Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘Packers’

Current Statistics for NFL Cornerbacks Inadequate

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 22, 2008

Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson

Al Harris

Al Harris

After reading about Al Harris of the Packers possibly being done for the season due to a likely ruptured spleen, I went and checked his and his teammate, Charles Woodson’s career stats. The article said that they form one of the most formidable cornerback (CB) tandems in the NFL. If you don’t watch the Packers regularly, it’s hard to verify except to compare stats with other CBs.  However, when you look at the stat categories for a defensive back, it doesn’t show the effectiveness of the player. Deion Sanders, arguably the best cornerback ever in NFL history, has a statbox similar to many CBs and  thus makes it difficult to conclude his greatness. Let’s look at ESPN and NFL.com’s stats of Charles Woodson’s career:

ESPN – Charles Woodson Career Defense Stats
YEAR TEAM G TOT SOLO AST PD SACK FF REC INT YDS TD
1998 OAK 16 62 59 3 20 0.0 2 0 5 118 1
1999 OAK 16 61 51 10 15 0.0 0 0 1 15 1
2000 OAK 16 76 63 13 13 0.0 3 0 4 36 0
2001 OAK 16 52 39 13 10 2.0 1 0 1 64 0
2002 OAK 8 33 31 2 4 0.0 4 0 1 3 0
2003 OAK 15 69 56 13 8 1.0 1 0 3 67 0
2004 OAK 13 73 58 15 9 2.5 2 0 1 25 0
2005 OAK 6 30 26 4 4 0.0 1 0 1 0 0
2006 GNB 16 62 51 11 20 1.0 3 0 8 61 1
2007 GNB 14 63 52 11 9 0.0 0 0 4 48 1
2008 GNB 3 7 7 0 6 0.0 0 0 2 41 1
Career 139 588 493 95 118 6.5 17 0 31 478 5

NFL.com – Charles Woodson Career Defensive Stats
Tackles Interceptions
Year Team G Total Solo Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int TDs Yds Avg Lng
2008 Green Bay Packers 3 7 7 0 0.0 0 6 2 1 41 20.5 41T
2007 Green Bay Packers 14 63 52 11 0.0 0 9 4 1 48 12.0 46T
2006 Green Bay Packers 16 59 48 11 1.0 0 12 8 1 61 7.6 23T
2005 Oakland Raiders 6 30 26 4 0.0 3 1 0 0 0.0 0
2004 Oakland Raiders 13 73 58 15 2.5 8 1 0 25 25.0 25
2003 Oakland Raiders 15 69 56 13 1.0 5 3 0 67 22.3 51
2002 Oakland Raiders 8 33 31 2 0.0 3 1 0 3 3.0 3
2001 Oakland Raiders 16 52 39 13 2.0 9 1 0 64 64.0 34
2000 Oakland Raiders 16 0.0 0 4 0 36 9.0 23
1999 Oakland Raiders 16 0.0 0 0 1 1 15 15.0 15T
1998 Oakland Raiders 16 0.0 0 0 5 1 118 23.6 46T
TOTAL 139 386 317 69 6.5 0 55 31 5 478 51

The two sets of stats are essentially the same. We can rule out several of the categories as obviously  being bad indicators of how well a secondary player plays – touchdowns (TDs), sacks (SCK) safeties (SFTY), forced fumbles and recoveries (FF, REC). As a matter of fact, most of those are in either ESPN’s or NFL’s and not both, which confirms them as bad indicators. So, let’s focus on the three stat groups that have traditionally been used to assess the efficiency of CBs (and even safeties) – tackles, interceptions,  and passes defended (PD, PDef).

TACKLES

Charles Woodson attempts to tackle Plaxico Burress of the NY Giants

Charles Woodson attempts to tackle Plaxico Burress of the NY Giants

Tackles are a tricky statistic because they can mean two things. It might mean the receiver he was covering just made a big catch against him and he had to tackle him. It might mean a running back ran into the secondary and he made a great open field tackle. If he had a large number of tackles it could mean he is very active and covers a huge swath of the field, or… it could mean that he is a bad pass coverage guy and the opponents keep targeting him. Thus, it is difficult to really put any emphasis on any of the tackle categories; total, solo, and assisted.

INTERCEPTIONS

Interceptions have a similar problem. A CB having no interceptions in a game gives no clues in whether he played a good or bad game. Interceptions also have a lot to do with luck and situation. It really doesn’t show the skill of a secondary back. Additionally, interceptions are rare and normalizing the statistic to per game would not solve the problem. Interceptions are a worse stat than sacks for a defensive back  (DB) because interceptions can only occur if a pass is directed at his coverage area, whereas a DB or a defensive tackle rushes the quarterback a majority of the game.

PASSES DEFENDED

Passes defended is a potentially good statistic. It shows that when a pass is directed at the CB, was he successful at preventing the pass from being completed by the offense. It shows a skill that he is legally (with no penalty) in the area and provided excellent coverage to defend the pass. So what is the problem? The problem is that it is not normalized. What does it mean when a cornerback defended two passes in a game? There is nothing to compare it to. It could mean two passes were directed at him and he knocked both down, for a 100% efficiency, or it could mean 10 passes came at him and he knocked only two down, for a 20% efficiency. Two completely different results. But what do you normalize it to?

NEW STATISTIC – PASSES DEFENDED EFFICIENCY

CB Aaron Ross intercepts a pass

CB Aaron Ross intercepts a pass

Just like an average and ERA in baseball, or a yards after catch (YAC) and rushing average in football, we need something that normalizes the stat against all other games and players. One way would be to divide the passes defended in a game by the number of passes directed at him in that same game. This would give us a pass defended efficiency average per game (PDE). Another option would be to divide the number of total passes defended in the season by the number of total passes directed at him in the season (PDE). The latter one is a better statistic because it would remove anomalies such as games in which only a few passes are directed at him and his PDE in that game is either 0% or 100%. However, what makes this stat difficult to record is determining the number of passes directed at a specific CB. In times when a CB plays zone or steps up to tackle or defend another player, it’s hard to say is the pass directed at him. Or if there are multiple defenders in the area, what do you do? Also, some passes are difficult to determine its intended target. Maybe this can be a statistic recorded for the secondary.

NEW STATISTIC – AVERAGE PASSES DIRECTED TOWARDS

Another statistic is to determine the percentage of passes in a game directed at a CB. In many cases a quarterback will target the CB that is most vulnerable. This would show up in this statistic. However, a quarterback will also target his best receiver regardless of who the CB is. That means a less than stellar CB on a less than stellar receiver will have a low percentage of passes directed at him. That does not mean he is a good CB.

Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders

NEW STATISTIC – AVERAGE CATCH YARDS AGAINST

Just like the running back has the average yards per rush, the wide receiver has the average yards per catch, and the quarterback has the average yards per pass attempt, we need a statistic for the defense.  They already have average yards per rush against and possibly an average yards per catch, but it is for the whole defense and accounts for tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers. There needs to be a statistic for  average yards per catch against each specific CB or at least for the whole secondary. As a fan, it’s sometimes very difficult to watch when a timid CB plays at least 10 yards off his receiver and gives up an easy catch and run.

CONCLUSION

The biggest problem is trying to normalize a statistic. With the way defensive schemes are used, many times it’s not just one person responsible for a catch but multiple players. However, that happens on offense also, such as determining whether a pass is the fault of the quarterback or its intended target. Quarterback stats drop even when they make perfect passes but the receiver drops the ball. What we realize though is that these stats usually evens out, and the best quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers have high numbers  compared to worse QBs. A similar reliable statistic must be created and tracked in order to determine how well a cornerback plays.

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The Worst Move by the Packers Was to Have an Open Competition

Posted by silentarchimedes on August 4, 2008

The Worst Move by the Packers Was to Have an Open Competition

The Packers just made the worst move in the Brett Favre saga. After Favre called each and every bluff by the Packers, word out is that there will be an open competition for the starting QB position. This is equivalent to opening Pandora’s Box. I will explain this by simply listing all the possible questions and what ifs in this so-called open competition.

1. Is this truly a completely fair and open competition? If so, do they get absolutely 50-50 reps? If not, who gets more? Who plays more with the first team offense?

2. What does each QB have to do to win the position? If it is close at the end of training camp, who becomes QB? If Rodgers is slightly ahead, can Favre really be happy as backup? If Favre is slightly ahead, what happens to Rodgers?

3. Isn’t this open competition simply delaying a decision by McCarthy?

4. If Rodgers is picked as QB, imagine the repercussions of fans, the scrutiny of every single play by Rodgers with Favre standing on the sidelines, the media. What happens if the Packers lose a game? What happens if Packers are behind 21 points at half-time? Do you put in Favre? Can you really have a $12 million Hall of Famer who can still play at a high level standing on the sidelines?

5. What happens if Favre is amazing again this year? Do we go through this again in the 2009 offseason? What happens to Rodgers?

6. What about the clubhouse? How will they react to Favre coming back after the past few weeks? Will it break up the team into veterans supporting Favre and Rodgers supporters?

7. It is apparent Favre is not afraid to voice his opinion. It seems his loyalty for Packer management has lessened after this. Will Favre be constantly gabbing to the media if he is not QB? Will he attempt to influence the media to side with him?

8. What of Rodgers? His contract is running out, at some point shouldn’t he say enough is enough? What about the other two QBs they drafted? Do they keep both?

9. What does the defense think? If the Packers defense plays well but the offense is obviously distracted by the QB scenario, do they cry foul?

10. What about the fans? Who do they support? Does it change depending on the performances and media?

As you can see, there are way too many possible scenarios for this open competition to completely blow up in the Packers face. Although they were in a completely tough situation, they have made some pretty poor decisions. The best two moves they should have done when this occurred were either declare Favre the QB again, or trade/release him at market prices. Instead they have tried to keep but not keep him. They tried to ignore him by saying the team moved on but they won’t trade/release him. They offered him $25 million to stay retired. They have an open competition between him and Rodgers.

It will be very interesting to see how this pans out…

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