Thursday, April 29, 2010

Total Titans

New post up at Total Titans, part 3 of the ongoing series of how much the Titans offense improved when VY became the starting QB. Tape work of QB interceptions featured.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Total Titans

New post up at Total Titans examining the undrafted free agents the Titans signed.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Titans 2010 Draft Recap

Another April weekend, another NFL draft, at least for some definition of weekend since this year's draft started on Thursday. Anyway, some idiosyncratic, pessimistic, snarky thoughts on the Titans' selections. Player name links are to the relevant Total Titans post. For this analysis, I'm considering only the Titans' 2010 draft day activity, not last year's trade of this year's second round pick to acquire the pick used to select Jared Cook.

#1-16: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
A very popular selection. DE was the biggest need on the Titans' board, and Morgan was generally seen as the best DE in this year's class, even though Brandon Graham and Jason Pierre-Paul both ended up drafted before him. I've already said elsewhere I'm not a big fan of Morgan; I think his upside is as a left defensive end who has 8 sacks in a great year and is very good against the run, but unlikely to ever make a Pro Bowl. To me, you can find defensive ends who can't rush the passer in the 3rd or 4th round pretty easily and getting a relatively low upside guy like Morgan in the first round is a mistake. I expected the Morgan pick, but that doesn't mean I had to like it. My preferred pick would've been the highest rated CB on the Titans' board; for me, that was Kyle Wilson.

#3-77: Damian Williams, WR, USC
Since the 1996 draft, when Keyshawn Johnson was taken #1 overall, the following wideouts have been drafted out of USC in the first 4 rounds of the NFL draft: Patrick Turner, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, R. Jay Soward, and Larry Parker. Of those players, Smith is the only one who wasn't a disappointment for his team, and Williams and Soward are both unadulterated busts. Williams is regarded as a polished route runner and a reliable receiver with good size, which puts him in the Colbert/Jarrett category. Williams does have added value as a punt returner; I'm less confident in my evaluation of how good he is at that, but I'm very skeptical Williams' upside is other than as an extremely mediocre #2 wideout, and can't see him in the Titans' top 3 in the next 2 years. I was surprised to see the Titans draft Williams, as ex-Longhorn Jordan Shipley was still on the board and fits the same profile.

#3-97 Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia
Compensatory pick. I did the Total Titans post, so see that for some of my thoughts. Curran is pretty much a carbon copy of current Titans MLB Stephen Tulloch: a shorter but speedy backer who was hugely productive. I suspect Curran's future will be as the Titans' starting Mike as soon as next season, as Tulloch will likely play this year under a one year tender. I'd been hoping for Donald Butler as the 3rd round linebacker, but he went off the board between Williams and this pick.

#4-103 Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA
Pick acquired from Seattle. Like Curran, Verner was a highly productive college player. He's regarded as a good zone defender, but has questionable speed on intermediate and deeper routes against NFL caliber wideouts. That's about all you can expect out of a 4th round cornerback, which is why you draft cornerbacks in the first and second rounds if you're serious about finding a quality starter. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks with the Titans' original pick took another CB, Oregon's Walter Thurmond, a more talented CB with injury issues. Given that 4th round corners rarely become good players, taking a gamble may be a wise move.

#5-148 Robert Johnson, S, Utah
It's another entry in the long-running Tennessee city battle, as the Titans grab one of the greatest of the Delta bluesmen. Ok, it's not actually that Robert Johnson; a very fine thing, as he's long dead. In a recurring theme, Johnson was a very productive player in college and like Verner, is regarded as a good zone player who needs to improve to be able to play man coverage. Which, again, is not unusual for a 5th round selection. With White traded, another RB would have been a pleasing addition in my eyes, with somebody like Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon a good power back of the kind the Titans could use.

#6-176 Rusty Smith, QB, Florida Atlantic
Pick acquired from Seattle. Just in case you weren't sure Vince Young might not be locked in at the QB of the Future for the Titans, the team reminded you that he's not, necessarily, and that this whole "mobile QB" thing may end up being just an experiment. Smith is the sort of prospect you'd expect to find with a later round pick: good size, a strong arm, but in need of work in terms of accuracy and making more sophisticated reads. He should make the roster, since the #3 QB is a valuable spot, but ideally will never have to start in Tennessee. If the Titans wanted more of a VY clone, they could've grabbed Dan LeFevour, who went a couple picks later, but I'm happy with this pick.

#6-207 Myron Rolle, S, Florida State
Compensatory pick. Rolle is, of course, by far the most famous 6th round pick this year: one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school (the #1 ATH), played as a down but still quite famous school (FSU), then of course the whole Rhodes Scholar thing. A number of fans are quite happy about this pick, as there's a general perception that Rolle's stock was unfairly dinged because teams question his commitment to football. Yes, there is all that stuff, but the sad truth is that Rolle simply wasn't a very good player. He's neither physical enough to be a very good in the box safety, nor does he have sufficient quickness to play pass coverage in really either man or zone coverage. His "upside" as an NFL player is as a smart (cliche alert!) special teams player; he could replace Donnie Nickey as soon as this season, but is never likely to be the kind of player who doesn't create fear in the hearts of his teams' fans if he plays on actual defensive snaps. The Rolle pick, while a reasonable one, to me describes too much of the Titans' draft: a focus on character and some production over potential impact at the NFL level. 6th round picks generally fail and produce limited value; if you're going to fail, you should try to fail boldly.

#7-222 Marc Mariani, WR, Montana
Jeff Fisher's kid's buddy. Mariani was very productive at the I-AA/FCS level; one scouting report in the link called him "the FCS Jordan Shipley," after the Longhorn wideout and punt returner. Since Shipley is considered to have only a limited NFL future, likely unable to play on the outside and to struggle with press coverage, getting the inferior version of him is a great move. I won't get overly exercised about 7th round picks, but this smacks of blatant homerism and short-sightedness, especially given that the Titans drafted a superior version of Mariani in Damian Williams 4 rounds earlier. A very odd pick in my eyes, especially considering the absence of both an RB and an offensive lineman.

#7-241 David Howard, DT, Brown
Good pro day measureables, I know nothing about him. At this point of the draft, I'd be picking names out of a hat. I will say I would have, once again, preferred RB or OL with this pick, especially RB given the Titans' lack of depth at the position, rather than another DT when the Titans already have 4 who expect to make the roster. Then again, late 7th round picks are about as much about getting rights to guys who you wouldn't be able to secure as UDFAs as what you need, so maybe it's better to take a DT you couldn't get as somebody with almost no chance to make the roster rather than an RB when you should be able to attract some quality UDFAs with at least one RB space open.

I am, of course, unsurprisingly down on most of the Titans' picks. That's because I didn't like them, and think the front office is wrong philosophically with the emphasis on college production and character over ability to be above-average player at the NFL level. Interestingly, while I think the Titans did overvalue some things in this draft, at no point did I have the immediate reaction that any player was a severe overdraft, as I did with the Sen'Derrick Marks selection last year, the Chris Johnson pick in '08, and the Chris Henry pick in '07, among others; maybe that's progress of a sort, maybe it's a front office paying too much attention to internet wanking.

Anyway, the true verdict on the draft will of course come later on, after we have a chance to see how these players perform on the field. We'll see who did better 6 years down the line when I do Draft in Review: 2010.

EDIT: For a true draft recap, I do need to mention the trade the Titans made during the draft. They gave up their own 4th and 6th round picks, 111th and 185th overall, plus RB LenDale White and DT Kevin Vickerson, for Seattle's 4th and 6th round picks, 103th and 176th overall. I wasn't surprised White had that little trade value, but I thought Vickerson had more value than that, unless, of course, the Titans took less in trade because they preferred not to cut White.

EDIT #2 (4/28/10 0018 CT): Since I referenced doing them in the post, I guess I should link to my ideal draft, defense edition and offense edition.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Total Titans, Draft

New Total Titans post up, analyzing the 1st round pick of the Titans' 2010 opponents. Yay, exercises in general NFL draft punditry.

Tomorrow I plan to once again participate in the FO liveblog of the second and third rounds of the NFL draft, as least once I get home from work. Check over at FO at the appropriate time for that. I'll also probably be writing up at least one of the Titans' two third round picks over at Total Titans.

Book review post coming eventually, which may be as early as this weekend, for Michael Oriard's Bowled Over.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Total Titans, Draft

New post up at Total Titans, on the Tony Brown signing.

For the interested, I'll be participating in Football Outsiders' liveblog of tomorrow's first round of the NFL draft. No liveblog at Total Titans, but we'll have a post on any Titans picks, plus I plan to do a recap post of the 1st round activity of the Titans' 2010 opponents. That should go up Thursday evening. Not sure about Friday plans as of yet, though I'm sure I'll be in front of a TV one way or the other.

Total Titans

I've been putting up posts at Total Titans this week, with a reaction to the 2010 schedule, and posts on what an ideal draft would look like for both the offense and defense.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Total Titans

New post up, this one reviewing past drafts for 2004. Even now, tough for me to believe this is the 6th one of those I've done, or that I started writing the first one, for 1999, after the 2002 season.

FYI, comment moderation is currently on here, thanks to the rash of spam I've gotten.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pythagorean exponents over time

So, over at Football Outsiders, we've been using 2.37 as the proper exponent when calculating a team's Pythagorean record. That number was in one of FO's first articles, and I was wondering (a) whether or not that exponent, which was calculated by a then-obscure STATS, LLC employee by the name of Daryl Morey, was still valid, and (b) whether that exponent was valid for past years, particularly in the lower-scoring era before the 1978 passing rules liberalization.

To that end, I went ahead and calculated the proper exponent for every year since the merger. The methodology for this was pretty simple: I took every NFL team's points scored and points allowed, put them in a spreadsheet, and used Excel's Solver function to calculate the proper exponent as determined using the least squares method. This is not a particularly sophisticated way of doing the calculation, as it doesn't take into account consistency, and other, more complicated techniques are likely to produce better results. But, I thought the results were fairly interesting, so here they are:



YearExponentPPG
19702.28019.26
19711.88519.36
19722.31220.25
19732.13119.45
19742.24918.18
19752.63720.59
19762.20519.15
19772.25117.18
19782.43718.33
19792.87520.06
19802.60320.49
19812.21520.67
19822.60720.16
19832.60921.81
19842.67921.21
19852.69021.40
19862.88820.52
19872.56721.60
19882.74020.30
19892.17820.61
19902.52020.12
19912.54718.98
19922.41718.73
19931.96818.70
19942.61720.26
19952.32121.49
19962.56620.43
19972.79820.74
19982.59621.70
19992.37020.89
20002.14020.67
20012.69620.21
20022.42321.67
20032.68120.83
20042.78121.48
20052.80420.62
20062.40120.70
20072.50821.69
20082.62022.03
20092.19621.47

There you go. For grins, I added another column, that of points per game, to see if the exponent really was different in the pre-1978 era. The evidence does suggest that points per game and the proper exponent were both lower in the post-merger, pre-1978 era, but that it wasn't a particularly strong correlation. See, for instance, 1970 and 1971 with virtually identical points per game totals and greatly differing exponents. See also 1991-1993, again with similar PPG totals and differing exponents, both greater and lower than the 5-year running average.

Keep in mind, though, that this was done in a particularly simple way. A more sophisticated, smarter analysis, taking into account all the intelligent factors people have done in baseball would almost certainly result in a different number. My understanding, moreover, is that somebody who's able and capable of doing that work (i.e., someone other than me) is actually doing it, but I thought I'd slap this up on here all the same.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Total Titans

New post up at Total Titans, this one entitled Setting Early Roster Expectations. It's kind of an overview of the 53-man roster pre-draft, intended as a sort of reminder of the factors to keep in mind.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Total Titans

New post, part 2 of my little series on how much the Titans' offense improved when VY came in. This installment focuses on the influence of starting field position.

Book Review: American Football

Well, unlike the first time I quoted it, the second time I cited on here Walter Camp's American Football, I actually bothered to finish it.

This book occupies somewhat of an unusual place in the list of football books I've read. Most of those, really, have been quite recently published, and those that haven't have written about a clearly modern game. Dr. Z's New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football may be over 25 years old, but it is recognizably about the same game. I ran across references to Camp's 1891 work in other books, but it had been out of print and unless I wanted to fork over a good deal of coin (Matthew Ridgway's copy was listed for $1800), it would probably forever be one of those mythical works that seemed important but I would never read. Now, of course, it's not only available from Amazon, but also online, in a variety of formats.

The question then is, how is it? The answer is, well, I wish I'd seen that it was available online before I had already plunked down the money for a paper copy. There are a couple of interesting statements in it, like the one I quoted Friday, but none is particularly deep or insightful. Moreover, the greater volume of the book is taken up with a sort of Play Football the NFL Way for the pre-forward pass era. Considering Bass's supposedly quite fine work has been sitting on my shelf unread for at least the better part of a year, and reading what I do write about football, one might suspect detailed descriptions of technique of positions from what seems like only a marginally recognizable game might not be of great interest. And one who suspected as much would be right.

While American Football is a slim volume, reading it was more time-consuming than I expected. Part of it was, yes, my lack of great concern about technique (a topic I plan to write about in greater depth at some point), but part of it was things like Camp's habit of discussing in consecutive paragraphs a position's offensive responsibilities and its defensive responsibilities without any sort of transition. This was especially in a problem in the guard and tackle chapters, while the end rusher chapter seemed to focus almost exclusively on the defensive side. Getting it into my head that "pass" meant only laterals was another thing I had to struggle with. It's one thing to realize it conceptually, but another to try to translate into a concrete understanding and visualization of what kind of actions Camp is discussing. What doesn't help is that the book is ill-structured; the "chapter for spectators" comes at the end of the book. That format, and the chapters on signals and training, make it clear this book was intended as a sort of proto-coach's manual and guide for players than the sort of book fans might enjoy.

Ultimately, I'd say unless you're interested in finding an old-timey football quote, American Football isn't worth your time. And, if you are interested, grab an electronic copy and if you want paper, have a print shop put it into a binding rather than repeating my mistake.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Total Titans

New post up at Total Titans, this one thoughts on the 2010 preseason schedule. I know, big whoop, but I felt like writing one of those "I don't really care about this subject" posts, since most of the time I, well, don't end up writing a post about things I don't care about, like reports of visits or whether or not the Titans were at a particular pro day.

Quote of the Day

Or, Bill Polian eat your heart out.

It is always the case when a rule is not enforced unflinchingly, no matter from what cause, that both sides suffer, and the tendency always is towards devising additional infringements.
Walter Camp, American Football, p.17.