2008 Buffalo Bills Yards per Passing Attempt


Another positive sign for Schonert, offense (buffalobills.com)

Yards per Pass Attempt (YPA) is what Cold Hard Football Facts calls a “Quality stat”.  That means it directly correlates to wins and losses.  It is a better determining factor in the W column than passer rating, passing yards, and TD passes.  Here’s the entire reasoning for YPA being a key stat if you want to read about it.

One problem with yards per attempt is that it is not consistent across the board with the inclusion of sack totals.  Do you count sacks as a passing attempt and therefore count the yardage and the called pass or just simply divide the passing yards by the passes thrown?  I will do both for you in this article highlighted by a conversation our offensive coordinator, Turk Schonert, had with ESPN’s John Clayton last summer at training camp.  The YPA will be shown as passing yards divided by attempts (while the numbers that include sacks I will put in parentheses).  For example, Brian Galiford threw 100 times for 800 yards, a healthy 8 YPA.  But Mr. Galiford also took 20 sacks for 200 yards.  If you take the sacks into account his real passing plays stat line should read 120 pass calls for 700 yards, a modest 5.8 YPA, or a pretty big difference.  For this article, I will show Brian’s stats like this: 800 yards (700) on 100 attempts (120).  The higher attempt number is with sacks included, the lower yard number are with sacks included.

The 2008 Buffalo Bills
Last year during the Buffalo Bills’ training camp in beautiful Pittsford, NY, Turk Schonert made a bold prediction on the 2008 season’s yards per attempt. "Eight,'' Schonert told ESPN’s John Clayton.  “If we can average 8 yards per attempt that puts you in the elite. You hit that eight mark, and you are one of the elite teams.'' The Bills averaged only 6.37 YPA (5.59 YPA with sacks totals included) in 2007 with Steve Fairchild calling the plays.  Trent Edwards averaged 6.06 YPA (5.41 YPA) that year as a rookie, but a team needs to average better than 6.4 yards per called throw to put pressure on defenses according to Clayton.

Enter the 2008 NFL season and focus in on Turk’s prediction: 8 YPA.  Trent Edwards averaged 7.22 yards per attempt (6.44 YPA), good for eleventh in the league according to ESPN.com.  Either number is still the very number Clayton uses as the number to put pressure on defenses.  It is over a full yard per attempt higher than the year before but doesn't reach the 8 YPA that Turk predicted.  To me that is still a very impressive jump and it puts Edwards in the company of many Pro Bowl QBs.  Clayton called his prediction a little high but not impossible. 

Elite QBs Around the League
Only 2 QBs in the NFL reached that elusive 8 YPA marker in 2008; Philip Rivers at 8.39 YPA (7.67 YPA with sacks) and Matt Schaub (seriously), who had 8.01 YPA (7.18 YPA).  Drew Brees was third with 7.98 YPA (7.68), Jake Delhomme had 7.94 YPA (7.28), and Matt Ryan threw for 7.93 YPA (7.40).  Trent's average - 7.22 YPA (6.44) - was just above Peyton Manning's 7.21 YPA (6.88) without including sacks.  Some names farther down the list are #30 Marc Bulger (6.18 YPA), #22 Brett Favre (6.65 YPA), #21 Eli Manning (6.76 YPA), and #19 Donovan McNabb (6.86 YPA).

Conclusions
What does this tell us?  Well it tells me that as much as we might get on Schonert's case, he was much better at what he did than Steve Fairchild was.  (I'm not surprised.  Are you?)  Not that that's saying much.  Fairchild's teams never got close to that YPA number we achieved last year.  The plays Turk called and the offense's execution made the passing numbers significantly better all across the board.  In addition to the big jump in yards per attempt, we threw for 366 more passing yards, 2 more scores, and Trent's passer rating was 15 points higher.  We also threw for 26 more first downs in 2008 than we did in 2007.  (Just for you power rushing guys like me, we also rushed for more yards in 2008, twice as many rushing TDs, higher yards per rushing attempt, and more rushing first downs, too.)

I think we need to give Turk another chance here because as many have blasted him as less than innovative, he has shown that he can work with Trent and the offense to get results.  If we can add pieces to the WR and TE corps, either with guys on the roster stepping up or new acquisitions, this offense can be something to be reckoned with while rushing or passing.

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