Reviewing the NFL's Biggest Statistical Disappointments of 2011
Over the past few years, in-depth statistics have become an integral part of the NFL game as we see it today. Whether it's an NFL team preparing for next week's opponent or just a general fan who is using the statistics to expand his or her knowledge base, advanced statistics will continue to grow with the rate of technology.
Last week the NFL announced that they would be releasing All-22 film to anyone who wants to pay the $70 premium. Previously, All-22 film was only available to a select group of people. The release of coaches’ film will help make companies like Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders more effective. Both companies spend a lot of time doing video analysis and crunching numbers to come up with new and intriguing ways to formulate NFL play.
With the help of different advanced statistical outlets, let's take a look at the biggest statistical disappointments of 2011.
Wide Receiver: Brandon Lloyd
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In 2010 Brandon Lloyd had one of the best seasons of any wide receiver in Denver Broncos history. Statistically, the only receiver to have a better season in franchise history was Rod Smith. Lloyd was never expected to have the kind of season he did, as he had never topped 50 receptions or 750 yards receiving before coming to Denver.
Lloyd took the NFL by storm as he racked up 1,448 yards on 77 catches, but the most impressive stat was the fact he was thrown 81 catchable balls and only dropped four all season, according to Pro Football Focus. His "drop rate" was a lowly 4.94, placing him as the sixth most reliable receiver in terms of catching the ball.
"Drop Rate" is calculated by looking at how often a receiver drops the ball for every catchable ball that is thrown his way.
With the addition of John Fox's new offense and the promotion of Tim Tebow to starting quarterback, Brandon Lloyd's stock never had the same value that it had under previous head coach Josh McDaniels. Lloyd's impending free agency at the end of the season made it easy for the Broncos to ship him off to the Rams for a conditional sixth-round draft selection.
The trade to St. Louis proved to be a difficult transition for the former All-Pro. Inconsistent quarterback play and a porous offensive line hurt the Rams offense, not to mention the injury to Sam Bradford's ankle, which kept him hobbled for most of the season.
On 58 catchable passes, Lloyd registered seven drops in 2011, three more than the previous season. Even though it was only three more drops, the drops per catchable ball number was 12.07, 7.13 points higher than the year before.
The usually sure-handed receiver will look to get back on track in 2012 as he signed a multi-year deal with the New England Patriots during the offseason.
Defense: New York Jets Pass Rush
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What happened to Rex Ryan's defensive powerhouses that would smash opponents in the mouth? I don't want to hear the excuse that it's the offense's fault; the Jets made it to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010 with an underwhelming offense.
The Jets' biggest disappointment in 2011 came from their lack of pass rush. Pro Football Focus had the Jets as one of the worst five teams at rushing the passer. They recorded 37 sacks, 45 quarterback hits and 127 quarterback hurries, which pales in comparison to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles led the league in rushing the passer as they recorded 52 sacks, 56 quarterback hits and 212 quarterback hurries.
Finishing in the top three in pass coverage is highly impressive considering the lack of pass rush, but that in itself has a lot to do with the Revis effect. Rex Ryan was always known in Baltimore for his ability to get after the quarterback, but since coming to New York he has yet to have any one player record a double-digit sack season. The closest player to do so was Calvin Pace in 2009; he ended the season with nine.
When Aaron Maybin is your leading pass rusher with six sacks on 197 snaps, you need to find a way to get him on the field more. The next closest leading sack man was Calvin Pace; he managed to tally five on 382 pass-rush snaps.
With their secondary and defensive line in good shape, it was important the Jets addressed their pass rush off the edge early and often in this year's draft. Drafting Quinton Coples in the first round and re-signing Aaron Maybin were an attempt to upgrade an area that has been lacking for sometime now.
Cornerback: Sean Smith
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The 2009 draft brought about big upgrades in the Dolphins' secondary. Vontae Davis and Sean Smith were drafted in succession to bring stability to an area of the team that lacked youth and talent.
After an impressive rookie season, Sean Smith continued to build on his solid reputation as an up-and-coming, top-flight corner in 2010 by grading out in the top 10 at his position. Smith was thrown at a total of 44 times while playing cornerback and only allowed 24 completions for a total of 325 yards. Only Steve Johnson was able to get behind Smith's coverage for a touchdown, which tied him for the third best mark in the NFL.
Before the start of the 2011, I made a bold statement on Twitter by proclaiming Vontae Davis and Sean Smith as the best cornerback duo in football. I even went back and forth with an Eagles fan by betting him that Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel would have worse seasons in coverage than Smith and Davis.
Davis held up his end of the deal by having an OK season, but Smith let me down big time by getting burned for 793 yards on 61 completions. Opposing quarterbacks slipped five touchdowns behind his coverage and had a quarterback rating of 90.7.
Going from one of the best corners in the league to one of the worst can be hard on a player's psyche, but the NFL can be a forgiving league if you were a highly-touted draft pick full of talent. Without a doubt Smith will get an opportunity to regain his old form given the fact that he will only be 25 years old when the season starts.
Quarterback: Josh Freeman
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A year ago at this time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were coming off a 10-6 record and a feeling of success after just missing the playoffs. Second-year quarterback Josh Freeman was a driving force behind the Buccaneers' big-time turnaround and was looked at as the franchise quarterback for the next 10-plus years.
In 2010, I had Freeman as a top 10 quarterback who impressed me most in the late stages of games. He came through game after game in the clutch. To date, he has eight fourth-quarter comebacks and nine game-winning drives. according to Pro Football Reference.
It wasn't hard to see that he single-handedly elevated the play of the entire offense; very few players have the ability to elevate the play of others like an elite quarterback does. Throwing for 3,448 yards, 25 touchdowns and boasting a quarterback rating of 95.9 is impressive, but many will ask, what happened to that high level of play in 2011?
Well, it wasn't just one thing that caused Freeman's downward spiral; it was a culmination of things. The first thing that gets mentioned is his balance in his drop step. An uneven drop step completely throws off a quarterback's footwork, which in turn can affect accuracy and arm strength.
By going back and watching some of his games from 2010, it seemed like his body control and footwork were less sloppy overall. Don't get me wrong—it still happened from time to time, but he didn't let if carry over for a long stretch during the game. He was either more aware that it was happening, or he got lazy in 2011 and knew it was happening and didn't care. I have no way to tell, but the good thing is that he knows how to correct his mistakes, as he has shown in the past.
Josh Freeman's 22 interceptions were a big disappointment—no quarterback ever wants more interceptions than touchdowns. I'm sure I'm not the only one telling him what he needs to improve upon.
Cornerback: Nnamdi Asomugha
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The "Dream Team" was an easy early-season Super Bowl lock because of the offseason moves they had made. There was no doubt that they were stacked, but late-game meltdowns and bonehead turnovers sent the team into an early-season tailspin.
Even though the Eagles proved to be the best pass-rushing team in the league, they had problems with a new addition to their secondary. Nnamdi Asomugha was the splash addition to a secondary that already sported the look of four-time Pro Bowler Asante Samuel.
It was a pretty rare sight to see Nnamdi Asomugha get picked on last year. It was something that never happened during his tenure in Oakland. But Asomugha's role in Oakland's defense was much different than it is in the Eagles defense. Was the coaching staff using him incorrectly in 2011, or was he simply having a down year? Let's take a look at the numbers.
Nnamdi was thrown at 47 times and allowed 29 completions, which calculates out to a 61.7 completion percentage. From 2008-10, Asomugha only allowed one touchdown reception; in 2011 alone he allowed four. By looking at his total snap count, he played 639 snaps at right cornerback and 141 snaps in the slot. He even saw a little bit of time at safety, logging 168 snaps. If you were to compare those snap numbers to his previous years in Oakland, they would look very similar.
An opposing quarterback rating of 88.6 when being thrown at was the second highest mark over the past four years.
The only starting cornerback who graded out positively on the Eagles' roster was Asante Samuel, and now he is gone. Will Nnamdi and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie take a step forward and pick up Samuel's slack, or did the Eagles make the wrong move by trading Samuel?