Offseason Numbers Crunching: Football Outsiders

Two of the most interesting football analytic websites are Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus. Occasionally the Rumblings web site will link to a Bills related stat or article, but not always. As a community service for fellow Rumblers (and as a more factual antidote to the recent spate of opinion postings (Brandon is terrible! Tebow is Moneyball!), here are some of the more interesting nuggets from Football Outsiders from the last 60 days or so. I'll list Pro Football Focus links on a separate posting.

2012 Best and Worst Cornerbacks. No current Bill made either list, as measured by Yards/Pass, Success rate, and YAC. But one familiar name pops up on repeated best of lists: Antoine Winfield. One of the biggest free agent blunders ever made by the Bills when they did not resign him in 2004, Winfield has since made three Pro Bowls, been an All-Pro, and at age 35, is still one of the top run and pass defenders in the NFL.

"Then there's the cadre of slot cornerbacks, led by their patron saint, and the other player who's made multiple top-10 lists, Antoine Winfield. Winfield had a phenomenal season in our charting, is a terrific defender against the run ... and couldn't even get $2 million guaranteed this offseason."

2012 Clean Up Tackles. Interesting stats heavy article on which players made the most tackles on plays in which they were not the primary defender- in other words, cleaning up after their teammates. No Bills make the list, but two former Bills do- Winfield again, as well as often maligned Donte Whitner.

The article also looks at the most productive tacklers in passing play situations, both in total tackles and as a % of plays on the field, and among the former Bills on the best of lists are Winfield, Whitner, London Fletcher, Paul Posluszny and Ellis Lankster. At least this analysis on pass tackling finally includes two Bills who actually played last year on the best list, Nick Barnett and Jarius Byrd.

One final tidbit from this analysis- hybrid LB Bryan Scott was one of the least productive tacklers in pass situations in the entire NFL last year, making a tackle on only 21% of the pass plays that occurred when he was on the field. This is an intriguing stat, since his forte is supposed to be pass coverage.

Special Teams Tackles 2012. While the Bills best special teams tackler was Brad Smith with 12, that was no better than tied for 20th in the NFL last year. However, for those fans thinking that Brad Smith may struggle to make the roster in 2013, there's this note:

"The cleanup winner of the year? Brad Smith, who had 12 return tackles but only four Stops. Three times, he saved a touchdown by tackling a punt returner after a return of more than 20 yards."

Coaching Aggressiveness. If you ever thought Chan Gailey was overly conservative, here's the analysis for you. Chan ranked 25th in the league last year in going for it on 4th down (taking out obvious situations such as 2:00 drives and late game drives when behind by more than 1 score).

The more interesting analysis is the coaching database of aggressiveness since 1991. While both Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells finish in the top 10 out of 84 coaches who have been a head coach for three or more seasons, among the most conservative coaches in that same timeframe are Chuck Knox, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick, Andy Reid and Paul Holmgren.

Among Bills' coaches in that same time frame, Mike Mularkey is 4th, Gregg Williams 12th, Dick Jauron 14th, Wade Phillips 24th, Chan Gailey 58th, and Marv Levy 68th. Maybe being more aggressive is not always better.

Broken Tackle Rate, 2012. The ability for defenders to wrap up and finish the tackle, as measured by every play analysis at FO. Among the defenders worst in 2012 at wrapping up and finishing tackles last year were former Bills players London Fletcher and Jabari Greer.

What is perhaps surprising is that the Bills in 2012 were one of the best tackling teams in the league, which is probably ammunition for those that believe the problem with the 2012 defense was scheme, not ability. Jarius Byrd, Stephon Gilmore, Kelvin Sheppard and Bryan Scott were among the best at their position last year at finishing tackles. In fact, the Bills were the 2nd best tackling team in the NFL last year, trailing only SF.

"When it comes to defenses that didn't have many broken tackles, the surprise might be Buffalo, with the lowest broken tackle rate in the league. As seen above, there are two Bills linebackers and two Bills defensive backs on the lists of the lowest broken tackle rates. This is a defense that couldn't really do much right. Their expensive defensive line couldn't pressure the quarterback and was easily pushed around in the running game. The cornerbacks struggled and the linebackers were nothing special. But the one thing this defense could do was tackle properly. The low number is definitely not a product of the specific people charting Bills games; the Bills' defense was near the bottom of the league in 2011 as well, and Bills charters marked plenty of broken tackles for C.J. Spiller and the Bills' offense last season (seventh in broken tackle rate).

Looking closer at the numbers, you also might notice that Bills had only one play all season with more than one broken tackle. San Francisco did them one better; the 49ers did not have a single play all year where we marked them with multiple broken tackles."

Broken Tackles Offense, 2012. The reverse of the above analysis looks at players on offense who were able to break the most tackles. CJ Spiller comes in at #4 in the league, behind only LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. Overall, the Bills finished 7th on the NFL in ability to break tackles, although only Spiller finished among the league leaders at his position. Another name among the league leaders on a per play basis? Former Bills backup Joique Bell.

Projecting Rookie WRs, 2013.FO uses a metric called Playmaker Score to project future NFL success at the WR position, which primarily uses college productivity, plus 40 times and vertical leap. Robert Woods comes in 5th overall among rookie WR, out of a class that FO believes will prove to be subpar (only Stedman Bailey and DeAndre Hopkins get good scores, and no one gets an outstanding projection).

Interesting if only because FO is not drinking the Kool-Aid on Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, or Keenan Allen, all of whom are projected to struggle in the NFL.

Adjusted Interceptions, 2012.FO doesn't believe in letting QBs off the hook when they throw a poor pass right to a defender, and then the defender doesn't hang on to the ball (are you paying attention, George Wilson?). Based on their play by play charting, they relook at interception rate for each QB, putting dropped interceptions into the mix with actual interceptions.

One of the most impacted players from this adjusted metric is Andrew Luck, who benefited from 14 dropped interceptions in 2012. Ryan Fitzpatrick had the 11th worst adjusted interception rate in the NFL, but what's this? Who is that tied with Tom Brady for the best adjusted interception rate in 2012? Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kevin Kolb, who is right there with Brady and Aaron Rodgers in his ability to protect the ball.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of

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