Tag Archives: NFL

Some Thoughts On The 2017 New York Jets’ Draft

SI.com
I do not watch college football regularly, I have not studied tape or scouting reports on 90% of the players in the draft, and I do not claim to know much about this whole process. With all that said, the current Jets regime is now in year three of their rebuild, and still have a bottom three roster in the NFL. We as (Jet) fans have earned the right to be skeptical, so every pick they made over the last few days doesn’t deserve unanimous praise. And now, some analysis from someone who may be wrong about everything:

Pick 6 – Jamal Adams (Safety, LSU) – Adams is good, let’s not overthink it. He’s extremely versatile and he’ll probably be an instant impact guy and at the minimum a good starter for years to come.

Pick 39 – Marcus Maye (Safety, Florida) – Similar to the above. Both dudes are flexible enough to play all over the secondary (scheme fit may be questionable though). My problem with this pick is more of doubling down on the safety position despite the rest of the roster makeup (or lack thereof).

Pick 70 – First trade back – moved back 9 slots and only got a 5th in return. According to the Drafttek Trade Value Chart, moving back to 79 could have netted the Jets pick 127. They received 160  instead. Not great.

Pick 79 – ArDarius Stewart (WR, Alabama) – Old wide receiver (will turn 24 during his rookie season) who doesn’t excel at any one particular thing. They already have some youth at the position with Enunwa, Anderson, and Peake. Don’t know what their intentions are for Stewart, but once again they failed to address need at a valuable slot (and yes I realize they knew Devin Smith was out for the season, but wouldn’t Chris Godwin have made way more sense here?) Anyway, below is an interesting thought, don’t know if it was worth a third round pick though.

Pick 107 (last pick in the third round) – traded for a 4th rounder (125) and got a 6th (204) in return.  Moving from 107 to 125 is worth pick 145 according to Drafttek. Another bad return in terms of value.

Pick 125 – Another trade. In exchange the Jets received picks 141 and 197. Better.

Pick 141 – Chad Hansen (WR, Cal) – Actually looks like a good pick, I think he fell because he’s white and didn’t really break out until his senior season, but he makes some impressive catches and fits the Decker mold of handsomeness and could be a potential deep threat. Only problem with this pick is the Jets  just spent their 3rd round pick on a receiver when CB, Edge, TE, OT, and RB still remain pressing needs. Gifs below.

Pick 150 – Jordan Leggett (TE, Clemson) – Finally addressed the tight end position, a lot of people had a 3rd round grade on him so this is probably good value. Would have rather had the Iowa TE (better blocker), but still pleased.

Pick 160 – Love those trades! Along with pick 224, this was traded for picks 181 and 188. More picks the better I suppose.

Pick 181 – Dylan Donahue (OLB, West Georgia) – A 25 year old OLB from a D2 school. Really? He better be a Special Teams Ace.

Pick 188 – Elijah McGuire (RB, Louisiana-Lafayette) – A smaller running back with athletic upside as a receiver out of the backfield or in the return game. I approve.

Pick 191 (6th round) – Traded to Dallas for a 2018 5th round pick. Did Maccagnan just win a trade?

Pick 197 – Jeremy Clark (CB, Michigan) – Big corner who was probably going much higher if he didn’t tear his ACL during his senior year (he’s 6’3 and ran a 4.43 40 yard dash). I like the calculated risk here.

Pick 204 – Derrick Jones (CB, Mississippi) – Another big corner who’s an athletic freak (originally a receiver turned corner). Sure, why not?

Other thoughts: The Jets were testing the markets of Sheldon Richardson and Calvin Pryor prior to the draft, and yielded nothing. We’ll never know what the market was like for those two, but this hurts the Jets’ draft grade in my opinion.

Day 1 Grade: B+: Adams pick was a good pick, but considering how terrible the roster is, I have to wonder if an offer to trade back (and accumulate more picks) was on the table. If so, then they should have taken the offer. At least 10 trades took place during the first and second round of this draft, I would have liked to see the Jets take part in at least one.

Day 2 Grade: C-: I think Maye was also a good pick, but once again, another potential missed opportunity to trade back and get some more mid-round value (and they once again ignored several other premium positions of need). My grade is more based on drafting an older receiver who has a questionable NFL-fit in the third round, and then losing two trade-backs in terms of value.

Day 3 Grade: A-: I liked the Hansen pick, but it was frustrating to see them only draft receiver and safety in the first four rounds. Donahue pick seemed like a throwaway, but it was one of several 6th rounders (and they netted a future fifth as well). I was pleased with all of the other late round picks.

Overall grade: B-. The first two Maccagnan drafts have resulted in Leonard Williams and a bunch of question marks. It has been anything but positive under this current regime, but I am hoping this draft is the first step in the right direction. However, the Jets remain the Jets, so don’t get your hopes up.

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Muhammad Wilkerson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the New York Jets

The New York Jets offseason has primarily revolved around two issues: what to do with Muhammad Wilkerson and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s future with the team. Unfortunately for many of my fellow Jets fans, they may not like what I have to say next.

The Ballad of Muhammad Wilkerson

Many Jets fans would like to believe that Muhammad Wilkerson is one of the best defensive players in the league, and should command a contract that pays him in the ballpark of $15-$16 million annually with $50M+ guaranteed. On the other hand, two different Jets regimes, and what appears to be a barren trade market, seem to say otherwise. The Jets “have never been close” to an extension as both John Idzik and Mike Maccagnan have shown they were never really interested in dedicating big money to a non-premium position.

In his fifth season, Wilkerson put together perhaps his best performance statistically for the Jets with the below stat line (ignore the completely subjective “stops” figure).

80 total pressures is a remarkable statistic. Some possibly more telling stats are that he recorded 11 Tackles for Loss, good enough to be tied for 36th best in the NFL in 2015. He also recorded five “Stuffs“, or tackles at the line of scrimmage, fewer than rookie teammate Leonard Williams, despite Wilkerson playing 130 more snaps. It’s difficult to approximate exactly how many stuffs he had last season (ESPN says 5, but it could be as high as 7), but these are not great numbers when  compared to the rest of the league. It’s a bit more distressing when considering the primary job of a 3-4 defensive end is to stop the run.

Snaps

He still recorded 12 sacks though, tying him with Whitney Mercilus for 6th most in the league as well as topping Super Bowl MVP Von Miller (though would anyone go so far as to say Wilkerson is more impactful than Miller?). So, what happens if we take a closer look at these sacks? Between the Patriots, Eagles, Dolphins, Browns, Bills, and Titans, Wilkerson had 10.5 of his 12 sacks, including three against the Titans. What do these teams have in common? The answer is they all had offensive lines that were ranked in the bottom half of the league in terms of pass protection according to Football Outsiders. Those same teams are highlighted below:

Three sacks against the mighty Titans
Three sacks against the mighty mighty Titans

So what’s the point I’m trying to convey here? Well to a lesser extent, that Wilkerson’s sack numbers are not as impressive as they appear (the greater point being that Wilkerson is not as impactful as Jets fans perceive him to be). The gifs below are four examples of Wilkerson’s sacks from this previous season that might better illustrate my point.

This is Wilkerson’s second of three sacks against the worst pass-protecting offensive line in the league. You will notice he is lined up in the 3-Technique above the right guard. He pulls a quick hesitation move like he is going to drop back into coverage, and it works as the right side of the offensive line doubles on Mauldin, freeing Wilkerson to get around the edge untouched.

 

In this next gif you see the Bills attempt to run a naked bootleg with Tyrod Taylor rolling right. Wilkerson notices it right away, and is once more untouched as he chases down Taylor for a loss of 12 yards.

 

In this gif Wilkerson is lined up at the 5-Technique above the Giants right tackle. Eli has well over four seconds of a clean pocket, but before he can make his third (fourth?) read, Wilkerson breaks free from the jumbled mess and Manning falls to the ground. Once again, Wilkerson was essentially untouched by the Giants offensive line.

 

Once more Wilkerson finds himself in the 5-Tech above the RT in this next gif. He is somehow left completely unblocked as the tackle and tight end split, leaving Wilkerson free to shoot up the C-gap. The play-action doesn’t work, and Tannehill runs straight into the awaiting arms of the Jets’ defensive end.

 

I’m not attempting to discredit Wilkerson for making these plays nor pushing the notion that all of his sacks are “easy.”  He is an extremely versatile defensive lineman that can impact plays from multiple positions, but he can also be maddeningly inconsistent and fail to show up for big games (including the final three games of 2015 before he suffered a broken leg during Week 17).

In a sense, what I’m hoping to do is find an underlying trend amongst the noise (in this case, sacks). Not to say 12 sacks isn’t a noteworthy feat, but if 1/4 of the sacks last season occurred like those shown above (where lesser players in those same positions could have obtained the same result), then one can make the inference that this extends to his hits and pressures as well. I would also go so far as to say this season is likely an outlier in terms of quantity, and a regression to the mean is more than likely to occur in the near future (similar to the drop-off in production Wilkerson experienced in 2014 after a successful 2013 campaign).

Wilkerson is a great player, perhaps the best on the team, but he also plays the one position where the Jets have an excess of talent. His only irredeemable quality is that he doesn’t have the macro-level impact that you break the bank to keep, and likely why he will be elsewhere in a few weeks.

The Good, The Bad, and The Fitzpatrick

NFL journeyman and noted beard enthusiast Ryan Fitzpatrick is coming off the best season of his career for the New York Jets with the following stat line:

31 Touchdowns, 15 Interceptions, 3,905 yards, 6.9 YPA, 88.0 Quarterback Rating, and a QBR of 63.63.

Those are numbers that would seemingly justify a rather generous contract in a pass-happy league, especially when he broke many Jets records in the process. So why won’t the Jets pony up? Partially because the combination of Chan Gailey, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Ryan Fitzpatrick that produced one of the top offenses in 2015 likely won’t be sustainable for another season. It could also  have something to do with Brandon Marshall having a career season at the age of 32. It also might have to do with the fact that Fitzpatrick has played for six teams in 11 years, including four in the last four seasons. There is also the fact that he has been benched by multiple NFL teams, or that he is one of the worst deep passing quarterbacks in the entire NFL.

This chart below comes from Jonathan Kinsley’s site, Brick Wall Blitz, where he does an accuracy analysis of all quarterback throws 16 or more yards in the air (minimum 8 games played).

Shamelessly ripped this from Jonathan Kinsley's site, which is linked above
Lovingly ripped this from Jonathan Kinsley’s site, please click the link above

I also put this data into a Google spreadsheet here (I color-coded for better visual effects too!) if you want to mess with it yourself. If you take a look at the chart, you will see that Fitz had the second most interceptions on deep passes for 2015 (only behind Ben Roethlisberger), and also had the third worst Accuracy % among the quarterbacks that played 16 games. He did still manage to accumulate 31 touchdowns. This could not be done without the help of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who combined for 26 of said 31 TDs. While a good deal of those touchdown passes were a combination of good ball placement along with precision route running, there were numerous examples of great plays by these two receivers. I call these plays “The Brandon Marshall Effect.”

Below are two examples of said effect:

 

In the above gif Fitzpatrick underthrows what is a well-covered Brandon Marshall, who at the very last second makes an adjustment to undercut the defensive back and add another touchdown to the Jets lead. However, if you notice at the end of the gif, Marshall had the entire outside of the field to his advantage. Not a bad throw by any means, but most receivers don’t make that adjustment with the ball mid-flight.

 

In this gif, Fitzpatrick woefully underthrows Marshall, who has to prematurely stop his route to come back to the ball, but is fortunately bailed out by the safety who takes out his own teammate, leading to another Marshall touchdown.

With those in mind, Marshall won’t always be there to bail his quarterback out. Then the results sometimes end up looking something like this:

 

…And this:

 

In both of the above gifs Fitzpatrick has time in the pocket, but never takes his eyes off of his first reads, and forces the pass into a swarm of defenders for the inevitable interception. Fitzpatrick is also consistently in the upper echelons of “interceptable passes” among quarterbacks, leading Cian Fahey to dedicate an entire blog to Fitzpatrick for being one of the worst decision makers in the NFL.

So who’s the best option as the 2016 Jets quarterback? The answer is…Ryan Fitzpatrick. “B-But Tim, you just spent the last 400 words slandering him!” I know. But reality is, the Jets offense was actually really good last season. They had the third best red zone scoring % in the NFL, the sixth most offensive touchdowns per game, and were the only team to score at least two offensive touchdowns in every game in 2015.

Though Fitzpatrick certainly played a significant part, Chan Gailey’s offensive game plan involved a lot of quick releases and zone blocking to help mitigate what was actually a subpar offensive line. Incorporate that with perhaps the best receiving tandem in the NFL and an underrated running back duo with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, and Fitzpatrick really isn’t that bad of an option. Now with that said, I’m all for the Jets bringing back Ryan Fitzpatrick, but not at the cost of “whatever it takes.” Jimmy Sexton, Fitz’s agent, severely overestimated Fitzpatrick’s market while seeking a contract similar to that of Brock Osweiler. The Jets’ current standing offer would pay Fitz around $7 million a season for 2-3 years (little to no guarantees after year one I would guess). The Jets have absolutely handled this situation the right away, and with the QB market almost all but dried up, Fitz may have no better option than to return. Just because the rest of the league vastly overpays for mediocre quarterback play does not mean the Jets should sacrifice financial flexibility for an 11-year veteran, especially one who has been benched by four different teams.

Reality is that the team has very limited options. Every quarterback in the upcoming draft is forecasted to be a project in some way. The front office has shown little to no confidence in Geno Smith. Bryce Petty has a nominal chance at being anything more than a backup quarterback.

Let’s delve into Petty’s situation a bit further. Taking a look at Scott Kacsmar’s round by round analysis of quarterbacks drafted between 1994-2013 does not bode well for Petty. Of the 28 QBs taken in the fourth round during that time span, there was only one Pro Bowl appearance between them (belonging to David Garrard) and they had a combined win % of 41.2%. Under this (admittedly imperfect) analysis, that gives Petty less than a 5% chance of becoming a one-time pro bowler, which is a pretty low bar when searching for your franchise quarterback. This isn’t even factoring in that Petty played in a college spread offense without a playbook, didn’t require him to make reads, and he struggled when under pressure. Talk about an uphill climb. Fitz is far and away the best option of the available free agents, and it appears the Jets are willing to play the waiting game to see who caves first.

Fourth Round might be the worst of all
Yeesh

I didn’t write 2,000 words with the intentions of slandering two of my favorite teams’ key players and suggest the team could do without them. However, I wanted to make light of their efficacy because many armchair GMs act as if the NFL operates in a vacuum. It’s a capped league and devoting 10-20% of your salary cap to two players that have legitimate limitations in their game might not be the best course of action (especially when a casual fan with a modest blog can expose said flaws).

Notable departures:

Damon Harrison, Chris Ivory, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Demario Davis, Jeremy Kerley, Antonio Cromartie, Darrin Walls, Jeff Cumberland, Antonio Allen, and Ryan Quigley.

Of the above players, the only one I believe will negatively impact the team is the loss of Damon Harrison. However, he only played 50% of the snaps on a defensive line loaded with talent. His loss should be mitigated by the signing of Steve McLendon from the Steelers.

Ivory was a force to reckon with for a time, racking up 501 yards over the Jets’ first 5 games. However, he only managed 570 in the subsequent 10 games (he dressed for) due to various ailing injuries. He is a dynamic rusher, but his reckless play and draw towards contact has limited his longevity.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s retirement left a gaping hole at left tackle, but the team was able to replace him by trading for former Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady (more details below). Ferguson was a premier left tackle for about an eight year span, but his play has fallen off considerably the last two seasons. With that said, he had a fantastic career and deserves to be inducted into the Ring of Honor.

Everyone else on the above list is easily replaceable.

Key Re-signings:

Erin Henderson: 2 years, $4 million, $750K guaranteed. He steps into the starting ILB role alongside David Harris, something he did well toward the end of the season (where he had essentially replaced the rapidly declining Demario Davis).

Bilal Powell: 3 years, $11.25 million, $6 million guaranteed. One not-so-hot take: Powell was the Jets most effective running back over the last 10 games of 2015.

Welcomed Additions:

Ryan Clady: 1 year, $6 million, $3 million guaranteed, though contract escalators could kick that figure up to $7.5 million. The 29 year old was considered as one of the best left tackles in the league, amassing four Pro Bowl appearances and three All-Pro honors. However, he has missed 30 games over the last three seasons after tearing his ACL in 2015 and suffering a lisfranc fracture in 2013. As long as he can stay healthy, he projects to be an instant upgrade over Ferguson. The Jets only surrendered a fifth round pick and also received a seventh back in return. If you think that seems familiar, it’s because it’s the same exact trade the Jets made for Brandon Marshall a year ago (and that worked out pretty well). Another great low-risk, high-reward move by Maccagnan to fill a glaring hole in the short term. One would have to imagine this move has no effect on their draft plans as well.

Matt Forte: 3 years, $12 million, $9 million guaranteed. A dynamic three down back who is incredibly dangerous as a receiving option. Worth noting he also has a ton of mileage and is 30 years old.

Steve McLendon: 3 years, $10.5 million, $4 million guaranteed. An underutilized player in Pittsburgh, should fill in nicely as Harrison’s replacement at Nose Tackle.

Jarvis Jenkins: 2 years, $6 million, $3 million guaranteed. A solid defensive end that figures to be a rotational piece/spot starter if Wilkerson is traded or Sheldon Richardson is suspended.

Khiry Robinson: 1 year, $1.175 million. He’s a Chris Ivory-lite type bruising back.

Bruce Carter: 1 year, $760K. Carter is a coverage linebacker and special teams guy.

Notes:

As of April 15, the Jets currently have $3.1 million in cap space, which means more moves are are soon to come.

This year’s draft picks: 1st (#20), 2nd (#51), 3rd (#83), 4th (#118), 7th (#244), 7th (#256).

The team isn’t a contender yet and will likely be unable to match their win total from last season. With that said, it’s foolish to write them off in April. The team finally has a competent and stable front office and coaching staff combination. Just be patient and hope for the best, our time will come.

Some Quick Thoughts on Brady and DeflateGate

via SB Nation

Unless you smartly avoid social media, television, or radio, you have probably heard the news that Tom Brady’s four game suspension was upheld earlier today for his involvement in the DeflateGate scandal. I for one, thoroughly believed that his suspension would be reduced to one game, if not wiped completely, especially after Greg Hardy’s suspension (for being convicted of domestic abuse) was reduced from ten to four games.

So now that Brady will fight this suspension in federal court (isn’t this getting ridiculous?) I have some thoughts:

I don’t know what Tom Brady did or didn’t do, and neither do you. However, I believe something happened and Brady had knowledge of it, at the very least.

So why didn’t Brady want to hand over his cellphone records? Well, the obvious argument is that he doesn’t want to reveal personal information. That’s fine, but the NFL would have allowed Brady’s agent/lawyers to “screen and control” what the NFL saw on his phone. Brady instead chose to destroy his phone right before meeting with the investigators and also claimed it’s a regular occurrence for him to do so. Except:

Seems like an odd coincidence he would do this fairly often except for that one time it would help prove his innocence.

The NFL stands to gain nothing from persecuting the player who is arguably their poster child (talented, successful, handsome, beautiful wife, model citizen etc.). So why conduct a witch hunt? Commissioner Roger Goodell is Patriots owner Bob Kraft’s handpicked puppet to run the league. Why would Kraft allow this to happen, unless he knew something unsavory had been conducted by his team?

And then there are the ballboys. Though the Patriots claimed they did nothing wrong, they suspended the two employees in question without pay, for…what exactly? (For those interested, here are some of the texts between those same equipment kids). Not only did the patriots suspend them, but the Players Union also refused to let them testify!

So what to make of this whole situation? It’s absurd. NFL suspensions are ridiculous and are essentially made up for each new situation. I mean, somehow domestic violence wasn’t even accounted for by the NFL until last year. So do I agree with the NFL’s suspension of Brady? I’m not sure, four games seems pretty hefty to me. However, it appears the NFL is attempting to set a standard that one does not compromise the integrity of the game (SpyGate and the tampering accusations probably did not help the Patriots’ case either).

The only conspiracy theory thing I can think of is that the NFL suspended Brady in an effort to detract attention from their mishandling of the Ray Rice and concussion situations. It’s the main reason I firmly believed Brady would get his suspension reduced/expunged. I guess not though, and I still can’t believe the situation has come this far. Sigh, can’t wait for the federal court case!

Some thoughts on the Jets’ Offseason

Image via Spotrac.com

Exciting couple of days it’s been, eh Jet fans? Instead of starting my business & Gov paper or doing my Math Econ homework I decided to write this instead. To recap: Harvin is out the door, but in comes Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Bilal Powell, Buster Skrine, Ryan Fitzpatrick, James Carpenter, and probably Antonio Cromartie and Marcus Gilchrist as well.

Those transactions just about solve the current issues at wide receiver, cornerback, and safety. Any combination of Gilchrist/Antonio Allen/Calvin Pryor at safety isn’t exactly sexy, but one of the best corner groups in the league should help shore that up. Expect a lot of nickel heavy looks that feature Gilchrist in the Cover 1 and Pryor playing up in the box. Though it’s not 2009, Revis is still awesome and essentially eliminates 1 receiver from the field, Cromartie can hold his own, and Skrine will be solid covering the slot. Also: the team invested high draft picks in Dexter McDougle and Dee Milliner over the past couple years, so they will have time to sit and learn on the bench.

A strong secondary is a big deal nowadays, as it lets the team become creative with the front seven. The Jets are solid up on the D-line even if they don’t have Wilkerson locked up long term. Mo and Sheldon are essentially interchangeable all along the D-line (can play the 3-tech, 5-tech, and wide-9), so I bet we’ll be seeing some sort of hybrid between a base 4-3 and 3-4. I doubt anyone will give up a second round pick for Damon Harrison so expect to have him, Coples, and Kendrick Ellis/TJ Barnes mixed in there as well.

Two problems arise on the defense and that comes from pass-rusher and linebacker. The Jets recently re-signed David Harris who is a solid tackling/run-stopping linebacker, but a liability in coverage. That largely holds true for Demario Davis as well. On the other hand, I saw an interesting tidbit earlier, and that was that only two LBs played more than 50% of the defensive snaps on Bowles’ defense last season (Foote is very reminiscent of our own Harris). While I’m not saying linebacker will be a position of strength next season (it won’t), we should be able to get by with what we have. I also doubt we attempt to fill said position with anything more than a mid-late draft pick or low cost free agent.

That still leaves a pass rushing problem. The team currently has the corpses of Calvin Pace and Jason Babin as well as youngsters IK Enkempali and Trevor Reilly. Very unsexy indeed. I expect the Jets to address this spot during the draft with some speedy OLB such as Vic Beasley or the like. However, they can probably get away without touching the position as well.

Now unto the offense. The wide receivers should be solid with Marshall, Decker, and Kerley headlining the group. Ivory and Powell are both at back for another season, however this is a good draft for RBs and I can see us taking one as well. If that doesn’t happen, expect the Jets to sign one who can catch out of the backfield. The tight end position should be sufficient for now. I expect Amaro to take a big step forward in his second year in Chan Gailey’s spread offense. Cumberland will unfortunately most likely be around for another year, but eso lo que es. Sudfeld/Pantale will help block and/or receive should one of the first two get injured.

Offensive line is a major issue. Mangold is the only good player on the line, and Brick should be able to hold his own at LT for another season. Nonetheless, the rest of the group is all question marks. Breno isn’t very good for a tackle, but he’s the best option we have. The guards consist of Dozier, Aboushi, Winters, and now Carpenter. Not pretty when considering how good the other D-Lines in the AFC East are. One of those guys will definitely start, and I hope we draft a tackle to play guard for this season, and then move him out into Brick’s spot next year.

And the fabled quarterback position. Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Positives: 1) Geno finished the season with a 158.3 passer rating against the Dolphins. 2) Fitzpatrick is nicknamed Fitzmagic. Negatives: a lot. Neither of these guys are very good quarterbacks, but Geno has a higher upside and should perform better in Gailey’s spread offense. Fitzmagic had Gailey as his coach for a few years in Buffalo and it’s actually kind of surprising that he was a halfway decent QB there. It’s pretty obvious neither of these guys are the long-term solution here, but they’re both on pretty cheap deals and can do a solid job in the meantime. I am also vehemently against drafting Mariota. I’m not too thrilled with what I’ve seen in his mechanics and he reminds a little of Mark Sanchez without the arm strength. He’s a long-term project and that just doesn’t fulfill the need here in New York. In my personal opinion the team should stick with the current QBs and try to draft one in the 2016 draft.

So to recap the positions of need:

  1. Offensive line
  2. Pass rusher
  3. Linebacker
  4. Running back

What I (personally) believe we will draft (in no specific order):

  1. Offensive line
  2. Pass rusher
  3. Running back
  4. Wide receiver
  5. Linebacker
  6. Quarterback (late)

I also do expect the Jets to move back from the 6th pick in the first round in an effort to gain a couple more picks (only have a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 2 7ths). However, there’s absolutely no guarantee that happens.

I assume that if the Jets do lock up Cromartie and Gilchrist, then they will be done in free agency. I also expect them to work out an extension for Wilkerson before the season begins (ask my friend Joe for contract specifics) even if the extension kicks in next year. As of right now the Jets salary cap remains $155,587,794. Without counting the additions of Carpenter, Cromartie, and Gilchrist, their current salary sits at $137,226,320. That leaves them with around $18,361,474 in cap space. Now I personally believe the Jets have some information they’re withholding or they’re planning to do a move that frees up more cap space. Though what I have above is the information I could garner from public information. The new additions have cap hits as follows:

  • Revis: $16,000,000 (worth it IMO)
  • Marshall: $7,700,000
  • Harris (re-signed): $7,500,000
  • Skrine: $4,250,000
  • Fitzpatrick: $3,250,000
  • Powell (re-signed): $2,000,000
  • Carpenter: Supposedly around $5,000,000
  • Cromartie: Probably in the ballpark of $4,500,000
  • Gilchrist: I estimate around $2,500,000

With the last three additions and the current salary figures, the Jets should have just over $6 million in cap space. I figure that number will end up being higher than the current projections, but teams would ideally like to have at least $7-$10 million in space before heading into the draft, so we will wait and see.

I have to give credit where credit is due and none of this is possible if John Idzik doesn’t save all that salary space instead of blowing it on someone like DRC (haha). I’m not going to sit here and rattle off playoff predictions, but I don’t think it’s too implausible to expect a Texans-like turnaround for the Jets next year. This guy seems to think so as well:

I’m pretty happy with the way this offseason has gone so far. Many experts claim winning free agency does not equate to regular season wins. I don’t think we’re the winners of free agency, I believe that we played the situation just right. I think we signed perhaps the best player at his position in Revis to a big contract, but the others have all been low-cost or low-risk contracts. The team had a lot of holes to fill heading into the offseason and the roster has already dramatically improved before we even hit the draft. Obviously nothing is set in stone yet, but I expect us to be in a comfortable cap situation heading into next season as well. So what do you think Jets fans? Let me know in the poll below.

Why the Giants Should Reconsider Using the Franchise Tag on Jason Pierre-Paul

Is JPP worth the franchise tag?

Now I don’t hate the Giants. I often root for them to perform well and feel bad for Eli for a lot of the criticism he undeservedly receives. So despite my disdain for the fanbase, I think placing the franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul might not be the right move for the team. For those who don’t know, the franchise tag is a 1 year contract worth an average of the top 5 salaries at that certain position (or 120% of the player’s previous salary, whichever one is higher). Now this is where Giants fans get up in arms about criticism of their team, but I don’t think JPP is that great of a player. Now I’m not saying he’s a bad player, but he’s typically heralded as an elite pass rusher when he’s really not. For argument’s sake I won’t delve into details about his rookie season, but I am going to explore each of his last 4 seasons and the stats behind those seasons.

Typically speaking, the main task for a 4-3 edge rusher is to accumulate sacks and/or QB pressures. When taking this into account, JPP was 2nd in sacks for this past season for all 4-3 Defensive Ends (only behind Mario Williams) with 12.5 and had 3 forced fumbles with 76 tackles as well. Due to this impressive performance (on paper) the Giants are considering using the franchise tag on him. Well I say, “hang on” Jerry Reese, it goes deeper than that. The Giants finished 6-10 this past season with only 1 of those wins occurring against a team with a .500 or better record. It’s no secret the team needs a lot of work headed into this offseason, so before they decide to attribute $15 million of precious cap space to one player, they may want to reconsider. When taking into account the Giants only have just over $17.5 million in cap room this offseason, they should to rethink this move.

In 2011 Jason Pierre-Paul had a breakout season as he recorded 16.5 sacks, 72 tackles, and 39 hurries (in 1,208 snaps) and teamed up with Justin Tuck/Osi to form one of the more feared D-lines in the league. It worked, as the Giants won their second SuperBowl in 4 years by putting Tom Brady on his ass in front of the whole world. Poised for dominance, JPP seemed to take a step back the following season only amassing 7 sacks and 40 tackles in 900 snaps (although he did have 45 pressures) as the Giants went 9-7. Even though he played in all 16 games, there is the rumor that JPP often played/s injured, which I will get into more detail later. In 2013 JPP had a shoulder issue that limited him to 12 games as he found himself shut down after a week 12 loss to the Cowboys. Possibly due to the shoulder issue, JPP was restricted to 583 snaps through those 12 games (For reference, he played 576 snaps in the first 10 weeks of 2012). Shoulder issue or not, he saw his playing time scaled back in 2013 as he failed to produce on the field. In those 12 games (583 snaps) JPP amassed a total of 2 sacks, 18 tackles, 0 forced fumbles, but he did get 23 hurries.

Now, onto this past season. Pierre-Paul had 12.5 sacks, 76 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 38 hurries in 16 games (981 snaps). An impressive performance on paper, even though it was another down season for the Giants as they had a 3-8 record heading into week 12. JPP’s stat splits before/after that week are below.

Stats heading into week 12: 3.5 sacks, 49 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 23 pressures.

Stats over the last 5 weeks: 9.0 sacks, 27 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 15 pressures.

The Giants’ last 5 opponents were (in order): Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13), Tennessee Titans (2-14), Washington Redskins (4-12), St. Louis Rams (6-10), and the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6). According to the Football Outsiders Offensive Line Rankings, these teams’ respective pass protection rankings were: 32, 31, 26, 23, and 9 (consult chart below). You can follow the link above to see how they determined these rankings if you wish.

I put the FO data into Excel so I could highlight the appropriate sections

So for those counting at home in 4 of the Giants’ last 5 games they faced 4 of the bottom 10 offensive lines (in terms of pass protection) in the NFL. Those same 4 teams were already eliminated from playoff contention by the time they faced the Giants. Now this is all really subjective, but JPP’s play over the last 5 games is what I like to refer to as “stat-padding.” That’s 5 essentially meaningless football games in which he accumulated most of his “impressive” numbers. On top of trashtalking and then not showing up for those games (see box-scores), there is the injury bug as well. Now some people are going to throw the “injury” argument out there in his defense. However, try to think of it this way. If you feel the need to defend a player’s on-field performance every year with “he’s been injured” for whatever period of time, is that really a good attribute? It should work against JPP that he seems to be riddled with some sort of nagging injury year after year.

Now obviously he has ability to perform his job or he wouldn’t have been able to accrue these numbers in the first place. However, for a player that plays over 88% (This number I’m somewhat estimating because PFF only counted passing snaps in the chart below) of his snaps as the RDE in a 4-3 scheme, the results are mixed. Now I have certain qualms with the stats in the chart below, but one can guess the percentages would be roughly the same when accounting for the rest of his snaps. JPP isn’t really versatile, almost exclusively playing at the 5-tech and maybe occasionally at the wide-9 on the right side. He also has no moves, and if he can’t beat the left tackle off the edge, then he’s not getting inside. Nonetheless, I haven’t seen much to suggest he would fit in if the Giants were to change defensive scheme. Unless a player is really dominant as a 4-3 DE (i.e. Watt-level) I’d be cautious about handing them a large contract, especially one with heavy guarantees.

JPP playing most of his snaps at the same spot
Almost all of JPP’s snaps are lined up out right

Now if the Giants want to go ahead and pay JPP $15 million by all means they should do that. However, the team needs a lot of help with their offensive line and linebacker corps (and possibly secondary too). So would you want to see your team tie up 85% of your salary space to one player? Now I understand that the franchise tag is mostly an extension for a team’s negotiating rights until they get a long-term contract in place. However, the franchise tag is typically reserved for essential personnel and star players that teams do not want to hit free agency. So if JPP is tagged by the Giants, he will likely have a long-term contract in place before long. So would I be angry if the Giants get JPP on a mid-level incentive based deal? No because that’s probably a pretty fair price to pay for someone who can be effective at times. However the Giants need to learn from their mistakes and not throw a JJ Watt-sized contract at JPP. Once one factors in the inconsistent play and injury concerns, they should want to avoid a long-term contract, especially one filled with heavy salary guarantees.

So do I think JPP is a bad player? No, but I think it would be wise for the Giants to avoid throwing an eight figure salary in his direction. Let the Raiders do their thing and vastly overpay for his services. Heed my advice NY Giants front office, look deeper than the superficial stats presented before you.

Want to share your thoughts? Please take the poll below (by saying “yes” we’re assuming they get a multi-year contract done as well) or leave a comment. If you hated this, here’s something that might cheer you up.

My (Small) Issue With a Stat-Based Football Site

Statistics in sports is a relatively new concept (stop reading this and go read Moneyball if you haven’t already done so) and offers a different perspective that’s not always noticed by the untrained eye. In a sport such as baseball, it’s easier to use analytics for talent evaluation because the sport largely focuses on individual contributions (hitting, pitching, fielding etc.). Also of note, nearly every player on the field is going to touch the ball at some point. So it’s much more difficult in a situation like football where most of the players on the field will never come in contact with the ball.

For my third installment of blog life, I am going to complain about a minuscule issue I have with a stat site that I very much like, Pro Football Focus. They have garnered a good reputation over the past few years with their system of grading players through a means of statistical analysis. And it’s well deserved, they do a lot of great work, even if I don’t agree with everything they do (I do have a paid subscription to the site). The main issue I have with this site is they consider their system as the quintessential model of player evaluation, which I personally don’t agree with. I believe statistics are important, but they don’t tell you the whole picture, especially in football.

For example: their pass rush productivity grade. For reference a sack = 1 point, a QB “hit” = .75 points, and a QB “hurry” = .75 points (hurries = pressures). A QB hit occurs when the QB is hit by a pass rusher, but does not have the ball in his possession or is releasing the ball from his possession.  A QB hurry (or pressure) occurs when a QB is flushed out of the pocket. Here is how they achieve their pass rushing grade:

Total sacks + (total hits x .75) + (total pressures x .75) = Pass Rushing Points

(Pass Rushing Points/number of pass rushing snaps) x 100 = PRP rating

The second half of that equation is irrelevant for my argument. As you will see in the third graphic below, they are only going to use the pass rushing points and other metrics to grade the players. My issue with this metric is that they have 1 QB hit = 3/4 of a sack. A sack is a definitive loss of yards and a loss of a down for the offense. A hit is very much not that. A hit usually occurs after a QB has thrown the football, although it occasionally occurs while the QB is throwing the ball. Now I know a lot of this is subjective, and QB hits are still an important statistic. However, I can’t fathom how something that occurs after the QB has let go of the football, regardless if it was a completed pass or not, is worth 3/4 of a sack.

First I will cover the QB pressure metric. Just to go off PFF, below is their grades/rankings of quarterbacks for this past season.  Colorful, I know. The column I want to highlight is completion percentage, where the quarterbacks are ranked from highest to lowest .

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2014 Quarterback stats, please look at the “Comp %” column

It’s no secret that a QB’s completion percentage drops when he is under pressure, but take a look at the list below, specifically the completion percentage when the quarterback is under pressure. I hope you noticed, but the completion % numbers have dropped all across the board (many by 10-20% lower). Interestingly enough, Ben Roethlisberger seems to be the only one to not have a dramatic drop-off.

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Once again, check out the “Comp %” column

Aaron Rodgers, the highest graded QB of 2014 by PFF, saw his completion percentage drop from 65.6% to 45.7% when under pressure, which is huge for someone of his caliber. Due to this severe drop in completion percentage, I’m okay with a QB hurry/pressure = 3/4 of a sack because I believe it has a measurable effect.

Now let’s revisit QB hits. Generally speaking, a hit will occur while the quarterback is under pressure. That’s not always the case though, as quarterbacks often can’t tell if they are receiving pressure from their blindside or behind them (I realize they can assume the pressure is there, but it’s not always that simple). I’m a Jets fan, so I’ve heard on many occasions, “Tom Brady does not like to get hit.” And it’s mostly true (much to the chagrin of Patriots fans who like to tell you that you are in fact wrong). In games where the pressure gets to him, he often looks shaky and attempts to get the ball out sooner. However, that’s completely subjective. A hit occurs after the QB has thrown the ball, so how do we measure how it affected the outcome of the play? If the QB gets the ball out quicker on his next throw, how do we know it’s because of a hit on a previous play, or just an entirely different factor (i.e. sees a tight window, pre-designed route that requires a quick release etc.)? We can make an inference that QB hits are making an impact, but there’s no real way to measure how much it affects the outcome of the game.

In my experience, I’ve noticed a great deal of QBs hold on to the ball for a second longer before throwing, even if they know a hit is coming. They would rather absorb some contact to give their receiver a chance to break free or let the play develop a little longer if it means completing a pass (i.e. Brett Favre). So while I do believe that QB hits are an important metric, in no way should it be equivalent to 3/4 of a sack. (Below I included the grades for 3-4 defensive ends for this past season)

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JJ Watt = Still good

I’ll get it out there now. I think JJ Watt is really good, for a 3-4 DE to put up the numbers that he does, is an incredible feat. Despite being one of the least fun people in the world, he is a force to be reckoned with. While I do believe he is the best defensive end in football (both 3-4 and 4-3 DEs included), I think his PFF stats are a little inflated due to the issues I raised earlier. He had a whopping overall grade of 107.5 (almost 70 points higher than my boy Sheldon Richardson), but he also had 44 QB hits. That’s 29 more than the next on the list, Jurrell Casey. If you do the math (44 x .75) that’s 33 points added to his grade based off of a statistic that has a subjective influence on the game. Does that take away from JJ Watt’s game? Absolutely not. He has 55 sacks over the past three seasons, he’s earned his praise. I think he just needs to come back down to earth a little bit (in PFF’s eyes anyway).

So what was the point of this post? I felt PFF had a flawed metric they heavily use and base a lot of their work off of and I believe it could use some improvements. It may surprise you, but this is actually something that bothered me and I wanted to tell other people about it, and I have now found the proper channel to do so. Now I realize the irony in criticizing how a stat site calculates their stats, and then going ahead and using them anyway. So while sites like PFF grow in popularity (which I’m all for), it’s important that we take everything with a grain of salt. They still provide a lot of great analysis, but like with everything humans do, it has its flaws. There is no perfect model and that’s okay. As the game evolves, so will the ways we visualize and measure it. Statistics are important, but remember, they don’t always tell you the whole picture.

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