It’s raining. Like a monsoon. Surviving outdoors in a monsoon is the quintessential lesson in endurance, tolerance and introspection.
The noise of rain can be more debilitating than getting wet. It can make you as crazy as Al Davis.
Some play mind games. Some fantasize. Some go insane from the incessant rain, and the utter lack of warmth or compassion for your abject misery.
So on this rainy day, I decided to immerse myself in some stats. The best place to lose myself in this monsoon like moribund NFL offseason.
I know, statistics are often misleading. The stats I’m looking at are indisputable evidence. The stats provided by Pro Football Focus are anything but misleading.
PFF grades every NFL player on every play.
I’ll not bore you with PFF’s scoring system. Nor do I care about a player’s PFF ranking in a large sample. Instead, I will put the spotlight on the raw data for those Lions players who were (and are) expected to be impact players.
The number of snaps taken and the results are broken down in several categories. It’s easy to see bright spots, as well as red flags.
The stats provided by PFF give us fans the data that was heretofore unavailable to anyone other than professional scouts, or professional scouting services.
How did player “X” perform, and what red flags do we have to be aware of?
My first Lions player of interest is TE Brandon Pettigrew.
There were 63 tight ends who saw at least 25 percent of their team’s offensive snaps in 2010. Pettigrew ranked 43rd overall.
I know, the widespread perception is that Pettigrew was a productive member of an offense being run by backup QBs. Sure, we all have seen some of those dropped passes, but haven’t we seen some nice snags as well?
Ranking Pettigrew against players who didn’t play nearly as many snaps seemed a bit unfair. PFF provided an answer.
A nice feature of PFF is that you, the armchair analyst, can filter the field by the percentage of snaps played. So I decided to look at only those TEs who played at least 75 percent of their team’s offensive snaps.
This yielded an elite list of 17 TEs. These are the true work horses of the TE position.
Pettigrew was the 12th ranked TE on the list.
Having rid ourselves of TEs who weren’t involved as much as this group, we can look at some stats that really stand out, are not misleading, and provide some coaching points that are more than obvious.
Pettigrew played 982 snaps out of the Lions total of 1138 offensive snaps in 2010. That’s good for fourth among the top 17.
On this elite list, Pettigrew was the second-leading pass blocker behind Witten and sixth in run blocking. That’s very impressive.
Pettigrew was targeted 103 times, and caught 71 passes. That’s pretty good, as only Jason Witten (Dallas), and Chris Cooley (Washington) were targeted more.
Pettigrew was the second most targeted receiver on the Lions offense. To give you some perspective, Nate Burleson was targeted only 81 times. Calvin Johnson was targeted 131 times.
Now, for the “not so good” news on Pettigrew.
Receiving stats were pretty ugly, as Pettigrew’s completion percentage of 68.9 percent ranked only 13th among tight ends in this elite group.
Let’s go back to that 71 of 103 (68.9 percent) reception stat. Nice numbers, but Pettigrew dropped a league-leading 12 balls. A dubious record.
Twelve dropped receptions gives one a sense that Pettigrew is a “soft” target.
You can argue QB inconsistency all you like, but that’s horrible. Period.
Of the 17 most active TEs in this class, Pettigrew would have blown the field away if he’d dropped only six rocks.
Coaching Point No. 1
Focus on catching the freakin ball! That’s what you get the “big” bucks for! Those yards after catch are useless without the catch.
Pettigrew’s 374 YAC is third among the best TEs on the planet, but that means nothing if you do not nurse the nugget.
Let’s move on to the other sore spot in Pettigrew’s game, penalties.
Pettigrew was flagged a league-leading 10 times in 2010. None were offsetting. Many were of the 15-yard variety that kill drives and offensive coordinators.
While we can appreciate that Pettigrew brings a chip on his shoulder on Sundays, there has to be a point of diminishing returns. That point is close.
Coaching Point No. 2
Get a clue on when it’s time to put on the breaks. Those punitive plays only add greater scrutiny by the NFL game officials. What is the value of your accomplishments if you take your offense out of scoring opportunities?
Brandon Pettigrew has all the tools necessary to be the best TE in the NFL.
That’s a bold proclamation, but Pettigrew is the player who seems to have All Pro written all over him.
2011 is Pettigrew’s third season as a Pro. We should expect some incremental improvement in his maturity and his play.
It’s all about Pettigrew’s focus. Is focus coachable? I’d say yes, to a certain extent. If he can improve this single aspect of his play, we will be talking about Pettigrew’s stats in a new light.
Catching the ball and cutting down penalties will get Pettigrew to the Pro Bowl and will enable the Lions to get to the next level.
Of this, there can be no doubt.
Next up: DT Ndamukong Suh.
Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.