Behind the Numbers

keasley45

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 4, 2010
Messages
1,432
Reaction score
560
Location
Cockeysville, Md
So i wanted to take some time to start a discussion around the offense and specifically, the qb position. We're heading into the unknown with two, unproven players competing for the starting job at QB, with at best, limited relevant data to understand their strengths and weaknesses and reasonably forecast how they might do in Hawks Blue and under the guidance of Shane Waldron and his offense. What we do know is that aside from some flashes from Geno last year, the tape we have on both Lock and Geno isnt necessarily inspiring. Mitigating circumstances come into play for both to a degree, but the numbers are there for us to see and evaluate as best as we can. We also know what we've seen over the last few years with Wilson at the helm. Incredible accuracy, arm talent, grit, and an uncanny knack for just making the play. What's less clear is how well the offense was performing overall based on play calls and design. Much of that still cant be pulled out through data and analytics, without also having access to game film and actual game plans, but my hope is that by looking at some simple data, we can better understand what we are seeing on the field and paint a more reasonable picture of what's happening, if not always why.

To start, I thought it might be valuable to take a look at our offense over the last two years with Russ at the helm, to evaluate a few metrics. One that's been talked about a lot, given his height and preference for the deep ball, is depth of target on throws. In Russ's case, its pretty obvious that height didnt define his success in the NFL. But it HAS influenced how he plays. He can make every throw, but prefers to throw outside. He DOES throw to the middle of the field, but those throws tend to be routes like curls, and less layered crossing patterns - a topic for later. Understanding where our offense went with the ball when he was at QB as well as how it performed under Schotty vs Waldron, MIGHT give us some insight as to what we can expect moving forward (dont know this for sure, but maybe). Also, understanding the performance of the offense last year prior to Russ injury vs after vs the offense with Geno might also lend some insight as to just where we are as an offensive system. Again there are dynamics at play that we aren't privy to and never will be, without becoming a member of the team, but we can do what we can with what's available. I will have to do this in chunks as its a lot of info to grab.

First - Russ's depth of target completion percentage on all downs - Pre injury. The dashed line represents the NFL avg over the prior 2 seasons.
Wilson  before injury all downs


And his DOT% on 3rd down pre injury
Wilson  before injury 3rd down

And Wilsons DOT % on 1st and 2nd downs

Wilson  before injury 1st and 2nd  down

The analysis: In a nutshell, from what i can see, Russ was obviously great on 1st and 2nd down in terms of his completion at all depths. But on 3rd down, even before his injury, he became very average and worse inside 20 yards and outside of around 33 yards. This trend is supported by other sites that document Russ's passing proficiency on known passing downs slips considerably relative to other qb 's at his level of ability.

To contrast, here's Geno's chart (not picking sides, but the only comparison we have in our system, under the same coordinator, in the same season, is Geno)

Geno on all downs for the games he played

Geno Smith on all downs

And Geno on 3rd down

Geno smith on 3rd down

What does it say? What i see is a qb playing in the same system, who doesn't have the long ball accuracy nor the attempts that Russ has (playcalling and likely talent) but his performance across all down is fairly predictable and above average. In fact, he's slightly better on throws at around 20 yards on 3rd down than he is on 1st and 2nd. this is likely what Pete and Shane see when they're evaluating his play : a guy who you can pretty consistently count on to do the 'standard' stuff, if not yet the spectacular.

Now you might argue that some of Russ's poor numbers can be attributed to the sacks he absorbs and the resultant, longer 3rd down throws required. But regardless of whether those sacks were self inflicted or a result of poor blocking and required a 3rd a +8 to go play, Geno's sack numbers were pretty high as well, yet, his accuracy on throws out to almost 25 yards was better.

Does this make him a better player? No. But it certainly shows that regardless of target depth, out to 25 yards, and regardless of down, if he throws the ball, there's a good chance it will be completed. And that consistency is something the offense has been lacking. consistency allows the players and coaches to better evaluate who and what is working and use that info to gameplan and make adjustments in game. Neither the plan nor the adjustment can necessraily overcome excessively poor play from a player, especially at the QB position. But the stats to date don's show that that's what we have in Geno. Coachable, predictable, and because of that, the outcome of the game begins to slide toward the control of the coordinator and how effectively he can scheme success on the ground and the air.

And for comparison, Wilson over the entire 2020 season, under Schottenheimer - the guy he apparently wasn't happy with

Wilson 2020 all downs

And Wilson in 2020 on 3rd down

Wilson 2020 3rd down

Will post more later on Lock and DOT% for Russ over the last few games of the season. Its worth mentioning that few QB in the league have the upward trend that Russ shows beyond 30 yards...

What is shows - To me ? - a qb who played much more consistently and predictably across all downs for the 2020 season. Its worth noting in trying to figure out what led to the downward trend in 2021, that Russ was enthusiastic about Waldron. Praised him. And that Pete was enthusiastic about both Shane and Brian, but grew frustrated at the downward trend of the passing game in 2020 and was often fuming at the performance of the offense in 2021 as early as week 2. makes me wonder IF 2020 represented Russ under more control by Schottenheimer and overall better consistency across all downs, and 2021 was Russ exercising his control in the offense with Waldron, does it shed some light onto the reasons behind the erratic swing in performance and play selection last year? Was it Waldron or was it Russ? The data in Russ's own performance and Genos under the same system seems to indicate more consistent play from the position across all downs when operating within the framework of the offense. Again, assuming Russ was doing that in 2020 ( he expressed frustration at being 'stuck' in it -despite) and not doing it in 2021 (he expressed annoyance at being questioned about why HE made the decisions he did with the ball)

For context : 2020 while Russ was cooking : 1st and 2nd downs

Wilson 2020 cooking 1st and 2nd down


And Russ cooking (before Buffalo) on 3rd down

Wilson 2020 cooking 3rd down

Vs Russ post cooking in 2020 on 3rd down (post Buffalo)

Wilson 2020 not cooking 3rd down

And Russ on all downs, Post Buffalo in 2020:

Wilson 2020 not cooking All down

The simple, obvious takeaway is that the play selection obviously skewed toward shallower targets after week 7, and the percentage of passes completed out to 23 yards was above average on all downs and especially good out to 20 yards on 3rd down. It was that shift that allowed the offense to sustain longer drives and bring TOP into balance a bit better.

As a set, taken outside of contextual data like avg drive duration, it would seem that the 1st few charts where Russ was literally off the charts on 1st and 2nd down would be ideal. But there's a correlation in there somewhere between the upward sweep trend that Russ shows and scoring plays - which although good, when they are paired with inconsistent 3rd down play, net a situation where scoring can actually be nullified by the TOP surrendered to the opposition.

Thats all i've got for now.
 

Attachments

  • wilson  before injury all.JPG
    wilson before injury all.JPG
    92.2 KB · Views: 3
Last edited:
OP
OP
keasley45

keasley45

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 4, 2010
Messages
1,432
Reaction score
560
Location
Cockeysville, Md
Unfortunately, data i'snt available for 2021 after our first game against the Cards, but we can do a look back as far as 2018.
 
OP
OP
keasley45

keasley45

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 4, 2010
Messages
1,432
Reaction score
560
Location
Cockeysville, Md
So now, looking at Lock, I thought it probably made the most sense to start with the 5 games he played in 2019 first, to get a sense of how well he threw the ball at short, medium and long distances (same DOT study as with Russ and Geno). For context, i also thought it might be valuable to compare Drew to Josh Allen - another young QB who struggled early in his career, but then took off when he gained a bit more experience and had the benefit of a better relationship with his coaching staff. Graphic shows Drew and Josh combined. Drew over a limited 5 game sample, Josh, for the season:

2019 Josh Allen vs Drew Lock

Its hard to say whether Drew would have maintained his level of performance over an entire season, or whether he may have improved. But in his first few starts, he wasnt spectacular, but he was better than Josh (or comparable) out to 20 yards and then significantly better from there out. Now the comparison should be tempered by the fact that Josh's numbers weren't spectacular (3000+ yards, 59% completion, 20/9 TD to INT). Good, but not great. Acceptable for a QB in his second year. The fact that drew threw for 1020 yards, 7 TD / 3 int's, and a 63% completion percentage in his first year is notable in the comparison. Over a season, maintaining that performance would have yielded 3060 yards, 21 TD and 9 Ints, 63% complete. Not bad, and better than what Josh did in his second year. You might think then , that if everything else was equal, and each QB had a siimlar trajectory in terms of their improvement, season to season, that Drew might be ahead in his growth. But the world doesn't always function in a linear fashion. The following year, Drew's coaching staff changed as did his offense. A Covid stricken season also truncated training camp activities and so Drew went from a position of what might have been strength, to essentially starting over in an unfamiliar system, with a staff that, by all accounts, didnt connect with him well, nor provided the degree of mentorship he received the year prior. Adding to the challenging year, Drew's best wr option would be J Jeudy, in his first season, with the same limited time to practice and become accustomed to the offense. Josh, on the other hand, entered the following year with 2 years of experience in Sean McDermott and Bryan Daybol's system along with seasoned Stefon Diggs as his new primary weapon - one of the best in the game.

The results are predictable:

2020 josh allen v drew lock

Josh's accuracy increased drastically at all depths, maintaining an above avg rate out to almost 35 yards, while Drew regressed considerably, falling well below average at all depths. So the question obviously is - can Drew reset the table in Seattle and build on a start that was better than what Josh Allen showed in his second year in a stable system, with consistent coaching? Again, each qb has his own specific strengths and weaknesses that ultimately dictate how high their respective ceilings will be, so an answer is impossible to accurately predict. What we can say for sure is Drew played pretty well coming off the bench in his rookie season, and then regressed the following year. How one can say that the shortened preseason and failure of team leadership that would occur the following two seasons had NO effect on his performance is difficult to understand. In my view, the question is - how much of Drew's regression was coaching.
 

toffee

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 9, 2016
Messages
5,180
Reaction score
509
Location
SoCal Desert
Great post, even by your standard!! Long but informative read, totally enjoyed it. As for Drew, I am not sure about his footwork and poised under pressure. Most of his misfires were under pressure which often led to erroneous footwork?
 
Top