AFC South Advanced Stat of the Week: Tennessee Titans

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistMarch 22, 2012

Matt Hasselbeck had a nice, clean pocket in 2011.
Matt Hasselbeck had a nice, clean pocket in 2011.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Welcome to the Advanced Stat of the Week column. Each week, I will explain an advanced (or semi-advanced) stat and illustrating how understanding it can affect your knowledge of each team in the division.

This week's stat is Net Yards per Attempt (NY/A).

Net yards per attempt is a derivative of the grandfather of all passing stats: Yards Per Attempt (YPA). YPA may be the single most telling stat in football. If you want to know why teams win and lose, first look at their YPA. Passing yards are wholly irrelevant to winning football games, but YPA goes a long way to determining the outcome.

Like its stately cousin, NY/A helps us understand what happens each time the quarterback drops back for a pass. NY/A is calculated by subtracting sack yardage from passing yardage, then dividing by passes attempted plus sacks. In other words:

(yards passing - sack yards) / (pass attempts + sacks) = Net Yards per Attempt

Monday, I covered the Jaguars, and Tuesday was the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans were Wednesday. Today, wrap up the series with a look at the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans offensive line came under a lot of fire in 2012, as the team had a horrible year running the football. But for all their shortcomings, they did an amazing job protecting the passer. Matt Hasselbeck ranked just 20th in conventional YPA, but jumped a few spots up to 16th in NY/A. That's the result of a league-low sack rate of 3.5 percent.

Normally, I give quarterbacks most of the credit for their sack rate. In this case, however, the Titans line helped Hasselbeck to a career-low sack percentage, several points better than any season in his career.

The difference between his YPA and his NY/A was slight, because he didn't have a lot of sack yardage pulling it down. This led him to a NY/A of 6.4, the third highest NY/A of his career. He hadn't been that high since posting a 7.0 in 2005.

This is the rare case where a good line helped to dramatically improve a quarterback's sack rate. It's just not something happens often. It's what propelled Hasselbeck to a turnaround season.

Defensively, the Titans can only wonder how could their season could have been if they had had a pass rush worth mentioning.

The Titans finished the year fourth in the NFL in the all important YPA category at 6.4, underlying what incredible play the got out of their back seven. However, when you factor sack data in, the Titans drop to sixth in the league, averaging 5.9 yards a drop-back. The small difference between their YPA and NY/A is because they finished with the second worst sack rate in the NFL on defense.

It's been covered before, but with coverage like the Titans have had, they are a pass rusher or two away from being one of football's elite defenses.