As you may know from reading my past blog posts, I love me some stats. I don’t think they’re the be-all and end-all when it comes to football, but I do think they are a useful tool to use when analyzing a team, a unit, or a player. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy following sites like Pro Football Focus (PFF) and Football Outsiders (FO).
These two groups of data crunchers put a lot of time and critical thought into representing the performance of players and teams in the form of numbers. Through careful observation and grading of every play of every football game of the year, these statisticians are able to eventually tell us which team’s offense is performing the best based on their results and the strength of the defenses they’ve played. Or they can present a numerical “grade” for an individual player for something like “pass blocking efficiency.”
Like I said before, they provide a great tool for professional football analysis. We can use the information to either support what we think we’ve seen, or use it as a jumping off point to examine something further.
So without further ado, here are some interesting tidbits I’ve read about Green Bay Packers players as presented by the teams at Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders. Take them as you will.
- In one of FO’s most recent articles, Tom Gower revisited the 2006 draft class to see who were the best players, biggest busts, and best values from six years ago. He looked at each position, recapped what happened on draft day, then presented the findings. As we all know, this was the year Ted Thompson took A.J. Hawk in the first round. Here’s what Gower wrote about who the best linebacker really was: “A fairly uninspiring class with no clear standouts, really. By Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value method, it’s Hawk, followed by Wimbley, Florida State, 13th overall to the Browns.” Perhaps Packers fans don’t have quite as much to complain about. . .
- About a week ago, FO Editor-in-Chief Aaron Schatz released two articles about the 2011 cornerbacks: “Best Cornerback Charting Stats 2011” and “Worst Cornerback Charting Stats 2011.” The good news is that no Packers CBs ended up on any of the “worst” lists. The bad news? None of them ended up on any of the “best” lists either. One player who did end up on the naughty list was former Packer Josh Gordy, though even Schatz gave him a pass for being an undrafted player in his second season filling the role of a starter.
- Aaron Rodgers was apparently even better than we thought in 2011. In his presentation of “Adjusted Interceptions 2011,” Aaron Schatz adjusted each quarterback’s interception totals based on dropped interceptions, tipped interceptions that should have been receptions, and last-minute Hail Mary throws. Rodgers, the season’s MVP, ranked best in the league with just 4 Adjusted Interceptions for a rate of 0.8%. He was credited with 6 “regular” interceptions for the year.
- In his postseason assessment of the NFC North, Mike Kurtz pegged the defensive line as the biggest hole for the Green Bay Packers. He cited the ineffective pass rush, which ranked “dead last in Adjusted Sack Rate, 1.9 percent below the league average.” And when it came to rush defense, they “fell from relatively average to near the bottom of the league in every single category aside from Open Field Yards.”
PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS
- In talking about team needs, PFF’s Bryan Hall ranked outside linebacker as the Packers’ biggest concern. He didn’t mince any words when talking about Erik Walden as the ROLB in 2011: “Walden got nearly all the snaps during the season and graded out as by far the worst 3-4 OLB in the league (-20.6). As a pass rusher (-1.9, three sacks, 39 total pressures, 7.3 Pass Rushing Productivity rating), Walden had minimal impact. His run defense (-16.4) was disastrous and also by far the worst in the league.” Hall also marked safety as the secondary need for the Packers, and tackle as the tertiary need.
- While we’re on the subject of poor defensive performance, Khaled Elsayed graded out both the defensive tackles and 3-4 defensive ends in 2011 run stop percentage. Ranking dead last among tackles was B.J. Raji with a 2.4 run stop percentage. In 291 run snaps he had 12 tackles, 5 assists, one missed tackle, and just 7 run stops. Ryan Pickett, on the other hand, ranked 13th among 3-4 ends with a 6.5 run stop percentage. In 199 run snaps he made 19 tackles, 2 assists, one missed tackle, and 13 stops.
- Elsayed later looked at the 2011 pass rushing productivity of edge rushers. Coming in at number 14 was none other than Clay Matthews, who had 66 quarterback disruptions in 453 pass rushing snaps. And just making it into the bottom 20 edge rushers in the league was – you guessed it – Erik Walden. He managed only 38 quarterback disruptions in 402 snaps.
- Flipping back to the offense, Sam Monson looked at how elusive each of the 2011 running backs were with the ball in their hands. By incorporating missed tackles and yards after contact into receptions and rushing attempts, he was able to come up with an “Elusive Rating” for each back. I was surprised to see James Starks not only make the top 15 players, but stake the number 4 spot behind Michael Turner.
- James Starks didn’t stop there, though. No, he turned up in another unexpected place. In ranking the running backs in 2011 pass blocking efficiency, PFF listed Starks number 8 overall. He allowed just 2 pressures in 71 pass blocking snaps, for a rating of 97.5. That said, I’m sure Packers fans (and Aaron Rodgers) remember exactly when those two pressures were allowed.
- Meanwhile, Jordy Nelson just keeps busting into the big wide receiver stats for the season. In his article, “2011 Yards Per Route Run: Wide Receivers,” Khaled Elsayed divided each player’s receiving yards by their number of routes run to see who took the biggest advantage of their opportunities. Nelson ranked number two with 2.99 Yards Per Route Run, just behind the Giants’ Victor Cruz. It’s not really shocking considering the number of big plays he had throughout the season, but it does provide us with a nice comparison to the rest of the league’s wide receivers.
- Finally, the unsung hero of the year could be Desmond Bishop. For a season where the defense was absolutely atrocious, Bishop was one of the consistently bright lights on the unit. In ranking the linebackers’ 2011 run stop percentage, PFF had Bishop at number 15 with a 10.85%. Not only that, “no player in the NFL had a higher percentage of his plays in the run game end with him making a tackle than Desmond Bishop,” making 56 tackles on 258 run snaps. Only 28 of those were actually stops, which brought down his overall percentage, but it’s clear he’s currently the best ILB the Packers have.