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Football Geekery (Week of Dec. 3)

Posted Dec 7, 2012

This week's studies include indications that the Bucs' run defense is better at all three levels this year, a look at Josh Freeman's passing out of the shotgun, and more


Coaches don't always care for stats…but we love them!  Each week, we're going to give you a closer look at three or four pieces of statistical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Buccaneers' current state of affairs.

 

Let's get started.

 

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1. Stuffing Them Up Front

 

Roy Miller didn't practice on Wednesday and Thursday but the Buccaneers certainly hope he is ready to go by Sunday to help them stop red-hot rookie RB Bryce Brown of the Eagles.  Brown has 347 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his last two games, but the Bucs will counter with the NFL's top-ranked rush defense on Sunday and would like to have the usual starting lineup intact up front.

 

That's because no team in the NFL has been better at stopping backs before they can really get started than the Buccaneers, according to advanced metrics on the Football Outsiders web site.  The FO table for defensive line performance in 2012, updated through last week's games, shows Tampa Bay as the #1 team in the NFL in terms of "adjusted line yards."  You can read a description of that statistic in the FO glossary, but lower numbers indicate stronger defensive lines, and the Bucs have by far the lowest ALY figure at 2.93.  The next closest figure, for Philadelphia coincidentally, is 3.49, and the margins between the rest of the teams are much closer through the rest of the chart.

 

The linked chart on Football Outsiders also ranks teams in a handful of other specific run defense categories, including "Power Success, "Stuffed" (the Bucs rank #1 here, also), "2nd-Level Yards," and "Open Field Yards."  Those last two categories can be interpreted to indicate how well the linebackers and secondary, respectively, have defended the run on their own.  Tampa Bay ranks in the middle of the pack in both, 16th in 2nd-Level Yards and 13th in Open Field Yards.

 

That's not to say that the defensive line deserves sole credit for the Bucs' amazing turnaround from last in the NFL against the run in 2011 to first this year.  In fact, those 2nd-Level and Open Field rankings indicate enormous improvement from a year ago.  In 2011, Tampa Bay's defense as 26th overall in Adjusted Line Yards but dead last in 2nd-Level Yards and second-to-last in Open Field Yards.  Much better tackling and pursuit behind the defensive line – and the additions of LB Lavonte David and S Mark Barron are obviously key here – have made the Bucs' defense far more stout overall against the run.

 

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2. Shotgun Starts

 

Josh Freeman has a passer rating of 92.1 in 2012 that is good for seventh in the NFL, just a bit below Drew Brees and a hair above Tony Romo.  He has been even better, however, when throwing out of the shotgun.

 

Freeman's passer rating on only plays that start with a shotgun snap is 96.0.  If one only includes quarterbacks who have thrown at least 100 passes this year, that number puts him in the top five in that category in the entire NFL.  Here are the top five qualifying passers out of the shotgun this season, ranked by passer rating:

 

Player, Team

Att.

Comp.

TD

INT

Rating

1. Rodgers, GB

331

228

25

4

112.7

2. Manning, DEN

362

251

23

7

104.8

3. Brady, NE

327

219

15

2

102.6

4. Roethlisberger, PIT

173

111

7

2

97.7

5. Freeman, TB

237

136

14

4

96.0

 

Freeman has the lowest completion percentage of those five, but his touchdown percentage out of the shotgun is 5.9% (exactly the same as his overall TD percentage),and that's significantly better than Brady or Roethlisberger.  Freeman's interception percentage out of the shotgun is 1.7%, which is lower than his overall mark of 2.1% and lower than Manning's mark of 1.9% in the shotgun.

 

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3. No Second Chances

 

The Buccaneers' defense had its best third-down results in a month this past Sunday in Denver, holding Peyton Manning and company to four conversions in 11 attempts for a success rate of 36.4%.  Still, thanks in large part to three straight tough games against San Diego, Carolina and Atlanta, the Bucs are at 42.4% overall and that's 28th in the NFL.

 

On second down, however, the Bucs have been far stingier with the chain-moving plays.  "Second Down Conversions" are not a commonly used statistic, presumably because failing to "convert" on second down – that is, create a new set of downs – doesn't mean the end of a possession.  A six-yard pass on third-and-eight is no good; a six-yard pass on second-and-eight has to be considered a success.

 

Still, Statspass tracks second-down conversion rates, and the Buccaneers' defense has been very good in that category in 2012.  In fact, Tampa Bay ranks third in the NFL with a conversion rate of 26.5%.  Only the Jets (25.5%) and Texans (26.4%) have been better.  The overall NFL success rate is 32.1%, and Tennessee ranks last at 38.2%, so there isn't an enormous spread of numbers on this chart.

 

Opponents are just six of 12 against Tampa Bay when they need only a single yard on second down, but that isn't terribly surprising.  It's not uncommon for an offense to take a shot at a big play on second-and-one, knowing it would still have third down to get that last yard, if necessary.  Opponents' success rate actually goes up to 51.6% on second-and-two/three, but drops to 32.4% on second-and-four/five.