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Old 04-28-2008, 07:39 PM   #1
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Default Cutting down on Sacks

Much has been made of how often Big Ben has been sacked the last two years and the general inadequacy of our offensive line.

Surprisingly, an offensive linemen was not selected until the 4th round, and it doesn't appear as if Hills will compete for a starting job any time soon. Either the FO still believes this is a pressing need but refused to reach for a linemen early, instead choosing to take what the draft gave them OR they simply aren't as concerned as most fans (although I guess it could be a little of both).

I think they would have jumped all over Williams, Clady, or Albert had they fallen, but they were not desperate enough to trade up (which they have done in the past, see Polamalu and Holmes). The question is, why weren't they as desperate as the fans seem to be?

I have a sneaking suspicion that the FO thinks the O-line is average with the potential to improve on last year with health, continuity, and the addition of Hartwig/subtraction of Mahan. It certainly can't be much worse than last year, and we still managed to be one of the best teams in the NFL.

Some will contend that our offensive line is nothing short of terrible, and not making any major additions will result in Ben running for his life again.

My contention is that this is not necessarily true.

Our O-line is essentially the same as last year, but here is how I think the sack totals can (not saying they will) decrease significantly:

1. Big Ben's maturation--I don't think Ben's culpability concerning these high sack totals is emphasized enough. The problem here is that Ben's strength is being creative outside the pocket and making big plays, and this of course requires him to hold onto the ball longer than the O-line can be expected to block effectively. The solution? Ben gaining more experience and learning when to look for the big play and when to check down. Right now, the checkdowns are non-existant, but hopefully mewelde moore can help change this. I think it's very important that the coaches NOT try to change Ben's game and push a quicker passing game on him, but rather let him grow naturally.

2. A better running back--I know this is rather controversial, but hear me out. Willie Parker is simply not a very good running back. People will think this is crazy because of his impressive yardage totals and career average of 4.4 yds/carry. But dig a little a deeper, and you'll see why Parker is vastly overrated by Steeler fans especially. According to footballoutsiders.com his biggest problem is success percentage, where success on a given carry is defined according to down and distance. Last year Parker had a success rate of 42%, ranking him 42/56 (minimum of 75 carries required). The year before, Parker had a success rate of 44%, ranking him 35/53.

What does this mean? Quite simply, Parker has far too many carries where he gains minimal or negative yardage. His high yards/carry is inflated by his ability to hit the home-run, but the value of his big-plays are severely reduced because of his 1 yard gains and 2 yard losses. This puts enormous pressure on the passing game to convert 2nd and 3rd and long situations, thus contributing to the high sack totals that have plagued our offense.

The other major drawback with Parker is his propensity for fumbles. He has 14 fumbles in just 54 games which further cuts into his value as an every down back.

So as you can imagine, I was especially excited to see Mendenhall drafted. If he's as good as advertised, he will be a significant upgrade over parker and consequently help reduce our sack totals.

In conclusion, a more mature Big Ben and a more consistent running game (i.e. one with a higher success rate) would reduce the high sack totals despite the fact our offensive line is essentially the same as last year.
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Old 04-28-2008, 07:52 PM   #2
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Default Re: Cutting down on Sacks

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Originally Posted by hizmi View Post
Willie Parker is simply not a very good running back. People will think this is crazy because of his impressive yardage totals and career average of 4.4 yds/carry. But dig a little a deeper, and you'll see why Parker is vastly overrated by Steeler fans especially. According to footballoutsiders.com his biggest problem is success percentage, where success on a given carry is defined according to down and distance. Last year Parker had a success rate of 42%, ranking him 42/56 (minimum of 75 carries required). The year before, Parker had a success rate of 44%, ranking him 35/53.

What does this mean? Quite simply, Parker has far too many carries where he gains minimal or negative yardage. His high yards/carry is inflated by his ability to hit the home-run, but the value of his big-plays are severely reduced because of his 1 yard gains and 2 yard losses. This puts enormous pressure on the passing game to convert 2nd and 3rd and long situations, thus contributing to the high sack totals that have plagued our offense.
What did "footballoutsiders.com" have to say about Barry Sanders? Seems to me he had the same "problem." I guess he sucked too? And I suppose the OL had nothing to do with Willie being hit 2-3 yards deep in the backfield far too often? Our OL hasn't routinely blown other teams off the LOS in quite a while.
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Old 04-28-2008, 07:58 PM   #3
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Default Re: Cutting down on Sacks

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What did "footballoutsiders.com" have to say about Barry Sanders? Seems to me he had the same "problem." I guess he sucked too? And I suppose the OL had nothing to do with Willie being hit 2-3 yards deep in the backfield far too often? Our OL hasn't routinely blown other teams off the LOS in quite a while.
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Old 04-28-2008, 07:59 PM   #4
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Default Re: Cutting down on Sacks

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I think it's very important that the coaches NOT try to change Ben's game and push a quicker passing game on him, but rather let him grow naturally.
nice post and totally agree although i think parker is better than described.

ben, parker, and all the o-line have little holes in their game that prevent them from being the 90's cowboys or todays colts offense.

ben is still a work in progress. its not like he has been studying defenses since the age of 5 like mannings or brady.

i think were getting better quicker than were getting worse, despite some thinking we made horrible moves in last weekends draft.
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Old 04-28-2008, 08:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: Cutting down on Sacks

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What did "footballoutsiders.com" have to say about Barry Sanders? Seems to me he had the same "problem." I guess he sucked too? And I suppose the OL had nothing to do with Willie being hit 2-3 yards deep in the backfield far too often? Our OL hasn't routinely blown other teams off the LOS in quite a while.
Yeah Im far more concerned with our O-lines ability to run block....we've really fallen off in that regard since the 04 season....

Our Line is just going to have to find a way to get nastier in Training Camp...or else even with Mendenhall we won't see much improvement in the run game
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Old 04-28-2008, 08:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: Cutting down on Sacks

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What did "footballoutsiders.com" have to say about Barry Sanders? Seems to me he had the same "problem." I guess he sucked too? And I suppose the OL had nothing to do with Willie being hit 2-3 yards deep in the backfield far too often? Our OL hasn't routinely blown other teams off the LOS in quite a while.
Not sure what the numbers are on sanders...the stats don't go back that far, at least for non-premium members.

Did the O-line have anything to do with it? Well yeah, to some extent, but in this case not nearly as much as you think. For a comparison, Davenport had a success rate last year of 52% which ranked him 9/56. And his DVOA, which assesses performance on a per-play basis, ranked davenport 8/56, ahead of RB's such as Tomlinson, Peterson, and Addai. Parker ranked 44/56.

Now I'm not saying davenport is as good as LT, AP, and Addai, but he WAS more effective than parker last year running behind the same line.

Of course, you could argue he had more favorable situations in which to run (defense is worn down, draw plays on third down against nickel packages etc.). I'd be interested to check his stats when he was the starter and see if his production dropped as the feature back.
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Old 04-28-2008, 08:20 PM   #7
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Default Re: Cutting down on Sacks

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Not sure what the numbers are on sanders...the stats don't go back that far, at least for non-premium members.

Did the O-line have anything to do with it? Well yeah, to some extent, but in this case not nearly as much as you think. For a comparison, Davenport had a success rate last year of 52% which ranked him 9/56. And his DVOA, which assesses performance on a per-play basis, ranked davenport 8/56, ahead of RB's such as Tomlinson, Peterson, and Addai. Parker ranked 44/56.

Now I'm not saying davenport is as good as LT, AP, and Addai, but he WAS more effective than parker last year running behind the same line.

Of course, you could argue he had more favorable situations in which to run (defense is worn down, draw plays on third down against nickel packages etc.). I'd be interested to check his stats when he was the starter and see if his production dropped as the feature back.
Davenport rushed 16 times for 25 yards against Jacksonville in the WC game, with a long run of 10 (which means he went 15 rushes for 15 yards the rest of the time). Parker went 14 rushes for 100 on the nose against the same D 3 weeks earlier, while Davenport went 1 for -4 yards in that game. Seems to me the more attempts you have behind an average-to-mediocre OL, the more that is going to skew those stats in a downward direction. However, since we couldn't seem to get OL, or weren't inclined to in the draft, I'll be happy to see Willie's carries cut either way - he won't last 2 more seasons if he has to carry the load as much as last year.
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Old 04-28-2008, 08:23 PM   #8
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Default Re: Cutting down on Sacks

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Of course, you could argue he had more favorable situations in which to run (defense is worn down, draw plays on third down against nickel packages etc.). I'd be interested to check his stats when he was the starter and see if his production dropped as the feature back.
i looked this up several weeks ago.

davenport has virtually no experience as a starter in the league other than his game vs. the ravens and jax in the playoffs last year (i think it was 3 starts over his career).

on the flipside is mewelde moore who has 8 starts and capitalized in almost every one.

najeh got alot of yards and good plays when the defense was softened up from chasing willie the whole game. same principal as jerome getting stronger as the game wore on. he never did much unless he was coming off the bench. he really only had 1 good game as the featured back with the packers.

anyways, i dont know whats worse. giving up all the sacks we did on offense or coming away with as few as we did on defense. either way, neither side of the ball is due for a major overhaul. just some minor tweaking and adjustments.
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Old 04-28-2008, 08:37 PM   #9
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Default Re: Cutting down on Sacks

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Davenport rushed 16 times for 25 yards against Jacksonville in the WC game, with a long run of 10 (which means he went 15 rushes for 15 yards the rest of the time). Parker went 14 rushes for 100 on the nose against the same D 3 weeks earlier, while Davenport went 1 for -4 yards in that game. Seems to me the more attempts you have behind an average-to-mediocre OL, the more that is going to skew those stats in a downward direction. However, since we couldn't seem to get OL, or weren't inclined to in the draft, I'll be happy to see Willie's carries cut either way - he won't last 2 more seasons if he has to carry the load as much as last year.
Good points there, and I agree that Davenport's numbers would not look as good if he had more carries as the feature back. But I still think they would be better than Parker's because his success rate is so much higher and he doesn't fumble as often.

Edit: going back two years, when we had a pretty food O-line, Parker's success rate was much better...48% for a rank of 12/53. But Bettis was still better, with a success rate of 51% for a rank of 8/53 and a DVOA rank of 7/53 compared to Parker's 22/53. So yes, Parker's numbers do depend on the O-Line, maybe more than I was willing to give credit for initially. But, his competition in the backfield, when given ample opportunities (davenport's first year doesn't count), has outperformed him while running behind the same O-Line. So I stand behind my assertion that he is not a very good running back and is vastly overrated.
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Old 04-28-2008, 09:09 PM   #10
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Edit: going back two years, when we had a pretty food O-line, Parker's success rate was much better...48% for a rank of 12/53. But Bettis was still better, with a success rate of 51% for a rank of 8/53 and a DVOA rank of 7/53 compared to Parker's 22/53....But, his competition in the backfield, when given ample opportunities (davenport's first year doesn't count), has outperformed him while running behind the same O-Line. So I stand behind my assertion that he is not a very good running back and is vastly overrated.
Yes, but Parker was the featured back by that point getting the lion's share of the carries, and Bettis was his backup. The success and DVOA statistics you cited tend to skew downward as the number of carries for a RB increases, as evidenced by Davenport's higher numbers in these categories than the likes of Peterson and Tomlinson. Do I think Parker is the next Walter Payton or Barry Sanders? No. But he's better than you make him out to be, IMO.

EDIT: By the way, welcome to the board!

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