Featured Linehan's effect on 3rd down, Dez, and the offense

Discussion in 'Fan Zone' started by percyhoward, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. percyhoward

    percyhoward Research Tool

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    This is a revised version of an earlier post, editing out the two games Johnson didn't play in, and adding sacks. The idea is to look only at what the Lions did better than the Cowboys offensively -- gaining yards and converting on 3rd down -- and the role of each team's stud WR in that. It turns out that you can really just boil it down to converting on 3rd down, since they only averaged 1 yard per drive more than we did. (Dallas was much better on 1st and 2nd down than Detroit.)

    Still, this is the stat that shows the area of needed improvement, and shows why Linehan might be able to help:
    3rd Down Conversion %
    Detroit 43.4 (6th)
    Dallas 35.6 (23rd)

    Team Passing

    3rd down only
    Dallas 70 of 137 792 yd 5.8 ypa 8 td 4 int 76.0 rtg 16 sk 4.2 anya
    (to Bryant) 16 of 34 207 yd 6.1 ypa 5 td 0 int 106.3
    Bryant's % of all 3rd-down targets: 25.0

    33.8% of all 3rd-down dropbacks resulted in a 1st down, 10.4% in a sack, and 2.6% in an interception.
    41.2% of Bryant's 3rd-down targets resulted in a 1st down, 0% in an interception.

    Detroit 87 of 159 1202 yd 7.6 ypa 10 td 8 int 79.2 rtg 7 sk 6.0 anya
    (to Johnson) 24 of 49 403 yd 8.2 ypa 4 td 4 int 70.4
    Johnson's % of all 3rd-down targets: 30.8

    39.6% of all 3rd-down dropbacks resulted in a 1st down, 3.6% in a sack, and 4.9% in an interception.
    46.9% of Johnson's 3rd-down targets resulted in a 1st down, 8.2% in an interception.

    There is a lot to digest there, but what it's basically saying is that Dallas was much more conservative on 3rd down than Detroit was in 2013, and a lot less successful. When you compare the pass rating (Dal 76.0, Det 79.2), that's hard to see, but it shows up in ANYA (adjusted net yards per pass attempt). ANYA includes sacks and sack yardage. The Cowboys' ANYA on 3rd down was 4.2, Detroit's was 6.0, and the league's was 5.3. Those numbers are more indicative of the two teams' 3rd-down performance than pass rating, and that's all because of the unusual amount of sacks taken by the Cowboys on this down.

    (That said, the numbers reverse themselves on all other downs, with Dallas at an excellent 7.3, the Lions at 6.5, and the league at 5.9 ANYA. This helps explain why the Cowboys ranked ahead of the Lions in most of the meaningful offensive categories. See below for complete "all other down" stats.)

    10.4% of all Dallas' 3rd-down dropbacks resulted in sacks, compared to just 3.6% for Detroit. It's important to note that this huge difference in sacks is not seen on any other down. It can be attributed to an inability to deal with pressure, especially up the middle, in obvious passing situations, and also to a more conservative approach to 3rd down in general on the part of the Cowboys. Romo seemed much more willing to take the sack on 3rd down than on 1st or 2nd. What effect will Linehan have on these issues, if any, and what role will the #1 WR play?

    On 3rd down, Megatron was targeted 30.8% of the time, compared to 25% for Dez. But it wasn't just the number of targets that separated them, it was the nature of the target. Johnson averaged 8.2 yards every time he was targeted, compared to just 6.1 for Dez. Although that difference in target percentage doesn't carry over to the other downs, the average gain per target does. On all other downs, Dez averaged 8.2 yards per target vs Megatron's 10.1. Is that a reflection of the QB's arm strength/health, the OC's aggresiveness, or the WR's ability? Probably all of the above, and some of those factors influence the others anyway.

    It can't be overstated how risk/reward played a part in the numbers put up by Johnson and Bryant, especially on 3rd down. The pass rating on Dez's 3rd-down targets was 36 points higher than the rating on Megatron's targets. That's significant because of pass rating's high correlation to wins. Although it's impossible to know for sure how many, a lot of the sacks taken by Romo might have otherwise been Dez targets, so that negates the rating difference to a degree. But not to the point where it offsets the TD/INT ratios -- 5/0 for Bryant, 4/4 for Johnson on 3rd down. How much of that is the OC? Probably not much, and that's probably a good thing.

    You also can't overstate the role of the targeted receiver in what the two offenses did on 3rd down. Dallas' 3rd-down pass rating was 106.3 to Dez and 63.0 to everyone else. In fact, on 3rd down, the rating was 104.1 to Dez and Witten, and 50.7 to everyone else.

    I'll pause while that sinks in.

    A big reason the Lions were so much more successful on 3rd down than the Cowboys is that they were able to get other players involved. Detroit's 3rd-down pass rating was 70.4 to Johnson, and 83.1 to everyone else. For the Cowboys, any target not named Bryant or Witten was so bad on 3rd down, that a sack or throwaway was only a slightly worse option. How much effect will the new OC (or "passing game coordinator") have on developing other viable 3rd-down targets, and failing that, will Bryant and Witten maintain their efficiency? That's going to be interesting to see.

    all other downs
    Dallas 305 of 449 3432 yd 7.6 ypa 25 td 8 int 101.7 rtg 19 sk 7.3 anya
    (to Bryant) 77 of 125 1026 yd 8.2 ypa 8 td 2 int 102.3
    Bryant's % of all such targets: 28.2

    35.3% of all 1st-, 2nd-, or 4th-down dropbacks resulted in a 1st down, 4.1% in a sack, and 1.7% in an interception.
    43.2% of Bryant's 1st-, 2nd-, or 4th-down targets resulted in a 1st down, 1.6% in an interception.

    Detroit 237 of 402 2966 yd 7.4 ypa 17 td 11 int 84.6 rtg 16 sk 6.5 anya
    (to Johnson) 60 of 107 1086 yd 10.1 ypa 8 td 5 int 96.6
    Johnson's % of all such targets: 26.6

    33.7% of all 1st-, 2nd-, or 4th-down dropbacks resulted in a 1st down, 3.8% in a sack, and 2.7% in an interception.
    44.9% of Johnson's 1st-, 2nd-, or 4th-down targets resulted in a 1st down, 3.7% in an interception.

    There's no doubt that the Cowboys were better than the Lions on the other downs. Interestingly, Bryant got more of his teams' 1st-, 2nd-, and 4th-down targets than Johnson did. And the Cowboys' pass/run ratio on these downs was 60/40, compared to Detroit's 53/47. In theory, Linehan should bring more balance on these downs, and more shots down the field. If that's the case, would it bring more success to the offense? In 2013, Dallas ranked 2nd in the NFL in conversions on these downs, second only to the Broncos.

    You can argue about how much effect what the 2013 Lions did will have on what the 2014 Cowboys do. We are talking about two different offenses, after all. But the difference in the two offenses becomes less when there is no longer a difference in coordinators.
    coult44, Dash28, Zordon and 18 others like this.
  2. DandyDon1722

    DandyDon1722 It's been a good 'un, ain't it?

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    Great stuff Percy. I think of all the things Linehan might bring to the table one of the more interesting aspects will be how Dunbar can be put in Reggie Bush type of match-ups.

    Again, there is no downside to this hire because if we don't make the playoffs next year you'll hear nothing but crickets in the coaches offices next January.
  3. foofighters

    foofighters Well-Known Member

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    So our new guy is gonna get Witten to run 4 yards further on 3 and 8 so we don't end up with 4th and 4? It's not just Witten that runs this underneath pattern but our QB seems to always go there as well.
  4. casmith07

    casmith07 Attorney-at-Zone

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    Percy, you never fail to amaze with these posts! There is so much more that can't be analyzed objectively using numbers, too, since the game is played by human beings and coached differently at all 32 stops.

    Pretty exciting stuff - any time you shake up some things and try to address issues, it's exciting.
  5. Ntegrase96

    Ntegrase96 Well-Known Member

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    Bryant's passer rating is obviously better on 3rd down situations due to the lack of interceptions thrown, if I'm not mistaken. And I understand that the gaffe has more to do with Stafford than Linehan.

    So the question I have is this...

    What was the difference in field position surrendered between a normal punt vs the interception on 3rd down for the Lions when throwing to Johnson? And thus, what is the difference in percentage that the opposing team would be able to score off an interception vs a normal punt?

    Kind of an involved question but I think it would give good insight (from a numbers perspective) in how aggressive Linehan's routes are and whether or not the risk is worth the reward.
  6. CowboyStar88

    CowboyStar88 Well-Known Member

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    All I know is that Dez is really really good and without him this offense would really suck. You can't just plug another guy in there and expect those type of numbers. I hope the Dez haters let that sink in before they start complaining about his next contract.
    black label and BigStar like this.
  7. khiladi

    khiladi Well-Known Member

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    So we take third down conversion to less points scored and more INTs?
  8. sadams

    sadams Well-Known Member

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    I have one big word for you.


    He is the statistical anomaly that skews the numbers.

    And he still plays for the Lions.
    TwoDeep3 likes this.
  9. CyberB0b

    CyberB0b Village Idiot

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    Thanks for putting in the work. Good job. It will take me a while to read through all that.

    That, and the Lions got to play against the Cowboys defense. I wonder how that 300 yard game from Megatron skewed these numbers.
    TwoDeep3 likes this.
  10. jobberone

    jobberone Kane Ala Staff Member

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    Great post PH. I think Dallas will be more aggressive on 3rd down. And I'm hoping we will have more receivers either be open or be beyond the first down marker more often. Slight tongue in cheek there but not completely. I also think you'll see the RBs more involved.

    If we can get a little more yardage on 1st and 2nd then we should be able to run on 3rd more and I think that will have a big impact on the passing game. We might be able to run more on 3rd anyway if the line blocks as well as I think it can and will.

    Is there any information out there on Linehan's use of stacked receivers and pick plays (which we don't run enough of IMO)?
    BigStar likes this.
  11. percyhoward

    percyhoward Research Tool

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    Great question. And believe it or not, I had originally included that information. I took it out because it ended up being just too many numbers from too many different contexts for the reader to take in.

    Here was the field position for the 4 INT on Johnson's 3rd-down targets:
    1. (3rd and 12) opp 28
    2. (3rd and 10) opp 37
    3. (3rd and 9) Det 23
    4. (3rd and 10) Det 20

    Here was the opponent's field position after the INT:
    1. own 18
    2. own 7
    3. Det 9
    4. Det 34

    On #1, the Lions squandered a FG opportunity that would have tied the game. They lost by 3 points. #2 was just as good as a punt in a game the Lions ended up winning by 30 anyway. #3 would have cost Detroit the game, but their defense held the opponent to a FG in a game the Lions won by 2 points. #4 happened when the Lions were down by 3 with 4:28 left. The opponent scored a TD off it to go up by 10 and secure the game.

    So 3 out of the 4 were game changers, or should have been
    Nirvana, Ntegrase96 and jobberone like this.
  12. jobberone

    jobberone Kane Ala Staff Member

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    That's not what it says. It says hopefully will convert more 3rd downs and score more points with less INTS.
  13. Hostile

    Hostile The Duke

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    Why even dignify that silliness with a response?
  14. percyhoward

    percyhoward Research Tool

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    We ranked 26th in average distance to go on 3rd down. But it wasn't because we were bad on 1st and 2nd, strangely enough. We ranked 3rd in average gain on 1st-and 2nd-down.

    What hurt us with 3rd-down distance was that our 1st- and 2nd-down plays weren't that good unless they actually moved the chains. Fortunately, they moved the chains more often than 30 other teams' did.

    Maybe somebody with all-22 access (and time) will tell us about the types of plays the Lions ran.
    jobberone likes this.
  15. jobberone

    jobberone Kane Ala Staff Member

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    It wasn't just to him but all. Some may wonder in a more serious fashion.
  16. Hostile

    Hostile The Duke

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    Fair enough. I just gave posters here more credit than that. I guess I shouldn't.
  17. jobberone

    jobberone Kane Ala Staff Member

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    Yeah, I saw where we averaged 7 on 1st and 2nd. That does scream a making yardage on 1st and 2nd to average that much considering we had a lot of 3rd and longs. Some of that was penalties. Some just apparent bad play calling, and some just not being consistent for all the other reasons.
  18. jobberone

    jobberone Kane Ala Staff Member

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    Most are knowledgeable.
  19. noshame

    noshame I'm not dead yet...... Zone Supporter

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    Let me boil this down real fast. Romo won't throw the ball down field on 3rd down. How a new passing cord is going to solve that, I can't wait to see.
  20. jobberone

    jobberone Kane Ala Staff Member

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    I'm doing something else but I and others have posted stats that don't reflect that. However, my eye tells me we could throw it downfield more often. I don't place even the majority of that on Romo though. Witten and Dez are your two primary 3rd down backs although I thought Williams got better in general later on. But if you double Dez and take away Witten under then stunt and blitz you can create problems for our offense.

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