I haven't posted anything in a while and in wake of a 1-2 start and loosing to the Titans I had some questions. If any of you guys have read some of my post from the offseason you would know I have a thing for advanced statistics. I particularly like Football outsiders because all the data their is free. What I really wanted to know was how much worse are we and who is to blame? Because who doesn't love the blame game? What I found probably won't surprise you because the biggest finding was that our defense sucks!This post started as an continuation of the earlier post about our Dline performance but after looking through it I decided to expand it to a little of everything but I will start with the Dline. After the goose egg that we laid against the Titans the common refrain was "The Dline is under performing and needs to step up" and that is true to a certain extent but what I have seen is that the Dline this season has been quite as bad as that one game suggests.
Looking into Football Outsiders Dline statistics we can see that so far this season our Dline has been much better against the run. They have us ranked 7th overall once our performance is adjusted for opponents, which is pretty impressive considering that last year we rounded out at 15th. So the question for our Dline in the run game is what has changed and is it reasonable to expect us to keep it up? Our ranking is done by adjusted line yards, which I explained in my last post but basically comes down to how much push does the line get, right now we have a ALY of 3.35 where as last year we finished with a ALY of 4.01. I doubt that this will keep up because last year the leading team (Chicago) had a ALY of 3.29, so just speaking from a historical perspective every team should get worse over the year in ALY. The big question is looking ahead if we can still be relatively good at keeping opposing lines from getting a good push? At this point I would say yes. This is because for the rest of the year we only play two teams that have offensive lines in the top half of the league in ALY (Houston and Minnesota). ALY does not cover everything that the Dline does in the run game. The biggest difference that I noted from last year to this year is our Dlines inability to stop the 3rd/4th down and short runs. Last year we were a power house stopping the opposing team 48% of the time while this year we are only stopping the opposing team 25% of the time. I think this will likely swing back into our favor because to this point in the year there have been relatively few situations like that (the perfect 75% reported suggesting either 4 or 8 situations to date).
Now we had a feel that our Dline was doing better against the run but what about getting after the QB? Well this might surprise everyone but we are not far off our overall performance from last year. Last year we were ranked 18th in adjusted sack rate, which is just sacks divided by pass attempts, at 6.5%. So far this year the Dline is ranked 17th with a rate of 5.7%. This does not quiet give a whole picture because any observer would say that our DTs have done well but its really been our DEs that have fallen off. So doing some more digging and visiting our friends over at PFF we find... Holly Shit our DEs suck! According to PFF KVB was the worst DE in week 3 in the league, just being engulfed by Titans OT Michel Ross. Don't worry it was not just him in week three, Avril and Willie Young laid an egg as well. What is even more concerning is that while this was out DEs worse game it was by no means a isolated indecent as was noted in PFFs Game recap. Can we expect a rebound in the future though? Well the truth is that our out of division schedule is going to do us no favors here because Atlanta, Indy, and Houston are all top 10 teams to this point in pass protection. The good news we have 6 division games and all of our division opponents are in the bottom half of the league in pass protection. The other good news? Well Tennessee has is rated as the second best Pass Blocking Oline, partially boosted by our goose egg but still nothing to sneeze at.
At the risk of making this post a novel I am going to plow ahead with what the real problem this season which has been our safeties. I think most of us saw this coming as well but I don't think we have been blaming the safeties nearly enough. People keep talking about needing better corner play but the simple truth is the corners have not been that bad. I know your thinking "You've got to be kidding me" especially when I tell you our pass defense is ranked 25th over at FootballOutsiders. That ranking though is just part of the story, if we use Football outsiders rankings against teams #1 and #2 receivers we see that our starting corners haven't been great or terrible. Against the opposing #1 receiver we are ranked 14th and against the opposing #2 we are ranked 11th. Where we start dropping off is at #3 receivers where we drop to 23rd. This shows a lack of depth which is probably due to injuries, so our starting corners have been... average.
The safeties though is where it gets really scary, they are typically responsibly for the opposing teams TE. It will shock no one when I tell you that we are ranked as a defense 32nd against TE's. Just to compare this to last years play against the TE's we were ranked 8th, which is a huge drop off. The next thought here is that the LBs also have some responsibilities on TEs but when we go over to PFF again we can see that especially against SF our safeties were bad both in the run and the pass. With both Wendling and Coleman turning in bad performances against SF but I have a suspicion neither have turned in a positive performance this year. I will promptly be sending a get well soon card to Delmas. As much as we complain about his angles and lack of big plays its hard to say we are not a better team with him. So how does this look going forward? Not good, of the teams we have played so far only SF is in the top half of the league in passing offense and they are ranked 14th. On the docket we have #1 Atlanta, #3 Houston, and the surprising #9 Minnesota. I also have trouble believing that GB and Chicago's Olines problems will continue to keep them in the bottom half of the league. The bright side? We can continue to expect better corner play with Chris Houston and Bill Bentley back, also possible boosts from Drayton Florance and Chris Greenwood. Overall until Delmas comes back though it looks like we will continue to be a pinata for the opposing TEs
Now I can't completely neglect the LBs so I will quickly say that I have heard a few people voice some complaints about Tulloch so far but he has been as steady as ever, being the only Defensive player to be named as a weekly leader on PFF and has routinely been praised for his play by PFF in the STL and SF games. The only LB to reall look bad so far from a statistical perspective has been Durant who was killed in the SF game because he got stuck in coverage to much.
So in conclusion our Defense so far this year has been much the same as it was last year with the front seven and corners performing about the same. The real problem has been the safety play. At this point I am ready to pass the hat around to send Delmas to Germany for the Kobe Bryant treatment. Any donations?