The 3 Most Unbelievable NFL Stats from 2012 and What They Mean for 2013
In a certain situation, this was true.
A faction of yeah-right statistics materialized last year, and it's time to analyze what they'll mean for the future.
Tom Brady's Struggles Under Pressure
In 2012, the future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback was stunningly horrific when faced with pressure.
According to ProFootballFocus (subscription required), Brady's 40.4 under-pressure percent completion percentage was the sixth-worst such percentage among the 38 quarterbacks who took at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps last season.
Signal-callers like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, John Skelton, Sam Bradford, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and yes, even Mark Sanchez finished with higher completion percentages under pressure than Brady did.
Factoring in drops as completions, Brady fared better, but he still surprisingly came in 29th.
He threw four touchdowns to two interceptions in that circumstance.
What it means
Defenses are more assured than ever that dropping seven or eight defenders into coverage is not the way to hinder Brady's production.
Generating pressure to any quarterback typically yields positive results for a defense, but the disparity in production between the times in which Brady has a clean pocket and when he's flustered by the rush is significant.
He'll be 36 when the regular season begins, so there's a chance he's lost a half-step of short-area quickness.
Expect teams to send more risky blitz packages and to take a more aggressive overall defensive approach when facing New England in 2013 and beyond—getting pressure with three or four down linemen remains the ideal yet most-difficult-to-achieve scenario.
Brady has never been praised for his athleticism, but he's long been a pocket-drifting marvel, often slightly eluding defenders in order to make room to deliver the football down the field.
To counter what should be an increase in pass-rushers and blitzes sent Brady's way, expect Bill Belichick to institute more screens and check-down options into the Patriots offensive attack.
Jason Pierre-Paul's Pass-Rushing Troubles
After a 93-tackle, 16.5-sack 2011, Pierre-Paul was arguably the most feared defensive end in football, and at the ripe age of 22, he certainly had the most upside.
Then the 2012 season happened.
JPP totalled 66 tackles and only 6.5 sacks and essentially disappeared from the national spotlight.
Of the 4-3 defensive ends who played at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps last year, the 8.5 pass-rush rating ProFootballFocus gave the South Florida product ranked 33rd out of 62 qualifying players—hardly elite.
What it means
JPP's shocking dip in production was likely due to offensive lines focusing more attention on him, and the aging defensive linemen around him.
Perry Fewell's defense is predicated on the front four applying pressure without a variety of creative blitzes.
Justin Tuck, once a disruptive player in his own right, was actually less effective than Pierre-Paul as a pass-rusher a season ago. He'll need to improve his game to help alleviate pressure from JPP in 2013.
Also, free-agent signee Cullen Jenkins must outplay Rocky Bernard, a guy who pieced together a rather unspectacular 2012 on the interior of the Giants' defensive front.
Lastly, Fewell could infuse more confusing blitzes and defensive line stunts to aid Pierre-Paul on the edge.
Arian Foster's Yards-Per-Carry Woes
Foster was an All-Pro running back in 2010 and 2011, when he burst onto the NFL scene from undrafted obscurity.
In 2012, he posted a career-low 4.1 yards per carry, along with only 40 receptions for 217 yards.
He still amassed 1,424 yards on the ground and accumulated 17 touchdowns (15 rushing, two receiving), but his per-touch efficiency plummeted as he carried the ball a league-leading 351 times—the highest total of his time as a professional.
Per ProFootballFocus, the 6'1'', 228-pound back averaged 2.18 yards after contact per attempt, which was down from 2.50 in 2011 and 2.59 in 2010.
With only a shade above 1,000 career carries on his résumé, it's difficult to say the soon-to-be 27-year-old Foster's skills are diminishing, but the 2012 production downturn should concern the Texans coaching staff.
What it means
Houston probably should make some tweaks to their run-heavy, play-action-predicated offense in 2013. They drafted refined speedster DeAndre Hopkins in Round 1, a guy who should become a dangerous complement to Andre Johnson.
(The Texans have needed someone like Hopkins for years.)
To diversify its offense, Houston could add more aerial wrinkles—maybe from spread formations—which could lead to more unpredictability. In theory, quarterback Matt Schaub would then be given more freedom. Also, a more varied attack would reduce the responsibility bestowed on Foster to move the chains.
Furthermore, backup runner Ben Tate could shoulder some of the load to keep Foster as fresh as possible into the second half of games and the second half of the season.
Remember, Foster has proven to be a prototypical zone-blocking scheme runner, but the Texans should take a quality-over-quantity approach with their feature back.
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