FanPost

Bye Week Analysis: Falcons Running Game

Immediately off the bat let me tell you our running game is not good(as if you didn’t already know). As mentioned before though,we can make do with it as long as the passing game keeps humming along but we need to keep it at least at a league average level and it is going to be a struggle. On to the details…Keep in mind the stats I’m putting up are for non-blowout situations (no team leading by more than 14 points) – so they are different from what you would see in ESPN.com or NFL.com.

The overall average for the run game has gone from 4 yards per carry (YPC) in 2011, which is barely acceptable, to 3.5 YPC this year, which is NOT. The NFL average in 2012 is 4.1 YPC. . In addition, the % of runs resulting in 1st downs has gone down from 22.7% in 2011 to 19.5% this year (NFL average=22.6%. The fumble rate has also doubled (0.8% to 1.8%) but I think that’s a statistical anomaly that will correct itself through the season. MT has traditionally been good at holding on to the ball - fumbling only 1% of the time. The NFL average is 2%.

That said, Turner (3.8YPC) is still comfortably outperforming his primary backup Jaquizz Rodgers (2.2 YPC) despite Rodgers getting about 20% of the carries. Turner has 68% of the carries with the remainder being WR end arounds (they haven’t been very successful either) and QB scrambles. One of the problems is that while Quiz is quite shifty and a surprisingly tough runner, he isn’t really fast. As a result, we really don’t have a threat to turn the corner and hurt the defense. We need somebody like Jerious Norwood - just, you know, not as injury prone. Using Antone Smith may possibly help, but I haven’t seen any indications from the coaches that they will do this and I suspect they have some good reasons for it. In any case though, we do need a speed back. On a related note, Turner’s average (which was a respectable 4.3 YPC last year) has been declining and has gone below the acceptable average for an average NFL RB - it might be wise to consider drafting another RB next year.

However, that doesn’t help us this year so I (reluctantly) consulted the advanced stats database at FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS to see if I could glean some more information and/or solutions for our problems. I’m going to look at two sets of stats: Line vs RB responsibility and Directional run stats, You can get more details about the stats here.

Fair warning: These are charting stats; as in some dude watching film, charting plays and as such they are thus subjective and subject to possible bias but in the absence of any other options I think they were worth a look. Also, these include all game situations including blowout situations (one team leading by more than 14 points).

Line v/s RB responsibility (numbers in block letters especially need improvement)

Stat

Explanation

Value

NFL Avg

Rank

adj line yds

amt RB yds the OL should be credited

4.03

4.13

15

Power Success

% success in short yardage situations

33%

63%

32

Stuffed

% of time RB stopped for no gain

14%

19%

5

2nd level yds

indicates RB elusiveness/difficulty to tackle

0.95

1.03

25

Open field yds

indicates RB speed

0.52

0.65

22

The gist is that the OL is performing below average according to the guys at FO, but only slightly. With one exception, short yardage situations (Power success). The Falcons are ranked dead last – a full 30% lower than average!! Put it this way we are half as good as an average NFL offense at converting in short yardage situations.

Apart from that(!!!) the OL is not the problem. (Update: PFF has a new article ranking the offensive lines. The Falcons are ranked 9th in run blocking, though they haven't mentioned how they arrived at their numbers, so...proceed with caution. Or you know, get a PFF subscription and check their numbers out).

It seems the big failures have come in 2nd level and in the open field. The open field problems I get since Turner has looked slowish in the open field for a couple of years now but he compensated by being a bowling ball who was difficult to tackle. I would have expected the second level performance to be much better. One point I would like to mention, about second level yards. Our linemen have not been as good at getting to the second level and blocking the LBs and with Polite injured it’s possible that Turner didn’t get good blocking downfield. If true, expect the 2nd level yards number to increase with Polite’s return. Unfortunately, the run defenses we face the rest of the year are going to be much tougher than the ones we’ve faced so far (barring the Saints of course!).

Directional Run Stats (numbers in block letters especially need improvement)

Direction

YPC

NFL Avg

Rank

% carries

Left End

3.57

3.81

17

17%

Left Tackle

3.71

3.78

16

11%

Centre/Guard

4.27

4.09

11

46%

Right Tackle

5.06

4.03

5

13%

Right End

3

3.83

24

13%

Apparently, we’ve run well behind the centre and the right side of the line with the best running behind Tyson Clabo. I’m not sure I trust this, since Clabo hasn’t looked very good to me. To no one’s surprise, we have done poorly while trying to get around either end. Although, Michael Turner failing at getting the edge is probably the primary reason, this also supports my belief that Quiz is more quick and shifty than actually fast – we need a speed back.

In any case, I can’t see too much room for improvement outside of the return of Polite. Hopefully, the running game will never be asked to do enough that it can sink us.

Oh and one last thing, on the off chance the Falcons coaches are reading this: Call more runs to the right side of the line; it seems to work better than the runs on the left side of the line. And give Antone Smith a shot. Or get another speed back.

Exit question: Has Clabo looked good in the run game to you guys? The FO numbers surprised me.

Disclaimer: Unless stated otherwise stats obtained from PRO-FOOTBALLREFERENCE.com by setting parameters to consider only non blowout situations i.e. no team leading by more than 14 points.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>

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