGL came from the linebacker corps. Danny Trevathan basically had a "lost year" where Phil Simms didn't even have enough game tape to remember him as "sometimes the best linebacker in football." Trevathan only played in three games. Starters Nate Irving and Brandon Marshall (the linebacker) also missed some time.

Defensive Back

Top 8 AGL Bottom 8 AGL
DEN 1.2 OAK 46.0
PHI 1.6 NYG 33.8
NE 3.3 WAS 30.9
MIN 3.6 JAC 24.8
CIN 3.9 TB 23.5
ARI 4.1 IND 21.9
HOU 6.1 BAL 21.0
GB 6.6 KC 21.0

Wait, isn't any game with Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher active an Adjusted Game Lost for the Eagles?

Now that we got that out of the way, let's look at the bottom. The Ravens placed six defensive backs (including five cornerbacks) on injured reserve, but Oakland still set the new benchmark for worst AGL, beating out the 2013 Giants (43.8). Amazingly, 38-year-old Charles Woodson played 1,207 snaps in 2014. The problem was everywhere else. Carlos Rogers and D.J. Hayden missed significant time. Tarell Brown went on injured reserve for the last two games. Safety Tyvon Branch has only played five games in the last two years and he was just recently cut by Oakland. His replacement Usama Young also landed on injured reserve.

Even though the Giants cut ties with three-time ACL tearer Terrell Thomas, they still finished with the second-worst AGL. That had to be disappointing after revamping the secondary with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, but Thurmond missed 14 games with a torn pectoral muscle. Prince Amukamara missed half the season, and 2013 charting standout Trumaine McBride missed 10 games after thumb surgery. Mix in the significant injuries at linebacker and it is no surprise this defense ranked 25th in DVOA.

Comments

13 comments, Last at 09 Mar 2015, 1:18pm

#1 by Led // Mar 05, 2015 - 6:42pm

I'm sure the Jets cutting Dmitri Patterson after he went AWOL wasn't included for obvious reasons. But it had the impact on the team of Patterson being out for the year. He was a projected starter, at least before he started going wacky. Just curious -- if you treated him as injured for the year, how would that impact the Jets AGL for d-backs? They also IRd two of their other top corners.

Points: 0

#2 by yayFootball // Mar 05, 2015 - 6:43pm

I'm curious as to why the quarterback AGL for Carolina is less than 2. The starting QB missed 2 games and could be seen limping around in others (though I don't recall how he was listed on the injury report), so I would have expected the adjustment to make this more than 2.

Points: 0

#3 by Otis Taylor89 // Mar 06, 2015 - 8:11am

OK, 2015 for the Giants can't be the 3rd year in a row of horrid injury luck, could it? Seriously, how does that happen two years in a row?
Too bad GB's coach wasn't AGL for the playoffs as they probably would have won the SB.

Points: 0

#5 by chemical burn // Mar 06, 2015 - 10:46am

I really felt like it would have been appropriate for GB to fire McCarthy during the post-game press conference on that one.

As for the Giants, their injury luck is just crazy bad. It's easy to focus on the wide receivers because those are the big names, but at running back the situation was even more outlandish (and tragic.) In 2015, you figure at very least they won't lose their top 2 players at both RB and WR for significant stretches again, right? I mean, OBD, Jennings and Cruz looks like one of the best trios of skill position players in the entire league (Jennings gets totally slept on in my opinion - 12th in DYAR with about 75 less carries than almost anyone else in the Top 10)...

Points: 0

#11 by Independent George // Mar 09, 2015 - 12:20pm

If history is any guide, the Giants will win 9-10 games and come from behind to defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl after a crazy catch in the 4th quarter.

Points: 0

#4 by Steve in WI // Mar 06, 2015 - 10:29am

Chicago is listed as having 1.0 AGL at QB; that's *not* because of the Clausen start in Week 16, right? It shouldn't be...depending on who you believe, Cutler was benched either for poor performance or because Trestman knew he was getting fired and wanted to show that he works wonders on bad QBs. Either way, injury did not play a part in that at all.

(It's possible that Cutler was listed as probable/questionable earlier in the season and that accounts for the number...I've blocked out a lot of the 2014 Bears season in my memory.)

Points: 0

#6 by chemical burn // Mar 06, 2015 - 10:47am

I think that number accounts for the injuries the QB situation caused in Bears fans' souls.

Points: 0

#8 by Steve in WI // Mar 06, 2015 - 11:40am

Ah, I forgot all about that. Of course, at that point I was only interested in what was going to happen this offseason and hardly paying attention to the games anyway.

Points: 0

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