About 75 percent of people know that you can use stats to skew perspectives. The reality is that they rarely tell the whole story, but I also find that they almost always tell part of the story.
Let's attempt to complete the story by tossing out two key stats regarding the New York Giants four weeks into the season.
I have quite a few numbers to give you to supplement this one, but 0.27 is the pass win probability added (WPA) rating that the Giants' offensive line has received thus far from Advanced NFL Stats, which ranks fifth in football. I noted last week that the Giants' line had improved dramatically early this season when it came to both pass and run-blocking, at least from a statistical standpoint, and that was again the case against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
The Giants have been good right across the board from this perspective. They've improved their yards-per-rush average from 3.5 to 3.9 and have surrendered only five sacks in four games. Only two teams have given up fewer than that.
Pro Football Focus rated them as the worst pass-blocking team in football last season, and yet they have a positive rating and are ranked in the upper half of the league in that category a quarter of the way through 2012. And they've moved up to 19th in pass-blocking efficiency after being ranked dead last in that area last year, too.
Football Outsiders has a stat called "adjusted sack rate," which finds a team's "sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent." And in that category, Big Blue's line is ranked first in football at 3.4 percent. I know, that stat sounds most impressive of them all, right? But they actually fared quite well in that category in 2011, too, because Eli Manning is so good at escaping pressure. Still, that number has dropped (that's a good thing) from 5.1 percent last season.
So why has the line been so much better early? Is it an anomaly or are they back on track for good? Well, for starters, despite having some penalty issues, Will Beatty has been one of the best left tackles in the league thus far. The oft-criticized and oft-injured lineman has given up just three hurries on 138 pass-blocking snaps since re-joining the starting lineup, according to PFF.
On the right side, Sean Locklear has given up a lot of hurries (11), but no sacks yet either, per PFF.
What's made the Giants' line so much better?
The key might be that they're healthy now. Well, David Diehl has been hurt, but Diehl was one of the worst offensive linemen in the game last season and was not off to a good start before suffering an MCL injury in Week 2.
Diehl wouldn't be good enough to make several NFL rosters, but he's on this team because they believe in him as a veteran leader and might require his versatility and experience if injuries hit the line again down the stretch.
Last year, this line was in flux because everybody was out of position with David Baas missing time and Beatty going down for the season in November. Now, they have their best five guys out there together, and that cohesiveness is huge when it comes to offensive line play.
That's the passer rating posted by opposing quarterbacks when throwing Corey Webster's way this season. By comparison, that number was just 71.6 last season. He's giving up completions 72.7 percent of the time he's thrown at (compared to 56.5 last year) and has already surrendered nearly 336 yards, which is nearly halfway to his entire 2011 total of 783 (all numbers per Pro Football Focus).
In fact, in terms of his overall PFF rating, Webster is ranked 157th out of the 158 cornerbacks who have taken the field this season.
It's not easy facing top receivers every week (he's been beaten often already by the likes of Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson), but that's the onus that top corners face. And Webster is supposed to be this team's top corner.
It's a small sample size early, and the receivers he's faced in comparison to those his teammates have lined up against has to be considered for context, but Webster's been outplayed by both Michael Coe and Prince Amukamara early this season. In fact, Amukamara's given up only three catches on 113 snaps.
The problem is that we've only seen Amukamara against a hobbled Jeremy Maclin and whatever the Panthers have beyond Smith. Still, if Webster continues to struggle it couldn't hurt for Perry Fewell to tinker with lining up the 2011 first-round pick against some No. 1 receivers.