Statistically, Redskins Are Not Likely to Improve From Last Year

via Football Outsiders Almanac 2009

One of the perks of writing for SB Nation is that they give us access to excellent resources, such as Football Outsiders (FO), who records the in-depth statistics of every play for every team. We were fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of the FO Almanac, which has some great in-depth analysis and statistics of every team, including the Redskins. There are a lot of stats that stand out from the 2008 season, one of which being: 

Washington posted their three worst offensive DVOA totals in Week 8 (when Samuels was inactive with that balky knee) and Weeks 15 and 17, when he was gone for the year.

So basically, Chris Samuels cannot get hurt. Ever. To get a further understanding of the Redskins woes from 2008, Football Outsiders answered our questions:

Hogs Haven: In your FO Almanac, you said: 

 "Zone-blitzing the Redskins may not be the wisest move. Washington faced more zone blitzes than any other offense - 7.1 percent of pass plays - and shredded those blitzes with 89.1% DVOA, the best in the NFC."

What types of defenses was it that the Redskins struggled so much against? Opposing teams seemed to get pressure on Jason Campbell with even a 4-man rush, so I'd be curious to know those stats since the offense scored so few points.

Well, Campbell's sack rate was higher than average no matter how many people were rushing him. Here are his sack totals and percentages as split by the number of defenders that were rushing the quarterback:

3 rushers: 1 sack /31 attempts (3.3%, league average 3.3%)
4: 23/333 (6.9%, league average 5.3%)
5: 11/140 (7.9%, league average 7.5%)
6: 3/30 (10%, league average 7.5%)
7: 0/5 (0%, league average 9.5%)

There's no easy answer to give here like, say, "Campbell can't handle a blitz of six men or more". Quarterbacks tend to play slightly worse when you blitz them more, but they're usually in worse situations, too. 

Hogs Haven: Zorn added 80+ passing plays to the offense now that he's in year two with Campbell. What are the stats for coaches that go into year two of a system? (Hasselbeck's numbers jumped high his 2nd year under Zorn).

Our projection system provides a very slight bump for teams that retain their offensive coordinator (or their defensive coordinator) for multiple seasons up to a certain point, as we've found that teams that retain their coordinators do tend to see a slight improvement over similar franchises that don't.

There's nothing in those numbers, though, that indicates that Campbell should take a mighty leap forward. We like Jason Campbell; Dave Lewin's Lewin Career Forecast, which predicts the NFL performance of college QB's, had very nice things to say about Campbell coming out of Auburn. So maybe he'll take a step forward, and Zorn will help. But it won't be the dominant factor.

One thing that we can say pretty much for sure; Campbell's going to throw more interceptions. He threw picks on 1.2% of his passes last year, a remarkably low figure and one that almost always -- as in, say, 39 times out of 40 -- regresses back up closer to 3% or so. Last year's example was David Garrard, who was at a ridiculous 0.9% in 2007; he threw 13 picks last year at a rate of 2.4%.

Hogs Haven: What predictions can you make for the O-line with the addition of former Redskin Derrick Dockery (who was successful in this system before), and the replacement of Stephon Heyer, who is younger and stronger than Jon Jansen?

I always love these sort of questions because fans will always bring up the hopeful adjectives about players. That's not a criticism, just an observation. The flip side is that you could say that Dockery was such a disappointment that he washed out of Buffalo after two years, and Heyer's failed to take the job by the horns, is inexperienced, and gets banged up too easily. That's not a fair analysis, but it's just the counterbalance to only noticing the happy things.

The biggest factor that we've noticed about offensive lines is that continuity helps a lot more than people think. Talent's great, but when you're barking out the signals and someone's not paying attention, talent isn't worth much. A blown assignment in the running game leads to second-and-long, a blown block leads to a sack that blows out Jason Campbell's knee ... it only takes one mistake, and offensive lines that are new with each other tend to make them. 

Obviously, Heyer's played a fair amount with the team, and Dockery was playing with Chris Samuels a couple of years ago. So that helps. I'd expect a few hiccups, but in the long run, it's more about keeping the five starters healthy than anything else. If they're healthy, the line will play well. If not, well, there will be trouble.

Hogs Haven: What turnover ration can Redskins fans expect with the addition of Haynesworth and Orakpo...since QBs will be forced to throw the ball quicker? (Orakpo has been very impressive in camp, drawing heavy praise from Chris Samuels and London Fletcher).

Yeah; again, plenty of guys get praised in camp, but that doesn't mean bupkus once you get on the field. I like Orakpo as a player, personally, but pass rushers rarely -- really rarely -- make an impact as a rookie. Think about Mario Williams, Patrick Kerney, Michael Strahan -- elite 4-3 pass rushers off the edge. (If he actually does end up playing strong side linebacker, well, he's even less likely to have an impact; the list of 4-3 linebackers with huge sack totals is extremely slim.) As for Haynesworth? There's no consistent trend where we see teams adding an elite pass rusher and seeing their interception or turnover totals go up. Anecdotally, I agree with you that the concept makes sense. But I can't sit here and truthfully tell you that "Interceptions will increase by 10 percent!" because we haven't seen it in the numbers.

Hogs Haven: Do you have percentages and comments on these stats?

- % of passing plays last year that were 5 yards and under (felt like 4/5 passes were under 5 yards...even on 3rd and long)
- % of 3 and outs and how that ranked with the rest of the league.
- % of run plays left, right, middle (I would imagine majority were runs left)

I don't have the numbers on third-and-outs, but I can answer the other two:

- Washington was third in the league in passes of five yards or less, at 51.7 percent. Only Tampa Bay and Indianapolis were higher.

- 38% of Washington's carries were to left end or left tackle; 30% were to right end or right tackle, with the remaining 32% being either up the middle or at either guard spot.

Hogs Haven: Without giving away the work you put into the book, can you give us your thoughts and expectations for the 2009 Redskins? What is your "best case" situation. Skins are optimistic the WRs from last year will contribute at a high level (Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Fred Davis). All of them have looked exceptional at camp.

I think those receivers definitely have to play better, I think that's a key. I'd hope that they're optimistic, though; it would be worse if the Skins weren't!

We project the Redskins to win 7.8 games this year, with a 30% chance of winning 9-10 games and an 11% chance of winning 11+ games. Obviously, they play in an extremely tough division. In the NFC East, the balance of power could be shifted by one key injury (think Tony Romo's broken finger last year) or even a close win -- remember, the 2007 Giants beat the Eagles in a game where David Akers missed a game-tying field goal by a few inches. If the Eagles won that game in OT, the Giants wouldn't have made the playoffs.

Truthfully, you could tell me anything from 5-11 to 11-5 and I wouldn't be surprised. A lot could go right with this team, and a lot could go wrong.    

There is a lot to be said here. The key point Football Outsiders mentioned is that offensive line success is based on continuity. The Redskins cut 2 of their original starters from last year (Jansen, Kendall) and added multiple jouneymen, two of which have been out of the league for 1+ years (Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges). From what the statistics show and what I've seen so far in camp, it's going to be another see-saw year. I hate to say a month before the season starts that the Redskins success depends on EVERYONE staying healthy, but so it is.

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