Friday afternoons are best spent getting yourself in a weekend state of mind. That can be hard to do sitting at your desk sometimes, and even harder when the place you go for that distraction is filled with spreadsheets. I do intend to do a halfway point spreadsheet, but for the purpose of getting our minds right for the weekend and for the game against Detroit, I thought I would select a few statistical categories and kick up a debate on what we all think about them.
NFL Stat That Makes No Sense
The San Diego Chargers boast the #1 overall team offense, the #1 overall team defense, the #1 overall passing offense, the #1 overall passing defense and the #4 overall rushing defense...and they are 2-5, in last place in the AFC West! Smutsboy...enlighten me as to what the conventional stats are missing here. I have only one way to attempt to explain it, and I can do it in two words: Norv Turner.
Washington Redskins Offense
We are tied for 3rd (with San Diego and Pittsburgh) for the most 40+ yard plays (6). This means something to me. When I looked at what Donovan McNabb did well in Philly last year, it was clear he led an offense that took shots down the field. Of course, they had DeSeanJackson sprinting past defenders, which helps a lot. We all wondered aloud here at Hogs Haven if the Redskins had the kind of offensive line to give McNabbtime to find deep targets. I think we could make the argument that we still don't have that offensive line, but it would seem that McNabb is wired to know when he is capable of looking down the field. I still don't like the bomb he threw to end the game against the Colts, but I very much enjoy his dedication to taking shots. Our ability to convert big plays in recent seasons has allowed defenses to cheat in on everything else. While he has yet to establish the kind of consistency you want out of a veteran quarterback, McNabbhas probably opened up an underneath route or two thanks to his consistent willingness to go deep. It bears noting that we could easily be #1 in this category right now thanks to plays that were not made by receivers, but I digress.
Our time of possession is creeping in on 30 minutes per game. We are currently 21st in the league in this stat. This is marked improvement over the first few weeks. It is no accident that the emergence of Ryan Torain and the increased time of possession have occurred simultaneously. This is the kind of direction our offense needs to go in. I feel like a team that trends toward a higher time of possession as the season progresses is one that is increasingly ready for the playoffs.
We remain 31st in 3rd down conversion percentage. Only one team is worse at staying on the field on 3rd downs and we just barely escaped with a win against them last Sunday. Here is my optimistic thought: As McNabb and the Shanahans continue to get more comfy with each other, they will develop a handful of go-to plays on 3rd down that we will become masters of executing. You might think that would get us in trouble, always calling the same kinds of plays in the same situations. On the contrary, I think that when a team in the NFL has a play or two that they run well, they should almost always be able to get short yardage from them. You think people didn't know Larry Centers was going to get the ball on 3rd down all those years for the Cardinals? Or Dave Meggett for the Giants? Or Chester Taylor for the Ravens and then Vikings? When a team finds a way to match its personnel to a certain situation and then gains a comfort level through repetition, it becomes hard to stop. Maybe it will be Brandon Banks, or Fred Davis, or someone not yet getting a lot of time...but clearly we have to identify a package that we become proficient in on 3rd downs. And when we do, we need to cram it down the throats of the remaining teams on our schedules.
Washington Redskins Defense
The good news first: we are tied for 2nd in the NFL with a +8 turnover differential. That is just a breath of fresh air isn't it? We have all been beating this drum for years, and finally we seem to have a defense that is backing up their stated goal of forcing turnovers. There are few stats in the NFL as important as this one. For those who were listening to me rant on 106.7 this past Tuesday, you know the one thing I wish we did a better job of in D.C. When the Colts intercepted us a couple weeks ago, what did Peyton do? He went deep immediately and scored on a bomb--perhaps the difference in the game. I've watched Green Bay, Baltimore and the Patriots all do this so far in 2010. It's what the best teams in the league do best: capitalize on turnovers. We might not be there yet...in fact it would seem we are definitely not there yet. With a +8 T.D., a 4-3 record starts to look not so great. I am not stating anything new here of course, but the next time we get a pick, I want to see us go deep on the first play...and hit it.
Our defense is in the Top 10 for sacks too, with 17 so far. Again, listening to coaches and players talk about a "renewed emphasis on turnovers and sacks" is one thing, but to see them back it up is awesome.
Finally, I remain uncertain about our commitment to giving up the second most yards in the league. I mean, I respect the way we have seemed to really go after that distinction, but at some point we can't keep that kind of company in that category. We are the gift that keeps on giving on defense. It is simply amazing how we protect the end zone. I'll take that, but getting off the field on 3rd downs better (we're 29th there) has to be an emphasis going forward. Maybe I am on crazy pills, but I feel like we are closer to getting better on 3rd downs on defense than we are on offense. What do you think?