Sunday, August 31, 2008

Book Review: Paper Lion

The problem with reading old books is they're old. Sometimes, this isn't a major problem-Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is still apparently worth reading, as is Michael Howard's book on the Franco-Prussian War. If you're reading a book on the world as it was then, for a look at how the world is now, though, the value of reading the book is much more open to question. And so it is with Paper Lion by George Plimpton. Plimpton, a relatively well-known writer including for Sports Illustrated in a participatory manner, managed to convince the Detroit Lions it should was a good idea to let him go through training camp with them. If this hadn't just happened again, I would have said it was completely insane and there's no way an NFL team would ever waste a roster spot like this. Plimpton, though, went through training camp as a quarterback, despite never really playing the game on anything more than a recreational basis. Thankfully for the theory of "It's really hard to play in the NFL", he fails miserably, losing 29 yards on 5 plays (including an incompletion) in an intra-squad scrimmage.

The book itself? It's primarily stories, Plimpton's of going through training camp and his teammates' of their days in the NFL. But, remember that Paper Lion was based on Plimpton's expenses in the 1963 training camp. That's before Instant Replay, before Ball Four, so Plimpton's book was somewhat of a pioneering glimpse into the foibles and amusements of professional athletes. Stories which might have been revolutionary once upon a time, of rookies singing their songs or bawdy skits or getting rookies drunk, now seem pretty blase and lose any power to shock or even mildly surprise. The book is reasonably well-written and interesting, but I didn't really get much out of reading it. Hopefully Fatsis's book is better-I'll be reading it sometime in the next month or three, and will post a review when I do.

Miscellanea

Time for another collection of miscellaneous links as I watch Colorado play CSU. Not particularly excellent football, but it does have the merits of being the only Division I-A game I've ever attended, as part of my series when the last full high school, college, and NFL game I attended featured Chris Brown (ok, pretty sure about high school, don't remember him but it's likely).

You know the problem with collecting links and revisiting them later? One of them is the link may expire or otherwise lose functionality. Via SMQ and FanHouse linking to Dennis Dodd, USA Football put online the officials' test. Alas, while the test is still online, you could only get your test scored through July 15 (yes, I held onto this link for a while). Anybody got an answer key?

SMQ cogently points out that those begging for an NCAA football playoff may be a case of "Be careful what you ask for-you may get it."

Via Tom Kirkendall, a link to an interesting interview with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. I don't know that I particularly like Jones, but I've long respected his business acumen w/r/t running the Cowboys and his willingness to shake up the occasional complacency of NFL ownership.

Love for me. Nicer guys over email than they come off as on the blog. I emailed them to be sure of this.

Courtesy of Michael Lombardi, some excellent advice from Bill Parcells on picking the 53-man roster. 20 best offensive players, 20 best defensive players, 3 specialists (K, P, LS), and 2 more active players plus a third quarterback (back when teams had those).

The guy who came up with the same CFB playoff proposal I'd already come up with whines about preseason polls. But, what he's really whining about is poll inertia and the anchoring effect of preseason polls. As Tyler Cowen says, the key is really strong opinions, weakly held. Most people can't do that.

Michael Vick: wasted all his money on bad decisions. I'm reminding of Tug McGraw's comment after signing what was then a big contracts: "90% of it will go to women, whiskey, and good times. The other 10%, I'll probably waste."

Every fan knows that about the worst thing that can happen for an NFL team is to lose its starting QB. How much does that really cost a team, though? PFR blog took a look at this issue in three parts (one, two, and three). The answer is about one game, generally speaking, which is probably less than you thought.

By now, Gene Upshaw has been deceased for about 10 days, so it's kind of pointless to blog much about him. Andrew Brandt rightly points out the latest deal the NFLPA got was the best deal they'd ever gotten. See Michael Silver, though he kind of misses the point that Upshaw would be committing a federal crime if he channeled retirement benefits for former players without obtaining the consent of the current players.

Yakuza Rich is a worthless homer when writing about the Cowboys, but pretty good when writing about other stuff. See, for example, this non-Cowboy post on whether or not preseason success matters, looking at defensive statistics. Hint: it doesn't.

More on the flexbone, from SMQ, whom I will still keep calling SMQ despite his new moniker of Dr. Saturday, much as I refer to the guy in charge of EDSBS as Orson Swindle even though I know his real name is Spencer Hall.

Last for now, but certainly not least, Smart Football will be doing a weekly preview of a coaching matchup. For this week's action, it was Alabama-Clemson. Thanks to WLS for making the coverage map a liar and showing me the Michigan State-Cal game instead. Or not, jerks.

Total Titans

The website maintenance has been delayed, which means Total Titans is still up and going. Please visit there for all your Titans news and updates, as I will be doing that there, mostly, and go back to my own sporadic football-related blogging here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Titans Final Cuts

Per the Tennessean, the following players have been released (including updates):

LS Jeremy Cain
DE Sean Conover
FB Casey Cramer
WR Biren Ealy
DT Antonio Johnson
S Calvin Lowry
TE Jamie Petrowski
DE Eric Taylor
WR Roydell Williams

The Titans are now down to the 53-man limit. More analysis on the roster later today.

UPDATE (8/30/08 1355 CT): Biren Ealy also cut. 7 more to come.
UPDATE #2 (8/30 1422 CT): DT Antonio Johnson. I'm surprised. I can't see the Titans keeping less than 8 DL, and particularly less than 4 DT. Brown, Haynesworth, Jones, and who else? Gotta be Vickerson, I guess.
UPDATE #3 (8/30 1441 CT): FB Casey Cramer and LS/FB Jeremey Cain.
UPDATE #4 (8/30 1447 CT): Added Conover, added all cuts to main listing. Players who now look likely to make the team are Roydell and Paul Williams, who will likely be among the inactives most weeks.
UPDATE #5 (8/30 1452 CT): Eric Taylor. Tennessean just updating its article for now, so not posting new links. 2 left, Allred, Ball, Ganther, Vickerson, Roydell, Paul Williams the most likely to go.
UPDATE #6 (8/30 1533 CT): Calvin Lowry. I did not see that one coming. Just one more cut to come.
UPDATE #7 (8/30 1658 CT): Roydell Williams.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Titans Cuts Through Aug. 29

It's been mentioned in the comments section, both here and at Total Titans, but the Titans so far have released 13 players:

CB Marquice Cole
RB Omar Cuff
LB Jerrell Freeman
DB Tuff Harris
S Tony Joiner
OL Enoka Lucas
QB Ingle Martin
OL Jason Murphy
OL Isaac Snell
K John Vaughn
OL Fernando Velasco
CB Cary Williams
WR Edward Williams

Going back to my roster prediction, the guys on there so far cut already are QB Ingle Martin and CB Marquice Cole. The cut of Martin, despite my prediction he'd make the team, isn't overly much of a surprise-the Titans haven't kept three QBs the past couple years aside from Volek pre-trade in 2006. I suspect the cut of Cole means the Titans will go with 10 DBs, and improves Colin Allred's chances of making the team.

Just to note: I watched Bironas during practice before last night's game, and he seemed like he was 100%-he hit about everything, including from 54 with room to spare, and was noticeably better than Vaughn. If it was a regular season game, I'm confident Bironas would have played and done just fine.

Temporary Home of Total Titans

As Andrew has noted, MVN will be down for maintenance over the weekend, so consider this the home of Total Titans this NFL cutdown weekend. I'll be the official "author" of all posts, but I will also be putting up material from Andrew and Drexel and note it when they have written a post.

I still need to put up a post on going to Green Bay, but that will have to wait until I'm not still exhausted. If your plan includes driving 450 miles round-trip, getting home at 1:40, then going to work on time in the morning, it's time to come up with a new plan.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Roster Prediction

I have a new post up over at Total Titans previewing what I believe to be the likely 53-man roster as we head to tomorrow's 4th and final preseason game in Green Bay, at the Unfrozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. I just hope this game will be warmer than the last outdoor game I went to. Hmm, a nice August evening versus a chilly day in Cincinnati. Yeah, that should be warmer.

Life unpleasantly busy of late, UFR and book reviews coming "soon", which is still a term without a precise legal meaning.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Preseason Game 3: @ Falcons

The Titans last night played their third game of the 2008 preseason, and lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 17-3. See my post at Total Titans with thoughts on the game. I've also updated the success rate rusher table.

Busy and distracted right now. A new post up tomorrow-hopefully preseason UFR, but more likely links or something similarly fluffy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Titans Success Rate

I don't know how long I'll manage to keep it up, but here are all the Titans rushers with the Success Rate. Data collection and analysis done by me, from NFL PBP logs.


BackWeekCarriesYardsSuccess Rate
WhiteP 163366.7%
P 283962.5%
P 4165550.0%
Tot.3012756.7%
JohnsonP 167733.3%
P 284637.5%
P 3113545.4%
P 482450.0%
Tot.3318242.4%
HenryP 193844.4%
P 252840.0%
P 33533.3%
P 4102440.0%
Tot.279540.7%
GantherP 1811575.0%
P 231666.7%
P 341750.0%
Tot.1514866.7%
TEAMP 12926355.1%
P 22412950.0%
P 3185744.4%
P 43410347.1%
Tot.10555249.5%


Carries by Omar Cuff not included.

UPDATE: I had a Henry run erased by penalty included in my numbers. Fixed now. Not many comments so far. White has been more productive than I anticipated. Chris Johnson really looks like a boom-and-bust guy-the problem with them is if they don't go boom often enough, they totally suck. Ganther's been really productive.

UPDATE #2 (8/23/08 2308 CT): Preseason Week 3 added.

UPDATE #3 (9/1/08 1024 CT): Preseason Week 4 added.

UPDATE #4 (9/1/08 1053 CT): Added some observations.

Upon Further Review: JAX@TEN

As with the Houston game I just did, I did the UFR off NFL Replay. While helpful a couple times, this game also featured some plays that were excluded to meet NFL Replay's running time. I'll try to go back and fill these in at some point.

I also need to do both of the preseason games so far (I'll only be doing them with VY at offense, though I'll expand that to Chris Johnson's TD run the first game); St. Louis should be up Sunday, with Oakland to follow in the next couple days. Given how I am with blogging deadlines, though, those dates could easily slip. At least track is boring, so I won't be distracted by any of the Olympics.

LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T201103-TERun4WhiteIso
No cutback lane and there's a hole in place, so White plows ahead for a couple yards.
T2426AceRun1WhiteStretch
Stretch run left. The key play is Ingram, I believe, coming up the middle on a blitz, preventing Mawae from coming out and sealing the LBs. Peterson is unblocked and simply beats White to the hole.
T2535Shotgun BasePass5GageIn
Gage comes out of the stack left and finds a place in the defense, and VY hits him. (CA), in part because VY was looking left the entire way.
T301103-WRPass5YoungWaggle
VY fakes left and boots right. Looking for a receiver, but doesn't see one. He eventually takes off, but the lane he thinks he sees isn't quite there. Better to have waited and tossed it to Jones coming on the drag all the way across the field-avoiding the hit and picking up the same yardage. (SCR, .5 BR) because it's my grading system, it doesn't make sense to have half a scramble, and VY's screwup should be reflected.
T35254-WRPass9JonesOut(?)
See the difference from the first game? Titans for 4-wide, and Jags still have 8 relatively close to the box. I don't know what's supposed to happen here, but Roos blocks down, leaving the RDE with a free go at VY, who tries to boot that direction. VY throws up a prayer and Jones hauls it in in space and gets some YAC. (PR), I guess.
T441103-WRRun2WhiteOption(?)
Looks like a read option-type handoff, and VY does run left, trying to draw Spicer with him, while White goes right. Kind of off Stewart behind a pulling Bell, but, man, White has no burst at all.
T4628I-Form, 3-WRRun-4WhiteStretch
Stretch right, and Spicer gets a good inside rush on Stewart, stopping White for a loss. Of course, if White's faster or this is a faster stretch handoff, Spicer's good play doesn't matter.
T42312Penalty-5JonesFalse Start
T37317Shotgun StrongPass13YoungScramble
VY apparently doesn't see much he likes downfield and goes scrambling. A good effort, trying to use White to shield off a couple defenders, but 17 yards is a long way to try to run the ball against an NFL defense. (SCR)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 1Q 9:41. Penalties, blown up plays, no big plays.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T13110Shotgun 4-WRRun2WhiteRead Option
Same as the previous read play, only White runs right guard instead of off right tackle. Not much of a crease, ergo not much of a gain.
T1528Pass2Roydell
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
T1736Shotgun StrongPassIncGageOut(?)
The pattern is a guess-it's not easy to see. VY's pass gets deflected by Hayward at the line of scrimmage, and ends up far short of Gage. (PR), as I don't have a Batted category like MGoBlog does.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 1Q :30. When the defense is missing its key player, the offense has a special need to play well. They, well, didn't.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T20110Run2White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
T2228Pass0YoungSack
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
T2238Pass0White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 2Q 12:27. 3&outs are a good way to get drives not shown on Replay.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T251103-WRPass9HartsockOut
Hartsock runs a little quick out a couple yards downfield, VY hits him, then Ben carries Mathis for about 5 extra yards. (CA)
T3421Run-1White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
T3332Shotgun BasePassIncRoydellComeback
Rollout to the far side a little. VY stops and puts it for Roydell, coming back for the ball. It looks like Brian Williams gives him a shove before the ball gets there, but no flag. Timing also may be just a little off, but still (CA), I guess.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-14, 2Q 3:49. Watching this offensive performance was depressing the first time, the second time, and now again the third time as well.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T241103-WRPass1RoydellScreen
Not quite the conventional WR slipscreen, but a similar concept. Not the blocking you expect from a screen, as Cousin(?) and Peterson are on Roydell quickly to take him down for about nothing. (CA)
T2529Shotgun BasePass6HenryDumpoff
Not much downfield, I guess, so VY takes the swing to Henry. He makes Cousin miss, but can't avoid the next couple tacklers. Still, a decent play. (CA)
T3133Shotgun 4-WRPass4YoungScramble
Looks a bit like a college play-make your primary and secondary reads fairly quickly, then if you don't see anything, just take off, which VY does and in a reasonably efficient manner. When he's making good decisions, he's a very smart scrambler. (SCR)
T35110Shotgun 4-WRPassIncMouldsGo
The Titans go deep, about 45 yards downfield. Alas, it's to Moulds, not exactly the guy I would have picked. The pass is right there, but so is Mathis to bat it away. Good pass by VY, but I can't give him perfect marks because this is a pass I have a hard time seeing be completed. (CA), I guess.
T35210Shotgun 4-WRPass11ScaifeIn
Surprising to see the Jags mostly concede this play-Scaife just sits in front of the zone defenders past the first down marker, and VY hits him. Scaife almost gives up the 1D trying to make a play, but recovers and gets it. (CA)
T46110PassIncYoungSpike
T46210Shotgun 4-WRPass18MouldsDeep In
T46210PenaltyDecl.JAX-KnightIllegal Contact
VY moves up in the pocket and fires a good completion downfield to Moulds. I can't tell exactly how big the window is, so (.5 DO, .5 CA).
J36110Shotgun BasePassIncGagePost/Flag
Gage runs post, VY throws flag. If they get this right, it's 6. Impossible to tell who's at fault here. (.5 CA, .5 IN)
J36210Shotgun BasePassIncJonesIn/Out
Jones and VY not on the same page, VY throws in, Jones runs out. Frustrating to see these two keep doing this. (.5 CA, .5 IN)
J36310Shotgun BasePass17GageIn
The Jags rush 7, the Titans have 6 blockers. VY does well to stand in the pocket, then find Gage on the in. A couple extra yards, and there you go. (CA)
Drive Notes: FG, 3-14, end 2Q. A frustrating end to a decent two-minute drill-the miscommunications are killers. The analyst, Gannon/Beuerlein (I forget), blames VY, but that's what he always does. The Titans then blow :10 somehow, and don't try to run another play to get to the end zone. Down 14 points, I'm not sure that's the best strategy.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T43110Shotgun BasePass-5YoungSack
Fake to White, like it's a read option play, then the boot. VY sees Hayward coming for him, then fails to take the checkdown and eats the ball. (BR) for the indecision.
T38215Shotgun 4-WRPass5WhiteDumpoff
In a lot of these 4-WR sets, Scaife and maybe Troupe are lined up as WRs. If they're lined up as a WR, rather than an inline or offset TE, they're scored as a WR. VY takes the checkdown, and White gets a couple. (CA), though this game and a lot of the 2007 action shows how limiting that is. It doesn't penalize VY for missing a guy open 15 yards downfield. It rewards the checkdown. It's really bothering me, because this kind of game where the running game is mediocre and the other team is good is where a good QB needs to shine, and VY isn't doing that.
T43310Shotgun BasePass9YoungScramble
Not much of a read, but a look, another look, White has stayed into block, and VY takes off. He dives for the first down, but NFL defenses are good. (SCR)
J48412-TE, 2-WR LeftRunFumbleMawaeBad Snap
A generous spot leaves the Titans about 3 inches from a first down rather than 2 feet, so Fish decides to go for it. I know, it seems at odds with his general conservatism, but Fisher is a smart dumb coach. Awful snap by Mawae, and the sneak never has a chance.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-14, 3Q 11:54. And TMQ writes "Game Over" in his notebook, or would if he didn't have it pre-printed in all his notebooks.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T261103-WRRun6WhiteCutback
White looks stopped after about 1, but does well to break out of the tackle and pick up some good yards on first down.
T3224I-Form, 3-WRRun0HenryCutback
Henry sees Peterson ready to fill the hole on the left side, so he cuts it back right. What he doesn't see behind the o-linemen, though, is Knight ready to take away that hole, too. Best to have just stuck the nose up and taken it left, though I'm not sure if there's any way to really recognize that without X-ray vision.
T3234Shotgun 4-WRPassINTRoydellSlant
I took a gander at my contemporaneous take before seeing this play, and I think I got it right. Roydell lines up outside left. For the slant to work, Gage slot left has to clear out his defender, then there's a very narrow window in which to make this play. VY throws it late, toward Williams, and the pass is tipped and intercepted. A difficult play to have success with, more so than you'd like to see in 3&relatively short. (IN)
Drive Notes: Interception, 3-14, 3Q 8:32. Well, the offense is actively bad instead of passively so like it had been most of the game.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T14110Shotgun StrongPass28GageGo
VY fakes and rolls right, then tosses the ball up for Gage. One thing I didn't pay enough attention to is that they've been working to play Gage against the slot WR, which means he's generally drawing the other team's nickel corner. Against Houston, that was Faggins, who really sucks. Against JAX, it's been Cousin, who's only clearly worse than Mathis and Williams. (CA)
T42110Shotgun 4-WRPass16ScaifeIn
Same play as the completion to Scaife during the 2-minute drill-an 11 yard or so in, then Scaife gets some YAC. (CA)
J42110Shotgun BasePass10GageDrag
A little shallow drag route, but Gage has some running room and gets decent YAC, avoiding Mathis until he can pick up the 1D. Not a great play, but a useful one. (CA)
J32110Shotgun BaseRun-3HenryOption
Another read option-type handoff, but it doesn't look like VY has any chance of keeping it. Landri gets good penetration between Olson and Mawae, then Smith comes up and finishes him off. This play never had a chance.
J35213Shotgun 4-WRPassIncScaifeDrag
A deeper drag out of the right slot, just across the first down line. Knight, though, is able to make a good play on the ball and break up the pass. The analyst gets it right here-a perfect pass results in a completion, but it wasn't a bad pass. (CA)
J35313Shotgun BasePass4YoungScramble
Young feels some pressure, goes outside, dances around for a while, and decides to take off. And get crunched about 4 yards downfield by defenders who weren't blocked because Henry and Scaife were potential targets and didn't know what the hell to do. (BR) is the grade here.
Drive Notes: FG, 6-21, 3Q 4:49. With a bigger gain by VY, maybe Fisher goes for it here. Then again, down 18, you need 3 scores in any event, so he probably doesn't.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T331103-WRPass9HenryScreen
It's nice to see the Titans run a screen successfully. The D-line all gets sucked in, and Henry gets good yardage. (CA)
T4221Shotgun 4-WRPass4GageDrag
Gage lines up left slot and just runs across the middle. Simple pattern, simple throw, simple catch. An ideal pass would be a little farther ahead of Gage/a little early, but I'm not sure if the window was there. (CA)
T46110Shotgun 4-WRPass11ScaifeOut
Having recently watched the second preseason game of 2008 and the dreadful passing therein (Collins+VY: 8 for 28), it's nice to see the Titans throw the ball efficiently like this. Scaife lined up in the right slot, ran about 9 yards downfield and turned out, caught the ball, then slipped the first defender and dove upfield for a couple more. (CA)
J43110Shotgun 4-WRPassIncRoydellGo/Stop?
Roydell lines up outside left, runs straight downfield. VY tries to hit him, but the ball is throw for more of a stop route pattern, whereas Roydell is still running down the field. CB Williams is able to bat the ball away. This is an ok stop route throw, not a good go route throw. I'll equivocate with (.5 IN, .5 CA).
J43210Shotgun BasePass6GageDrag
Jags blitz, VY hits Gage over the middle like he should. If Nelson misses the tackle, this is probably a bigger play. Mason was great on this kind of play, because of his speed. Alas, with Gage, the Titans have to opt for reliability over speed. The right choice, but you'd rather have both. (CA)
J3734Shotgun EmptyPassIncScaifeDeep Out
"Look right here, you can see the pressure." Thanks, SteveRich, for highlighting the guy showing blitz who's not rushing. VY has time and Scaife is open, but the pass sails out of bounds. You HAVE to convert these throws. (IN)
J3744Shotgun 4-WRPass16JonesCurl
I admit it-I have a soft spot for Brandon Jones. I think he should be the Titans' best wideout. This is apparently (we don't get to see it, either live or on replay) a good curl route against Brian Williams, where Jones just separates and makes himself a target for VY, who delivers a decent ball. (CA)
J21110Shotgun StrongPassIncJonesGo
The throw for Jones, who lined up as the single wideout left. I'm not sure quite route VY was trying to throw, but the play this should look like is the Troy Smith to Ted Ginn Texas 2006 game throw (video here), though of course Jones isn't nearly that wide open. (IN)
J212103-WRRun1HenryDraw
Great play here by DT Landri-he stands up Bell at the snap and eats up Henry when he tries to find a hole.
J2039Shotgun Split BacksPass20-TDGagePost
VY with a great play here-looks off the safety, then delivers a perfect pass to Gage in the end zone. Naturally, Gage can't haul the pass in and it goes off his chest. Thankfully, he's able to maintain his conversation and gets a fortunate bounce that lets him haul in the pass for the touchdown. Better to be good than lucky, but I'll take it. (DO)
Drive Notes: TD, 13-21, 4Q 14:54. The Titans absolutely had to get points here, and the passing game is able to deliver. See, Jeff, throwing the ball isn't always wrong.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T19110I-Form, 3-WRPass-7+FumbleYoungSack
This is the key play of the game. The Titan defense stops the Jags, giving the offense a chance to go down the field and tie the game with a TD+2. But, after this play, that chance is virtually extinguished. So, what happened? The most direct answer is David Stewart's ankle injury-Reggie Hayward is able to handfight with him and get around to the outside. VY is looking left side and doesn't see Hayward coming. Reggie uses his hands to force the ball out of VY's, and it's all Young can do to fall on the ball back at the 4. (PR)
T4225Shotgun 4-WRPass9JonesIn?
Jones lines up outside left, runs about 12 yards downfield, and dives back to make the catch. (IN), because the catch was about twice as hard as it needed to be because of the throw, plus I suspect there was a better place to throw the ball.
T13316Shotgun StrongPassIncScaifeDrag
A little pressure, VY throws for Scaife a couple yards short of the first down market, and the play is broken up by Cousin. Ugly looking play all around. (.5 PR, .5 IN)
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-21, 4Q 10:33. Game over, man, game over!
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T27110Shotgun 4-WRPass11JonesCurl
Curl is a guess, but seems reasonable. A decent little pass play. (CA)
T38110Shotgun 4-WRPass8YoungScramble
VY feels pressure coming around from his backside and, not seeing anything, takes off. Henry gets a good support block on Peterson, then VY just goes to the ground rather than take a hit. Good decision. Can't say this was a bad decision to run. (SCR)
T4622Shotgun 4-WRPass9YoungScramble
T4622Penalty15JAX-PetersonUnnec Rough
As a reminder, formations are based on where people line up, and not who lines up. Example here: Troupe is the guy in the right slot. VY takes off, another reasonable-looking decision, but tries to cut up into not much space for not much more additional yardage rather than just scoot out of bounds after getting the first down. That is a dumb decision, but not nearly as dumb as Peterson coming in with the stupid, unnecessary hit. (SCR)
J30110Shotgun 4-WRPass6JonesDrag
Jones lines up slot left, runs across the formation. VY hits him right hash, then Cousin hits Jones. Can't say this is a bad decision (please, give us coaches' tape), but you like to avoid these if possible. (CA)
J2424Shotgun 4-WR, 3-WR LeftPassIncHenryDumpoff
VY doesn't see anything he likes, and tries to dump this one off to Henry slipping out of the backfield. But, DE Mincey gets his hand up on it, meaning the pass falls incomplete. Since I eliminated MGoBlog's Batted category, let's call this a (PR).
J2434Shotgun 4-WRPass-7YoungSack
Another play that proves important. And another play where Stewart's ankle injury comes into play. Mincey is able to get around him, and that would never happen where Big Country is fully healthy. VY is trying to roll to his left, and has his eyes downfield, so he doesn't see to get rid of the ball. This is a big deal, as 4&4 v 4&11 is a big difference. (.5 PR, .5 BR) for VY's lack of field awareness.
J31411Shotgun StrongPassIncScaifeSeam
I hate grading plays like this one. VY moves around in the pocket, then ends up throwing for a double covered Scaife in the end zone. Scaife nearly duplicates Gage's effort (minus the drop), but can't quite haul the pass in. CBS thankfully shows us a replay, from which you can see that Troupe(?) is wide open in the far corner of the end zone. Tough to see for VY. Instead of Scaife in the end zone, Jones(?) underneath may have been a better shot at the first down, since keeping the drive alive is the more immediate concern than 6 points. (.5 CA, .5 BR) well-represents the conflicted nature of my analysis.
Drive Notes: Downs, 13-28, 4Q 2:38. Not much more to say about this drive-the Titans are trying to come back throwing the ball, and that's not something they're well-constructed to do.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
J15110Trips LeftPass11RoydellSmoke
Fun wrinkle from the Titans-Roydell is part of the trips, VY throws him the ball immediately, and the other guy in the trips block. The interesting part of this is the trips are well on the other side of the field from the offensive line-this creates more space and easier/better blocking decisions by the other two pass catchers. (CA)
J41GPenalty-5RooseFalse Start
J91GShotgun BasePassIncMouldsIn and Out
Moulds gets some separation from Mathis, and VY, going to the far sid eof the field, puts it just a little too far for the veteran to haul in. Not an easy throw, but if you want to win games, you have to make this throw. (IN)
J92GShotgun StrongPass9-TDRoydellJump
J92GPenalty-11StewartHolding
No clue what the original pattern was, but the completion was a VY scramble to the far (Roydell) side, followed by VY chucking the ball up in a pass that's likely either a jump grab by your tall WR or an incompletion. (CA) for that, but as VY tries to break the pocket, Stewart loses contain on Hayward and has to grab him. Jersey tug, and that means no TD. Stupid freakin' ankle.
J202GShotgun StrongPass17RoydellDrag
Really good play by VY-the Jags rush and he escapes the pocket. Stewart thankfully doesn't hold this time. As VY's avoiding the pressure and nearing the sideline, he sees Roydell coming on the deep drag clear from the starting out wide left and gives him a good pass. (DO) may be inflated, but this was a really nice play.
J33G2-TE, 2-WR RightPassINTScaifeFlat
Scaife lines up on the heavy side and runs a simple flat. VY's rolling right throw and appears to throw late, though, and Williams is able to dive for the ball and pick it off. (IN), I guess, though Bad Read might be more accurate.
Drive Notes: INT, 13-28, 4Q 1:14. Sigh. A game that felt over for a while finally came to an end, with the expected result.


I also need to update the passing chart, which will happen sooner or later. I still have both the Charger games to do-the regular season game off NFL Replay, and the playoff game off the CBS broadcast.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Linkagery

It's been a couple weeks since I've done one of these link agglomerations, so we'll see exactly what I come up with that's still semi-relevant.

Call me Deacon Blues. If Alabama is going to act like a for-profit institution, they should be taxed as such, or at least the football program should.

From the days of yore, Dr. Saturday (back when he was SMQ) takes a look at which non-BCS teams might make a BCS bowl, based on what other near big bowl non-BCS teams have had in common. BYU looks best. See also his analysis of what BCS champions have had in common, though his preseason poll has Florida and not Ohio State on top as that look would suggest.

Yakuza Rich ranked the NFL's top 5 by position. He's a Cowboys homer, and the list is NFC-heavy, but interesting. Titans listed include Mawae, Stewart, Haynesworth, and Bironas.

Andrew Brandt (back in the days of his own site) is skeptical of the Jason Taylor acquisition. See also this Rick Gosselin column, pointing out Redskin GM Vinny Cerrato's history with aging pass rushers in San Francisco.

The financial success blahs of hosting the Olympics, news from Sydney edition. Prediction: successful Olympic bids are correlated strongly with political monolithicism. This speaks highly of Chicago's chances with the Daley machine.

Dart throwing! Coaches Hot Seat ranked the top 100 assistants. The authors of this blog are either insanely connected insiders or just making up a bunch of shit. I lean moderately towards the latter.

Rich Karcher of Sports Law Blog mocks the NCAA's decision to permit fantasy sports with college players.

I'll be doing a preview of the Colts for Total Titans. If it's half as good as this MGoBlog preview of Purdue, I'll be pleased. See also Penn State.

SMQ showing off his insane knowledge of the hugely disjunctive world of college football: up-and-coming defensive and offensive teams.

Rick Gosselin with a good look at something we already knew: tackle stats are silly. I try to avoid mentioning them in my game recaps, I don't mention them in my analysis of players, and I generally ignore all references to them. The table at the bottom is the key part: there's no reason other than stat padding some teams should average 1.8 tackles per defensive play and some 1.15. Given that all teams that use the official scorer stats are under 1.25, that makes it particularly silly.

Time to go to Vegas. The Ohio State-USC line opened at USC -3.5 and has gone up. I know they have a good defense, but there's no way they're breaking 20 without multiple non-offense scores, and I don't think the defense is that good.

And now, the raisin in the sausage end: the definitive word on the A-11 offense, from Chris Brown of Smart Football.

Preseason Game 2: v. Raiders

The Titans last night played their second preseason game, at home against the Oakland Raiders. They won, 17-16, on a last-second field goal by John Vaughn. For more on the game, see the liveblog and the game recap I did over at Total Titans.

More content this weekend. Yeah, I'm behind again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blogroll Update

I added a couple sites under the Titans Links category on the sidebar, several of which I should have added a while ago. If you see any sites I'm missing, let me know. Vaguely original content and focus on Titans required. Exceptions for reasonably focused blogs that are Titans heavy and very good-currently this is Paul Kuharsky's AFC South Blog for ESPN, and not just because he devoted a post to a question I asked. Also, the Nashville City Paper doesn't get a link until they put up a Titans page instead of the basic sports page they have now. Seriously, don't give me a reason not to visit your website. You can also lobby for inclusion under Football Links, but that's limited to sites I read regularly and think are good.

That's right, we're starting a football season and I'm starting to finally act like it. UFR coming tomorrow-preseason game 1, new feature probably Thursday, an actual game Friday, and I'll finally post vJAX UFR over the weekend probably. As always, dates may see slipped. Except for that actual game thing-they don't schedule and reschedule NFL games based on my whim, alas.

UPDATE (8/13/08 2232 CT): Dr. Saturday, Yahoo's new CFB blogger, f/k/a SMQ, real name Matt Hinton, replaces SMQ on the blogroll.

Book Review: Distant Replay

In response to my review of Instant Replay, Jerry Kramer's book chronicling the Green Bay Packers' 1967 season, Andrew recommended I read Distant Replay, Kramer's follow-up (also written with Dick Schaap) focusing on the first Super Bowl-winning team and their 1984 reunion. In a way, the book is similar to It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium, with football players trying to find meaning in Life After Football. Many players ended up very successful (Kramer's focus on millionaires seems almost quaint to my young ears, though of course it wasn't when the reunion was, nearly a quarter century ago), a fact for which they seem to universally credit the values and skills instilled in them by Vince Lombardi.

Which gets me into my second point. In my review of the Lombardi bio When Pride Still Mattered, I was dismissive of Maraniss, arguing we didn't get any idea as to Lombardi the Football Coach as compared to Lombardi the Motivator. I'm still convinced this is an important failing in Marnniss's book, but I was reading this fascinating interview* with Bill Polian a couple days ago, and particularly noted his comments on the rise of the NFL as a matchup league. There are comments in Distant Replay about only running the same couple plays, but just running them that much better, and the absolute faith in Lombardi that they were the best prepared team to win. Now, that last is a comment I've seen replicated nowadays w/r/t Belichick, but the former, yeesh. Stories like that, or Namath calling all his own plays at the line in Super Bowl III... things like that have gone the way of the complete game in baseball. Yeah, it's still technically possible, but the quality of play has improved so much that it's generally a hugely sub-optimal strategy. The point, though, is that maybe Lombardi the Football Coach and Lombardi the Motivator are closer than I originally credited them as being. Then again, I'm not sure Kramer and his teammates are necessarily quite the best source-after all, to insiders and people who are used to doing things, what to us fans and non-players is commonplace and routine, not even worthy of comment. It's something I need to think about more seriously (or just ignore altogether).

*-Seriously, read that whole interview. It's almost as good and as instructive as Mike Reinfeldt's Rotary Club talk I wrote at length on about a couple months ago.

Anyway, back to the review of Distant Replay, it's reasonably enjoyable to read but ultimately not very enlightening. Kramer's failings come across in a clearer light than I remember them doing in Instant Replay, which casts doubt on the accuracy of his impressions (more, what isn't he telling me) and reduces his likability as a narrator. Now, I recognize first-person narrators aren't always sympathetic and reliable, but I personally find books much more enjoyable to read when they are. It doesn't to me call Instant Replay's canonical status into doubt, but I can't really recommend Distant Replay to all but the most serious Packer fan. Not that it's bad, mind you, just that there are so many other books out there you could be reading.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Preseason Game 1: v. Rams

The Titans won, 34-13. I did a preview and post-game thoughts over at Total Titans. As I did last preseason, I'll be doing UFR for the first team offense, which means when VY was in the game. As a bonus, and because I want to, I'll also be adding Chris Johnson's 66 yard touchdown run. Alternatively, I may use that play to test out another post idea I've had for this year-details to come if/when I decide about that.

I also have UFR done for most, but not all of the second Jaguar game, but didn't feel like formatting just the partial game. That'll also be up in the next couple days. Likely, one of STL or JAX will be up Monday night, and the other will be up Tuesday or Wednesday. If I hadn't been a lazy bum this weekend, I'd have either or both done by now and a book review, but I played a bunch of Madden instead. That 2017 season is really important, y'know.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Book Review: Blindsided

Hey, I'm late with writing a post. I know, that's NEVER happened before, and will of course absolutely never happen again. In this case, the reason hasn't been purely because of my own lassitude, though, but because I've been going back and forth on how I'm going to review this book. From when I started doing book reviews on blogs about five years ago, I've found there are certain books which I can review in either very few words or, for a book review, very many. I don't mind writing blog posts that are 1,000 or more words long-UFR is a couple thousand words long (I'm not sure exactly how much I write for each game), I think I wrote about 1800 words on Wycheck and the Hall of Fame, etc., but I think it's normally a waste when it comes to book reviews. So, anyway, a relatively short review.

I greatly admire the work of K.C. Joyner, the self-proclaimed Football Scientist. I own the past three editions of Scientific Football, and pre-ordered the current/new edition months ago. Reading his new book, Blindsided: Why the Left Tackle Is Overrated and Other Contrarian Football Thoughts, was however a deeply unsatisfying experience. The primary reason, I believe, is that the book tries to cover too many subjects. From his website, you can see a list of each of the 17 chapters. For a book that doesn't reach 260 pages, including white pages, that's simply too many subjects. It's not quite as bad as The Paolantonio Report in terms of raising and then failing to intelligently discuss plausible arguments, but it's closer to that end than to reaching satisfactory answers.

The best illustration of this is probably the chapter that provides the title and first half of the subtitle, that the left tackle position is overrated. This is, of course, a counter to Michael Lewis's argument in The Blind Side. Now, I didn't find myself particularly agreeing with Lewis when reading The Blind Side, primarily because I'm not convinced he really understands football. He's an excellent storyteller, though, and used a good hook to tell an interesting story, but in terms of illustrative or explanatory power, The Blind Side doesn't hold a candle to Liar's Poker or Moneyball. So, why does Joyner argue the left tackle is overrated?
--Teams run about as effectively behind left tackles as they do behind right tackles or, indeed, other offensive linemen.
--Left tackles don't necessarily give up a high percentage of the sacks against their team.
--Some left tackles who don't give up a lot of sacks play for teams that give up lots of sacks.
--Orlando Pace and Eric Shelton had similar sack statistics in 2005, but everybody thinks Pace is good and Shelton couldn't get a job.
I'm simplifying some of his argument a little, but I don't think I'm missing any major points. I mean, yes, these points are all true, but that doesn't make them interesting. Some better questions are:
--To the extent we can evaluate them similarly, are left tackles or right tackles better players?
--Is it better to have a bad left tackle or a bad right tackle/right guard/left guard/etc?
--Where does the biggest pass rush threat come from?
--How important should we think the left tackle is?
Joyner, for a guy whose hallmark is watching lots of tape, has remarkably few subjective opinions when it comes to the play of left tackles. The best available evidence we have is that having a good left tackle is very important. Most teams have right handed quarterbacks, who are less able to respond and react to a rush coming from the offensive team's left side. Many defenses play their best pass rushers at right end to take advantage of that. Is it the be-all and end-all? Of course not; it's quite possible to have an outstanding left tackle and an offensive line that is poor overall. But it is important, and very likely the hardest position to play on the offensive line, as Ross Tucker has written.

Anyway, I can't particularly recommend Blindsided to anybody. Disappointing, but there you go.

Blogroll Update

Goodbye to Andrew Brandt and Michael Lombardi, and welcome to the National Football Post, home of those two guys and others as well. Now if only they'd put up Lombardi's old posts or otherwise restore his archive... Also added is the invaluable 2008 college football TV schedule.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Upon Further Review: TEN@HOU Offense

UPDATE (8/6/08 2119 CT): Whole game now up.

I did this off NFL Replay. Because of the number of plays in the game, not all were shown, so there are a few plays I didn't get to chart. I'll try to fill those in at some point.


LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T31110Strong IPass18RoydellTiming
Heck of a play to start the game-playfake, then Collins takes his dropback and shows off his arm strength by throwing a bullet to Roydell, who turns around and snags it. (DO) may be inflated, but (i) this is a hard play to stop and (ii) I'm feeling generous.
T391104-WRPass13DavisWaggle
Yes, the Titans ran waggle with Collins out of a 4-WR set. Ok, maybe it's not a true waggle because there's no pulling guard, but it was a boot with waggle-type patterns. Davis ran the drag across the field about 10 yards downfield and Collins hits him. For the record, Gage, who'd lined up in the TE offset position next to Stweart (boot side) was the shallow receiver. Awesome CBS graphic shows "V. Young, 2/2, 31 yds" after the play is over. (CA)
H38110I-Form, 3-WRRun2WhiteIso
Short run right side.
H36283-WRRun2WhiteCounter
Short run right tackle. White's not fast enough to get outside on this kind of play.
H3636Shotgun BasePassIncScaifeDumpoff
Protection problem here-DE Kalu stunts, coming off his RDE spot to loop toward the middle. Mawae gets caught in up trash (good rush by DT Maddox on Olson) and Collins has to get the ball away before he wants to. Not that he shouldn't have gotten rid of it earlier, but not that he shouldn't have either. (PR)
Drive Notes: FG, 3-0, 1Q 12:35. Fisher elects not to wimp out, somewhat surprisingly.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
H23110Weak IRun3WhiteIso
Short run middle. If White had vision and ability, he could get 5 more yards by going through one of the gaps on this play. But, he's LenDale.
H2027Trips RightPassIncHartsockOut
Collins puts it a little too far for Hartsock coming out of the trips to haul in about 10 yards downfield. I can't figure out why Hartsock didn't catch this pass. Then again, Dick Enberg tells us Bo Scaife was the intended receiver. (.5 CA, .5 IN)
H20374-WRPass6-FumbleScaifeDumpoff
Part of the reason I've been putting this off for so long is I sometimes just hate so much watching the Titans play offense. This play is 4-WR, the Texans rush a couple. Scaife stays in to block. The pocket collapses, so Collins moves around a little, before just dumping it off to Scaife. No downfield look, so who knows if any of the 4 WRs was actually open at some point. Scaife then tries to split two defenders to pick up the first down (note to Bo: bad decision), and loses the ball as he's going down. (CA), I guess.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-0, 1Q 10:50. Beneficiary of a turnover? Can't stand good fortune? Just give the ball right back to the other team!
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T391104-WRPass-6-FumbleCollinsSack
Apparently protection problems and failure to recognize the blitz are not the sole and exclusive purview of Vince Young. DeMeco Ryans comes through absolutely unblocked, crushes Collins, then picks up the loose ball and goes for a touchdown. Way, way, WAY too easy. How to fix this? If you recognize the blitz, Mawae had to quickly pick up the DT and Olson flares to get Ryans. Workable, especially for a quick pass like Collins seems to be readying. (PR)
Drive Notes: Fumble returned for TD, 3-7, 1Q 9:43. Turnovers are bad, mmkay?
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T24110Run-1White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
T23211Run2White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
T2539PassIncHartsock
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-7, 1Q 8:13. I do have this game on VCR, but I'm doing this charting on NFL Replay. 3 and outs deep in your own territory are a good way to not get shown.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
H38110Weak IRun5WhiteIso
Decent run middle.
H3325Run-1White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H3436Pass8Gage
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H26110Penalty-5MawaeFalse Start
H31115Run6White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H2529Run5White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H2034Trips LeftPass6HartsockStop
Hartsock is the TE opposite from the trips, gets a free release off the line, runs 5 yards downfield, catches the ball, and dives forward. Simple play, good execution. (CA)
H14110PassIncScaife
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H14210Shotgun BasePass7ScaifeFlat
Hey, it's the stupid short side rollout with Collins. Short pass to Scaife. (CA)
H7334-WR ClosePassIncR.WilliamsCross
Roydell gets flattened by Greenwood before the pass is there at about the first down marker, but he would've had to have been about 5 feet taller to be able to catch the pass. Maybe it should've been a penalty, but the pass isn't close enough to force it. (IN)
Drive Notes: FG, 6-7, 1Q :55. Bironas sets the NFL record for field goals today because the Titans sucked in the red zone. The thing worse than watching bad football is breaking down bad football.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
H491103-WRPass39R.WilliamsPost
Houston fans will tell you Faggins sucks. This play is a good example of that. Cross points out a "nice, nice throw" by Collins; I prefer to see it as awful coverage creating a gargantuan (for the NFL) passing window. The closest defender is Robinson, who came off Gage (slot guy) after he saw the throw; naturally, he's misidentified as "a safety." (CA)
H10110Pass4Gage
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H626Run2White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H434PassIncR.Williams
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
Drive Notes: FG, 9-7, 2Q 11:49. The ability to throw the ball down the field successfully is such a powerful force in the NFL. It was the key to the Patriots offense this past year, and the Titans recognize it at times, too.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T23110I-FormationPassIncHartsockBootleg
Or, at least I think this is supposed to be a bootleg pass of some sort. The problem is, S C.C. Brown makes his semiannual good play and comes on a corner blitz, forcing Collins to get rid of the ball well before he wanted to. (PR)
T23210Weak IRun5HenryOff Tackle
Decent run off Stewart.
T2835Shotgun StrongPass24GagePost
Have I mentioned Faggins is bad? He is. He really is. (CA)
H48110Strong I, 2-WR WeakPass15ScaifeOut
Scaife runs an ok route, but Collins shows off his arm strength again, putting the 15 yard out right on the money. Decent coverage for a change by C.C. Brown, but it didn't matter. (DO)
H33110I FormationRun3HenryOff tackle
Decent run right tackle. Greenwood filled the hole he needed to.
H30273-WRPass10HenryScreen
Henry gets a chance to show off what he can do, viz. run in the open field when people don't have much opportunity to make contact with him. (CA)
H20110Trips LeftPassIncScaifeCircle
Travis Johnson battles Mawae and is able to gets his hands up. Not sure whose fault this is, so I'll equivocate. (.5 CA, .5 IN)
H20210Pass2Henry
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H1838Shotgun BasePassIncGageFlag
H1838Penalty17HOU-FagginsPass Interference
See above re Faggins. If he doesn't keep holding onto Gage and bothers to look back, this probably isn't a penalty. (CA)
H11GGoallineRun1-TDWhiteDive
Short run straight ahead.
Drive Notes: TD, 16-7, 2Q 5:36. Yay, pass plays moving the ball downfield. One thing I see about Collins is he's more asynchronous than VY was this year-a couple excellent passes, but a couple lousy ones. Is this better than the sustained mediocrity that generally was VY? I'm not sure.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T49110Run2White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H4928Run6White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H4332Pass10Scaife
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H33110Run8White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H2522Weak IRun4WhiteIso
Good power run blocking.
H21110AceRun4WhiteCutback
Nice cutback play, but White hesitates a little and isn't quick enough to take much advantage of lots of green stuff. Still, a successful play.
H1726I-FormationRun4WhiteScreen
Officially this is a run, but the play is set up to be a screen pass (Collins' throw goes straight lateral or slightly ahead. White does a good job to avoid the tackle of Mario Williams, who should have the play stopped dead to rights in the backfield, and stumble forward for a couple yards. (CA)
H1332Shotgun 2-TEPassIncR.WilliamsIn
Roydell lines up and runs a little 5 yard in route, just past the first down marker. Collins tries to use his great arm strength to throw the ball through Travis Johnson, which doesn't work so well. (BR), as Collins should have seen Johnson standing there with his arm out trying to do exactly what he ended up doing.
Drive Notes: FG, 19-7, 2Q 1:09. Mediocre punt, plus a holding penalty on the Texans, a couple decent plays, and the Titans get to stall out in field goal range again!
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
H32110Shotgun 4-WRPass9WhiteDumpoff
Fisher decides, for no particularly apparent reason, he wants to ensure the Texans don't get the ball back. Thus, White runs a simple pattern, easy to complete, and :23 of the :45 burns off. Yes, this is part of the reason the Titans don't score more touchdowns-they don't always want to score a touchdown. (CA)
H2321Shotgun 4-WRPass4GageOut
Gage from the right slot runs a little out to pick up the first down, then gets out of bounds. The Texans pretty much concede this one. (CA)
H191103-WRPass5WhiteScreen
See above re not really trying to score. Seriously, a screen on 1&10 from the opponents' 19 with :20 left? I know you have all 3 TOs left, but give me a break. (CA)
H1425Shotgun BasePass4R.WilliamsSitdown
See above re not trying to score, except Roydell does, kind of. He does so a little stupidly, trying to break 4 tackles to get the 9 yards to the end zone, giving up the first down and burning off enough time to prevent the Titans from running another play. Just dive forward and stop things, unless Fisher's already said that's the last play.
Drive Notes: FG, 22-7, end 1H. Yay, not scoring!
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
H30110I-FormationPass4WhiteDumpoff
Hooray for not scoring continue, as Collins takes a quick look downfield, then chooses to throw the ball to White, who slipped out after the Texans only rushed 4. (CA), but -17 points for being depressingly boring. The amusing part is how NFLN just showed Fisher at the post-game presser talking about spending all halftime talking about how they wanted to blow the game open. Actions and words, Jeff, actions and words.
H2626Weak IRun4WhiteIso
Short run left side. I think the Texans played in part to control the cutback.
H2232I-FormationRun3WhiteIso
Short run up the middle. A Texans defender took a bad angle, it looked like.
H19110AceRun0WhiteIso
Stewart cuts Okoye, but doesn't do a very good job, and Amobi is left standing in the hole to tackle White for nada.
H192102-TE StrongRun-6R.WilliamsEnd Around
Fake to White running strong side, and the give to Roydell, who runs smack into Dunta Robinson coming around the corner. For some reason, I'm not surprised, maybe because that's the way it always works when I try running an end around in Madden, Which Is Not Real Football (tm).
H25316Shotgun StrongPassIncWhiteDumpoff
Collins takes a reasonably quick look downfield, then dumps off to White, who'd slipped out. White drops the ball, or maybe alligator arms it with Dunta Robinson coming. No biggie, it was about 2 yards downfield and Bironas makes the figgie.
Drive Notes: FG, 25-7, 3Q 10:58. Winning's not the only thing, trying not to lose it. Yes, Fisher frustrates me at times. Yes, I recognize he's not the OC, but he is the guy who sets the tone for the organization, the organization that believes in defense, the running game, and trying not to lose games.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T27110Weak IPass6HartsockFlat
Hartsock gets a free release out into the flat, Collins hits him with the ball, he catches it, then Dunta Robinson pops him with a big hit that propels him 3 yards forward. (CA)
T33243-WRPass7ScaifeOut
Hey, it's the same play, only to the other side. This time Scaife is a little more open, so he gets 4 and then is able to dive forward for a couple more. (CA)
T401103-WRRun6WhiteOff Tackle
A real zone-looking running play, with White finding a lane off Stewart and getting some running space.
T46243-WRPass4ScaifeOut
Our tight ends only know one pattern! Well, ok, this is more of a flatter route than the previous two TE passes, but it's the same thing. Scaife only gets the 1D because he stretches forward for it, which is kind of dangerous and not the best thing to see from a guy who's already turned the ball over once. FYI, the slot WR on a few of these plays lately seems to have been Troupe. (CA)
H50110Weak IRun2WhiteIso
Short run right side.
H48284-WRPass8GageFlat
Gage lines up in an offset TE position, and runs the same pattern Scaife just ran. Same sort of result, Gage gets knocked but is able to fall forward OOB at the first down marker. (CA)
H40110I-FormationPassIncRoydellGo?
Collins throws what looks like a go-type pattern near the sidelines. Roydell is further upfield, skinny post-like. I don't know what this was supposed to be, but considering nobody could've caught it, I'm calling it (IN).
H40210I-Form, 3-WRRun24HenryZone Read
The run goes right side-there's supposed to be a run right guard, but a hole develops to the left side-not a true cutback, but a cut-and-go play. Hall spots it, gets the necessary seal block, and Henry follows him through the hole. Faggins is able to trip him up by the ankle, else Henry probably goes for 6.
H161103-WRRun7HenryZone Read
Same basic play, but a smaller hole more central than the previous play. Still, a hole and Henry gets good yardage. Watching a back I couldn't outrun, I feel like I have more of an idea as to what the Titans might be trying to do. Maybe.
H923I-Form, 2-WR WeakRun4HenryCounter
Moulds is on the weak side here, in a TE offset position, and screws up. Hall picks up the OLB, but Moulds stays to assist on him, partially blocking the hole and letting Hutchins come up and make the tackle. If Moulds gets him, this is probably a TD. Still, a successful play.
H51GI-Form, 2-WR WeakRun1HenryZone Read
Short run middle.
H42GI-Form, 2-WR WeakRun4-TDHenryZone Read
Credit where credit is due: Moulds just screwed up, but gets the key block here. Mario Williams follows a slanting Roos right, and Moulds gets the seal, opening up the lane for Henry to go into the EZ fairly unopposed.
Drive Notes: TD, 32-7, 3Q 3:01. A touchdown! A real, actual touchdown! A real, actual running back who's not ridiculously slow! It's so nice to be reminded these things actually do exist, at least every once in a while. Shh, don't tell Fisher.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T20110Run28White
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
T48110Run3Henry
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H4927PassIncR.Williams
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
H4937PassIncR.Williams
NOT SHOWN ON NFL REPLAY
Drive Notes: Punt, 32-15, 4Q 12:18. Too many plays to show everything.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T24110I-FormationRun3HenryOff Tackle
Run right side, but Travis Johnson is able to come over from his DT spot and make the play.
T2727Weak IRun3WhiteIso
It doesn't matter if this short run right side is zone read or not, because by the time White gets there, there's not more than one hole, and he's not really able to take the one-cut-and-go hole.
T3034Shotgun BasePassIncGageSitdown
HOU corner (note: Bennett, who's good, not Faggins, who isn't) plays pass defense. Play fails thanks to unexpected opposition. (CA), I guess.
Drive Notes: Punt, 32-22, 4Q 6:52. White sucks. Having a crappy offense sucks. The Titans blow this lead because they can't do better. But, they're bailed out by Anderson, who muffs the punt.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
H33110Weak IRun-1WhiteZone Read
It's hard to run against 8 in the box, when there's a guy to fill every gap.
H34211I-FormationRun0HenryStretch
8 in the box again. Can't run the stretch play with White too well, but it makes an appearance here. Unfortunately, fast as Henry is, RDE Cochran is able to sprint down the line and beat Henry to the hole. Great play by him. Incidentally, this is part of what makes Peyton so valuable-remember in practice a couple years ago the Titans were trying to simulate the Colts but they didn't have a QB who could run the stretch handoff as fast as Peyton did? Yeah.
H34311Penalty-5[Collins]Delay of Game
H39316Shotgun StrongPassIncMouldsEek
Eek is "Kerry Collins feels the rush, so he chucks the ball out of bounds 10 feet over Moulds' head rather than try to make a play, even though a sack isn't too bad a play because the penalty takes you out of field goal range." (BR) is the necessary grade to cover Collins' panicky response.
Drive Notes: Punt, 32-22, 4Q 4:41. The Titans have a golden opportunity to finally put the game away after getting an absolute gift after a punt muff, and do NOTHING with it. Just frustrating to watch.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
H17110I-FormationRun1WhiteIso
Short run right side.
H1629AceRun2WhiteIso
Short run left side. It's boring and time-consuming to say a lot about these.
H1437AceRun-3HenryStretch
Looks like another stretch, or almost a sweep play. S Brown had lined up outside the play-side TE and is able to string the play out, which is why a lot of times you see this out of the I-formation.
Drive Notes: FG, 35-22, 4Q 3:49. Trying not to win continues, but at least the FG here sets them up for the game-winning FG after allowing a couple more scores.
LINEDOWNDISTFORMTYPEYARDSPLAYERBRIEF
T20110Shotgun BasePass17R.WilliamsComeback(?)
No clue what the route is, maybe a comeback or stop. Anyway, Collins uses his arm strength to hit Roydell, who avoids Robinson's tackle and gets 5 extra yards and OOB. (CA)
T37110Shotgun BasePassIncWhiteDumpoff
What's really clear from doing this game and the Indy game is that Collins doesn't respond well to having to move his feet. Here, the pocket collapses, and, rather than move, re-set, and find somebody to throw the ball to, he moves enough to get the ball off and tries to force it to White between two defenders. The ball goes past everybody, but this is a potentially dangerous play, and not the wisest decision. The Titans do have 3 TOs left, so it's not the time issue, it's what could have happened. (BR) may be harsh, but I don't care.
T37210Shotgun BasePassIncGageDeep Out
Frickin' Gage. He beats Faggins, Collins hits him with a good throw, and he can't make the catch until he's out of bounds. I may have been harsh last grade, so I'll give Collins a (DO) here.
T37310Shotgun BasePass46R.WilliamsGo
Great thing about NFL Replay: the elusive coaches' tape puts in an appearance, giving you a great view of how this play unfolds. Roydell's in man against Hutchins, and Collins put the ball in a place where he could make the play and he did. The one thing I wonder, though, is how much of this play is precision timing and planning, and how much is extemporaneous play-making. I suspected the latter watching this play, and Collins' comments also point in this direction, so (CA).
T171103-WRRun6WhiteIso
Run the clock down so Bironas gets the last play of the game. Ho hum.
Drive Notes: FG, 38-36, end 2H. The offense, unchained finally, makes the plays it needs to at the time it matters most. Thank goodness.


Next up, the second JAX game and San Diego. I'll also be doing the first preseason game after it airs on NFL Network on Sunday afternoon, though that probably won't happen until Monday night.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Run-Pass Balance

Everybody knows Jeff Fisher is a run-first, run-second, run-third, and possibly run-fourth coach. How much has this really been true? For grins, I decided to go ahead and run the Titans' run-pass balance numbers to see where they stood in the NFL each year going back to Jeff Fisher's first full season as head coach, 1995. Results:

YEARTENRANKAVG
19951.19101.35
19961.0541.26
1997.8411.25
19981.20111.23
19991.2091.33
2000.8911.28
20011.19111.27
20021.0231.33
20031.0881.21
20041.51271.22
20051.57271.23
20061.0171.21
2007.9111.30


Thoughts?
--Yes, Fisher has been a run-first coach. Ranking first in the NFL 3 times in 13 years is testament to that. Even with 2004 and 2005, the Titans' average rank in terms of run frequency is 9th. Without 2004 and 2005, it's 6th.
--The NFL really has weird fluctuations from year to year in terms of the precise average of run-pass balance. Why were there 1.33 passes per run in 2002 and 1.21 in 2003? I don't know of rule changes that would create this change. Even the 3-year and 5-year running averages show wide variations, between 1.22 and 1.29 and 1.23 to 1.29, respectively.
--One thing I haven't addressed yet is NFL teams run when they win, not win when they run. On this alone, the Titans would expect to run more often when they're good and less often when they lose. Makes sense-2004 and 2005 were their worst years in this time span, and the years they passed the most. 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007 were the playoff years, and their average ranking then was 4 1/2.
--Overall, the Titans still threw the ball more than they ran it. For the whole era, it's 1.13 pass plays per run (weighting each year equally). Even without 2004 and 2005, it's 1.05 pass plays per run (same).

Consider this just a rough first cut at answering this question. I'll probably revisit this issue in the coming days, though I have a couple other things to do, like updating the pass chart, more UFR, more links, and more reading. Next book review will very likely be K.C. Joyner's Blindsided, followed by Paper Lion.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Book Review: Going Long

As a fan of the Houston Oilers, and a fan more generally of people who attack arrogant monopolies, I've long been a fan of the AFL. But, seeing as my existence in this world began after the merger with the NFL, I can't really say that I felt like I knew too much about it. Thankfully, I have now read Jeff Miller's Going Long: The Wild 10-Year Saga of the American Football League in the Words of Those Who Lived It, and that gap in my knowledge has been filled. I admit, I'm not a big fan of the oral history genre, but Miller does a very good job of taking you through the key events of the AFL through the eyes of many, many, many of the people who were involved, including players, journalists, team staffers, NFL people (including Gil Brandt, who always ends up in these books), etc. The other thing an oral history like this has to deliver is, of course, fun anecdotes. And, thankfully, Miller has those covered in spades. A couple of my favorites:
--Sid Gillman cut short his halftime speech at the 1963 AFL championship game so he could watch the Grambling marching band.
--Characters like Cookie Gilchrist and Wahoo McDaniel
--The tumultuous story of the Oakland franchise
--Leon Wismer, the Jets' first owner
--The AFL Secret Draft of 1961, hidden even from AFL Commissioner Joe Foss
--The wars over talent, and the extent teams went to to hide and find players
--The league's closing and arguably moment, where the man with the vision and a lot of the money, Lamar Hunt, claimed the Lombardi Trophy

Enthusiastically recommended to anybody who enjoys enjoyable sports books.