49ers in Motion, Titans Under Pressure

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Divisional - Looking for stats and insights about the San Francisco 49ers offense, the Tennessee Titans defense, Travis Kelce's playoff accomplishments, or Tom Brady's Tom Bradyness? You have come to the right place.

San Francisco 49ers in Motion

It should come as no surprise that the 49ers use presnap motion more than any NFL team. But it's worth taking a look at the numbers to see just how large a role motion plays in their offensive philosophy.

Let's examine the Sports Info Solution breakdowns for pass attempts on plays with presnap motion. We'll use adjusted net yards per attempt as our evaluative metric here, because it gets the job done.

Team Dropbacks Pass Attempts ANY/A
KC 459 416 7.4
SF 402 370 7.6
TEN 384 369 8.1
NYJ 369 328 4.3
MIA 357 315 4.5

The Chiefs attempted 161 more passes than the 49ers, so it's not surprising to see them ahead of San Francisco here; the tide will shift when we display the rushing data. The 49ers attempted just 163 passing plays (including sacks and scrambles) without presnap motion, by far the lowest figure in the NFL, though they averaged a credible 7.3 ANY/A on those plays.

The 49ers' 7.6 adjusted net yards per attempt ranked sixth in the NFL. The Seahawks led the NFL with 8.3 ANY/A on plays with presnap motion but executed a league-low 154 pass plays (including sacks and scrambles) using the tactic. That's either a coaching quality control issue, a statistical artifact (a handful of Russell Wilson bombs skewing the data), or both. The Buccaneers finished second in this category, followed by the Cowboys, Colts, Broncos, and 49ers, with the Bills seventh. The Dolphins sent players in motion all the time to hide the fact that their offense was one long RPO pass into the flat. The Jets ... you know.

Now for the rushing data:

Team Rushes Yards YPC
SF 388 1,805 4.7
TEN 310 1,381 4.5
WAS 287 1,290 4.5
GB 284 1,264 4.5
IND 280 1,492 5.3
KC 274 1,275 4.7

The NFL rushing average for 2021 was 4.3 yards per carry. Seeing so many run-heavy teams eclipse that figure on the leaderboard above endorses the value of presnap motion as a rushing tactic. The 49ers averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on a league-low 110 rushes without presnap motion. The clearly rely on motion to mass blockers to the play side, pull defenders away, break tendencies, or simply disguise some otherwise routine handoffs.

For the curious: the Eagles led the league with 370 rushes and 104.6 rushing yards per game without presnap motion, while the Seahawks (them again) led the league with 5.3 yards per carry without motion.

To flip to the other side of the ball, Packers opponents averaged 6.4 yards per attempt (not adjusted) on passing plays with presnap motion, the third-best figure in the NFL. Packers opponents recorded a passer rating of just 88.5 using such tactics, the ninth-lowest figure in the league. On the other hand, opponents averaged 4.7 yards per rush using presnap motion against the Packers, the sixth-highest total in the NFL. That's a poor average but not a sign that their defense is headed for another 285-rushing yard meltdown. Matt LaFleur is a coaching cousin of Kyle Shanahan, of course, and the Packers defense has now been practicing against a variation of the 49ers scheme for three years.

Walkthrough shies away from most discussions of presnap motion because they are superficial—we're talking about a diverse battery of tactics as if they all serve the same purpose—and because motion is often erroneously used as an evaluative tool instead of a descriptive one. Shanahan isn't a genius because he sends receivers in motion before the snap, and the Seahawks didn't fail simply because they were too static, just as tons of motion didn't help the Dolphins much on offense and static formations did not hurt the Eagles running game. But the 49ers motion data does reveal one of the things that makes them difficult to defend by creating unique challenges for the defense. The Packers defense will spend a lot of time before the snap adjusting and diagnosing instead of just getting ready to attack. How they handle those adjustments may decide who advances in the playoffs.

Travis Kelce Climbs the Ladder

At the rate Travis Kelce is going, the Chiefs' All-Pro tight end could soon be fourth on the all-time playoff receiving yardage list and third on the all-time reception list. Not for tight ends, mind you, but for everyone.

Kelce is currently tied with Hines Ward and Wes Welker for fifth on the all-time postseason list with 88 receptions. His five catches on Sunday moved him past Andre Reed and Michael Irvin. Kelce is currently 12th on the all-time receiving yardage list. His 108 yards on Sunday moved him past Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, John Stallworth, and Art Monk. The company Kelce keeps grows more elite with every playoff appearance.

Kelce averaged 5.8 catches and 70.3 yards per game this season. Extrapolate that production through the Super Bowl (settle down, Bills fans, we're just fiddling with hypotheticals here) and Kelce will pass Drew Pearson, Paul Warfield, Fred Biletnikoff, Ward, Reed, Reggie Wayne, and Cliff Branch on the yardage list, with only Michael Irvin, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Jerry Rice ahead of him. That same extrapolation would move Kelce past Wayne on the receptions list, where he will joust with Gronk (perhaps in the greatest tight end Super Bowl of all time!), with only Edelman and Rice ahead of him.

Walkthrough loves postseason leaderboards because they are often compendiums of the accomplishments of all-time great players of yesteryear. Warfield and Biletnikoff have plunged out of sight on most all-time receiving lists because of changes to the schedule and to the rules, but they still get to cling to the top 20 in postseason yardage because of their work on the old-timey Dolphins and Raiders. Edelman's playoff and Super Bowl heroics would be Hall of Fame-worthy if anything else about his career had been Hall of Fame-worthy; Ward is similar, but with better regular seasons and less impressive postseasons. Branch's heroics will probably finally land him in Canton in a few weeks.

Gronk may be the greatest tight end of all time, particularly when his blocking is factored into the discussion, but of course his playoff production is also a product of Tom Brady's success and The Patriots Way to a not-quite-insignificant degree. Kelce caught 23 postseason passes for 294 yards and one touchdown from Alex Smith. He wouldn't crack any top-10 postseason lists without Patrick Mahomes, but he would likely have cracked the top 50 in receiving yards (which, incidentally, Stefon Diggs just cracked).

Tyreek Hill is also moving up the receiving yardage leaderboard: he currently ranks 25th all-time with 853 receiving yards. With 100 more yards, Hill can move past Hall of Famers Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, and Lynn Swann, plus Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Brown, and wedge himself between Deion Branch and Randy Moss. Branch's position on the list really hammers home the Brady factor.

We'll wrap with the fact that Patrick Mahomes ranks 23rd on the all-time postseason passing yardage list; Walkthrough cannot decide if that's a shockingly high or shocking low figure. Mahomes passed Matt Ryan on Sunday and will almost certainly stay ahead of him forever. Matt Hasselbeck, Roger Staubach, and Eli Manning will be in Mahomes' rearview mirror by halftime on Sunday night, with Warren Moon, Philip Rivers, and Joe Flacco in his sights.

Yes, Flacco still has more postseason passing yards than Mahomes and will retire with more than Eli Manning. Flacco also has 25 postseason touchdown passes to Mahomes' 22 and Eli's 18. Only a spoilsport would suggest that this factoid should be used against Eli in any "he belongs in the Hall of Fame because of Super Bowls" conversation.

The Chiefs' assault on the all-time postseason leaderboards will only be possible if they get past the Bills, who looked like the 1992 Cowboys' big brothers on Saturday. But while the Bills defense ranks first at stopping opponents' No. 1 receivers, No. 2 receivers, and "other" wide receivers, they rank a modest 13th at stopping tight ends. That's probably a "the ball's gotta go somewhere" statistical split, not a weakness. But it's also a sign that Kelce is going to get plenty of targets.

Brady in a Hurry

Tom Brady's ability to beat opponents with tempo ceased to be a novel talking point at least 10 years ago. But the Buccaneers' victory over the Eagles in the wild-card round illustrated just how lethal the Buccaneers' up-tempo offense can be with Brady at the helm. The Eagles pass rush had little hope of getting home, Brady deftly attacked every soft spot in the underneath coverage, and the Eagles run defense looked like it was caught off guard a few times.

The Buccaneers offense ranked fourth in seconds-per-play during the regular season according to our metrics, but of course that rate is distorted by how often the Bucs spent their fourth quarters just munching the clock. The Bucs ranked first in seconds per play in the first half and second to the Cowboys in seconds per play in neutral situations.

Brady's time-to-throw against the Eagles last Sunday was 2.17 seconds, the fastest figure of any playoff quarterback, (per Next Gen Stats). When the Buccaneers lost to the Rams in Week 3, Brady's time-to-throw was a still-speedy 2.54 seconds. The Buccaneers trailed heavily for most of the second half of that game, and time-to-throw rates probably increase when a quarterback is playing from behind and forced to stand in the pocket longer and wait for longer pass plays to develop.

The Rams defense ranked 30th in situation-neutral seconds per play during the regular season (meaning that offenses tended to move slowly against them). Defenses do have some measure of control over the offense's pace. If nothing else, they can disrupt a hurry-up offense by forcing sacks and incompletions. The Rams' defensive pace stats may also be influenced by facing the chelonian 49ers twice, though the Cardinals were more of an up-tempo team, and the Seahawks did not actually possess the football at any time this year.

In summary, the Buccaneers will try to dictate the pace of Sunday's game, if for no other reason than to keep Aaron Donald and Von Miller from making Bradyburgers. The Buccaneers should win if they succeed. If they fail, well, the Rams defense looked ready to feast on Monday night.

We Love the Tennessee Titans!

Just because DVOA hates the Tennessee Titans, it doesn't mean that Football Outsiders hates the Titans.

DVOA looks at a team that got blown out by the Cardinals and beaten by the Jets and Texans but defeated the Rams, Bills, and Chiefs; does its best to reconcile the peaks and valleys; and concludes that the Titans are a high-variance, slightly below average team. DVOA knows nothing of injuries or pandemics. It also doesn't line-item veto the results it dislikes or emphasize the results it prefers. That's what makes DVOA so reliable, within the system's limits.

Football Outsiders knows that Derrick Henry is returning and that the Titans coped with injury rashes at multiple positions at different times during the season, so we have no problem saying "yes, but" to our own methods, within reason. Yes, but the Titans are better than their metrics suggest rolls off the tongue easily. Yes, but the Titans are really better than the Bills or Chiefs, despite those early-season victories, is a much tougher sell.

The Titans finished 15th in points scored and 17th in net yards gained. They finished sixth in points allowed and 12th in net yards allowed. Their turnover differential is -3. That's the raw statistical profile of a one-and-done wild-card team, not the top seed in the AFC. DVOA isn't saying anything that traditional stats aren't saying about the Titans: beyond the standings, they look like a so-so team.

But in the name of making peace with Titans fans, and perhaps a Nashville radio personality or two, Walkthrough went on a treasure hunt to find some metrics that make the Titans look good. Here is what we turned up.

Strength of Schedule: Here is how the Titans compare to the other surviving playoff teams, per Football Outsiders' own strength-of-schedule rankings:

Team Rank
KC 6
LAR 16
TEN 17
GB 19
SF 21
CIN 30
TB 31
BUF 32

We think of the AFC South as a cakewalk, but the Titans faced the third-hardest schedule of the surviving teams. They also faced a harder schedule than the eliminated Eagles, Cowboys, and Patriots. The Jaguars and Texans may be pushovers, but the Colts were not, and of course the Titans also faced the Bills, Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, and 49ers this year.

Note the Bengals' unimpressive strength of schedule. Again, we think of the AFC North as a slaughterhouse. But the Ravens were a M*A*S*H unit, the Steelers a Scooby-Doo villain, and the Browns (who swept the Bengals, though the second game was essentially meaningless) a one-trick pony. The Bengals also got to feast on a few Lions, Jets, and Bears. The Titans are more battle-tested than their upcoming opponent. Should they prevail, and the Bills beat the Chiefs, they will also be more battle-tested than their next one.

Missed Tackles: Now here's a stat that doesn't need much explanation! Per Pro Football Reference, here are the regular-season leaders in fewest missed tackles:

Team Missed Tackles
DEN 84
GB 88
IND 90
TEN 94
NYG 95
NE 95
KC 95

Missed tackles are largely a function of tackle opportunities, which are largely a function of the number of plays opponents run against a defense. Opponents executed 1,039 plays against the Titans, tied with the Broncos (and one behind the Patriots) for the seventh-lowest number of plays in the NFL during the regular season. So while Matt Vrabel and Shane Bowen make sure that the lads know how to break down and wrap, there's something else going on with the Titans defense.

Opponent's Time of Possession: Our opponent's time of possession per drive metrics reveal that opponents do not run many plays against the Titans because they do not possess the ball for very long:

Team TOP/Drive
DAL 2:36
NO 2:36
TEN 2:36
BAL 2:37
CAR 2:37

The Titans allow 5.92 plays per drive (ninth overall) for 31.4 yards per drive (12th) and 1.95 points per drive (19th). None of those numbers are overwhelming, but the quick time of possession reveals that the Titans do a fine job starving out drives. Two conventional statistics reveal why: the Titans allow just 3.9 yards per rush (fourth-best in the NFL) and a 62.9% completion rate (seventh-best in the league). Stop the run well, force some incompletions, stifle some drives, get the ball back, keep close games manageable.

The Titans also have a knack for intercepting passes on the first play of an opponent's drive: they did it against the Bills, Rams, Chiefs, Colts, 49ers, and Dolphins, and they may have done it against some of their cupcake opponents, too. (Who honestly cares?) Generating first-play interceptions don't sound like a sustainable skill, but they definitely contribute to the Titans defense's ability to get the ball back quickly.

Pressure-to-Blitz Ratio:The Titans rarely blitz: just 19.8% of the time on passing plays, the fifth-lowest rate in the year, per Pro Football Reference. They also don't generate much pass pressure: their 24.0% pressure rate ranks 21st in the NFL. But what if we divided their number of pressures by their number of blitzes to create a quick 'n' dirty measure of how much bang the Titans are getting for their pass rush buck? Here is what we get:

Team Pressure-to-Blitz Ratio
LV 2.02
PHI 1.46
SF 1.22
TEN 1.21
CIN 1.20

This little mini-metric would have been a useful illustration of one of the things Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, and the Raiders did really well! Oh well, too late. But pressure-to-blitz ratio is at least an interesting indicator of the quality of a team's base pass rush. Vrabel/Bowen can send Harold Landry, Denico Autry, Jeffery Simmons, and either DaQuan Jones or Bud Dupree after the quarterback, often with a little bit of stunting or subterfuge, and apply a reasonable amount of pressure while keeping seven defenders in coverage.

All of these indicators are talking me out of a Bengals upset: the Titans will be able to create pressure, prevent YAC in the Bengals screen game, and get the ball back quickly, possibly with the help of a turnover or two. Henry's return will surely help a smidge. The Titans play well against quality competition and are at home. And while DVOA dislikes the Titans, weighted DVOA really sneers at the Bengals.

After that? Who knows. Let's save that dilemma for next week.


14 comments, Last at 22 Jan 2022, 4:46pm

#1 by JacqueShellacque // Jan 20, 2022 - 10:20am

What is the correlation between DVOA totals at end of season and playoff outcomes, has that ever been looked at?

Points: 0

#2 by jgov // Jan 20, 2022 - 11:33am

Kelce's playoff production is seriously impressive and not just a product of game volume: he has a 88-1100-10 line in just 13 playoff games, with per-game reception and yard averages well above his regular season career averages. He's also working on a streak of 4 straight playoff games with more than 100 yards (was it just me, or did his ridiculous playoff numbers last year go under the radar?).

I would note though that the "greatest tight end Super Bowl of all time" alluded to in the article already happened last year.

Points: 0

#3 by Darren // Jan 20, 2022 - 3:37pm

I would be interested in how many playoff games the leaders in yards/catches/tds played. Gronk is the best TE ever, but how much of his stats are a product of playing more playoff games than almost anyone else?

He has better stats than, say, Moss. But in an apples-to-apples comparison, he's not a better receiver than Randy Moss (he can also block better than any WR in the league. Ever?). 

Points: 0

#8 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 21, 2022 - 10:12am

 (he can also block better than any WR in the league. Ever?). 

Are you asking Hines Ward to break your jaw?

\Don Hutson may have a thing to say about blocking WRs, too

Points: 0

#14 by horn // Jan 22, 2022 - 4:46pm

I got TO as #1 and Hines as #1a. TO would just demolish CBs and Safeties. 

Points: 0

#4 by mehllageman56 // Jan 20, 2022 - 4:15pm

The Bengals didn't feast on the Jets, they lost to them.  The Jets should just show up to the stadium on Saturday and tell everyone they got winners, and then decide who plays quarterback after the game.

Points: 0

#5 by Jimbo Elrod // Jan 20, 2022 - 5:23pm

Kelce's playoff production would not be considered chelonian.  Gronk maybe a little at times

Points: 0

#6 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jan 20, 2022 - 8:00pm

I found it interesting though it doesn't mean much of anything that Favre is 4th in total playoff yards for a QB. Rodgers is 6th* and together they are at 11,524 just 1,196 yards behind Brady's 12,720.  While that duo covers 9 more potential seasons (Favre drafted in 91, first post season in 92, Brady 2000 and 2001) it's a semi decent comparison.

Then you look at receivers. Brady has Edelman at 2, Gronk at 4, some of what Moss did at 17, some of what Deion Branch did at 18, Most of what Welker did at 24, Danny Amendola at 46, Troy Brown at 48.

Favre/Rodgers don't show up until Keith Jackson at 28 and most of his was with Philly. Then you get Antonio Freeman at 31 (all Favre), Davante Adams at 32 (all Rodgers). That's it no one else in the top 50 for them.

It's not just Brady. Manning and his 7,339 yards has Wayne at 6th, Harrison at 22, Clark at 27. Montana has part of Rice 1, Taylor and Clark at 43 and 44. Big Ben has part of Hines Ward at 8th and most of Antonio Brown at 20th. 

Brees (7th, 5366) comes in a lot more like Favre and Rodgers. Unless I missed something Colston at 34 is his only receiver on the list. 

I think what that mostly tells us is that Brady (and Manning and Big Ben and Montana) made multiple deep runs with the same set of receivers and that even with Favre going to back to back Super Bowls the Packers (and Saints) never did. It might say something about the quality of the WR each QB has had (Freeman was fine but nothing special and he was the leader for Favre) or longevity of WR contracts. But it just popped out at me when I was looking over the list. 

It's not unexpected to see a lot of people Brady has thrown to with how many playoff games he (and they) have played. It was a bit unexpected to only see Freeman and Adams for the Packers with the yardage and games Favre/Rodgers have combined for. Also no Jennings or Driver who caught passes from both of them in the post season.


* Rodgers will pass Favre for 4th with just 187 yards and could be in 3rd if he gets 304 passing Roethleisberger. 3-6th is pretty bunched up.

Points: 0

#9 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 21, 2022 - 10:15am

I can't really criticize the quality of the receivers Favre and Rodgers had. But maybe you can criticize their longevity.

They had a bunch of really talented guys catching balls, but none of them had that 10-15 year-career that would put them in the hall.

Points: 0

#10 by Eddo // Jan 21, 2022 - 11:38am

Agreed.  Robert Brooks -> Antonio Freeman -> Donald Driver -> Greg Jennings -> Jordy Nelson -> Davante Adams is a pretty strong run in terms of #1 receiver, even if it's not full of elite players.  I'd probably take that over the Patriots' run, even though Moss and Gronkowski were individually better than any Packers WR.

Points: 0

#11 by Pat // Jan 21, 2022 - 12:48pm

The crazy thing is that that stretch consists entirely of Packers draft picks. Every one. None of them are free agent pickups (well, OK, you know what I mean, one left and came back). And you missed a few receiving leaders!

The last time a player led the Packers in receiving that wasn't drafted by the Packers was 1974. Nineteen seventy four. And unless something really weird happens, pretty sure the Packers will hit fifty years in that stretch.

I kinda think the Packers know how to draft receivers.

(For reference pretty sure the closest other team is like 20-some years, so the Packers have a giant lead there)

Points: 0

#12 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jan 21, 2022 - 6:35pm

Yeah I think it's way more about longevity of receivers and the stretches of 1 and done or no play off appearances.

Though I will say the 2000-2002 corps for Favre were sub par. Declining Freeman, early career (7th round pick) Driver and Bill Schroeder ends up being the top target. The Fact Favre got him to be a 1000 yard receiver is pretty impressive. I mean it was cool that a 6th rounder out of Division 3 Wisconsin-LaCrosse had as much success as he did. But that stretch was weak.


As Eddo and Pat point out they almost always have at least one quality receiver. Maybe not a top half of the league level but at least serviceable. Of course they have drafted 42 of them since Wolf took over for the 92 draft so 1.4 a draft or 15.3% of their 274 picks. More if you want to count the pass catching TE they drafted as well. Actually if you consider 3 WR as starters that's a pretty normal rate for 3 of your 22 starting positions 15.3% of your draft capital on 13.6% of your staring positions and really since QB was locked up and you didn't need one as frequently. I think it's part of the harping fans do on Gutekunst about never getting weapons for Rodgers the team just never went 2 drafts without getting a WR like they did in 2019 and 2020. Actually that's not true 09 and 10 they didn't take one either. Fans have gotten very used to the team always taking a flyer on a WR in the Favre/Rodgers era. Even with the horrible drafts that Sherman had in his brief tenure as GM he still drafted one of the players in the chain with Javon Walker.

Though the chain only goes back to 75. Jon Staggers lead the team in receiving in 74 and he was drafted by PIT in 1970. Ken Payne lead the team in 75 and he was a 6th rounder by the Packers in 74.

The chain is:
1975-76 Ken Payne (74-6th-142) -> 1977 Steve Odom (74-5th-116th) -> 1978-1986 James Lofton (78-1st-6th) ->
1987 Walter Stanley (85-4th-98th) -> 1988-1994 Sterling Sharpe (88-1st-7th) -> 1995 Robert Brooks (92-3rd-62nd) ->
1996-99 Antonio Freeman (95-3rd-90th) -> 2000-01 Bill Schroeder (97-6th-181st) -> 2002 Donald Driver (99-7th-213th) ->
2003-04 Javon Walker (02-1st-20th) -> 2005-07 Driver again -> 2008-2010 Greg Jennings (06-2nd-52nd) ->
2011 Jordy Nelson (08-2nd-36th) -> 2012 Randall Cobb (11-2nd-64th) -> 2013-14 Nelson again ->
2015 James Jones (07-3rd-78th) -> 2016 Nelson again -> 2017-2021 Davante Adams (14-2nd-53rd)

Which is amazing, but I certainly see why people will say Favre propped up his receivers after Sharpe was injured (Favre was 92-07 for reference). Brooks, Freeman, and Driver were all very good players but non of them were ever considered top flight talent. Schroeder I've already talked about, a very raw, very fast, D3 talent but full package #1 WR? No.  Rodgers you will note has had a lot of success with a lot of 2nd round talent (Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, and Adams). Rodgers has had plenty of WR1 level talent. Favre felt like he played with a bunch of WR2 talent that he often pushed to WR1 levels of production.

Before the Favre-Rodgers era you have Payne leading the team with 766 yards and 0 TD in 75 (13th in a 26 team league) and 467 yards with 4TD in 76 (40th in the league). So it's not like the chain started with something great. Odom was primarily a return man who happened to lead the team with 549 yards and 3 TD in 77 (69th in the league) oh and 95 of those 549 came on 1 reception.

Lofton of course is in the Hall of Fame for good reason. Stanley was another good returner who was a solid #2 WR just happened to be the best option in 87 after Lofton left but again 672 yards (27th in the league) and 3 TD as the team leader is not all that impressive even in a shortened 12 game season.

I still think Sterling Sharpe should be in the Hall of Fame but I get injury shortened career. After that it's all in the Favre-Rodgers era I was originally poking at.

So yes it's an impressively long time, but some of the links in that chain are noticeably weaker than others. 

As to longevity of GB WR, here's the games played rankings, cutting off at 96 (or 6 seasons in a 16 game schedule)
Driver 205
Lofton 136
Nelson 136
Jones 120
Cobb 117
Adams 116
Freeman 116
Sharpe 112
Carroll Dale (65-72) 111
Jennings 96
Brooks 96

So yes longevity of contracts says a lot. If you only have 6 seasons and 2 of of those you are 1 and done in the playoffs and 1 you don't even make the playoffs, racking up the stats is tougher.

Points: 0

#7 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jan 20, 2022 - 9:51pm

Seeing the Packers that low in missed tackles still jumps out at me. They cut their missed tackles by about 20% from the previous 2 years. They faced a similar amount of plays in each season so you can fairly safely look at the raw numbers as direct compares. I know that BigTenFreak, myself, and a few other fans commented on better tackling by the team earlier in the season a few times and I even ate some crow can gave credit to Barry for it and posted some links about things that he does differently and his emphasis on it. His scheme and his adjustments to what teams do against it I may still be a little iffy on. In game adjustments and fundamentals do seem better this year over the Pettine defenses. It's part of why I'm less nervous about it despite it being ranked lower than last season in DVOA than I was in the past.

Now I had initially thought that it was mostly the same players since the team did try to "keep the band together" in the offseason. I did want to grab snap counts to verify though. The DL really hasn't changed. The LB corps had more changes than I recalled, and the secondary while having some big changes was actually more stable than I thought.

Well 2 players are about 75% of it. For MLB Campbell had 4 missed tackles in 2021, in 2019 Martinez had 18 and in 2020 Kirksey had 10. When you are talking about 16 - 21 total missed tackles difference having 14, then 6 of that come from the MLB does matter.

The rest of it basically comes from getting Kevin King and Josh Jackson off the field as his missed tackle totals go 14, 12, 1 (with snap count dropping every year). King was another 5 - 8 of the misses over the rest of the CB's. So yeah about 75% of the change can be attributed to Campbell at MLB and not having King at CB. Jacskon missed 7 tackles in 2020 as the 4th most used CB.

So it looks like I'm giving coaching credit for the wrong things. I do think it matters as even the misses this year don't look as bad and form on the made tackles looks better too. But 2 of the 11 players are the majority of the stat differences.


All the mostly pointless number gathering I did that doesn't matter because I realized too late what I should have looked at.
I'm leaving it here because it may be interesting to some and I couldn't just delete the effort.
Sorry on the formatting I've got limited options and did what I could.

DL was similar with most of the differences in raw counts being the extra game and injuries. Rates though are nearly all injury.
Clark went 83.6% -> 58.0% -> 72.5%.
Lowry went 61.1% -> 58.5% -> 62.5%.
Keke went 8.9% -> 40.4% -> 36.4%.
Lancaster when 36.3% ->34.3% -> 29.6%.
The 5th major player changed a bit. That was Adams 18.0% -> 12.6% replaced by Slaton 23.6%. 

The top 5 LB changed a lot though.
2019: Martinez 98.5%, Z. Smith 84.0%, P. Smith 83.7%, Fackrell 40.2%, Goodson 24.4%, Gary 23.3%
2020: Z. Smith 83.6%, P. Smith 79.4%, Kirksey 53.3%, Gary 44.2%, Barnes 41.1%, Martin 18.4%
2021: Campbell 91.6%, P. Smith 63.9%, Gary 63.1%, Barnes 48.8%, Garvin 36.6%, Burks 19.0%

So it's been a different middle LB every year and Z. Smith was out for all but 18 snaps in game 1. Preston had his snaps reduced and had injuries for a continual downward trend. Gary got more time due to improvements but also as injury replacement for a continual upward trend. But there is a enough variation in the LB snaps that it could have an impact on the missed tackles. Campbell has a 2.7% miss rate, which is a career best but even in every season other than 2020 it has been a better rate than Blake Martinez who got similar usage in 2019 to Campbell in 2021 (Campbell is lower because he sat week 17). Both tend to have better rates than Kirksey (who had 10.5% rate for GB very similar to the 10.4% rate that Martinez had in 2019).

The secondary despite major variations in injuries was more stable than I thought.
2019: Amos 99.6%, Alexander 98.8%, Savage 82.9%, King 77.3%, Williams 73.5%, Sullivan 33.9%, Redmond 26.3%
2020: Amos 98.2%, Alexander 87.7%, Savage 85.2%, Sullivan 71.0%, King 64.6%, Redmond 33.2%, Jackson 32.3%, Green 31.7%
2021: Amos 97.1%, Savage 96.2%, Stokes 86.7%, Sullivan 76.6%, Douglas 63.0%, King 28.1%, Black 24.3%, Alexander 20.3%

The top 4 are all very similar. Amos and Savage are both on the field a lot. Stokes basically replaced Alexander, Sullivan has been getting more snaps than I thought for years. King is always injured and always losing playing time. Things shift a bit more in the 5-8 range but the names are mostly there. Tramon Williams being there as a stop gap was replaced by Douglas this year. Redmond was replaced by Black.

And of course after doing this I realized I should have just looked at the players since they didn't change much. Sure it was nice to verify who was playing most of the time but it wasn't needed....

So players with more than 50% of the defensive snaps in a given year and their primary replacements if a fairly clear line is there. For CB1-4 it's based on snap counts not preferred player. I do still list the individual players that played all 3 years after that "position"

Safeties - 17, 26, 23
Amos - 5, 10, 8
Savage - 8, 9, 10
Redmond, Redmond, Black - 4, 7, 5

CBs - 28, 28, 19
CB1 - Alexander, Alexander, Stokes - 8, 5, 6
CB 2 - King, Sullivan, Sullivan - 14, 4, 6
CB 3 - Williams, King, Douglas - 5, 12, 5
CB 4 - Sullivan, Jackson, King/Alexander - 1, 7, 2

King - 14, 12, 1
Sullivan - 1, 4, 6
Alexander - 8, 5, 1

DL - 15, 7, 14
Clark - 8, 2, 7
Lowry - 4, 0, 5
DL 3 (Lancaster, Keke, Keke) - 2, 3, 2
DL 4 (Adams, Lancaster, Lancaster) - 1, 2, 0

LB - 40, 34, 27
MLB 1 (Martinez, Kirksey, Campbell) - 18, 10, 4
MLB 2 (Goodson, Barnes, Barnes) - 2, 7, 10
OLB 1 (Z. Smith, Z. Smith, P. Smith) - 9, 7, 9
OLB 2 (P. Smith, P. Smith, Gary) - 5, 6, 0
OLB 3 (Fackrell, Gary, Garvin) - 3, 1, 1
LB 6 (Gary, Martin, Burks) - 3, 3, 3

P. Smith - 5, 6, 9
Z. Smith - 9, 7 ,1
R. Gary - 3, 1, 0

Points: 0

#13 by mehnsrea // Jan 22, 2022 - 9:48am

My mistake 

Points: 0

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