Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Dons of Linebacker Interceptions—Don Shinnick and Donnie Edwards

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
Starting in the 1980s NFL linebackers transformed from basic all-around players who stopped the run, dropped into coverage and would dog (blitz) the quarterback. Hall of Fame linebackers like Dave Robinson (22 sacks, 27 Interceptions), Jack Ham (25½ sacks, 32 INTS), and Bobby Bell (40 sacks, 26 INTS) represent that kind of linebacker as do Chuck Howley (26½ sacks, 25 picks) and Isiah Robertson (25½ sacks, 25 INTs).

After that, most, but not all HOF linebackers were rushbackers like Lawrence Taylor who had 142 sacks and 9 interceptions or Kevin Greene who had 160 sacks and 5 interceptions and many others.

However, there have been exceptions, Junior Seau and Derrick Brooks possessed all-around skills and were rewarded with Hall of Fame Gold Jackets.

In the history of the NFL a linebacker has intercepted 5 passes or more in a season 94 times (courtesy of Pro Football Reference.com) and sixteen linebackers have recorded that feat twice in their career. But only two have achieved that 5-interception mark three times in their careers—Don Shinnick and Donnie Edwards.

Shinnick is also the modern NFL's all-time leader in interceptions among linebackers with 37. He was a starter from 1957-68 for the Colts as an outside linebacker (though he played in the middle in 1958, the year the Colts won their first World Championship). He even led the NFL in interceptions in 1959 with seven. Even so, he was never a Pro Bowler or garnered other post-season honors.
Edwards played as an inside linebacker, outside linebacker and middle linebacker in his career. He ended his career with 1490 tackles and 28 interceptions (four were pick-sixes), 23.5 sacks and 75.5 run/pass stuffs and recovered 11 fumbles (two were scoop and scores). He achieved his five-interception seasons in 1999, 2002 and 2004.

Despite those impressive all-around numbers, Edwards was never a First-team All-Pro, though he was Second-team All-Pro in 2002 and 2004 and a Pro Bowler in 2002. We can't help but think that if a player put up these kinds of numbers year-in and year-out in the 1960s or 1970s that he might have been a multi-year Pro Bowler. From our own "eye test" if you will, Edwards passed. He was always in the thick of things on the field and stepped where Junior Seau left off in the Chargers defense.

Here are his career numbers:
One interesting factor is the NFL/AFL interception rate for the 1960s was 5.7% and for the NFL in the 1970s it was 5.3%. When Edwards played, from 1996-08 the interception rate was 3.2%, meaning interceptions were rarer in the more recent years and it would be harder for players to amass them and thus the 28 picks Edwards had would translate to far more if adjusted for era—perhaps around 40.

We wouldn't advocate Hall of Fame bona fides for either of these players, but they do deserve some credit for pulling off the 5 picks in a season trifecta. For a linebacker doing it once is impressive, twice, great, three times, well it's a charm, we suppose.

Again, courtesy of Pro Football Reference.com here are the top intercepting linebackers in NFL modern history.
http://pfref.com/tiny/sbCmI


Monday, March 26, 2018

2018 Rams—The New Over-the-Hill Gang?

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
In 1971, and also for several following seasons, George Allen, the Washington Redskins coach brought in older players through trading away his draft picks. He declared "The Future is Now".

Allen brought in Billy Kilmer, Verlon Biggs, Ron McDole, Myron Pottios, Maxie Baughan, Jack PardeeRitchie Petitbon among others. All were older, established players. Allen also brought in some younger established players like John Wilbur (28) and Diron Talbert (27) again, among others.

Rams General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay are nowhere near what Allen did, but in terms of today's NFL, it is interesting to look at some of the Rams additions and losses over this offseason.

Traded away were starters Alec Ogletree (27) and Robert Quinn (28) and brought to Los Angeles were Aqib Talib (32), Ndamukong Suh (31), Sam Shields (30).

Additionally, the Rams still have holes at outside linebacker and inside linebacker. It is, as of now, presumed that Samson Ebukam will be one of the starting linebackers and Mark Barron will be one of the inside linebackers—so that leaves two slots.

There have been some rumors that the Rams are talking to Junior Galette (30) who may eventually be one of them and would join the 30-and-over crew. Also, there is still a possibility that the Rams may re-sign SAM backer Connor Barwin (32), a move that would allow Ebukam to move to the weak side.

Could they look at Navorro Bowman (also 30) to fill the other inside (MIKE) position? We have not seen rumors of that anywhere but on Rams fan chat boards. They could go with Ramik Wilson as the MIKE, a player who has started some at that position for the Chiefs the past couple of seasons. Or they could go with smallish special teams demon Cory Littleton at that spot.

We will keep a close eye if the Rams do bring in more 30-year olds and see if the Rams now are doing what the early 1970s Redskins attempted and bring "The Future is Now" to a reality.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Houston Oilers 1972-74 Helmet Anomaly

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
Zeke Moore
In 1972 the Oilers changed from silver lids to Columbia blue ones and wore them until 1975 when they switched to white. The issue is some of them had slightly different hues of Columbia blue.

Below Ronnie Coleman (#47) has a darker blue helmet than #2 Skip Butler:

Here, George Adamson (#12) in front has a darker helmet than the player behind him.

In this shot it appears the player in back has a lighter version than the others, though we admit this is not the best shot:

Here defensive lineman John Matuszak appears to have a lighter lid than the player behind him:

On Twitter follower of ours suggested it may be that the difference was that some of the helmets may have been clear shells. So we took a look and that does not appear to be the case. Here you can see the left guard's helmet is lighter than the quarterback and the right guard and right tackle:

Here are some more examples:



Both of these helmets are purported to be game used from the 1972-74 era, which we cannot verify but they do appear (even with very different lighting) to be different shades of blue or even different values of the same hue, we are not sure

If anyone knows the answer, if it was just different brands of helmets, or there were some helmets painted slightly different, we are all ears. Are we can tell is some of the helmets look different.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Ndamukong Suh to Rams—The Terrifying Triplex?

LOOKING AHEAD
By John Turney
Yesterday Ndamukong Suh continued his tour of NFL teams interested in his services. Reportedly the Seahawks, Saints, Titans and Rams and perhaps the Raiders were the teams that wanted to kick the tired on Suh.

The media reports had a variety of opinions, which is to be expected. Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless of Fox were effusive about the possibility of Suh signing with the Rams. Bayless even felt that if Suh were signed he would make the Rams his favorites to win the NFC.

Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock were milder in their views—Cowherd: "Suh didn’t want to practice in Miami…he was not a good teammate. Whitlock: "Suh had his second chance in Miami and did nothing."

There was also diverse views about where Suh would play with the Rams. Because Rams 5-technique Michael Brockers has been a nose tackle and has played well there, he gives the Rams flexibility to play a signed Suh at either 5-tech or 1-tech (DE or NT).




Ryan Clark, as a guest on ESPN said Suh's best fit would be as a 5-tech in the Wade Phillips 3-4 and then as an inside rusher in the nickel/dime defenses.

As a refresher, Phillip's defense is a one-gap 3-4 defense. And they usually play an sink undershift, meaning on the weak side the end lineman sinks down to 3-technique. This is and has been Aaron Donald's position and there has been no talk of Suh supplanting Donald, the 2017 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year—nor should there be.

Here are a few shots from last season (all credit to NFL Replay):




As can be seen, there is a weak side and a strong side, meaning the MIKE, SAM, SS, and 5-T follow the TE and are always on the strong side. The MO, WILL, FS, and 3-T are always on the weak side.

IF Suh signs with the Rams we will likely hear comments from the Rams that "Suh fits in any scheme" and "We want playmakers and Suh is a playmaker" or "He will be a fit for our rotation" and so on. And all that is likely true. But the question isn't IF a player can play a new position. It's HOW WELL he can get it done.

Suh, for his entire career, has been a left defensive tackle in 4-3 schemes. However, he's played in a 4-3 scheme where the defensive linemen slid left or right depending if the call was an over- or undershift. So, if the tight end was on the offenses right and the call was an overshift, Suh would be the 3-technique (outside shoulder of the right guard). If the tight end were left and the call was an overshift, Suh would be the 1-technique (on the shoulder of the center or center-guard gap). If the calls were for an undershift the above would be the opposite.

So, Suh has plenty of experience as a 1-technique, though only a handful of his sacks have been from that position since 2011. Another handful of sacks have been as a DE in nickel. More than 40 of his career 51.5 sacks have come as a 3-technique.

A nose tackle, or 1-tech, because of where he lines up will draw a lot of double teams. Double teams of a defensive lineman can come because he's excellent or sometimes they come due to the alignment which means no matter who that player is, he would get double teamed by the offense. Would the Rams want to pay Suh a lot of money to draw tons of doubles? Nose tackle is not a glamorous position, almost by definition, even in a one-gap 3-4 defensive scheme like Phillips's.

Would the Rams rotate Brockers back in there and get plenty of snaps for Suh over the tackle so he's not getting bounced around all day by the center and guard?

In 2017 the Rams had issues stopping the run which is why we are focusing on the Rams base defense here. Suh would, of course, play inside in the Rams nickel and dime and would likely compliment Aaron Donald on the interior of the Rams 4-man rush—sending Brockers to the bench. Brockers was a fine compliment to Donald on the interior in the Rams sub defenses but with Suh around he would simply not have enough speed to move outside so one of the Rams stud players would have his snaps cut.

Back to the base defense—as to Suh playing defensive end or 5-tech (Often head up on a tackle, i.e. 4-technique in Rams defense), how do they know what he can do? Suh has played some defensive end in a 4-man line in Miami, not a lot, but some, and usually in passing situations. We've seen four of his career sacks in that alignment. But that is different than a 5-tech in a 3-4.

There is literally no film for Suh as a 3-4 DE. He's never played it, he's never been asked to line up over offensive tackles. The answer from any 3-4 team that signed him and played him there would be "It's football. He's a football player, he can do it" and that's fair—to a degree.

What about experience—the computer file or Rolodex in the brain of a defensive linemen that catalogs all the plays in his career and what offensive linemen tries what trick on him in what situation? Suh's "book" is on guards and centers. Does he have a "book" on tackles? There is no way he could have.

Additionally, Suh has had a strength advantage over almost every guard or center he has faced in his career. If he lines up over a tackle, that strength advantage is neutralized to some degree. Tackles, in general, are larger, stronger and have longer arms than guards. There are times when some guards were just child's play for Suh. And there may be some tackles that will be, too, but there will also be some great athletes with length, size and strength.

Pro Scout, Inc., has been a professional scouting service that NFL teams have subscribed to since the mid-1970s. One of their axioms or "sayings" is "Don't move blues". "Blues" are top players and they advise against changing positions for top players. For Suh, we have no idea what their position is since their current evaluations are propriety, but their axioms are compiled over long periods of time and are pearls of wisdom they feel help NFL talent evaluators.

Someone who was familiar with being moved was Jack Youngblood. In 1983 the Rams moved to a 3-4 defense from a 4-3 and Youngblood had to play nose up on a tackle after player 12 years split a yard or a bit more outside of a tackle.

When asked about a potential Suh signing and a possible position switch,  Youngblood said, "Sure, he can do it. If you asked Merlin Olsen, in 1971 or 1972 when he was about 31 years old or so, to move to nose or D-end in a 30, he could play it but it wouldn't have been the same Merlin we were used to. . . (S)ame goes for Joe (Greene). yeah, he could have changed but again, he would have been the dominant tackle he was in the stunt 4-3 they played".

Essentially, Youngblood says that a 31-year old tackle, moving to end can be physically done, but unless you have the natural instincts of that position you are not going to be an All-Pro as you might have been before. Youngblood thinks Suh should go to a team that can win but also can put his skills to their best use, "Get him over a guard, like Donald or the kid here, (Gerald McCoy) or (Geno) Atkins and (Suh) will do his best work—that's where he's done his best work so far, why would it change NOW?"

So it seems the bottom line is that you can plug a good player into a position and you can tout him all day long, but if there is no film on that player at that position, there is no way to know if he can dominate at that new position. Until it happens it just a projection.

Finally, there is the issue of Suh possibly hitting some walls. He's going to be 31, this is his third contract and as Cowherd mentioned, Suh wore out his welcome in Miami.

Here are his career stats. FO Hits are credited to Football Outsiders and PFF Pressures are credited to Pro Football Focus
Suh has not been First-team All-Pro since 2014 and has not had double-digit run stuffs since 2015. His hits and hurries and sacks are all declining. Individual stats don't mean everything but they cannot be ignored, either.

Here is an interesting Tweet:

So, the Raiders see Suh as game-changer for a defense that Ranked 29th in DVOA? (DOVA is a defensive metric provided by Football Outsiders. The problem is the Dolphins were 28th in that same metric. How is Suh a game-changer? Only twice in his career has he played on a defense that was in the NFL's top 10 in DVOA.

This first clip is simply a 38 power run play, and a double team moves Suh inside, leaving big running lane to the right. Suh is the left defensive tackle here—
Again, a left defensive tackle, a double team by the guard and center move Suh back, at end he gets an assisted tackle as the back runs into him after a six-yard gain—
Even Shannon Sharpe, who was very positive about a Rams-Suh marriage said that Suh would benefit from playing next to Aaron Donald who goes 100% all the time all but admitting Suh has a reputation for not always giving top effort, i.e. dominant for a few plays, then disappears for a quarter-and-a-half. Youngblood also added, "And remember, you do have a character issue with the young man, stomping on hands or legs, or whatever".

Finally, there are the penalties. Pro Football Focus shows Suh has been flagged 82 times in his eight seasons, NFLGSIS shows 75 penalties with 14 of those being the 15-yard variety of personal fouls, unnecessary roughness and the like. If Aaron Donald has shown a weakness in the last couple of years it's getting frustrated and getting late hits, personal fouls and being ejected for such. Would Suh be a positive influence on the younger Donald or a negative one on this front? No one knows, but it's fair to raise the question given Suh's history of what Youngblood calls a "character issue".

We will know soon if there is going to be a Terrifying Triplex or a Terrible Triplicity in LA. We already know it's not a new iteration of the Fearsome Foursome.

Friday, March 16, 2018

STILL THE RECORD: Denver vs. Houston—December 1962

LOOKING BACK
By T.J. Troup
When Wally Lemm took over the Oilers during the 1961 campaign, he polished a "tarnished team" and went undefeated leading Houston to its second consecutive AFL championship. Lemm switches leagues to the NFL Cardinals, and former St. Louis head coach Frank "Pop" Ivy is now in charge of the Oilers.

Replacing Lemm as defensive co-ordinator and secondary coach is former Eagle Neill Armstrong. Philadelphia intercepted 8 passes against the Cardinals in '50 and Armstrong was part of that team (though he did not intercept that day). Armstrong is again going to watch his team intercept 8 times; this time against Denver.

The Broncos became revitalized in 1962 under Jack Faulkner and at one point with a 7-2 record still stood a chance to win the western conference, but a three-game losing streak has sent them to Jeppesen Stadium in Houston to take on the Oilers on a muddy field with the rain coming down. George Blanda leads the Oilers down the field completing 3 of 6 passes and kicks a field goal to put Houston on the scoreboard. Denver punts after three plays, and Blanda finds Cannon open for a 60 yard score and a 10-0 lead.
The quarter ends with no more scoring, and the only turnover is all-league left corner Tony Banfield's fumble recovery for Houston. Second quarter, and Denver recovers Cannon's fumble and scores. The best right safety in the early AFL was Goose Gonsoulin of the Broncos and he intercepts as Denver takes over on their own forty-four yard line. Tripucka completes six straight passes, and Denver scores again to take the lead 14-10. Blanda again misfires as linebacker Jim Fraser intercepts, but the Broncos cannot take advantage when Bobby Jancik of Houston intercepts a pass intended for speedster Jerry Tarr.

When Denver gets the ball back they are eventually faced with a 3rd and five situation deep in their own territory. Tripucka throws to Frazier who is blasted by linebacker Doug Cline; the balls goes up in the air and Banfield intercepts. Blanda again pitches to Cannon for the score and Houston reclaims the lead. Old pro George Shaw comes in for Tripucka yet he is also intercepted. Jim "The Blade" Norton returns 10 yards, but Blanda's errant pass is pilfered by corner Jim McMillin as the half ends. Houston 17 Denver 14, with an unprecedented 6 interceptions in the second quarter. Denver cannot move on their first possession of the second half. Right corner Mark Johnston of the Oilers blocks the punt, and there is that man again Tony Banfield who scoops up the ball and returns 21 yards.
Blanda finds Hennigan open for the touchdown, and Houston ups it's advantage to 24-14. Tripucka's 3rd down pass is intercepted by linebacker Mike Dukes (today is his birthday). Houston punts and Tripucka locates Lionel Taylor for 27 yards which leads to a Mingo field goal and Denver is back in the game; 24-17. The quarter ends with Houston driving as Blanda continues to throw the J-5V pigskin almost every down. Wahoo McDaniel ends the promising drive early in the 4th with his interception. Jim Norton gets the ball back for the Oilers with his second interception. The Houston drive ends with a field goal and a 27-17 lead.
Shaw re-enters the game for Denver but his short pass is nabbed by Oiler defensive end Don Floyd who returns 28 yards and a touchdown. Second down and five for Denver,  and Dukes makes his second interception. The Broncos have now had 3 of their last four passes intercepted. Houston and Denver exchange punts, and Blanda keeps firing; Bronco defensive end Chuck Gavin latches onto a pass and returns 35 yards. Tripucka's long pass is intercepted by Norton. The game ends with Blanda doing what else? He passes on the final play of the game.

Will we ever see a game like this again? 97 passes attempted by both teams with nary a sack, and 13 intercepted (all from the second quarter on). Six interceptions in both the 2nd & 4th quarter. The game took only 2 hours and 27 minutes to play. Imagine how long a game like this would take today? The Oilers were 4-3 at midseason, yet much like '61 they continue to win and advance to their third straight AFL title game with a seven-game win streak. Denver ends the season with another loss and a final mark of 7-7 as Faulkner earns coach of the year honors.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rams Create a "No Fly Zone" Secondary, But What About the Front?

LOOKING AHEAD
By John Turney
In the past month the Rams have shipped off Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, a 2018 4th round pick a 2018 5th round pick, a 2018 6th round pick a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2019 7th round pick and have received Marcus Peters,  Aqib Talib, two 2018 4th round picks and 3 2018 6th round picks.

That's quite a lot of draft picks moving back and forth, but to make some sense of it, we can use the   Draft Value Chart, purportedly invented by Jimmy Johnson to weigh the value of those picks and come up with a net value. The chart assigns a numerical value to each of the picks in any given NFL draft and by using the chart, teams can more accurately trade picks and players.

Since the chart's publication, many more supplementary picks seem to be added so it DOES skew the chart a little bit, but in most cases, we are just talking about a handful of "points" and here it involves a lot of 4th, 5th and 6th round picks. In the case of future picks, they are estimated by discounting them one round and it is assumed they will be in the middle of the round. So here, the 2019 2nd round pick would be a mid-3rd rounder in 2018.

So, here is the list of players and picks for these recent trades—
So, all told, the net effect of the trade is Ogletree and Quinn and a 4th rounder traded away in order to receive Peters and Talib.

So, it would seem the Rams have the makings of a great secondary with these two corners, All-Rookie John Johnson III and free safety Lemarcus Joyner who was franchised tagged and nickel back Nickell Robey-Coleman.

The Rams also generated 48 sacks in 2018 which was fourth in the NFL. Of those, Quinn had 8.5. He had six of those sacks as a right defensive end in the nickel and 2.5 when playing WILL backer in Wade Phillip's defense. It's not a huge number to overcome. And the Rams have Aaron Donald, the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year who is the best inside pass rusher in the NFL.

All of the above suggests that the Rams will have the talent, at least, to stop the passing games of their opponents and in a league that passes as much as the NFL, that is extremely important.

However, even though many folks in the metrics crowd don't think stopping the run game in the NFL is not as important as it was in the 1970s or 1980s, it's still important to NFL coaches. Also, the last three Super Bowl champions have stopped the run at a rate of 83.8 yards a game and an average carry of 3.6. The last three Super Bowl losers allowed 102.6 yards rushing per game at a 4.4 yards per carry clip (4.6 yards per carry for the last two losers).

All of this begs the question of if the Rams are going to be able to have a front seven or six (in case of nickel defenses) that can stop the run.

Donald, the NFL's best defensive tackle, averaged 12 run/pass stuffs per year in the 4-3 defense as a 3-technique. In the 3-4, still as a 3-technique, he had 11 sacks, tying a career-high but his r/o stuffs dropped to 6.5. When adjusted for the two games he didn't play it's 7.5 r/p stuffs.
The fine football site Football Outsiders has a metric called adjusted line yards that measures the effectiveness of NFL defensive lines and front sevens.

Here is how it is explained. You can click here to read more.
We have taken the liberty to combine 22 years of data for the Rams and created this chart:
The yellow cells in the above chart represent a top 10 finish for the run stopping prowess of the Rams. Grey is 11-20th finishes. Red represents the bottom finishes, 20th and higher.

From 2012-16 the Rams were in the top six in the NFL every season. The only "red" finished for that group were in 2012 on the right end and right tackle categories, meaning runs going to that side.

From 2006-011 the middle of the defense got gashed the most, finishing in the "red" five of six seasons. When Michael Brockers and then Donald were added, the middle of the defense was shored up finishing in the top eight five straight years.

As can be seen, the Rams fell to 27th in the NFL in 2017 and were in the "red" in everything except at right end. So, this is one more data point to ask some questions.

Courtesy of Pro Football Reference here is a more straightforward look at the Rams run defense:
Certainly, there is room for improvement. Seeing these things and more could be why the Rams thought they could afford to send Ogletree and Quinn away. The question is who will replace them.

Samson Ebukam backed up SAM 'backer Connor Barwin but could likely move to the weak side and replace Quinn. Of course, that leaves a hole on the strong side, but Barwin could be brought back.

At the MIKE position, where Ogletree played, it is unclear who would play there. Yesterday Les Snead suggested Cory Littleton would play a large role, but it was not clear where that would be. If the Rams are planning to jettison MO 'backer (Weak inside linebacker) Mark Barron, Littleton could step in there where he played some in 2017. He didn't take many (if any—we never saw any) at MIKE. 

The Rams went through three nose tackles in 2017. Michael Brockers began the season there but was moved to 5-technique (defensive end) when rookie Tanzel Smart took over the position. Smart did not excel and a defensive end—Ethan Westbrooks finished the season at the nose. Westbrooks had experience as nose since he had backed up Michael Brockers at the "shade" position in 2015.  Additionally, Tyrunn Walker started one game at nose, and backed up all the starters for most of the season.

Here are the Rams front seven starters in 2017. (Note: This differs slightly from what the Ram organization published but ours is based on still shots from the game, rather than the Gamebooks, which while good, sometimes can contain errors. This chart is accurate).
So, who will be the 2018 starter? Brockers excelled at 5-technique (though he was excellent on the nose as he had been his entire career, especially since being a dedicated "shade" beginning in 2014. Will Smart improve enough to start? Westbrooks, who makes some excellent plays and then sometimes seems maybe just above average, is on the smaller side.

Since the late-1990s Phillips had had several types of nose tackles. He's had All-Pro/Pro Bowl 350 -pound giant-types in Ted Washington and Jamal Williams. He's had smaller (295-ish pounders), quicker types in Ed Jasper and Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff, and Shaun Cody  In Denver Phillips had Sylvester Williams who was more in the middle in terms of size, at a listed 313 pounds.

So, it is tough to tell what direction the Rams may go. Could they stand pat with Westrbooks? Give Smart another shot? Bring someone in? Draft someone?

The same goes for the MIKE and MO positions as well as the OLBer spot, the one where Ebukam does not play. 

One thing is not "for sure" but if the last few Super Bowls are an indication, stopping the run may be more important that some of the metrics crow suggests.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

2017 Sacks Plus Run Stuffs and 2012-17 Sacks and Run Stuffs

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney
James Burgess had 10 stuffs in 2017

Derrick Kindred had 10 stuffs in 2017
Stats, LLC., has been tracking run stuffs since 1992. Run stuffs are tackles on running backs (or wide receivers on reverses or even a quarterback on a run) that result in a loss.

By adding run stuffs to sacks it gives a reasonable metric on the effectiveness of a front seven by tracking plays that end up in losses and put the opposing team behind the chains in terms of down and distance.

Here are the leaders in that metric in 2017:
Here are the leaders from 2012-17 in the same metric:
Here are the yearly leaders since 2012:

Joe Thomas Announces His Retirement from the NFL

LOOKING AHEAD
By John Turney
When the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Team is announced in a couple of years surely Joe Thomas will be one of the tackles on that squad. And in 2023 when the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class is announced Thomas will likely be on that roster as well.

For offensive linemen the only real stats are their honors, i.e. the All-Pro selections and Pro Bowl selections that they garner in their careers.

Since the early 1990s Stats, LLC., though, as kept tracks of penalties linemen are flagged for and the sacks they allow. These stats, like many stats, are subjective and differ some from the coaches stats but they can give some indication.

Here are Thomas's career average compared to four recent Hall of Fame tackles—Willie Roaf, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace and Walter Jones:
Source: Stats, LLC.
Like Orlando Pace, he had an issue with false starts but his holding calls were just 1.5 per season. He allowed an average of 3.6 sacks per season which is lower than the other four but 1.5 to 2 sacks per season.

The following table shows the "honors" of all the Hall of Fame tackles and where Thomas falls in relation to their honors—
Thomas falls near the top, ahead of all the recent tackles with the exception of Anthony Munoz

Certainly, we cannot predict what will happen in 2013 with regards to the Hall of Fame Selection Committee and how it votes, but we feel Thomas stands out as much as any player and we tend to think it will result in a first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame for Thomas. The only potential "negative" would be he played for a franchise that struggled and didn't get a chance for post-season play and additionally playing just 11 seasons is on the lower end of the spectrum. However, those things are far outweighed by the "positives".


Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Four Top Active NFL Leaders in INTs per 16 Games Traded or Released Recently

CURRENT EVENTS
By John Turney
We like to measure statistics, whenever possible on a per-game basis. Career leaders are fine and we often use that metric as well, but in terms of comparison, we find a per game analysis is usually better.

That said, we found it very interesting that three of the active leaders in interceptions per 16 games were traded or released in the past couple of weeks—two of them going to the Los Angeles Rams.

Currently, Marcus Peters is the active leader in picks per 16 games with 6.8. He has quite a lead on Richard Sherman. Aqib Talib is tied for fourth with 4 pickers per 16 games. Peters and Talib are headed to SoCal and Sherman is going to NoCal (he signed a three-year deal with the 49ers on March 10, 2018). Damarious Randall was traded by the Packers to the Browns today as well.
And these players are not "pigeons"—a cornerback who gets thrown at a lot because there is a shutdown cornerback on the other side of the defense. These are, for all intents and purposes, the shutdown corners on their teams—all except Randall being former All-Pros and Pro Bowlers.

Remarkably these are the top for interceptions per sixteen game leaders that are active in the NFL with Talib being fractions ahead of DeAngelo Hall and Kevin Byard with Peters just under 7 and Sherman just under 5 and Randall just over 4 picks per 16 games.

Here is the list of all players who played as recently as 2017 and average 2.9 interceptions per 16 games—
We will be doing some research to see if this has happened before, but we sincerely doubt it, we can hardly think of a time where so many All-Pro/Pro Bowl corners have been traded and/or released in such close proximity in time.

One note, since 2011 (Sherman's rookie season) NFL passers have been picked off at a rate of 2.6%. For comparison, from 1952-65 (Night Train Lane's 14-year career span) passes were picked off at a rate of 6.2%. Interceptions come at a premium these days with how the passing game has developed, i.e. interceptions are hard to come by now as opposed to previous generations.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Trader Les Snead, Shades of George Allen?

LOOKING BACK
By John Turney

In 1966 George Allen was hired by the Los Angeles Rams to be the head coach of the club but also was the de facto General Manager, with the power to make trades and he made heavy use of that power.

He sent players all over the league but mostly he drafted draft picks for players with some seasoning and experience. He simply didn't like rookies—too many mistakes, he thought.

Today's NFL is almost the exact opposite but in the last couple of years there has been, from our observation, an uptick in trades. It is not nearly like it was in Allen's era but it makes for a more interesting off-season with some of these trades being made.

In the last few days, Rams GM Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay have unloaded a couple of players and brought in a couple players.

The Rams traded a 2018 4th round pick and a 2019 2nd round pick to the Chiefs for cornerback Marcus Peters and a 2018 6th round pick. They also sent a 2018 5th round pick to the Broncos for Aqib Talib.

Additionally, the Rams shipped Alec Ogletree (plus a 2019 7th round pick) to the Giants and Robert Quinn (and a 2018 6rh round pick) to the Dolphins in recent days and receiving a 4th and 6th round pick from each club.

How will they turn out? In perhaps two years we will know. However, here are some of the notable trades the Rams made that involved giving draft picks for established players (trading AWAY players for picks is the subject of a future post) and how they turned out, beginning in 1964—
The Rams sent a 1964 4th round pick to the Giants for Rosey Grier, who played from 1963-66 for the Rams before he was felled by an Achilles tear which ended his career. Grier was the final piece of the Fearsome Foursome and was a leader and helped Deacon Jones perfect the head-slap. Had Grier lasted a bit longer it would be an "A" but for his four years of service and the fact that it was only a 4th rounder, give this trade a B+.

The Rams sent a 1965 2nd rounder to the Browns for tight end Billy Truax. Truax was acquired before the 1964 season and was a starter from 1966-70 for the Rams then was traded to Dallas with Wendell Tucker for Lance Rentzel who gave the Rams a few years of service. So, while not stellar, it was a positive trade. Give it a B-.

George Allen's era was complex and the deals often involved picks as well as players and an in-depth study would be needed to be entirely accurate. The can be 6th or 7th round "givebacks" that make the draft value chart closer to even or even conditional picks based on playing time. For this exercise, we'll just list the key players and the acquired and the primary picks:
1967
 1. Choice to Vikings  (For Tommy Mason)—Mason was hurt a lot, Grade: D
 2. Choice to Packers  (For Tom Moore)—Moore excellent in 1966, then gone. Grade: B-
 3. Choice to Eagles (For Maxie Baughan)— 5-year starter, leader, Pro Bowler. Grade: A
 6. Choice to Falcons (For Mike Dennis)—of no real consequence
 8. Choice to Bears (For Earl Leggett)—of no real consequence

1968
 1. Choice to Lions (For Roger Brown)—Expensive. Pro Bowler. Only got 3 years. Grade: B
 2. Choice to Falcons (For Ron Smith)—Got two years then traded. Grade: C
 3. Choice to Steelers (For Myron Pottios)—Like Baughan, a start for multiple seasons Grade:  A-
 3. Choice to Lions (For Roger Brown)
 7. Choice to Steelers (For Willie Daniel)—Solid nickel back, low round. Grade: A-

1969
 2. Choice to Lions (For Roger Brown)
 3. Choice to Falcons (For Dick Absher)—traded multiple times in career. 
 3. Choice to Lions (For Milt Plum)—Backup. Grade: C
 5. Choice to Cowboys (For Coy Bacon)—Bacon became an excellent player, then traded to Chargers with back Bob Thomas for John Hadl. Grade: A

1970
 2. Choice to Eagles (For Jim Purnell)—Became a starter in 1971 and 1972. Grade: B-
 3. Choice to Eagles  (For Alvin Haymond)—Solid special teams performer Grade: B
 4. Choice to Bears (For Ritchie Petitbon)—Two-year starter then traded. Grade: B-
 4. Choice to Redskins (For Mitch Johnson ) —Backup. Did win one NFL Player of the Week Award with the Rams. Grade:  C
 5. Choice to Saints  (For Karl Sweetan)—Backup. Grade:  C
 6. Choice to Falcons (For Rick Cash)—Backup, traded to Patriots. Grade: C
 7. Choice to Redskins (For Mitch Johnson) 

1971
  2. Choice to Packers (For Travis Williams)—Didn't last long enough to be worth a 2nd Grade: C
  4. Choice to Saints (For Karl Sweetan)
  6. Choice to Eagles (For Alvin Haymond)
  7. Choice to Bears (For Ritchie Petitbon)

1972
 1. Choice to Patriots (For Phil Olsen)—Olsen was 2-year starter, then a backup  Grade: C-
 3. Choice to Giants  (For Tommy Crutcher)—Didn't make team. Injuries. Grade: F
 3. Choice to Patriots (For Phil Olsen)
 4. Choice to Eagles  (For Joe Carollo)—Backup Grade: C
 5. Choice to Giants (For Tommy Crutcher)
 5. Choice to Browns (For Joe Taffoni)—Grade D-
  6. Choice to Packers (For Travis Williams)

1973
 1. Choice to Patriots (For Fred Dryer)—played 10 years, nine as a starter. Grade: A
 3. Choice to Cardinals (for Pete Beathard)—Backup. Grade: C
 3. Choice to Lions (For Al Clark)—Started some. Grade B-

1974
 5. Choice to Vikings (For Charlie Stukes)—Two-year started filled a hole. Grade: B+

1975
 3. Choice to Bears (For Greg Horton)—Never a starter. Not worth investment  Grade: D-
10. Choice to Bears (For Greg Horton)

1976
 4. Choice to Eagles (For Tom Dempsey)—Two-year kicker, good distance, missed a lot of PATs. Grade: B-

1978
 5. Choice to Chargers (For Ed Flanagan)—Didn't make team. Grade: F
 6. Choice to Bucs (For Dan Ryczek)—Was long snapper for two seasons. Grade: B

1979
 3. Choice to Redskins (For Eddie Brown)—Gor hurt, was the nickel back for one year Grade:C-
 6. Choice to Browns (For Oscar Roan)—Didn't make team Grade: F
 8. Choice to Cardinals (For Jerry Latin)—A "need trade" barely played  Grade: D

1980
 2. Choice to Redskins (For Eddie Brown)
 5. Choice to Redskins (For Eddie Brown) (Rams got a 7th back)
 6. Choice to Chiefs (For Walter White)—Didn't make team Grade: F

1981
 3. Choice to Chiefs (For Walter White)

1982
 1. Choice to Colts (For Bert Jones)—Hurt in his first season with Rams. Grade: D-
 2. Choice to Colts (For Bert Jones)
Choice to Oilers (For Mike Barber)—Starter for two years then hurt.   Grade: B
 3. Choice to Redskins (For Henry Childs)—Contributed little.  Grade D
 7. Choice to Redskins (For Henry Childs)

1983
 3. Choice to Giants (For Gary Jeter)—Fine designated rusher for five years.  Grade: A
 5. Choice to Lions  (For Russ Bollinger)—Backup.  Grade: B
 6. Choice to Giants (For Gary Jeter)
10. Choice to Vikings (For Ron Yary)—Backup for one year.  Grade C

1984
 1. Choice to Chiefs  (For Gary Green)—2-year starter, then neck injury. Would be higher grade had he not been felled by injury so soon. Grade: B
 2. Choice to Browns (For Ron Brown)—Great returner, average receiver. Grade:  B
 3. Choice to Lions (For David Hill)—Excellent blocker, big part of Dickerson run game Grade: B+
 5. Choice to Chiefs (For Gary Green)
 6. Choice to Oilers (For Dwayne Crutchfield)—One-year backup  Grade: C

1985
 4. Choice to Vikings (For Steve Dils)—Backup. Grade: C
 5. Choice to Chiefs (For Steve Fuller) —Backup. Grade: C
12. Choice to Bucs (For Booker Reese)—Brought in to fill in for injured Jeter. Grade: C-

1986
  4. Choice to Eagles (For Dennis Harrison)—Backup. Grade: C-
  5. Choice to Chargers (For Bobby Duckworth)—Backup. Grade: C-

1987
 1. Choice to Oilers (For Jim Everett)—Franchise QB, got club to NFCCG Grade: A-
 5. Choice to Oilers (For Jim Everett; Also Kent Hill, William Fuller to Oilers) )
 5. Choice to Giants (For Rob Carpenter)—Backup. Grade: C-
 7. Choice to Eagles (For Dennis Harrison)
11. Choice to Broncos (For Steve Busick)—Backup. Grade: C-

1988
 1. Choice to Raiders through Oilers (For Jim Everett)
 4. Choice to Chargers (For Pete Holohan)—Was a key piece of Rams offense  Grade: B+
11. Choice to Chargers (For Jeff Walker)—Never made the club. Grade: F

1990
 4. Choice to Lions (For Pat Carter)—Backup. Grade: C
 5. Choice to Jets (For Bobby Humphrey)—One-year starter. Grade: C

1991
 3. Choice to Lions (For Chuck Long)—Backup. Grade: C

1993
 4. Choice to Chargers (For Leo Goeas)—A four-year starter. Solid trade.  Grade:  B

1994
 5. Choice to Cardinals (For Ernie Jones)—Backup. Grade: C-
 7. Choice to Chiefs (For Chris Martin)—Backup. Grade: C+

1995
 4. Choice to Chargers (For Nate Lewis)—Never made the club. Grade: F
 4. Choice to Broncos (For Tommy Maddox)—Backup. Grade: C
 6. Choice to Chargers (For Marquez Pope)—Solid one-year starter, lost to free agency but received a 2nd round pick for 49ers as compensation. Grade: A

1999
2. Choice to Colts (For Marshall Faulk)—Grade; A+
5. Pick to Colts  (For Marshall Faulk)
6. Choice to Packers  (for Steve Bono)—Backup. Grade: C

2000
5    Choice to Patriots (for Mike Jones)—A one-year starter. Grade: C+
6.   Choice to Broncos (for Derek Loville)—Never made the club. Grade: F
7.   Choice to Raiders (For Paul Justin)—Backup. Grade: C

2001
2.    Choice to Cardinals (for Aeneas Williams)—Four years of service, 2 great seasons. Grade: A

2002
6.   Choice to Colts (for Terrance Wilkins)—Never made the club. Grade: F
6.    Choice to Colts (for John Baker)—Was needed as fill-in for injured punter  Grade: B-

2003
7.  Choice to Patriots (for Grant Williams)—Three years service, one as starter. Grade: B

2004
2.   Choice to Saints (for Kyle Turley)—Solid in 2003, then big-time issues. Grade: B-
6.   Choice to Pittsburgh (for Troy Edwards)—Never made the club. Grade: F
7.   Choice to Colts (for Rich Coady)—Solid backup.  Grade: B

2007
5.   Choice to Chiefs  (for Dante Hall) Rams and Chiefs also swapped 3rd rounders. Grade: B
5.   Choice to  Lions (for James Hall) ams ended up with this pick back. Hall was solid player, a four year starter on a talent-poor Rams team. Grade:  B+

2008 
7.  Choice to Vikings (for Adam Goldberg)—Six years of mediocre service, 2 and a half as a starter. Well worth a 7th round pick, but was not a very good player. Grade:  B

2009
The Rams traded its fifth- and sixth-round selections (138th and 176th overall, respectively) to the Falcons in exchange for Laurent Robinson and the Falcons's fifth- and sixth-round selections (160th and 196th overall, respectively). 
 5.  Choice to Falcons (For Laurent Robinson)—Two years, 14 starts. It was a low cost-trade since it just swapped picks. Grade: B-
 5.  Choice from Falcons— Brooks Foster  
 6.  Choice to Falcons (For Laurent Robinson)
 6.  Choice from Falcons— Keith Null QB—a bit of added value in trade.

2011
St. Louis traded their 6th round pick (#180) to Ravens for Baltimore’s 7th-round selection (#228) and wide receiver Mark Clayton.
6    Choice to Ravens (for Mark Clayton)—Clayton got hurt early. Rams had to trade for him due to injury to starting receiver Donnie Avery. Grade:  B-
7 (From Baltimore) Jabara Williams, OLB

2012
5    Choice to Denver (for Brandon Lloyd)—Another necessary trade, was decent for one year with Rams. Grade: B-

2015
4    Choice to Tampa Bay (for Mark Barron)—Barron has given Rams solid seasons. Grade: A-
6    Choice to Tampa Bay (for Mark Barron)

2016
7.    Choice to Tennessee (for Case Keenum)—Decent backup for Rams. Grade:  B-

2018
The Rams traded their second-round selection (56th)and CB E. J. Gaines to Bills for Buffalo's sixth-round selection (195th)and WR Sammy Watkins.

The Rams traded their fourth-round selection (124th) and second-round selection in 2019 to Kansas City in exchange for Chief's sixth-round selection (196th) and cornerback Marcus Peters.

2.    Choice to Bills (for Sammy Watkins)—jury out
4.    Choice to Chiefs (for Marcus Peters)—jury out
5.    Choice to Broncos (for Aqib Talib)—jury out
7.    Choice to Redskins (for Derek Carrier)—jury out