During his season ending press conference Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery let it be known that he utilizes unorthodox statistical and metrical analysis to enhance his scouting. Emery specifically mentioned ProFootballFocus and STATS Inc. during the press conference and more recently hired a manager from STATS to be the newly created position director of analytics. Another site that metrically analyzes the NFL is the website FootballOutsiders.com which now works in conjunction with ESPN.com and ESPN Stats and Information.
Recently FootballOutsiders released their annual Almanac which is a review of their 2012 game charting data with a preview and metric prediction of the 2013 season. A lot of what metrics do is evaluate the true impact of players in the game and they plays they make based on situation and assign an overall value to the play. As an example a running back who averages 4.5 yards per carry, is he getting those yards based on good blocking, or is he getting those yards based on broken tackles or making defenders miss. There is more value given to a RB who earns his yards rather receives good blocking from his offensive line. Conversely on defense they measure tackles by how far from the line of scrimmage a linebacker makes a tackle to hold a runningback to shorter yardage.
With that in mind here are some interesting notes from FootballOutsiders 2012 Chicago Bears metrics, film work and analysis that I thought were interesting and provide some food for thought and discussion heading into the 2013 season.
Perhaps the one that has been talked about the most is the off-season signing of Jermon Bushrod and how he compares to J'Marcus Webb. I previously analyzed their respective season via ProFootballFocus metrics and found that Webb was better than Bushrod in pass protection. Bushrod graded out higher overall and in terms of consistent run blocking according to PFF, where as Webb did not grade as highly. FootballOutsiders offered up their take on both Webb and Bushrod with the following information:
J'Marcus Webb tallied 1045 snaps and Jermon Bushrod tallied 1104 snaps. Webb committed nine penalties, Bushrod six. Webb had five blown pass blocks that led directly to a sack of Jay Cutler, Bushrod 3 blown blocks that led directly to a sack of Drew Brees. (PFF gave Webb 7 Bushrod 5) I watched film and counted 5 for Webb. The pass column Webb had 18 blown blocks that led to a pressure, hurry or QB hit, Bushrod 21.5, half of that blown block was from a double team where Bushrod received help. Webb 2.5 blown blocks in the run game that led to a stuffed run or a tackle for a loss, Bushrod 7 blown blocks that led to a stuffed run or tackle for a loss.
Player Pos Age GS Snaps Pen Sk Pass Run
Webb LT 25 16/16 1045- 9 5 18 2.5
Bushrod LT 29 16/16 1104-6 3 21. 5 7
In previous years FootballOutsiders did not chart individual pressures sacks allowed or hits allowed on the QB by the offensive linemen. This is their first year charting such a statistic/metric.
Overall Webb graded out better in pass protection on a per snap basis that Bushrod did in 2012. Obviously familiarity with the offensive system and being Aaron Kromer's disciple weighed more into Phil Emery's decision to sign Bushrod. It will however be of keen importance for Bushrod to improve his individual pass protection performance. This was Bushrod's worst season since his rookie year, and as a result he needs to improve upon it to live up to his contract.
The other big free agency signing in was the signing of Matt Slauson at left guard away from the New York Jets. Here's how FootballOutsiders graded Slauson's season: He blew 1.3 blocks that allowed a sack, the .3 or one third means a player got a sack after being blocked by three different people.
Matt Slauson LG 27 16/16 820 3 1.3 2.8 3
He allowed 2.8 combined hits, hurries and pressures on the QB and had three blown run blocks that went for zero or negative yards. Slauson as expected graded out very well in pass protection and didn't allow many plays to go for negative yards in the run game. What you can take away from this metric is that when Slauson locks onto you, you stay blocked. He may not get a major push in the run game, but he is a competent run blocker. Lance Louis in comparison had a slight worse season in less snaps:
Lance Louis* RG 28 11/11 692 2 2 4 2.5
Louis allowed two penalties, two sacks, four hits, hurries and pressures and two blown blocks in the running game. Louis is a year older than Slauson and a more athletic blocker. Louis and Slauson had comparable seasons, though Louis is recovering from ACL surgery. A simple quick note at the left guard position, for the 2012 Bears Spencer and Rachal were especially bad as most of us saw with our own eyes.
The next big free agency signing was Martellus Bennett who didn't grade out as well from the analysis of FootballOutsiders as you might want in a TE. For Bennett's analysis this comes directly from the Almanac:
The speed and size have always been there for Bennett to be a threat, and he oozes potential based on them. He also man- aged just a 61 percent catch rate last year and had eight drops, which tied him with Brandon Pettigrew and Brent Celek for the second-most among tight ends behind Jimmy Graham. But the real problem is not that the Bears brought in Bennett. It’s that they need Bennett to be a reliable underneath receiver immediately.
For comparison sake I think Greg Olsen is a good measurement for Bennett given that Kellen Davis shouldn't even be in the conversation.
Player DYAR DVOA Plays Ctch Yds Y/C YAC TD C%
G.Olsen 157 13.6% 104 69 843 12.2 3.5 5 66%
Bennett 85 4.6% 90 55 626 11.4 3.6 5 61%
Bennett's catch percentage is 5% lower than Olsens and his overall yards per catch is lower. Bennett did catch a lot of short and underneath routes with the Giants so that might account for the lower YPC average. The biggest concern surrounding Bennett is his tendency to drop passes. In my film evaluation of Bennett prior to the start of free agency this was one of the biggest concerns I noticed. This concern appears to carry over into FootballOutsiders' analysis. Bennett's catch consistency was also noticeable early in mini-camp and OTAs he seemed to be dropping quite a few easy passes from Cutler. This will definitely be something to keep an eye on moving forward. Bennett is an obvious upgrade, but 2012 should not be his best season, he needs to continue to improve and in Chicago, hopefully he takes a big step forward.
FootballOutsiders has been keeping various metrics dating back to 1991, 23 season of evaluations and metrics. Brandon Marshall set a record in 2012 that hasn't been matched and likely never will be matched. Brandon Marshall had a higher number of targets as part of a team's overall number of pass attempts than any other player. Marshall had over 40% of the Bears targets, which is more than the next closest player Sterling Sharpe in 1993 with 35% of the total targets. Marshall's high percentage of targets wore him down and obviously contributed to his hip injury that led to off-season surgery. The Bears need another WR to step up to lessen the load on Marshall if he's to have a career in Chicago that lasts more than a couple of seasons.