Best 1st Down Offense With Best 3rd Down Defense

A followup on my last post on Best First Down Offense For Each Team, I now look at the best 3rd down teams for defense combined with their rank of the previous post of the best offensive formations for achieving first downs.

I  took the total number of third down plays a defense had a stop divided by the number of third down plays they were in to get a 3rd down stop percentage. I then ranked the teams in descending stop percentage. Next I took my rankings from the prior post of teams with the most first downs made for their personnel with the most first downs. I add the two rankings. The lower the sum of the rankings means the team was ranked high in both categories compared to other teams.

The caveat is that the offensive rankings are based on the 2019 team makeup. Whereas the defensive ranking is based on the 2018 team makeup. The site I used for data, Pro-Football-Reference.com, does not have sufficient play visibility for defense by players. Nevertheless it is a great site and highly recommended. For the most part teams are similar to their 2018 personnel.

Here are the ranking results which show the teams that are most all-rounded combining a explosive offense for 1st downs with a strong 3rd down defense. The first and last rank is highlighted. The Rank All is the combined rank. There are a number of ties like first place.

 

Offensive 1st Down Rank Sum 1st Dwns 3rd Down Stops 3rd Down Plays Stop % Stop Rank Sum Of Ranks Rank All Team
4 250 133 197 67.51% 4 8 1 PIT
3 255 141 210 67.14% 5 8 1 CLE
14 225 140 192 72.92% 1 15 3 MIN
7 238 133 202 65.84% 8 15 3 PHI
1 281 119 188 63.30% 16 17 5 LAR
16 214 148 213 69.48% 2 18 6 BAL
13 229 135 206 65.53% 10 23 7 TEN
10 233 130 202 64.36% 14 24 8 LAC
6 241 114 183 62.30% 21 27 9 CAR
23 202 147 220 66.82% 6 29 10 CHI
12 229 114 181 62.98% 17 29 10 TAM
2 259 112 189 59.26% 27 29 10 NOR
17 214 131 202 64.85% 13 30 13 BUF
5 242 116 194 59.79% 25 30 13 KAN
26 187 135 205 65.85% 7 33 15 ARI
18 208 135 212 63.68% 15 33 15 GB
11 229 125 201 62.19% 22 33 15 IND
31 141 145 213 68.08% 3 34 18 NYJ
24 199 120 184 65.22% 12 36 19 SEA
8 237 117 201 58.21% 28 36 19 DAL
19 207 142 227 62.56% 19 38 21 HOU
15 220 133 216 61.57% 23 38 21 SFO
30 149 140 213 65.73% 9 39 23 JAX
28 180 122 187 65.24% 11 39 23 DET
9 236 105 195 53.85% 31 40 25 ATL
21 206 123 197 62.44% 20 41 26 NWE
25 189 134 213 62.91% 18 43 27 DEN
20 207 126 206 61.17% 24 44 28 NYG
22 205 118 223 52.91% 32 54 29 CIN
29 163 117 197 59.39% 26 55 30 WAS
27 181 116 203 57.14% 30 57 31 OAK
32 95 114 196 58.16% 29 61 32 MIA
4080 6468

The data table shown here can be downloaded here – First Downs And Third Downs.

Just eleven random thoughts on the data:

  1. The Steelers ranked 4th in offensive personnel even with the loss of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
  2. The Browns fans must be excited about the upcoming season. Though Baker Mayfield knows nothing about Giants fans.
  3. The Vikings led the league with getting a stop on 73% of total 3rd down plays.
  4. Would the Patriots have been this successful if they played in another division? They are 26th on the overall ranking.
  5. Miami quarterback Josh Rosen may have the unenviable position of his team once again have the top draft pick with a generational talented quarterback available.
  6. I have optimism for my Giants even though the data looks otherwise. That’s what fans do. The Giants came in 28th on the overall ranking. I am looking forward to a big year from Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate. Shepard is one of only five active wide receivers that had a 61% or better catch percent, 650+ receiving yards and a 6.5+ yards per target average in each of their first three seasons.
  7. Of the top ten teams for offensive first down talent, half of them rank in the  bottom third of the league in 3rd down stop percentage.
  8. The Falcons had the 31st ranked third down stop percent with 54%. Yet their projected starting defensive eleven has seven day 1 or 2 draft picks that were all made by the Falcons. They did not have a day two selection in the 2019 draft and did not take a defensive player until day three. But its not like they have ignored the defense. in prior drafts. The Falcons tied the Bills for the most games where they took the lead during a fourth quarter lead change and wound up losing the game. They each had three games in which that happened. Go figure.
  9. It would be nice to see someone challenge the Patriots this year in the AFC East. Buffalo appears to have the best rounded team to do so among the contenders. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen made the second most rushing first downs among quarterbacks with 45. He trailed Lamar Jackson by only three. The Bills have one of the best pass defenses. They were tie with the Ravens and the Bears for the lowest opponent yards per pass attempt with a 6.3 yards per attempt. They picked up two tough linemen in the draft – Ed Oliver on defense and Cody Ford on offense.
  10. There are four teams that are in the top ten for either offense (1st downs) or defense (3rd down stops) that fall into the bottom half of the league for the overall rank due to a poor rank in the opposite quality. They are the Jets and the Jaguars who have top defense rankings and the Cowboys and the Falcons who have top offense rankings.
  11. There are four teams that are in the bottom ten for either offense or defense that fall into the top half of the league due to a strong rank in the other category. They are the Bears and the Cardinals who have a strong defense and the Saints and the Chiefs who have a strong offense.

I hope you find the data interesting. Best regards and a reminder that there are only 13 days left to the unofficial start of football – the Hall of Fame Game.

Best First Down Offense For Each Team

Today I look at the best offensive weapons formations for each team to get a first down. The results are a spreadsheet of the top formation and offensive weapons that achieved the most first downs in 2018 for each team. All offensive personnel are included except for the offensive line.

The team makeup is for 2019. So if a player switched teams his 2018 1st down count is used but for his 2019 team. Rookies are not included with one exception. I included Kyler Murray as he will most likely be the starting 2019 quarterback. For his first down totals I used the average for starting quarterbacks as he was quite the mobile quarterback. Here are the results by team with a color grouping. I also show the personnel and have in bold font the teams that use two running backs in their best first down formation.

Rank Team Sum 1st Dwns Personnel
1 LAR 281 1-1
2 NOR 259 1-1
3 CLE 255 2-1
4 PIT 250 2-1
5 KAN 242 2-1
6 CAR 241 1-1
7 PHI 238 1-1
8 DAL 237 1-1
9 ATL 236 1-1
10 LAC 233 2-1
11 IND 229 1-1
12 TAM 229 1-2
13 TEN 229 2-1
14 MIN 225 1-1
15 SFO 220 2-1
16 BAL 214 2-1
17 BUF 214 2-0
18 GB 208 1-1
19 HOU 207 1-1
20 NYG 207 1-2
21 NWE 206 1-1
22 CIN 205 1-2
23 CHI 202 1-1
24 SEA 199 2-1
25 DEN 189 2-0
26 ARI 187 2-1
27 OAK 181 2-1
28 DET 180 1-1
29 WAS 163 2-2
30 JAX 149 2-1
31 NYJ 141 2-1
32 MIA 95 1-1

Some observances. These have to do specifically with achieving first down.

  1. Fifteen teams are most loaded offensively with a formation of two running backs. Almost half the league. Two contributing factors for this are (1) Most first downs are achieved in short yardage situations and more teams tend to run in those situations and (2) the proliferation of dual threat running backs.
  2. Only five teams fail to have a player that earned 50+ first downs in 2018. The teams with their highest first down players are BAL (QB Lamar Jackson – 48), BUF (QB Josh Allen – 45), JAX (WR Dede Westbrook – 40), NYJ (WR Robby Anderson – 30) and MIA (WR Kenny Stills – 27) . The last three were also the bottom three of the ranked teams. However Baltimore and Buffalo were mid-range at 16 and 17 respectively. They were aided immensely by  the top two dual threat quarterbacks for first downs.
  3. The LA Rams are way out in the lead in first down players. Their 1-1 formation earned 281 first downs in 2018. The second place team, New Orleans, earned 22 less first downs.
  4. The top three players for first downs were all dual threat backs with Ezekiel Elliot at one with 98. He was followed right behind by Christian McCaffrey and Todd Gurley both with 97. The next backs were Saquon Barkley (85) and James Conner (82).
  5. The top receivers were DeAndre Hopkins with 81 and Julio Jones with 80.
  6. Eight teams have two play-makers in their top 1st-down formation that had 50+ first downs. They are CIN, GB, IND, KAN, LAC, NOR, PHI and PIT. The Bengals are the lowest ranked of the eight at 22.  They are not far from the Packers at 18. All the rest of the eight teams fall in the top 11.
  7. Three teams have three play-makers with 50+ first downs in their top formation. They are CLE, LAR and SF. The Browns and the Rams were in the top there teams. However the 49ers were down at 15. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only played three games and had a low first down count.
  8. The Giants were seriously hurt be the Beckham trade. They rank 20th. If Beckham were still on the team they would have ranked 5th. Dallas benefited big by the Amari Cooper trade moving up to eighth. The Raiders benefited with Antonio Brown but only moved up to 27th. They would probably been on the bottom right above Miami.
  9. As I said the 2019 rookies are not counted in this analysis. Some teams hoping to get a boost in 2019 from the draft with their rank and 1st round pick are the Lions (28th rank – TE TJ Hockenson), Broncos (25th – TE Noah Fant), Raiders (27th – RB Josh Jacobs), Ravens (16th – WR Marquise Brown) and the Patriots (21st – WR N’Keal Harry).

Here is the spreadsheet that contains the top formation for all 32 teams and the above table – First Down Weapons. The dual threat players are listed twice for their receiving and rushing first downs.

PS: This is a break from the series I was running. I really fell behind on the series and will see if I continue that series. I got sidetracked on this topic.

Less Than 22 days and 22 year old Quarterback Phenoms.

There are less than 22 days until the 2019 Hall Of Fame Games and the unofficial start of the 2019 season. Today I look at quarterback phenoms in the NFL 22 years and younger. Eight quarterbacks in NFL history by the age of 22  met all five of the following conditions in a season

  1. Started 5+ games,
  2. had a passer rating of 70+,
  3. averaged 175+ yards total offense per game  started,
  4. averaged 7+ yards per pass attempt, and
  5. averaged 1.6 total touchdowns per game started.

Three are retired and all of those three are in the NFL Hall of Fame. They are Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton and Y.A. Tittle. Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is the only quarterback to meet the criteria for two seasons at 22 years or younger.

Eight Young QB Phenoms
Player Year Age Tm GS Pass Yds Pass TD Rate Pass Y/A Pass Y/G Rush Yds Rush TD Rush Y/G TotOff TotOff / Game Tot Tds / Game
Deshaun Watson 2017 22 HOU 6 1699 19 103 8.33 242.7 269 2 38.4 1852 309 3.50
Jameis Winston 2016 22 TAM 16 4090 28 86.1 7.21 255.6 165 1 10.3 4016 251 1.81
Marcus Mariota 2015 22 TEN 12 2818 19 91.5 7.62 234.8 252 2 21 2812 234 1.75
Jameis Winston 2015 21 TAM 16 4042 22 84.2 7.56 252.6 213 6 13.3 4065 254 1.75
Robert Griffin 2012 22 WAS 15 3200 20 102.4 8.14 213.3 815 7 54.3 3798 253 1.80
Cam Newton 2011 22 CAR 16 4051 21 84.5 7.84 253.2 706 14 44.1 4497 281 2.19
Dan Marino* 1983 22 MIA 9 2210 20 96 7.47 200.9 45 2 4.1 2175 242 2.44
Fran Tarkenton* 1961 21 MIN 10 1997 18 74.7 7.13 142.6 308 5 22 2305 231 2.30
Y.A. Tittle* 1948 22 BCL 12 2522 16 90.3 8.73 180.1 157 4 11.2 2679 223 1.67

Provided by NFCBeast.com
Generated 7/15/2019.

 

The quarterbacks eligible to make this list in 2019 based on age are as follows.

Lamar Jackson (BAL) just missed the list in his rookie 2018 season due only to averaging 1.57 touchdowns per game started. He only had six passing touchdowns in seven games started and 16 games played. You can add in his five rushing touchdowns but it was still not enough. The average touchdown per game started by players on the list was 2.13. The Ravens picked up some weapons to help bring up his touchdowns in the draft with first round pick receiver Marquise Brown and third round pick Miles Boykin. Brown was 21st in the nation in receiving touchdowns last year with ten. Boykin was a red zone threat last year making touchdowns on five of his nine red zone receptions. Boykin had eight for the year. His streak of six consecutive games with a touchdown is the longest by a Notre Dame wide receiver since Will Fuller in 2014.

Sam Darnold (NYJ) missed on yards per attempt with a 6.92 and in touchdowns per games with only a 1.38. Darnold’s 6.92 yards per attempt was 25th among 32 quarterbacks that started 8+ games. According to Pro Football Focus Darnold’s 42.3 passer rating on deep throws ranked 32nd. His 17 passing touchdowns was 24th in the league and he had only one rushing touchdown.  On a positive note receiver Robby Anderson’s 15 yards per reception was good for 22nd among 89 receivers with 6+ game starts. During the last four weeks of the season Anderson caught 23 passes for 366 yards and an 8.62 yards per target.  That yards per target would have been 32nd out of 89 receivers for the year.

Josh Rosen had a bad year in Arizona. The only target he made on this list was starting 5+ games. Unfortunately he is walking into what may be just as bad or worse a situation in Miami. Pro Football Focus ranked the Dolphin’s offensive line as 32nd heading into the 2019 season. To go with that Bleacher Report ranked the Dolphin’s receiving corp as 30th going into 2019.

Three 2018 Rookies That Missed The List
Player Year Age Tm GS Pass Yds Pass TD Rate Y/A Pass Y/G Rush Yds Rush TD Rush Y/G TotOff Tot Off / Game Total TD / Game
Lamar Jackson 2018 21 BAL 7 1201 6 84.5 7.06 75.1 695 5 43.4 1825 261 1.57
Sam Darnold 2018 21 NYJ 13 2865 17 77.6 6.92 220.4 138 1 10.6 2799 215 1.38
Josh Rosen 2018 21 ARI 13 2278 11 66.7 5.8 162.7 138 0 9.9 2096 161 0.85

Provided by NFCBeast.com
Generated 7/15/2019.

 

In 2018 at college Dwayne Haskins led the nation in passing touchdowns with fifty. He averaged 3.6 touchdowns per game which was tops in the nation.  However Haskin’s red zone touchdown conversion rate of 32.5% was not as good as a number of other quarterbacks. He was beat out in the red zone conversion by Trace McSorley, Justice Hansen, Kyler Murray, Will Grier and Tyree Jackson. Haskins was also first in passing yards and in 10+ yard passing plays.

An area of concern is that Haskins has only one year as a starter in college. In the rankings of support for Haskins, PFF ranked the Washington offensive line as 14th and Bleacher Report ranked the Washington receiving corp as 32nd. There is also competition from Case Keenum and Colt McCoy to win the starting quarterback role. In 2017 Keenum had the eighth best passer rating (98.3), the second best completion percentage (67.6%) and the sixth best TD to Interception ratio (3.14). After an award winning college career McCoy was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft by the Browns. He has been on the Redskins the last five seasons and head coach Jay Gruden likes his competitive spirit, knowledge of their system and ability to make all the throws.

Kyler Murray excelled at all the criteria for this list. Murray was first in the nation in passing yards per attempt at 11.6. He had the second best passer rating (199.2) and best among draft prospects. Murray was first in the nation in total offense per game at 383 yards. He was tie with Haskins for first in touchdowns responsible for with 54.

For the supporting cast the Cardinals were abysmal in 2018. Looking at 2019 PFF rated the Cardinals Offensive line as 30th. To help the added free agent guard J.R. Sweezy, traded for right tackle Marcus Gilbert and drafted sixth round center Lamont Gaillard. Gilbert was rated above average by PFF for 2018. Galliard is a three year starter with 42 career starts. He won the Georgia “Own the Trenches” award following spring drills in 2017. This on what is regarded as one of the best offensive lines in college football. “Tougher than old brisket and nasty as a finisher” – draft profile nfl.com

Bleacher Report ranked the Cardinals 2019 receiver corp as 26th. I think they look better than that. They did add four offensive weapons from the draft in wide receivers Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, Keesean Johnson and tight end Caleb Wilson. From a 2018 receiving yards team market share perspective they got the two best in Isabella (47%) and Butler (42%). Butler was third in the nation in average receiving yards (22 yards). Isabella was second in the nation in 10+ receiving yards plays. In 20+ receiving yards plays they got the top three receivers – 1st KeeSean Johnson (26) and tied for second Hakeem Butler (25) and Andy Isabella (25). A whopping 75% of Butler’s receptions made 1st down. That was second best among 32 wide receiver draft prospects with a 30% receiving yards team market share. Then you add the fact that the Cardinals have 11 time Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald and you should have a decent receiving corp.

Daniel Jones was a walk-on at Duke University. Jones did not put up numbers to imply that he could make this list. However he did not have a strong supporting cast around him at Duke. Not a single Duke player other than Jones has been drafted over the past three years. As reported by Pro Football Focus Jones had the most dropbacks under pressure than any of the other top quarterbacks in the class. This blurb from clutchpoints.com

Jones was the only player from the 2018 Duke team to be drafted. His receivers dropped 9.2% of his passes, the second-highest rate among quarterbacks in the class. His offensive line was one of the worst graded units in college football, per Pro Football Focus, and finished 83rd in the nation in pressure rate allowed.

Jones is much like a more mobile version of Eli Manning. He is a pocket passer with a quick release, good arm, good accuracy, fearless, tough, strong work ethic and good teammate. The mobile part showed with the eighth highest rushing yards (319) among draft quarterbacks with 2000+ passing yards and the ninth highest yards per carry at 3.1 yards.

So we have a quarterback make this list once every two decades, followed by three decades of none and then the 2010s see a quarterback make the list five out of the nine years. The last one being in 2017. In 2019 there are six eligible viable quarterbacks. The trend is that at least one of these six will make the list.

Less Than 23 Days And The All 23 Team

There are less than 23 days to the NFL Hall Of Fame Game and the unofficial start of the NFL 2019 season. Still running behind on these posts but today I look at the All-23 Team of the best players that will be 23 years old for the majority of the 2019 season.

Quarterback: Josh Allen (BUF)

Allen is eleventh in the longest passing play in 2018 with a deep pass of a 75 yard touchdown pass against the Jaguars to Robert Foster. he is fourteenth in least amount of sacks.

Runners Up: None

Running Back: Christian McCaffrey (CAR)

McCaffrey is a dual threat back.  He leads all running backs in receiving yards (867) and receptions (107). He is second in catch percent (86.3%) for backs with a minimum 32 targets. He is sixth in rushing yards (1,098), fourteenth in rushing TDs (7) and second in receiving TDs among backs (6). He is fourteenth in rushing yards er attempt (5.01) for backs with a minimum 48 attempts.

Runners Up: Nick Chubb (CLE), Joe Mixon (CIN)

Fullback: Chandler Cox (MIA)

His value at Auburn is shown in the 2017 snap counts. Chandler had 504 snaps which compared favorably to running back Kerryon Johnson‘s 566. His final season at Auburn in 2018 Chandler had 2 rushing touchdowns from 1 yard out and 1 receiving touchdown.

Runner UP: Nick Bawden (DET)

Wide Receivers:
Chris Godwin (TB),
Dante Pettis (SF),
Hakeem Butler (ARI)

Chris Godwin was  tie for 13th in receiving touchdowns with seven. This from his 2017 draft profile on nfl.com:

Natural hands catcher with strong claws. Will make his money winning 50/50 balls in the red-zone and down the field. Outstanding ball tracker and rarely adjusts to the deep ball prematurely. Waits to begin body adjustment until timing is right. Has plus body control and can rise up and wrestle the throw away from cornerbacks.

Dante Pettis was fifth in yards per reception (17.3) for wide receivers with 24+ receptions. This from his 2018 draft profile:

Natural pass catcher with stick-and-stay hands… Fine-tuned route runner known for his work ethic….Eludes first tackler and hits his top gear quickly

2019 Rookie Hakeem Butler was ninth in receiving yards (1,318) his final college year and fourth in receiving yards per reception (22) for receivers with 24+ receptions. At 6’5″ and 227 lbs Butler was one of the three to four biggest receivers at the combine. This from his draft profile:

Butler’s unique play strength after the catch allows him to win contested deep balls and then plow through tackle attempts to create chunk plays and long touchdowns. … Eight touchdowns of 40-plus yards over last two years.

Runner Ups: Michael Gallup (DAL), Curtis Samuel (CAR)

Tight End:
Chris Herndon (NYJ),
Jace Sternberger (GB)

In his rookie year Herndon was tie for ninth among tight ends for touchdown receptions (4) and was tenth in yards per reception (12.87) among tight ends with 18+ receptions.  this is what his 2018 draft profile said:

Dangerous after the catch… Can make first tackler miss ….Blocked in-line and as H-back across formation and in space.

2019 rookie Jace Sternberger is included as the two tight end personnel (1-2) was the second most used personnel formation at 20%.  The Texans ran this formation a league high 40%. Sternberger put up outstanding numbers in 2018 in college. Among tight ends he was first in receiving touchdowns (10), second in receiving yards (832) and fourth in yards per reception (17.3) for 12+ receptions.

Runner Ups: Mark Andrews (BAL), Caleb Wilson (ARI)

Offensive Line:
LT:  Cam Robinson (JAX)
LG: Quenton Nelson (IND)
OC: Lamont Gaillard (ARI)
RG: Elgton Jenkins (GB)
RT:  Braden Smith (IND)

Cam Robinson has played injured in his rookie year following an ankle injury in week 7. Prior to that he played decent. In week one he held JJ Watt and Jadaveon Clowney in check when they played the Texans. He tore his ACL in week two of the 2018 season and was placed on IR.

Quenton Nelson allowed only 23 pressures on 730 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF.

2019 rookie Lamont Gaillard is a three year starter with 42 career starts. He won the Georgia “Own the Trenches” award following spring drills in 2017. This on what is regarded as one of the best offensive lines in college football. “Tougher than old brisket and nasty as a finisher” – draft profile nfl.com

Elgton Jenkins is another 2019 rookie. The Packers are working the center out at the guard position. Jenkins allowed only one sack over 762 pass-blocking snaps at center during his junior and senior seasons, per Pro Football Focus. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper had this to say – The No. 1 center prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft,  who is also versatile enough to play every position on the line.

Braden Smith the guard was shifted to right tackle after losing three right tackle by week five. His first night at right tackle Smith allowed just one pressure in 83 snaps. Over the season he he allowed just 28 pressures over 520 pass protection snaps. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America, PFF and NFL.com All-Rookie Teams.



Defensive Tackle:
Taven Bryan (JAX),
Poona Ford (SEA)

Rookie Taven Bryan had 1 sack, 13 solo tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 2 quarterback hits and 12 pressures on just 29% of the defensive snaps.

Rookie Poona Ford had 13 solo tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hits on 23% of the defensive snaps. Pro Football Focus ranked him as fifth in run-stopping percentage among interior defenders.

Defensive End:
Myles Garrett (CLE),
Takkarist McKinley (ATL)

In 2018 Myles Garret was fifth in QB Hits (29) and sixth in sacks (13.5). He made the 2017 NFL All-Rookie Team and was selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl.

In his two year NFL career over 31 games Takkarist McKinley has recorded 13 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, and 14 tackles for loss. Those are decent numbers but over the last two seasons 50 players have put up similar numbers or better.

Linebackers:
Leighton Vander Esch (DAL)
Rashaan Evans (TEN)
Raekwon McMillan (MIA)
Elijah Lee (SF)

Leighton Vander Esch had 102 solo tackles in 2018 which was second most in the league.

Rashaan Evans had a hamstring injury his 2018 rookie year causing him to miss the preseason. He did not get a defensive snap until the third game of the regular season. So he was learning real-time. Evan played 47 percent of Tennessee’s defensive snaps in 2018 and finished with 53 tackles. However he came on strong toward the end where he made 31 of his 53 tackles in the last six games. Thirty-three of his fifty-three tackles were solo tackles. Here we see that Pro Football Focus ranked Evans high towrds the end of the season.

Raekwon McMillan had the second most solo tackles out of the 23 year old linebackers for 2019 with 69. He had 105 tackles his 2018 rookie season which was sixth most among rookie linebackers. He also had the sixth most solo tackles among rookie linebackers. Raekwon had two forced fumble and one fumble recovery. PFF rated McMillan sixth among all linebackers against the run and no NFL linebacker had more run stops over the final four weeks.

 

Elijah Lee had the third most solo tackles in 2018 among the upcoming 2019 season 23-year-old linebackers with 54. That was out of 65 total tackles. He also had 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 2 passes defended, 1 sack and 1 quarterback hit. That was on just 44% of the defensive snap counts. Pro Football Focus ranked him fifth among NFC West linebackers in slot coverage for yards per snap allowed with just 1.52 yards.

Cornerbacks:
Donte Jackson (CAR)
Marshon Lattimore (NO)

Rookie Donte Jackson had four interceptions, nine passes defended, one forced fumble, one sack, sixty-three solo tackles and one quarterback hit. At the 2018 combine Jackson was in a three way tie for the fastest forty out of all players (4.32). Over the last five years Jackson is one of only ten defensive backs that in their rookie year had 3+ interceptions, 5+ passes defended and 50+ solo tackles.

In his 2017 rookie year Marshon Lattimore  made the NFL All-Rookie Team, made the Pro Bowl and was selected AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. In the 2018 regular season Lattimore had 2 interceptions, 12 passes defended, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 49 solo tackles and a tackle for loss. In the playoffs he added another two interceptions. In his final college year and first year starting Lattimore was targeted 35 times  and credited with 14 passes defensed, including four interceptions. at his 2017 combine Lattimore was in the top three among cornerbacks for the forty (4.36), vertical jump (38.5) and broad jump (11′).

Safeties:
Derwin James (LAC)
Minkah Fitzpatrick (MIA)

In his 2018 rookie season Derwin James made the NFL All-Rookie Team, the First-Team All Pro and the Pro Bowl. He recorded 3 interceptions, 13 passes defended, 3.5 sacks, 75 solo tackles, 105 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 6 quarterback hits. Only six rookies in NFL history recorded numbers like that.

Minkah Fitzpatrick had nine passes defended and two interceptions his 2018 rookie year.  He returned one interception 50 yards for a touchdown. Fitzpatrick played all over the secondary in 2018 to fill holes due to injury or performance. His former head coach, Nick Saban, at the Senior Bowl last year said he thought Fitzpatrick would best be utilized at free safety.

There we have the all 23 -year-old team. The teams that have players are as follows:

One Player – ATL, BUF, CLE, DAL, LAC, NO, NYJ, SEA, TB, TEN

Two Players – ARI, CAR, GB, IND, JAX, SF

Three Players – MIA

Zero Players – NWE, CIN, BAL, PIT, HOU, OAK, DEN, KAN, NYG, WAS, PHI, MIN, CHI, DET, LAR

 

Less Than Twenty-Four Days And Running Back Peak Year

There are less than twenty-four days to the Hall of Fame Game and the unofficial start of the 2019 season. I ran a little behind in these posts and hope to catch up. Today I look at running backs in the league that are in the supposed peak age year of 24. Here is just one of many articles that put the peak age for a running back at 24 years – socalledfantasyexperts.com. There are thirty-eight running backs under contract in the NFL that are or will be 24 years old for most of the 2019 season. Here is a blurb on each one. They are sorted by decreasing average salary as posted on spotrac.com.

Leonard Fournette (JAX) – If Fournette stays healthy he has the potential to justify the fourth overall pick. Over his first two seasons he has the ninth scrimmage yards per game. However his yards per carry and yards per touch are not special. His 3.69 yards per carry ranks 34th among backs that have rushed for 1000+ yards over those two seasons. His 4.3 yards per touch ranks 48th among backs that had 1000+ yards from scrimmage over those two seasons.

Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) – In his rookie year (2016) Elliott had the third highest rushing yards by a rookie running back ever and the third highest yards per game. His 5.09 average that rookie year was 12th best among all rookie running backs in nfl history for rookies that rushed for 1000+ yards. Over his three year career his 101 rushing yards per game is tops. Over that time period his 4.66 rushing yards per attempt is third best for backs that had 2000+ rushing yards.

Sony Michel (NWE) – In his rookie season Michel came on strong in the post season. He had the third best post season yards per carry (4.73) among backs with over 30 rushing yards. He scored the most rushing touchdowns (6) among running backs in the post season since 1999. His 336 rushing yards was the fourth most in the post season since 1999.

Dalvin Cook (MIN) – In his rookie year (2017) Cook tore his ACL in week 4 and was out for the season. In 2018 he missed five games due to a hamstring injury. When healthy over the two seasons Cook had the 11th best yards per rushing attempt (4.68) for backs with 800+ yards over the two seasons. He had 305 receiving yards in 2018. Cook had the 14th best yards per touch among backs that rushed for 800+ yards over the 2017-2018 seasons. Pro Football Focus reports that Cook has averaged 0.25 forced missed tackles per touch, a mark that leads all 85 NFL backs with 100 or more touches since 2017. He also ranks 18th among the same group of backs in yards after contact per touch (3.0). A fully healthy season could be a record setting one for Cook.

Kareem Hunt (CLE) – Kareem Hunt is currently suspended for the first eight games of 2019 due to violating the league’s personal conduct policy regarding a video that appears of him in a violent altercation with a woman in a hotel . Hunt was let go by the Chiefs after 11 games in 2018 due to the incident. A query of running backs that over the 2017-2018 season had 70+ rushing yards per game, 25+ receiving yards per game, 4.5+ yards per rush attempt and 8+ yards per reception yields just two backs. They are Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley.

Alvin Kamara (NOR) – A dual threat running back, Kamara is one of only thirteen backs ever to have 1500+ scrimmage yards in each of their first two years. He is the first one to do so since Adrian Peterson accomplished this in 2008.

James Connor (PIT) – A workhorse for the Steelers, Connor had the sixth highest snap count among running backs in 2018 despite missing three games due to injury.  Connor had the sixth highest attempts per game in the league.

Ito Smith (ATL) – In college (2014-2017) Smith was a dual threat workhorse. Over the five season period of 2013-2017 he was the only player to rush for 1000+ yards and have 300+ receiving yards for three seasons.  He lists as the 2nd back on non-official Falcon depth charts for 2019.

Samaje Perine (WAS) – Perine is a strong, athletic back. He placed first in the 2017 combine in the bench press (30) among running backs and was 10th and 11th in the short shuttle and 3-cone. He made Bruce Feldman’s annual list of “freaks” of college football in 2015. He has done 10 sets of 10 reps bench press of 225 lbs. In 2015 he lifted a Smart car so a lady could change the tire without a jack. Perine only had 11 touches in 2018 and displayed some concern for fumbles. He had strong competition to make a roster spot.

Tarik Cohen (CHI) – A dual threat back, Cohen had 1,169 yards from scrimmage in 2018.  At 179 lbs Tarik Cohen was the fourth lightest running back to come out if the combine (since 2000) and play in the NFL. The Bears play him to his strength which is receiving either as a wide receiver, slot or out of the backfield.  He is nicknamed the “Human Joystick” for his quick cuts. According to Pro Football Focus in 2017 Cohen was third among running backs in forced missed tackles.

Jamaal Williams (GB) – Williams is a capable back in all phases of the game – rushing, receiving and blocking. He is one of only ten active backs that have had 450+ rushing yards and 200+ receiving yards in both of their first two seasons. In week sixteen against the Jets, Williams had 95 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards and a rushing touchdown.  Williams is a downhill, physical runner. “We look for guys who are violent, one-cut guys,” backs coach Sirmans said, “which kind of fits what Jamaal is.”

Cullen Gillaspia (HOU) – This one is a feel good story in the tradition of Rudy. Fullback Cullen Gillaspia was drafted in the seventh round of the 2019 draft. Cullen served as the 12th Man every Texas A&M game in ‘16, ‘17 and ’18, a streak of 38 consecutive games. The 12th Man tradition is one where a walk-on special teams player wears the No. 12 jersey to represent the entire student body.  Gillaspia was named Special Teams Co-MVP honors in 2016 and won the Special Teams Most Impactful Award in 2018. Cullen was team captain for all 13 games in 2017. He switched to fullback from linebacker for the 2018 season as he would always play any role to get on the field. In his new role he caught five passes for 52 yards, rushed for 33 yards on 5 attempts and had one rushing touchdown. In his last game for the Aggies,the Gator Bowl win, Gillaspia scored on a 13 yard run for a touchdown. It was the first time a 12th man ever scored an offensive touchdown. Former teammate Trayveon Williams – “He broke about three tackles and he was determined to get in the end zone and he got in, and if you couldn’t see, this whole team, we erupted and we all ran to him, and that was a big moment for us and this university.” Gillaspia’s nfl.com draft profile states – “Plays like his hair is on fire at all times”.

Aaron Jones (GB) – Jones’ 5.47 yards per rush attempt was the third highest in the league for running backs with 64+ rushing attempts.  On that list Jones had the higher attempts, yards and rushing touchdowns than the two players above him. Jones had 22 runs of 10+ yards in 2018. Here is a clip of all of them.


Paul Perkins (NYG) – Perkins missed the 2018 season with a torn pectoral muscle. This is a critical pre-season for Perkins to make a roster spot. He has taken first-team reps during spring camp as the Giants rest Saquon Barkley. Perkins has shown explosiveness and good routes in spring training. If he keeps that up in preseason he could advance up the depth chart behind Barkley. In his college years (2013-2015) Perkins broke 73 tackles on 236 carries back in 2015. In his last two seasons in college Perkins had 2,915 rushing yards at 5.99 yards per carry. Perkins was 20th in the nation in rushing touchdowns in his last year of college and converted 29% of his red zone rushing attempts into touchdowns.

Jordan Howard (PHI) – After making the 2016 NFL All-Rookie Team with 1,313 rushing yards, a 5.2 yard per carry average, 752 yards after contact and 40 missed tackles his production has decreased each season. In 2018 Jordan had 935 rushing yards, a 3.7 yard per carry average and 23 missed tackles. One area Jordan did excel in 2018 was in the red zone. He had a total of 9 rushing touchdowns in 2018 and ran for a first down or touchdown on 44% of his red zone rushing attempts.

Dalyn Dawkins (TEN) – Dawkins signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL draft. In four years in college Dawkins converted 76% of his 17 third down and 1-3 yards-to-go rushing attempts. In his last year of college (2017) Dawkins was 14th in rushing yards or 10+ yards. His 6.2 yards per carry was 18th in the nation for backs with 1000+ rushing yards. Twenty-two percent of his 2017 plays from scrimmage went for 10+ yards. He was seventh in long plays from scrimmage.

 

Roc Thomas (MIN) – Thomas signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In his final year at Jacksonville State, Thomas rushed for 1,065 yards at 5.98 yards per attempt and had 13 rushing touchdowns. He scored 1-2 touchdowns in nine of his twelve games. In college Thomas displayed burst to takeoff, good lateral agility and ability to finish runs running thru contact. He also showed good hands receiving at the combine.

Trey Edmunds (PIT) – Trey Edmunds signed as an undrafted free agent with the Saints following the 2017 draft. Edmunds had good Pro Day numbers meeting running back target goals in the forty, twenty and ten yard dash, as well as the 3-cone drill. Here is a screen pass that shows good contact balance.


Brian Hill (ATL) – Hill had a monster final year in college in 2016 where he rushed for 1,860 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns. That was good for 3rd and 4th in the nation respectively. In 2018 on the Falcons Hill rushed for 157 yards at a 7.9 yards per attempt average. Hill is a physical runner, lets his blockers lead him and picks a a lane and goes. Here is a clip showing these traits.


Wes Hills (ARI) -Hills signed as an undrafted free agent following a camp invite as a tryout after the 2019 draft. After transferring to Slippery Rock for the 2018 season Hills rushed for 1,714 yards at 6.97 yards per attempt and 17 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 180 yards per game with 13 touchdowns over last seven games. Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz – ““The biggest compliment I can give Wes Hills is that he came here one year, and this team voted him team captain, That’s because everything Wes does is with a relentless attitude and he has an intense work ethic. Wes can block and he’s great at catching the ball on third downs.

“The biggest compliment I can give Wes Hills is that he came here one year, and this team voted him team captain, That’s because everything Wes does is with a relentless attitude and he has an intense work ethic. Wes can block and he’s great at catching the ball on third downs. That’s what made him so attractive at the all-star games.

Anytime you’re out of football, and he was off for a year, you get rusty. By our sixth game, against nationally ranked Indiana of Pennsylvania, Wes singlehandedly broke tackles left and right. I can’t remember a time anyone tackled Wes behind the line of scrimmage. He just better and better from there.

Wes is a freak and he proved that in the NFLPA game. He’s never had a significant injury. Any NFL team who gets Wes, they’re going to get a worker who likes to punish people when he gets the ball. I love his violence when he has the ball. Also, they’re going to get someone who likes proving people wrong.” – Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz

Valentine Holmes (NYJ) – Holmes is a former professional rugby league footballer who played as a winger or fullback for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the National Rugby League.  He left rugby In November 2018 to pursue his dream to one day play in the NFL. In April of 2019, Holmes was signed by the New York Jets as part of the NFL’s international pathway program. Holmes was a superstar in the National Rugby League. He was signed at the age of 17, represented his country in the World Cup and set records with five tries (touchdowns) in the quarterfinals and six in the semifinals. He has speed and ran in the high 4.4s in the forty. Each team in the AFC East, which was chosen at random for this year’s program, has an overseas player on its roster. Holmes is eligible for a practice squad exemption though his goal is to make the 53 man roster.

Darrel Williams (KAN) – Williams was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In his senior year in college (2017) Williams was above average among running back draft prospects in

  1. receiving yards per game (25.5),
  2. Receiving attempts to total attempts (13.7%),
  3. rushing first downs to rush attempts (26.2%),
  4. long scrimmage plays to total attempts (17.3%),
  5. touchdowns to total attempts (5.4%),
  6. yards per carry (5.66) and
  7. yards per reception (14.4).

In 2018 he had 44 rushing yards at 3,4 yards per attempt.

Mike Boone (MIN) – Boone signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In 2018 he had 47 rushing yards at a 4.3 yard average. His best year in college was his sophomore year in 2015. He rushed for 721 yards at 7.2 yards per carry and had nine rushing touchdowns. His 7.2 average was 13th in the nation. In his later college years Boone struggled with injuries. At his Pro Day Boone met 7 of the 8 drill running back target goals.  His 4.44 in the forty would have been third best at the combine among running backs. Here we see Boone driving thru defenders to score.

Mike Boone Breaking Tackles

Gus Edwards (BAL) – In his 2018 rookie year Edwards was fifth in the league in yards per rush attempt with 5.2 yards average on 718 total yards. He was Baltimore’s leading rusher.  This is what head coach John Harbaugh had to say about their undrafted free agent rookie – ‘“He definitely has speed, He has good acceleration, he runs hard, he’s a north-south guy, and he’s 240-plus. Yes, he’s doing a good job, and he has that big-back-type build, which is a big plus.”

Justin Jackson (LAC) – In his 2018 rookie season Jackson rushed for 206 yards at 4.1 yards per carry. His 2018 draft profile on nfl.com speaks of his elusiveness and toughness. In college since 2000, Jackson is one of only five backs to have rushed for four seasons with an average of 4.5+ yards each season. He is the only one to do so with 160+ receiving yards each year.



Boston Scott (PHI) – Scott was drafted by the Saints in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. In his senior year of college Scott had 19% of this total attempts account for long scrimmage plays. That was 14th among running back draft prospects. Related to that he had 29% of his rushing attempts convert to a first down. That was good for seventh among running back draft prospects. Scott put up great numbers at his Pro Day meeting running back drill targets in seven of the eight drills. His forty (4.4) would have been tie for second at the combine. vertical jump (4th), short shuttle (3rd) and three-cone (1st).  He was rated in November 2017 by Pro Football Focus as the 4th most elusive running back in the draft. Scott had the 3rd highest yards after contact (3.90) per attempt among draft eligible backs in 2017.

Quinton Flowers (CIN) – Flowers signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. Flowers was a dual threat quarterback in college.  after being named the starting quarterback to start his sophomore season Flowers rushed for 3,599 yards over three seasons, averaged 6.15 yards per carry and had 41 rushing touchdowns. His combine score of 6.81 in the three-cone was tie for second among running backs. Flowers has seen his share of tragedy in his life.  His father was shot and killed by a stray bullet outside his home when Flowers was 7. His mother died of cancer when he was in high school. In November of 2014, the week Quinton was named USF’s starter for the first time, his older stepbrother was shot and killed while playing football with kids. When asked what helped him though all his adversity Flowers said ““My team helps me. Especially when you’re away from home, away from your family. Every time I take the field they bring a smile to my face. When I take the field each game I take the field for them.”

Justin Davis (LAR) – Davis signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 draft. At his Pro Day Davis’ three-cone drill time of 6.75 would have been second best at the combine among running backs that year. His short shuttle tine of 4.30 would have been sixth. Davis is a former high school sprinter and long-jumper. His draft profile on nfl.com speaks of nimble feet. Quick to gather and cut downhill as zone runner and has the agility to stop on a dime and shake traffic in the backfield to keep runs moving. Good open field vision and elusiveness. Consistent and reliable.

Corey Clement (PHI) – Clement had a very good rookie year in 2017. He is one of only eleven undrafted running backs in NFL history to have 300+ rushing yards, 100+ receiving yards, 4+ rushing touchdowns and 4+ yards per rushing attempt in their rookie year. His post season played a contributing role in the Eagles trip to a Super Bowl victory. In the Super Bowl he had 4 receptions on 5 targets for 100 yards and a touchdown in their 41-33 win over the Patriots. He also had a kickoff return for 25 yards. His second year took a downturn. He only played in eleven games and had 259 rushing yards at 3.81 yards per carry and two touchdowns. He did have 22 receptions for 192 yards and 8.7 yards per reception.

Matt Breida (SFO) – In his two seasons playing in the NFL Brieda has made the top ten in rushing yards per attempt in 2017 (4.4 yards) and 2018 (5.3 yards). In 2018 he was fourth in the league. In 2018 Breida had 27 receptions on 31 targets for an 87.1% catch percent. That percent was second best among backs that rushed for 300+ yards and had 100+ receiving yards. His numbers in 2018 were 814 rushing yards at 5.3 a carry and 261 receiving yards at 9.7 yards per catch. He also had 5 total touchdowns. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the NFL’s fastest play of 2018 was Breida’s 33-yard run in Week 12, when the former undrafted free agent hit a top speed of 22.09 miles per hour:

Austin Ekeler (LAC) – There were only 17 running backs in 2018 that had 300+ rushing yards and 300+ receiving yards. Ekeler was first on that list in rushing yards per attempt and third for receiving yards per target (7.62). He was the only undrafted free agent on the list. His 5.2 yards per rush attempt was fifth in the league. Ekeler had 958 yards from scrimmage in 2018. According to head coach Anthony Lynn, Ekeler is the strongest player in the Chargers’ locker room. As reported by Pro Football Focus thru November of 2018 Ekeler ranked tied for second in forced missed tackles per touch (0.25) and second in yards after contact per touch (4.01) among the 44 NFL running backs with 100-plus touches on the year.

Donnel Pumphrey (PHI) – Pumphrey was selected by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. He was injured and missed the entire 2017 season. In 2018 he spent a brief period on the Lions practice squad and then was signed to the Eagles practice squad in October. he has yet to play a down in the regular season. In college he was in the top ten in the nation in rushing yards each of his last three years including being number one in his senior year. At the 2017 combine Pumphrey was the lightest running back at 176 lbs. He is still listed at 176 lbs on the Eagles roster.  He ran a 4.48 forty at the combine which was tie for fourth among backs. His nfl.com draft profile speaks of his speed, vision and razor-sharp cutbacks.

Jordan Chunn (DAL) – Chunn was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. He spent his rookie year on the practice squad. In his senior year in college Chunn converted 43% of his 21 red zone rushing attempts into touchdowns. For his college career the number was 33% for a total of 44 red-zone rushing touchdowns. Chunn also displayed good receiving skills out of the backfield and had 28 and 30 receptions his last two years for over 200 yards receiving each year. He showed good hands and the ability to adjust to bad throws. In college Chunn was a physical runner who broke tackles and was hard to bring down.

Mark Thompson (DET) – Thompson signed as an undrafted free agent with Baltimore following the 2018 draft. In 2018 he was on the practice squads of the Ravens and the Jets.  In his senior year Thompson only got 58 attempts but he averaged 5.1 yards per attempt and get three rushing touchdowns.  In college Thompson was tough to bring down, caught the ball well and showed good vision. Here we see him fighting for significant yards after contact.

Thompson is tough to bring down

Dontrell Hilliard (CLE) – signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft.  In 2018 he had 9 receptions for 105 yards and a 90% catch percent.  Hilliard is a solid all-around back. He converted 75% of his 12 third -down-and 1-3 to go attempts in his senior year in college. He made 67% for his college career and his percentage increased each year.  He made a list of 30 college backs in 2017 that had 1000+ rushing yards, 5+ yards per attempt and 100+ receiving yards. Sort the list by receiving yards per reception and Hilliard is fourth (14.4). Sorted by rushing touchdowns he is 13th (12).  Sorted by receiving touchdowns he is tied for 5th (2).  Sorted by receiving yards he does fall to 29th (115). However he doubled that receiving yardage each of his first two years for a career 740 receiving yards.

Jeff Wilson (SFO) – Wilson was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In his 2017 season in college Wilson was above average among draft prospects in

  1. receptions to total attempts (11.3 %),
  2. rushing conversions on 3rd down and 1-3 to go (65%),
  3. touchdowns on red zone rushing attempts (31.6%),
  4. 1st downs to total rush attempts (31.4%),
  5. long scrimmage plays to total attempts (21.7%), and
  6. total touchdowns to total attempts (7.5%).

In addition he averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 1,215 yards. In his 2018 NFL rookie year he had 266 rushing yards at 4.0 yards per carry and 98 receiving yards with an 80% catch rate. Wilson did have fumble issues in college that have carried over into the NFL  with three fumbles in 2018.

Ralph Webb (PIT) – Webb signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. He spent 2018 on the practice squads of the Patriots, Buccaneers, and Steelers.  Webb met all running back target goals in the eight drills at his Pro Day. His Pro Day results would have been in the top 8 for all drills except the 3-cone which would have been 11th. He is a smaller back that runs low, is a downhill tough, hard runner. Twenty-seven percent of his 2017 red zone rushing attempts converted to a touchdown. In the 2018 preseason with the Patriots Webb had two rushing touchdowns against the Redskins and a pair of two point conversions. This comment from Bill Belichick after the game

“I think that’s pretty much what we’ve seen from Ralph all the way through, That’s what he was like at Vanderbilt. He ran hard. He was tough. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got good strength for his size and he runs hard. He got hit a lot down there. He showed us that in the spring and in training camp. He’s a tough kid that runs with good pad level, he’s got good speed, he catches the ball well.”

De’Lance Turner (BAL) – Turner signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 draft. In 2018 he rushed for 4 yards and had two receptions. He got a hamstring injury in October and was placed on injured reserve. He rushed for 1,357 yards in 2017 at Alcorn State which was the second-most in the FCS. Turner also finished second in the country in yards per carry (7.54) and sixth in all-purpose yards per game (146.67). Turner shows speed and quick cuts in his runs. Here is a clip from the 2018 preseason.

 


There you have the twenty-four year old backs for the 2019 season. I will check back and update the article when the 53-man rosters are set.

Twenty-Five Days And The Fourth Quarter

Twenty-Five days to the Hall of Fame Game and the unofficial start of the 2019 season. Today we look at quarters or more specifically teams that win or lose in the fourth or fifth quarter.

There were 84  games with lead changes after the start of the fourth quarter in which the team that went ahead won which amounted to 33% of all games played.

The Saints had the most wins in these games with seven and they lost zero games due to a fourth quarter lead change. The Packers lost the most games due to a fourth quarter lead change with five.

The Saints had the best differential (wins-losses)  of these games at +7. The next best teams of the Cowboys and Titans had a differential of +4.  Both the Cowboys and the Titans only lost one game in 2018 due to a lead change after the start of the fourth quarter. The teams with the worst differential were at -3 and were the 49ers, Falcons, Jaguars, Jets and Packers.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees is second all-time in game winning drives with 48 and only six behind first place Peyton Manning. In his game winning drive against the Browns the Saints took over at their 25 with 1:16 remaining. He hist a deep pass to Ted Ginn for 42 yards on the second down. They kick a field goal to win. In the Steelers win the Saints take over at the Steeler 46 with 4:06 remaining and down by 4. Brees complete 6 of ten passes including a deep one to Ted Ginn for 25 yards. He hits Michael Thomas for two yards and the go-ahead touchdown with 1:28 remaining.

Another team that does well in crunch time is the Titans. They have been tied for second each of the last two years in number of games they won with a fourth quarter lead change.  Over the last two seasons the Titans are tie with the Saints with 10 games they won after a 4th quarter lead change.

The Titans have two key crunch time players in quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Derrick Henry.  Mariota can beat you with the pass or he can scramble. In game changing  drives against the Eagles he ran for a total of 32 yards and against the Jets for a total of 38 yards. In OT against the Eagles down by three with 4:51 left on 4th and 15 he completed a  deep pass to Taywan Taylor for 19 yards. On that drive he ran for 24 yards, completed 5 of 12 passes, and drove the team 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and eating up all but 17 seconds of the 6:19 that was on the clock.

In three of the five game winning drives Derrick Henry played a large role. In the Houston game he rushed for 20 of the 62 yards that setup the go-ahead field goal. In the Jaguars game he rushed for 33 of the 65 yards that set up that go-ahead field goal. Then in the Redskins game he rushed for 33 of the 40 yards that scored the go-ahead touchdown. This is from Henry’s 2016 draft profile on nfl.com – “Rarely fatigues and wears down defenses as game goes on. Had 29.6 percent of his explosive carries come in the fourth quarter. ”

The Falcons and the Bills had the most games where they took the lead during a fourth quarter lead change and wound up losing the game. They each had three games in which that happened.

The Vikings were the only team that did not have a lead change either way after the start of the fourth quarter. You could have turned off the Viking games after the 3rd quarter ended.

A very cool site to look at these scenarios and the query I used is Pro Football Reference.



Twenty Six Days And 26 Records

Twenty -six days to the Hall Of Fame Game and the unofficial start of the NFL season. Today I look at records related to the number 26. All records are for regular season games only.

  1. Quarterback/Kicker George Blanda played 26 years in the NFL – the longest ever. Kicker Adam Vinatieri is now at 23 years and closing. Vinatieri would have to play until age 49 to tie Blanda.
  2. The average age of an NFL player is 26 years old.
  3. Detroit quarterback Mathew Stafford is the only active quarterback and one of only three ever to reach 20,000 passing yards by age 26.
  4. Free agent running back Marshawn Lynch, Bills LeSean McCoy and Redskin Adrian Peterson are the only active backs that rushed for 6,000 yards by the age of 26. They are three of just twenty-four backs that have accomplished that since 1950.
  5. Buccaneers Mike Evans, Texan DeAndre Hopkins, Falcon Julio Jones and Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald are the only active players that had reached 6,000 receiving yards by age 26. They are four of six total since 1950.
  6. Texan JJ Watt and Bronco Von Miller are the only active players that reached 60 sacks by age 26. They are two of only four that accomplished this since 1982.
  7. Texan JJ Watt, Buccaneer Lavonte David, Cardinal Terrell Suggs and Bronco Von Miller are the only players since 1999 that reached 80 tackles for loss by age 26.
  8. Panther Luke Kuechly and Buccaneer Lavonte David are the only active players that reached 400 solo tackles by age 26. They are two of only 16 players to accomplish that since 1999.
  9. The Steelers are the only team with an active streak of at least 26 games with a passing touchdown. They are at 27 games. The Chargers were the only other team in 2018 that had such a streak but it ended 12/13 at 27 games.
  10. The Panthers were the last team that had an active streak of 26+ games with 100+ rushing yards. Their streak ended in 2016 at 30 games. Before that streak was the Steelers whose streak ended in 1977. Only seven teams ever had a streak of 26+ games.
  11. The Steelers are the only team with an active streak of at least 26 games with 200+ passing yards. Their streak is at 38 games. Only six teams ever had a streak of 26+ games.
  12. The Buccaneers are one of only two teams ever that had a losing streak of 26+ games. Their streak ended in 1977 at 26 games.
  13. In 2018 two active streaks ended for teams with 26+ games that had a score margin of 7 points or less. The Browns had a 44 game streak end in November in which they went 3-40-1. The Raiders had a 28 game streak end in December in which they were 7-21. There were only 27 such streaks in NFL history,
  14. The Raiders are one of only five teams ever to have a streak of 26+ games throwing an interception. Their streak was the last one and it ended in 1976 at 27 games. Kenny Stabler was the quarterback for most of those games.
  15. The Raiders were the last team to have a streak of 26+ games in which their quarterback was sacked at least twice. The streak was 26 games and it ended in November 1983. Their quarterback was Jim Plunkett for most of those games. Plunkett was sacked a total of 87 times from 1981 thru 1983.
  16. The Packers are the only team since 1950 to have a streak of 26+ games with a rushing touchdown. Their streak was 35 games and it ended September 1962. Their backs were two Hall Of Famers of Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor.
  17. The Saints were the last team to have a streak of 26+ games of 300+ scrimmage yards. Their streak was 30 games and ended in November 2015. They are one of only nine teams to ever accomplish such a streak. This was accomplished with players such as QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, WRs Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Willie Snead, and TEs Jimmy Graham and Ben Watson.
  18. The Packers are the only team since 1950 with a streak of 26+ games limiting the opponent to 200 passing yards or less. Their streak was for 27 games and ended in September of 1978.
  19. Over the last five seasons two teams have had a streak of 26+ games limiting the opponent to two passing touchdowns. The Jaguars had a 26 game streak that ended in December 2017. The Steelers had a 28 game streak that ended in November 2017.
  20. The Rams had the last streak of 26+ games grabbing an interception. Their streak was for 26 games and ended in October 1969. They had defensive back Eddie Meador on the team. Meador is the Rams all-time interception leader with 46. Meador made the Hall Of Fame 1960 All Decade Team.
  21. Three teams have active streaks ongoing for 26+ games with a sack of the opponent. The Cardinals (52 games), Steelers (41 games) and the Browns (33 games) all have active streaks. The Chargers had an active streak of 32 games but it ended in November 2018. Since 1950 ninety-seven teams had an active streak of 26+ games.
  22. Only eight teams had a streak of 26+ games holding the opponent to 26 points. The last streak ended in 2002 with the Eagles’ thirty game streak.
  23. Two receivers have an active streak of 26+ games with 3+ receptions. Saints Michael Thomas has a 47 game streak and Browns Odell Beckham has a 57 game streak. Other streaks that ended in 2018 were Keenan Allen (36), Golden Tate (35), Jarvis Landry (41) and Larry Fitzgerald (50).
  24. Drew Brees has an active streak of 88 regular season games with a completion percent of 55% or better. That streak is next followed by another streak by Brees of 51 games that ended in January 2012. The next highest streak is Mathew Stafford at 37 games that ended in October 2017.  A total of eleven NFL quarterbacks all time have had a streak of 26+ games at a 55% or better completion percent.
  25. In 2017 three quarterbacks ended a streak of 26+ games in which they were sacked. Mathew Stafford and Matt Ryan had streaks of 35 games that ended in December and November 2017 respectively. Those streaks were the fifthe longest in NFL history. The other quarterback was Russell Wilson who ended a 29 game streak. In total there have been 28 quarterbacks in NFL history to have streaks of 26+ games with a sack. Phillip Rivers had two streaks of 32 games each which roughly spanned the seasons of 2012-2013 and 2015-2016.
  26. I wanted to conclude with a bang. So I checked for consecutive wins of 26+ games and got none. The record for the most consecutive regular season wins goes to the Indianapolis Colts who from 11/02/2008 to 12/17/2009 won 23 consecutive regular season games. The 2009 season they went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Saints. That Colts team had All-Pro players of quarterback Peyton Manning, tight end Dallas Clark and defensive end Dwight Freeney. The most recent streak of consecutive wins of 15+ games was the Carolina Panthers. They won every regular season game from 12/07/2014 to 12/20/2015 for 18 consecutive wins. They also went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Broncos with Peyton Manning. That Panthers team included All-Pro players of Cam Newton,  running back Mike Tolbert, linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, and cornerback Josh Norman.



Twenty-Seven Days And The Run Game

Twenty-seven days to the Hall Of Fame Game and the unofficial start of the 2019 season. Today I look at the run game. The idea for this post came while looking for a 27 topic. The number 27 would be the jersey number for a running back or defensive back. Thereby the correlation as one rushes and the free safety defends the run.

In 2018 seven of the eight teams that won their division were in the top ten teams for highest run play selection percent. It went from Dallas at ten with 43% up to the Ravens at three with 48.2%.  The league average was 41%. For the division winners the percentage of rushing touchdowns to total touchdowns went up from the league wide 34% to 38%. Six of the eight division winners were in the top ten for percent of rushing attempts that made 1st down. Five of the division winners were the top five teams in defensive least rushing yards allowed per game and in smallest opponent rushing average. Though a passing league the top teams still value the run game.

Four teams that for the last five seasons have valued the run game are the Bills, Bears, Cowboys and Titans. The Bills have a current streak of four seasons of 450+ rush attempts per season. There have been 100 streaks of 450+ rush attempts in NFL history but only seven that ended in this decade. The Bills have been in the top four teams each of the last four seasons in percentage of plays rushing the football. Dallas has been in the top ten each of the last four seasons. Of those four teams only the Titans have been in the bottom ten teams once for rush play selection over the last five years. Another team that came close to the top four teams is the Carolina Panthers, The Panthers ended a six year streak of 450+ rush attempts per season in 2017.



The teams that have been in the bottom ten teams in run play selection over the last five seasons are the Browns, Lions, Packers and Giants. Of those four the Giants had the least number of times in the top ten with only one out of the five seasons. The Giants have been in the bottom ten each of the last three seasons.

The Tennessee Titans had the second highest percent of rushing plays in 2018 (48.5%). For running backs with 800+ rushing yards Derrick Henry had the seventh best yards per attempt (4.93) and the third most rushing touchdowns (12).  The Titans play a smashmouth offense that values the run game. The Titans had the seventh least use of the traditional 11 personnel which uses 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end and 1 running back. They mixed it up with other formations more geared towards run plays. They had the fourth most use of 12 personnel (26%) which has 1 running back, 2 tight ends and 2 wide receivers.  They ran 60% of the time in that formation with a 47% success rate. The Titans had the second most use of the 13 personnel (13%) which has 1 running back, 3 tight ends and 1 wide receiver. They ran on 82% in that formation with a 35% success rate. They used a 21 personnel only 2% of the time but had a 71% success rate running in that formation. The 21 personnel uses 2 running backs, 1 tight end and 2 wide receivers.

 

The Panthers were in the top ten teams in run play selection for three of the last five seasons. In 2018 the Carolina Panthers had the least amount of negative runs and they were in the top ten for least negative runs in every direction. The Patriots were the only other team that achieved the same. Both teams had 24 negative runs and the league average was 39. After week three Panthers running back McCaffrey had carried for 46 attempts and 271 yards at 5.89 yards per attempt and he had only one carry that lost yards. His nfl.com draft profile said – “Won’t dance on short runs — gets it downhill. Feet constantly in motion”.  McCaffrey  was one of 10 backs  over the last four seasons that have rushed for 1000+ yards at 4.5+ yards per carry in one of their first two years. The Panthers have the second highest success percentage (60%) on run plays from 11 personnel which they  are in 73% of plays and run in that formation 31% of the time.

The 2018 wildcard team Seattle Seahawks were the top team in run play selection percent with 52.4%. They were in the top ten teams in the number of 10+ yard rushes and 1st down rushes in all directions. The Seahawks were number one in total 10+ yard rushes.  Running Back Chris Carson is one of only 80 backs in NFL history to have 1,000+ rushing yards at 4.5+ yards per carry in their first two years. He joins Christian McCaffrey as one of 10 over the last four seasons to accomplish those metrics in one of their first two seasons. Carson was a seventh round pick in the 2017 draft who never broke 600 yards rushing in college. Seattle called a run-run-pass sequence more than any other team in 2018 at 26%. They were successful at it 41.2% which was slightly less than the league average for that sequence (43.4%).

The Ravens were the third highest team in 2018 run play percent at 48.2%.  They were the only team in the top ten in power runs in all directions. A power run is defined as rushes on 3rd or 4th down with 2 or fewer yards to go that achieved a first down or TD. Also includes rushes on 1st-and-goal and 2nd-and-goal from the opponent’s 2-yard line or closer. They had 75-80% success on power runs. Pro Football Focus listed Ravens rookie running back Gus Edwards as the top back on rushes off the right guard.  He was running towards Pro-Bowler Guard Marshall Yanda. Edwards averaged 5.2 yards per carry overall which was fifth in the league. The Ravens had a league high five games of 200+ rushing yards. The next team was the Seahawks at three and that was followed by the teams with two. The ability of quarterback Lamar Jackson adds to the rushing threat as he led the league in quarterback rushing yards (695) and attempts (147).

An informative site that provided the personnel data in this post is sharpfootballstats.com.

Twenty-Eight Days And A 28 Year Old Old-School Player

Twenty-eight days to the NFL Hall Of Fame Game and the unofficial start of the 2019 NFL season. Today we take a  look at a 28 year old player that has been a true utility player and a model that other teams may emulate. Wikipedia defines a utility player in sports as a player who can play several positions competently. These players were much more common or utilized in the older days of the NFL.

Saints second year player Taysom Hill played in all 16 of the Saints regular-season games and both of their playoff games in 2018 as a wide receiver, slot receiver, running back, quarterback, tight end, returner and gunner.  He is the epitome of versatility.


In the early days of football players played multiple positions as substitutions were restricted. Chuck Bednarik was one of the last two-way players playing both offense as a center and defense as a linebacker.  Bednarik played until 1962.

The number of seasons a player has had 3+ receptions, 80+ rushing yards and from 3 to 50 pass attempts since 2000 total to 11 seasons. That is over almost two decades. In the prior seven decades from 1930s to 1990s that number is 409.

In the 1930s there were 97 occurrences of seasons meeting the search criteria for offensive skills position versatility shown above. In the 1930s Giants fullback/ halfback Tuffy Leemans  had 3,132 rushing yards on 919 carries (3.4 yards per carry) and 17 rushing touchdowns, 2,318 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns, 422 receiving yards on 28 receptions, and 339 yards on punt and kickoff returns. He also played defense where he had 4 interceptions. “Leemans was probably greater on defense than he was on offense. He was a bugger on defense, all over the field, always in on the action.” – Fellow Hall of Famer Alex Wojciechowicz who played against Leemans. Leemans met the search criteria above for four consecutive seasons. Leemans passed for 966 yards in his college career.



In the 1940s there were 76 occurrences of seasons meeting the search criteria.  Chicago Cardinal halfback Charley Trippi led the NFL in 1948 in all purpose yards. That year he also led the league in yards per carry with 5.4. He completed 4 of 8 passes for 118 yards and caught 22 passes for 228 yards. In college Trippi played quarterback his first year and continued to perform passing all through college. At Georgia he passed for 1,870 yards and had a passer rating of 142.

In the 1950s there were 62 occurrences of seasons meeting the search criteria. In 1959 Giants’ halfback/receiver Frank Gifford completed 5 of 11 passes for 151 yards, rushed for 540 yards at 5.1 yards a carry, caught 42 passes for 768 yards and threw two touchdowns. Gifford met the search criteria for versatility I used for 7 seasons which was tie with Tom Matte for the most seasons. Gifford completed 29 of 63 passes in his career and had a passer rating of 92.5. That is the highest rating by a non-quarterback with that many attempts. Gifford was a quarterback his first year in college at USC and passed in both years for a total of 465 yards.

In the 1960s there were 108 occurrences of seasons meeting the search criteria.  In 1960 Cardinals running back/tight end John David Crow completed 9 of 18 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns,  rushed for 1,071 yards at 5.85 yards a carry and had 25 receptions for 462 yards and three touchdowns. Crow met the versatility search I used for six seasons in the 1960s which was tie for second most. In his final year in college at Texas A&M Crow was in on a couple of passing plays where he completed 6 of 10 for a passing rating of 130.

In the 1970s there were 32 occurrences of seasons matching the search criteria. In 1972 running back O.J. Simpson completed 5 of 8 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 1,251 yards at 4.28 yards per carry and had 27 receptions for 198 yards. His 145.8 passer rating that year was third best in the league and his rushing yards was best in the league. In his first season at USC in college Simpson completed 3 of 6 passing attempts for 33 yards and three touchdowns.

In the 1980s there were 27 occurrences of seasons meeting the search criteria used for offensive weapon versatility. In 1983 running back Walter Payton completed 3 of 6 passes for 3 touchdowns, rushed for 1,421 yards at 4.53 yards per attempt  and six touchdowns,  and had 53 receptions for 607 yards and two touchdowns. Payton made my versatility query for six seasons which was tie for second.

In the 1990s there were 7 occurrences of seasons meeting the search criteria used for versatility from an offensive player. In 1990 Eagles fullback Keith Byars was 4 for 4 in pass attempts with four touchdowns. He rushed for 141 yards at a 3.81 yard average and he caught 81 receptions for 819 yards and three touchdowns. Byars’ 81 receptions that year were the third most in the league and only one short of second. His 610 career receptions ranks fourth among running backs in NFL history. His six career passing touchdowns ranks ninth among non-quarterbacks.

In the 2000s there were 8 occurrences of seasons meeting the versatility search criteria. Chargers running back Ladainian Tomlinson had 1,815 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns in 2006. Both were tops in the league that year. He also had 56 receptions for 508 yards which was fifth most by a running back that year. Tomlinson was 2 for 3 on passes that year with  with two touchdowns and 20 yards. His 2005 season was also pretty good and made the query for versatility also.

So far in the 2010s there are 3 seasons that meet my versatility query. In 2010 Jets quarterback Brad Smith made it. The other two occurred in 2018 with quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Derrick Henry. In 2018 Titan back Derrick Henry completed 2 of 3 pass attempts for 14 yards, rushed for 1,059 yards at a 4.9 yard average and caught 15 passes for 99 yards.

The players that emerge among the best chosen here for each decade is that of a running back. However three of the nine had significant quarterback experience in college. Another two had some passing experience in college. The query was a little biased towards rushing as that had the highest threshold of 80 yards for a season. However when I put that threshold down to only three rush attempts it only pulled in 15 additional player seasons over the 420.

Looking forward into 2019, besides Taysom Hill and Derrick Henry who are some other prospects to fit into a potential utility player?

The Giants signed quarterback Eric Dungey as an undrafted free agent and have been working him out as a tight end. Dungey’s 754 rushing yards in 2018 was sixth among draft prospect quarterbacks and his 15 rushing touchdowns was second among all quarterbacks. Eric Dungey’s Pro Day results fit within event targets for a tight end for five of his eight events. The starting quarterback job for the Giants is relatively set with Eli Manning who should eventually be followed by first round selection Daniel  Jones.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers  signed quarterback Nick Fitzgerald as an undrafted free agent. In 2018 Fitzgerald’s 1,121 rushing yards was second among quarterbacks. Fitzgerald played receiver in high school until converting to quarterback his senior year. The starting quarterback of the Buccaneers is Jameis Winston.

Receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Saints. Humphrey had 1,176 receiving yards in 2018 which was 15th in the nation. He also completed 3 of 4 passing attempts for 18 yards and 1 touchdown. No draft prospect had more receiving yards and had a passing attempt. He also rushed for 25 yards at an average 4.2 yards per carry and one touchdown..

The Ravens chose quarterback Trace McSorley in round six of the draft. McSorley. In his senior year McSorley rushed for 798 yards at 4.7 yards per carry and scored 12 rushing touchdowns. His 12 rushing touchdowns was eighth in the nation among quarterbacks with 30+ pass attempts. McSorley was a red zone weapon. He converted 39% of his total red zone attempts to touchdowns and 40% of his red zone passing attempts. Both those red zone percentages were tops among draft prospects. The starting quarterback of the Ravens is Lamar Jackson. Taysom Hill spent roughly 10% of his snaps in the red zone. That was a similar percentage for Drew Brees. McSorley could be used in a likewise manner.

The Green Bay Packers signed quarterback Manny Wilkins as an undrafted free agent. Wilkins rushed for 452 yards at an average of 4 yards per carry and scored eight rushing touchdowns. Wilkins had a big rushing play on 20% of his 112 rushing attempts. He is said to have a powerful arm. Aaron Rodgers is the starting quarterback on the Packers.

So there are five prospects that could possibly be utilized in a similar role as Taysom Hill. They fit the scenario as Hill of a late round or undrafted prospect,  can pass the football and either rush or receive, and on a team with an established quarterback. The NFL has a long history of versatile players. Maybe after drifting away from the utility player the success of Taysom Hill may get teams thinking about incorporating a utility player in some plays.

 

In Memory of Jared Lorenzen

Former Giant quarterback Jared Lorenzen passed away on July 3rd 2019 at the age of 38 from complications from an infection.

Lorenzen was a Giant for four years and was Eli Manning’s backup quarterback for two of those years. The Giants signed Lorenzen as an undrafted free agent in 2004. He was affectionately referred to as “The Hefty Lefty”. Jared earned a Super Bowl ring with the Giants in 2007. That year he substituted for an injured Eli Manning in week 2 against the Cowboys. He completed 4 of 8 passes for 28 yards. In the prior season of 2016 Lorenzen was substituted in on 2 games both of which he converted  on a quarterback sneak.

 


Jared holds the University of Kentucky records for career passing yards and single game passing yards,. He is second for career passing touchdowns. Jared is listed three times in the top ten for single season passing yards and for single season passing touchdowns.

Jared is remembered as a fun loving, caring, down-to-earth guy. He struggled to attain a healthy weight. However he documented his attempts and hoped to help others that had similar struggles.

Update of released video On Lorenzen


May he rest in peace and God bless his family.