Can you remember a NFL Draft with so many possible scenarios involving the #2 pick? The Rams could take either Clowney, Watkins, Mack, or Robinson with the 2nd pick. . Or the Rams could trade #2 down to #3,#4,#5.#6,or #8 for the right price, then names like Jake Mathews, Taylor Lewan, Justin Gilbert and Mike Evans enter the conversation. Heck, some crazy talking heads on NFL network keep suggesting the best fit for Johnny Manziel is the Rams. They say Jeff Fisher has a history of copying the style of divisional opponents. I haven't a clue if that's true or bilge water?
For better or worse the Rams are part of the NFC West family. if the Rams expect to win toughest division in football, then the Rams must slay the three headed monster that is Seattle, San Francisco, and Arizona. What do you say we expose chinks in the Seattle's armor and topple the Super Bowl Champions off their high horse!
What about the 49er's and the Cardinals Ewe? Without belaboring the issue, I feel the 49'ers have topped out and the Cardinals will be about the same as last year, to slightly better. Seattle will be tough, very tough. So for simplification purposes, let's focus on the Rams and Seahawks.
Before I begin, let me clear up a misunderstanding. When crunching stats, I use scientific method and T-tests computation only when applicable. For Instance when I see that 6 out the 9 worst NFL rushing defenses made the playoffs in 2013, That stat catches my attention, but several mediocre and great NFL rushing defenses also made the playoffs. With a simple eye ball test, I can see my playoff team data subset is both scattered and willy-nilly.
So, I save myself time. I won't run a T-Test, because before I start, I know that I will end up with a Null hypothesis, In the above example, a null hypothesis suggests there is no significant correlation between playoff teams and superior rushing defenses. Yet, that's valuable information, to a front office allocating salary cap monies, free agency, and draft resources toward the all important goal of winning and making the playoffs. Are you with me so far? In the following article I performed only one T-Test. Everything else is either Null or just interesting information. Get it? Got It? Good!
In the last eleven years, 115 out of 132 teams or 87.1% of playoff teams had positive YDS/A pass differentials. You're aware of course that 12 out of 32 teams or 37.5% of NFL teams qualify for the playoffs each and every years, whether we like it or not. Let's take a math shortcut thru the strawberry patch. Call it a Strawberry Shortcut! Do the math folks... 87.1%-37.5%= 49.6% difference from the random mean. Meanwhile, confronted with a sample of 132 teams and a stat that suggests a positive correlation between Pass differential and won/loss records. I ran a T-Test. I don't have the symbols on my keyboard to manually type in the T-Test formula, besides it's too tedious for most people to bear. You could also calculate correlation coefficients for the above data. Statisticians everywhere, please feel free to use the data and run the numbers via either test format you wish. Let's move on and figure out how to kick Seattle's butt. OK?
For those of you who haven't read my past articles, allow me to define YDS/A pass differential. PD for short. A YDS/A pass differential is difference between offensive pass YDS/A and defensive pass YDS/A yards allowed.
I discarded Kellen Clemens data since he is no longer with us. Besides Bradford is the better QB.
In 2013 Sam Bradford averaged 6.44 YDS/A and while the Rams defense allowed 7.44 yards per attempt. That's a -1 PD or YDS/A pass differential. Russell Wilson averaged 8.25 YDS/A , and the Seahawk defense allowed 5.25 yards per attempt. That's a league leading +3.0 YDS/A pass differential. Or,a 4.0 yard PD gap between the Rams and Seahawks. Oh My GOD!!! We must not allow a pass differential GAP! A Doomsday GAP!
Let's look under the hood and check out what is happening. Maybe our offensive line didn't pass block as well as I thought? In 2013 Rams offensive line allowed 36 sacks and 76 QB hits. Seattle allowed 44 sacks and 94 hits. Which is why the Seattle offensive line was ranked 27th and the Rams 13th by Profootball Focus.
Before I delve deeper into offensive lines, let me say there is no statistically significant correlation between superior offensive lines and playoff teams. I'm not saying a superior offensive line is bad. Here is a link to a recent article by Ted Bryant on the Rams and that exact subject. Let me take a coffee break while you read this short article. http://cover32.com/rams/2014/04/21/an-offensive-lineman-at-no-2-isnt-necessarily-the-safe-pick-for-the-st-louis-rams/
A few stats from a recent article to fortify and refresh your minds..
2013 NFL Offensive Line Rankings
A handful Teams with 10 or more wins, and their Offensive Line Rankings
32nd (last place) Arizona Cardinals
26th- Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks
24th Indianapolis Colts
20th- Kansas City
16th New England Patriots
17th- Saint Louis Rams
A handful of Losing Teams and their Offensive Line Rankings...
3rd ranked Washington
4th ranked Dallas ( Ok 8-8 record)
5th ranked Cleveland
6th ranked Minnesota
7th ranked Detroit
Conclusion- It would appear there is little or no correlation between offensive line ranking and Won/Loss Record.
Perhaps you noticed Pro Football Focus ranked Rams offensive line 13 while the other service I used ranked us 17th. The important thing is that you understand, that offensive line rankings are all over the map, when it comes to Won Loss records. You wouldn't say a boxer won the World Championship because he had blonde hair. In much the same way , there isn't any statistical data to suggest a superior offensive line makes it more likely you win and make the playoffs. I'm always willing to find new and better ways. If you can find offensive line stats that suggest a positive correlations between offensive line rankings and winning, or losing for that matter. I will do an about face and congratulate you for excellent research. I don't mind being wrong, I just don't want to stay wrong.
But Ewe, your stats don't take in all the offensive line intangibles! Your right! For instance, I'm sure our late season multiple Tight End arrangements helped our offensive line ranking somewhat. Lower sacks and quarterback hits. Perhaps our offensive line isn't has great as the stats suggest? Even so, I don't believe drafting an offensive tackle with our 2nd pick is the quickest or wisest way to utilize draft picks and money to catch the Seahawks. If we trade back and take Robinson or Mathews at 6, I'm OK with that, as long as Rams get extra draft pick. The statistical difference between an all pro offensive lineman and an average offensive lineman is 3 sacks a year.
Bottom Line on the Big Butts- As a rule, you don't want to allocate low draft choices or high salaries for offensive linemen. Draft expensive difference makers in the first round, so you tie QB, WR, DE, and CB superstar studs down for 5 years of slave labor. Players like the Might Quinn!
We definitely need to add offensive linemen in the draft! I want at least 2 offensive lineman draft by the end of round 5. And, I want the Rams to draft an offensive lineman by the end of the 3rd round at the latest. I wouldn't be surprised if we sign another free agent guard after June 1. That way we have a better chance of accumulating more comp draft picks next year. But that's another story.
So Ewe, if offensive line is not the most important position group to increase offensive pass differential, then what is? Let me give you a clue. In 2013 Only 1 of the top 15 QB's in pass YDS/A had a losing record! M. Stafford 7-9 Lions.
Quarterbacks- Before I go on, let me say that a great actor and director can't overcome a shitty script, and make a great movie. But average actors can make a great movie with a superb script. Chip Kelly's supercharged offense made Nick Foles look like a Greek God!
Likewise a great quarterback can't achieve his potential with a lousy offensive coordinator. .Schotty has never had a QB with a high pass YDS/A! Even Brett Farve couldn't perform for Schottenheimer. Check out Brett Farve's YDS/A stats for Brett's last four seasons- GB 7.77 Jets 6.65 Vikings 7.91, 7.01...Can you guess which team Brain Schottenheimer coached? If you said the Jets give yourself 5 bonus points! Ding! Ding! Ding!
Everybody knows Jeff Fisher is a defensive brainiac! It's in the Bible somewhere near the back. Ram's Defensive coordinators come and go with every New Year, and yet Schottenheimer stays. It's like Fisher is a wine and defensive connoisseur. If the wine and defense are vinegary, Jeff sends it back... "Quick! Change defensive coordinators and bring me your best cabernet!" On the other hand Jeff doesn't seem to notice what bread he's eating with his wine; Rye, sourdough, white, or pumpernickel bread- It doesn't matter! Sometimes I lay away late at night and think to myself, " Fisher doesn't notice the stale white bread predictability of Schottenheimer's offensive play book."
Before we partake of this ruby red wine and bread and butter Brothers and Sisters, let us bow our heads and beseech the Football Gods to bestow and bless Brian Schotteheimer with creativity! Amen-dola
1. Finding a franchise QB, coupled with an excellent offensive coordinator is the quickest and wises way to increase your offensive pass YDS/A. I think Sam Bradford is good enough to win a Super Bowl. We've heard this is Sam's make or break year. I swear to God, if we get rid of Sam Bradford before Shottenheimer, I will barf.
Bradford's redzone QB rating was 92.5 while Russell Wilson's QB red zone rating was 92.2. Bradford out shines Wilson by wee bit. We've already caught the Seahawks offensive in the redzone pass game. Our passing offense struggles outside of the redzone. Let me put it another way. Seattle visits the red zone more often than we do. So the only way we can improve the Sam Bradfords' game is with a a better offensive game play. A game plan that takes advantage of Bradford's strengths. Play action. Uptempo no huddle. More on strategy later.
2. Wide Receiver's and Tight Ends. We must draft a WR within the first two rounds! In the deepest wide receiver draft in years, taking a wide receiver within our first 3 picks is the quickest offensive draft solution for pass differential improvement. Sam's Rams need to draft a elusive, tackle breaking Wide Receiver by the end of the 2nd round, who does not drop the ball! Our wide receivers dropped 17 more passes than Seattle. Isaiah Pead,Stedman Bailey, Bennie Cunningham never dropped a pass. ( Somebody had to say something nice about Isaiah Pead;)
Not so fun fact: Rams were 28th in completion % outside the numbers (52.1),going 86 of 165, both those numbers ranked 29th. Five TD’s to outside WRs was last place. Rams highest rated receiver was Chris Givens. Givens was ranked 79th.
Watkins, Evans, and Odell Beckham Jr. are all in play in the first round. I prefer Evans by a nose over Watkins, yet I could see the Rams trading back the 13th pick and selecting Odell Beckham Jr. Any of these three wide receivers, coupled with our young receivers maturing a year, will increase Bradford's 6.44 YDS/A to 7.0-7.3. We must remember that Bradford must face 3 NFC West demonic defenses 6 times a year. I will be happy with anything above 7.0 YDS. That way we will have fewer 3 and outs. Sorry Johnny Hecker!
Although Seattle led the NFL in " PD", pass yards differential, the Seattle offense was only 26th in total passing yards and 18th in total yards gained! San Francisco was 24th and Carolina 26th in total yards gained. It's not about how many yards you gain, it's about yards per play! If Bradford can increase his YDS/A by just 0.5-0.7 , the offensive will have done it's part to increase the pass differential stat. I will address the Rams Defense in my next article... "Staking Seatle! Part Two- Defense."
Seattle lost the YDS/A pass differentia battle twice last year. Both games resulted in Seahawk losses. Seattle lost to the Colts and Cardinals. Yet the Seahawks had a higher YDS/A rushing differential then the Colts and Cardinals in those two losses. The Seahawks had two 100 yard rushers and still lost against the Colts. I'm telling ya...Positive Pass Differential is where it's at people.
Offensive Line- Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT dissing offensive lineman. What the big uglies do on the field is really hard to quantify, measure, and rank. It's so subjective. Maybe Profootall focus has got it wrong, when it comes to measuring offensive lineman. But until somebody builds a better mousetrap, that's the only way I know to measure offensive line performance. Outside the eyeball test. One more thing, I feel Center is just as important as Left Tackle. Centers and Left Tackles are the only offensive line positions I would ever spend a first round pick on. But that's another story.
Outside of Jake Long's health, Saffold, Barkesdale, and Saffold form a solid OL nucleus. Although Scott Wells is on the downside of a wonderful career, Scott performed well when healthy. Roger Saffold may have to sub for month for Jake Long, before moving inside to guard. So we need to draft a OT/G type lineman. Fisher and company are the only ones who know if Barrett Jones, Tim Barnes, and other youngsters are improving. Maybe that's why it's so quiet on the Barrett Jones front. Rams don't want to distribute clues to the condition of Rams offensive line, because that might undermine their secret draft plans. However Yesterday Barrett Jones was spotted by Rams Reporter-Jim Thomas! Tweet Tweet!
Jim Thomas @jthom1
As a former Public High League student-athlete, always proud to attend the St. Louis Public Schools scholar-athlete luncheon at the MAC. Congrats to all attendees. Rams C/G Barrett Jones did a great job as one of the guest speakers at the luncheon.
And for Rams fans wondering _ yes, Barrett Jones looks bigger and stronger.
What about rushing differential Ewe? The Rams had a positive rush differential of 0.4 YDS/A. Seattle had a positive rush differential of 0.4 too. So we're even! Only the Jets allowed less YDS per rush than the Rams defense 3.7 yards. The Rams led the league in stuffing RB's behind the line of scrimmage.
Seattle passed 45.2% of the time. Rams passed 54.3% of the time. Seattle took the lead early and often while the Rams struggled from behind early on. So, those pass ratios should surprise anyone. In 2013 the Rams worst quarter was the first quarter. Our best quarter- the 2nd. Let me say passing less and running more is not the way to win in the modern NFL. But it is a symptom of a team who takes early leads and wins often. Agreed? As the Rams grab early leads, their rush percentage will rise.
2013 Head to Head Games - In the Edward's Dome, the Rams ran thru Seattle like Montezuma's Revenge. Zak Stacy and Cunningham ravaged the Seattle defense for two hundred rushing yards. Rams outgained Seattle in total yards. The Rams 339 total yards to Seahags 135 total yards, But Seattle posted a 0.6 higher "PD" YDS/A pass differential and a 14-9 victory. I can still remember screaming at the TV, when the Rams had the ball 4th and 1 on the Seattle Goal Line! I shrieked, " Empty Backfield! What are doing Schottenheimer? Oh my God we're going to lose!" So it's not surprising the Rams offense averaged a miniscule 4.5 yards per pass play during that game. Outside of one long Golden Tate TD, the Rams defense crushed Seattle.
In Seattle, the 12th Man and The Seahawks stacked the box, controlled the line of scrimmage, and the Seahawk defense allowed a stingy 0.7 yards per Ram's rush. Seattle won the PD by 2.1 yards per pass play, and thrashed us on the scoreboard 27-9. Rams offense averaged 4.5 yards per pass attempt. Meanwhile, Rams defense played well in both games holding Seattle to 135 total yards in game 1 and 269 total yards in game 2.
Rams offense? With the exception of our superior rushing attack in game One, the Rams offense flopped. Our offense couldn't top 4.8 yards per pass attempt in either game. How will the Rams offense solve the Seattle Defense?
Offensive Strategy- The Rams must stop Seattle from stacking the box. A short passing game won't work against Seattle. The Seahawk linebacker and defensive backs swarm and tackle the wide receivers as soon as they catch the ball. A short passing game combined with a rushing attack plays right into the Seahawk's claws. The Rams offense was one dimensional, so the Seahawks stacked the box and dared the Rams to throw long. I know Kellen Clemens played in both games, and Bradford has a better long arm. Bottom Line- The Rams won't be able to establish the run against the Seahawks, unless Bradford throws the ball down field. Throws over 10 yards!
Throw more deep passes and crossing patters to Tavon Austin. Austin led the league in yards per crossing pass pattern plays. It wasn't screens or curl patterns- believe me. We need to get these DB's back on their heels, and that won't happen with screens, short drag patterns and inch curls.
Sam Bradford averages more per play action pass then any other type of pass Sam throws. Against Seattle, Sam will have to air it out long a few times early, to open up the running game for Zak Stacy, thus giving validity to the play action pass game. Make the linebackers hesitate.
Draft Help-best player in the draft to help with a long pass game is WR Mike Watkins. He averaged over 20 yards per catch and Evans won 31 out of 37 jump balls. Evans has great hands and excel at catching contested passes. Evans is the best blocking Wide Receiver I've ever seen at the college level- Zak Stacy will appreciate Evans. Picture this- Rams Ball on their own 35, 3rd down 5. Bradford airs it out long to Mike Evans. I don't care how good tall the Seahawks defensive backs are, they can't out jump Evans. Evans would keep the Seahawk defensive backs on their heals.
Throw a long balls to Chris Givens and lighting fast Tavon Austin too. Speed kills...Let's use it! You can't allow the Seahawk DB's to keep your WR's in front of you. When the Colts and Cardinals beat Seattle ,both teams threw one pass for over 60 yards, and both teams had at least one 30+yard pass for a TD pass. You have to throw long to beat Seattle! I'm not saying throw 10 go patterns. But 4-6 long bombs would be nice, And get Tavon Austin the ball in space while he's moving forward, toward the Seahawk goal line, and let Tavon do his thing! The easiest way to neutralize Tavon Austin is throw Tavon short curls, with his back turned to the defense.
Beating the 12th Man- Go back and watch the Rams offense against the Atlanta Falcons last year. Watch what happened after the Rams fell 3 TD's behind. Wham-o, Sam Bradford unleashed his old college style uptempo, no huddle offense! Abracadabra! The Rams offense caught fire! Listen Brian Shottenheimer! Don't wait till we are 3 TD's down. Surprise 'em! Unleash the no huddle uptempo at the beginning of the game! I'm not saying run no huddle all the time, but mix it up Schottenheimer! Accentuate Bradford's strengths of uptempo no huddle, play action. Anything else is like making a polar bear live in an Arizona zoo.
And when we play Seattle's 12 man in Seattle, start the game with a no huddle, uptempo, script of plays. Make the 12th man scream continuously, thus making it hard for the Seattle defense to hear and adjust vocally. Hell, they won't be able to substitute defensively if we run a no huddle, and our guys will already know the first 10 plays in order. Confuse the fans and the Seahawk defense! Send our speedy WR's on a few go patterns early, and make the Seattle defense go into oxygen dept. sucking wind like a beached gold fish gulping air. Make our wide receivers sell decoy bombs. Sprint down the field Quick, Cook, and Givens, even if you know your a decoy! Don't jog!
Don't let them substitute new pass rushers during our drives. Take away Seattle's legendary defensive depth. Mix it up. Zak right and left, go patterns, medium and short passes. Play action! Make Seattle fake injuries or call unplanned time outs to stop us. Does that make sense? Can you folks visualize what I'm talking about?
Shut the 12th mans' pie hole by grabbing a 1st quarter lead. In 2013, the Rams worst quarter was the first quarter! What's up with that? Grab a 1st quarter lead with an uptempo Offense, then start the 2nd quarter with a totally different offensive look. Do it in the 2nd Quarter and again after halftime. Make Seattle adjust to the Rams offense on the fly, while their fans are screaming. Schottenheimer should be able to predict how Seattle will adjust to uptempo no huddle. Right? All Schotty has to do is adjust to Seattle's adjustment before Seattle adjusts, after the 1st quarter. During the 1st quarter break, it should sound something like this on the Rams sideline,
" Good job Big O! The uptempo no huddle worked. Ok, lets run part two. We huddle, run Stacy several times, followed by play action bomb, and some Tavon Austin crossing patterns, a draw or a screen." OK, it might not sound exactly like that folks, but you get the idea. Know thy self, know thy enemy, and beat them into a mushy pulp. Blast Seattle into smithereens! Shred Seahawks, thrash Seahawks, smash Russell Wilson, grab beast mode and bash and debone him and punch the pigskin out of Marshawn's mitts into our END ZONE and body bag 'em!
Be sure to tune into my next article... Stalking Seahawks! Part Two: Rams Defense!