Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl Preview: PFF Edition

I'm working on a Super Bowl preview that should be up by Saturday at the latest.  In the meantime, poke around this page a bit.  It's amazing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How Glen Davis is Ruining the Orlando Magic

Glen Davis is ruining the Orlando Magic. Ok, maybe "ruining" is a little strong. Glen Davis is...making it very difficult for the Orlando Magic to evaluate all of their young talent properly.

And thus ruining them.

On the surface, Davis' season numbers of nearly 14 PPG, 7 RPG on 45% FG shooting are nearly identical to last years 15/7/44% FG campaign. He really seems like a bargain at $6.4 million a season, when you consider Kendrick Perkins makes $8.5 million a season, Joel Anthony is getting nearly $4 million a season and that Byron Mullens gets paid at all. Davis' shot selection is still iffy, he still can't jump and he struggles moving his feet in defense. But you know that already. What you don't know is how he's ruining season #2 in Orlando's "Tank without Tanking" process.

There's a surprising amount of NBA talent on this Orlando roster. You know about Davis. Jameer Nelson has an All Star appearance under his belt and could help a good team off the bench. Arron Afflalo should be an All Star this season. Oladipo is in the rookie of the year running. Vucevic is a double double machine. Tobias Harris was a steal of a trade by GM Rob Hennigan. Moe Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn all had solid rookie campaigns. So how is Glen Davis ruining a 10-28 team? Because he's not letting many of these young guys get minutes where they need to get minutes.

Orlando is in no position to win ballgames this season. If things ended today, the Magic would have the #2 and #15 picks in the draft, due to the Dwight Howard trade. This season was supposed to be a year of playing all the young talent from last year as many minutes as possible to see what we really have here. There's legit talent at several spots, but not star talent at any. So play the young guys as many minutes as you can to gauge their value while you hope to hit a home run in next years draft, right? Wrong. Because Glen Davis is ruining the Orlando Magic.

Davis is getting around 32 MPG at PF, and a little C from time to time. His minutes have pushed Tobias Harris to SF, when he played better last year as a stretch PF. That move has pushed SF Moe Harkless to the bench, where he has struggled to continue his nice end to last years season (13 PPG, 5 RPG, 2.6 blocks and steals per game on 46/32/57 shooting after the All Star break as a 19 year old). That move has pushed Andrew Nicholson into very inconsistent minutes backing up Davis and Jason Maxiell (Yes, that Jason Maxiell) and THAT move has pushed Kyle O'Quinn right into obscurity.

Tobias Harris averaged a 17/8.5 on 45/31/72 shooting in 27 games last year in Orlando, mostly as a stretch PF. This year as a SF, while battling an ankle injury, he's averaging a 12/7 on 40/20/75 shooting. A Davis trade would allow him to play more minutes at PF where he could use his quickness against bigger PFs. As is, he's a good athlete but there are plenty of of good athletes playing SF. He can't really work his strengths there. Harkless' minutes have bounced back recently, but he was recently getting single digit minutes after closing last year averaging nearly 36 minutes per. It's hard to get into a groove when you don't know what kind of minutes you'll be playing on a night to night basis. Harkless is a guy that doesn't need the ball in his hands, so I feel he's more effective in the starting lineup. He'd benefit greatly from the open looks that being the fifth option in the starting lineup would bring.

Andrew Nicholson is the biggest loser here, though. Watch this, this or this and tell me why this guy is only playing 12 minutes per game this month. The Cavs aren't exactly defensive stalwarts, but the Grizzlies and Pacers are very good defensive teams. Nicholson has a legit back to the basket game, can put the ball on the floor and shoot out to three point range. His rebounding and defense have improved noticeably since last season and he's 24. I'm not saying that there is Tim Duncan potential there, but he drew some David West comparisons coming out of college and you can certainly see the similarities. In a three game stretch at the end of last month, he played 12 minutes combined. In two games last week against the Heat/Clippers where Orlando lost by a combined 36 points, Nicholson saw the floor for 10 minutes. It's unforgivable. He's played more than 25 minutes in a game just nine times this season and in those nine games, check his numbers: 29 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 0.9 BPG on 55/41/90 shooting. 6'9, 250 pound power forward that's 24 years old with that type of skill, and he's routinely watching Maxiell get his number called right in front of him. I'm sick. Ideally, he'd start at PF alongside Vucevic, with Harris coming off the bench where his versatility could dictate whether he plays SF or PF depending on the matchup.

Kyle O'Quinn was a second round steal last season that had some nice flashes as a rookie. During a four game stretch late last season while Vucevic was injured, O'Quinn averaged a 14.5 PPG, 10 RPG, 2.5 APG on 64% FG shooting in 29 MPG. Again, I'm not saying that O'Quinn is a 20/10 guy waiting to be unleashed, but on a team at this point in the rebuilding phase, there's no reason for him to be logging DNP's while Jason Maxiell gets free reign to do whatever the hell it is that Jason Maxiell does.

With only this year and next year (at another $6 million and change) left on his contract, I'm hopeful that Hennigan is showing off Davis for a trade. I think he'd be great coming off the bench at either frontcourt spot for a playoff team. He'd be an upgrade for the Clippers who are giving Ryan Hollins and Antawn Jamison 10+ MPG a piece off the bench. He'd be a nice fit in Atlanta, who just lost Al Horford for the season, but is tied for the 3rd seed in a terrible Eastern conference. Portland is in the running for the top seed in the league, yet Joel Freeland and Thomas Robinson are their backup bigs. Think Glen Davis could give them 20-25 minutes a night off the bench? Either way, please get this man off my team.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Look at the Jay Gruden Era

As expected, Jay Gruden has been named head coach of the Washington Redskins. I wanted to take a look at his tenure in Cincy, as well as the work of our new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. First, a look at some offensive numbers the past three seasons:

Clearly, numbers don't tell the entire story but this offense improved every year with Gruden despite working in seven rookies on the offense over that time. He deserves plenty of credit for this. This years offense was one of the more balanced attackes in the league, finishing 12th in passing attempts and 8th in rushing attempts (despite being the only team in the top 18 to rush for under 4 YPC). The Bengals had at least six players with at least 400 receiving yards, a feat only matched by the Patriots and Saints.

So Gruden inherited a 4 win team, with new pieces, a lockout shortened summer and got a playoff berth out of them. Then got a full summer out of them, and improved again. Then got a couple new rookies, and improved again. Plenty is made of what a limited QB Dalton is. Well, Gruden got him as 2nd round pick and turned him into a Pro Bowler that broke many Bengals team records in just his third season. He deserves credit for that. But at the same time, as someone that has watched each game of the Gruden tenure, I'm not all that sad to see him go. 

First off, look at the talent on offense. Five first rounders (Green, Zeitler, A. Smith, Gresham, Eifert), three second rounders (Whitworth, Gio and Dalton) plus the emerging Marvin Jones. You should be able to craft a decent offense out of that, no? As mentioned above, Gruden got a lot of these guys as rookies. Their natural development as players alone would figure to improve this offense. Even guys like BJGE, Mo Sanu and Andrew Hawkins are decent pieces. That's one of the best pass blocking lines in the league and plenty of weapons and I still feel like this offense underwhelmed. Eifert never really got in rhythm this season, BJGE ran more toss plays than I'd care to watch and Gio had two 20 touch games all season, none coming after November 10th. AJ Green was targeted 180 times, but "only" had 98 catches. Gresham still got #1 TE snaps despite registering as the 64th ranked TE (out of 64 measured for PFF). Marvin Jones had an eight catch, four TD game and then caught eight passes over the next four games combined. Andrew Hawkins was never really able to get in the flow of the offense after missing time due to injury. Forget about what a guy like Tom Brady or Andrew Luck would do with these weapons, what do you think another limited QB like Alex Smith could have done with them? I don't think all of the blame for their underutilization should go on Dalton.

Second, I believe Dalton was Gruden's pet project. There are reports that Gruden argued to draft Dalton over Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Mallet in 2011 and he got his man. Surely, he felt he had to get the most out of him, even if it meant stretching a mediocre QB thin. There are reports that Gruden was way too soft on Dalton, and I've been reading those since last year. It makes sense he was brought in to Washington to work with RG3, who is reportedly sensitive enough to the point that he asked Washington coaches not to show his bad plays during film study as they did at Baylor. Is that the best thing for development? It probably depends more on the individual, but we shall find out shortly (in Washington and Cincinnati) because new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is a hard ass, by all accounts.

Third, the benefit of a great defense (ranked 7th, 6th and 3rd in ayrds per game during Gruden's years here) and a solid special teams unit have helped. They've consistently given the offense the ball with great field position. You could also look at how the offense has faltered considerably in each of the Bengals three playoff games. The Texans defenses we saw the past two seasons were top 10 units, but this Chargers unit was not. And yet multiple Charger players have made claims that the Bengals didn't run anything they weren't prepared for. Some of this has to go on the man calling the plays

Now a look at some Hue Jackson's time as offensive coordinator/head coach for the Falcons, Ravens and Raiders.
  • In 2003, as OC for the Redskins he became the first person to call plays for a Steve Spurrier team not named Steve Spurrier since...well, ever. The offense finished 23rd in the league, but his QBs were Patrick Ramsey and Tim Hasselbeck. His running back by committee was Trung Candidate/Rock Cartwright and Ladell Betts. 
  • After Spurrier left, Jackson became WR coach for the Bengals where Chad Johnson/TJ Houshmandzadeh each hit career highs in his three years there.
  • He then became offensive coordinator for the Falcons....the Bobby Petrino "led", first season post-Vick Falcons. Surprisingly, an offense that started Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich and Chris Redman at QB and featured a 32 year old Warrick Dunn, finished 29th in the league. Weird. 
  • After that debacle, he became QB coach for the Ravens. He inherited a 5-11 team and 24th ranked offense and helped a rookie Joe Flacco turn that into an 11th ranked offense and a conference championship appearance. In a second year in Baltimore, the offense jumped to 9th and Flacco had what is still his second best year as a QB. 
  • He then became OC for the Raiders. He took a 31st ranked offense to 6th in the league with Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski starting games for him. How? The 4th ranked rushing offense in the league. Darren McFadden had 1,600 total yards that season. He's had a little over 2,000 yards combined in the three seasons since. After the season, Jackson was promoted to head coach after previous HC Tom Cable may or may not have broken the jaw of an assistant coach. I'm not here to speculate. The Raider started off 4-2 before Jason Campbell got hurt and the Raiders traded for Carson Palmer. The team finished 8-8 with the 16th ranked offense, somewhat of a miracle seeing as McFadden played seven games that season and Palmer threw 16 picks in nine starts.
  • He then came back to Cincy as a secondary coach, running backs coach and now, offensive coordinator. 
So a couple of things, stand out to me here. First, bad luck. The Spurrier, Petrino and Cable eras were hardly normal procedure. Here, he'll have some stability that he hasn't seen in some time. Two, bad quarterbacks. Dalton is arguably the best QB he's worked with, depending on how you feel about Flacco. And we have more than enough pieces on offense for him to work with. Three, he likes to run the ball. A lot. I'm not sure this offense is currently constructed to his liking, so stay tuned. Four, he was the advocate behind that awful Palmer trade. He won't be making personnel choices here (praises due). Five, again the word on the street is that he's a hard ass. He's going to push Dalton in a way that he hasn't been in Cincy. We saw what coddled Dalton gave us, so I'm more than willing to see what Dalton does with Jackson willing to call out his mistakes. I wish Jay Gruden all the best in Washington, but I'm more than comfortable with Hue Jackson leading our offense next season.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Five Things: Bengals vs. Chargers. Part Deux

Ok. I'm finally ready to talk about this.

Five good things: 

1. Marvin Jones. One of the very few bright spots of this game. He caught eight of the 12 passes thrown his way for 130 yard, setting a new team playoff record. 49 of those yards came on this ridiculous catch:

2. Rey Maualuga. Not a perfect game by him (Rey gave up four receptions on four targets for 34 yards in coverage), but he still managed 15 tackles (more than twice the amount of anyone else). Crazy since we had plenty of opportunities to tackle Charger players. Plenty. He also had a huge tackle on 3rd and 1 at the Cin 1. Maualuga shot through the gap and tackled Ronnie Brown for a four yard loss which forced San Diego into a field goal. Again, he's solid when he can run downhill and make the play in front of him. 

3. Jermaine Gresham. I told you that there were very few bright spots. THIS is how few bright spots there were. Gresham did have a nice game though, grading as a neutral blocker per PFF and catching seven of the eight passes thrown his way for 64 yards and the Bengals lone touchdown. He had a holding penalty on a first down play, but the pass was incomplete so it didn't hurt us as bad as his penalties normally do. #Progress.

4. Benjarvus Green-Ellis. He only played 14 snaps on the day, as the team got down and passed the ball plenty in an attempt to catch up. In his 14 snaps, he had eight carries for 42 yards. After not cracking the 5 YPC mark once in the first 15 games of the season, he did it in each of his last two and appears to be more effective with less carries. Something to monitor going into the offseason.

5. Zoltan Mesko. Yep, the new punter off the streets gets a spot here. Mesko only punted three times on the day, but two of those landed SD inside their own 14 yard line. Not bad in frigid conditions for a guy signed during the week of the game.

Five bad things (Put on some coffee. Get comfy): 

1. Andy Dalton. 29/51, 334 passing yards, 26 rushing yards, 1 TD, 3 TOs (2 INTs, 1 fumble lost). Boy oh boy oh boy. I will start by saying this was not all Dalton's fault. That will be covered later. By a whole heap of this loss goes on Dalton. To the GIFs!

Turnover #1, from two angles. SD gets a FG off of this. I actually like the decision to run there but uh...

I hear Benny Hill music here.
Turnover #2, the following possession SD got another FG off of this one. 
Note the bad pass protection there, but still a horrid throw.
                    Turnover 3, the FOLLOWING POSSESSION. SD didn't score off this one.
Linebacker Melvin Ingram on the coverage.
Awful x 3. On the bright side, Dalton managed to set career highs in postseason passing yards, TDs and rushing yards. By 2025, he'll be Joe Montana. #Progress.

2. Offensive players not named Marvin Jones or Jermaine Gresham. Jones and Gresham were credited above, but everyone else shit the bed here. AJ Green caught three of the nine passes thrown his way for 34 yards. He dropped a deep beauty that Dalton put right in his hands because he tried to basket catch it instead of going up for it. Tyler Eifert had more tackles (one, in the GIF directly above) than catches and only played three snaps. We went two TEs all year, so only having Eifert in there for three snaps forced us out of our comfort zone. Perhaps Eifert was still banged up from a stinger that caused him to miss week 17. Gio Bernard had a nice box score (19 touches for 128 total yards), but had a brutal fumble on the SD 4. A score there puts us up 14-7 with 1:47 left in the half, all three timeouts at our disposal and the ball back after halftime. He later had a bad drop on third down with the score 20-10 SD, and Cincy driving the ball. Mo Sanu and Andrew Hawkins were nonfactors.

3. Offensive line. Dalton dropped back 57 times (57!) and was pressured on 13 of them, per PFF. To be fair, he often panicked and ran himself into some of those, but still. I said I was going to re-watch the game because that number seems low but I'll pass. It just seemed like he was on the run a lot more than 13 times. Dalton was sacked three times and hit six times. RG Kevin Zeitler blew the block that lead to Dalton putting his first INT for grab. You may remember him from blowing the block that lead to the game ending safety against Miami. OT Dennis Roland checked in 12 times as a TE to block and registered a negative score on every single snap. The offensive line didn't exactly do Dalton any favors either.

4. Defensive line. A very disappointing showing. The defensive line generated zero sacks and two hits on Phillip Rivers. Even with starting C Nick Hardwick missing most of the game due to an early injury, the Chargers offensive line dominated. PFF shows that Rivers was pressured on nine of his 19 (19!) dropbacks, and again I disagree. Rivers seemed to have just about all day to do what he wanted in the pocket, and the few times the pass rush got home, he was able to evade them long enough to get rid of the ball. The line also got blown up in the running game giving up 196 yards on 40 carries (4.9 YPC) and 2 TDs including the 58 yard clincher by Ronnie Brown (Ronnie Brown!!!) with under three minutes left in the game.

5. Coaching. Not a particularly good showing by Lewis, Gruden or Zimmer. Lewis chose to go conservative twice in the first half by punting on 4th and 4 at the SD 48 and 4th and 1 at the SD 45. Great punts by Mesko and showings by the defense kept the Chargers from capitalizing but I feel like regular season Marvin Lewis goes for those. I don't have any numbers to back that decision up, but in watching every game this season I can say that I was actually shocked Lewis brought out the punt teams both times. Jay Gruden gets some blame too. There were times when we threw the ball on 3rd and 1, or Gruden failed to leave a back in to pass block and had Dalton running for his life. Even blog favorite Mike Zimmer deserves some blame. The Chargers used a combination of Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown to run the ball right down our throat and there wasn't a thing we could do about it. Mathews was banged up and SD lost their starting center and we couldn't take advantage.

Nothing, summer.

I'll probably get a season recap up here shortly after a few things shake themselves out, namely coaching decisions. Until then, it's tears in my beers while I watch the rest of the postseason.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Wild Card Previews

I had some notes written up for yesterdays games but something came up and I never got around to posting them. The joke is on me because I had everything just about spot on. I said the Chiefs would get up 27 on the Colts then come back to lose. Turns out they got up 28, and came back to lose. I also said former Bengal Shayne Graham would kick a 32 yarder as time expired to send the Eagles home. A lucky guess, you could say. But the JV games are over. On to the real football.

Bengals over Chargers- I'm prepared for anything here. A lot has been made of which Andy Dalton shows up, and the point is a valid one, but we've shown we can win when Bad Andy shows up. He threw seven picks total in our last two games against the Ravens and Browns. We won by a combined 38 points. The story here is the offensive line. If the Bengals offensive line wins here, we'll win. It's that simple. I trust our defense, even without Terrence Newman, will be able to keep the Chargers offense from going wild. And if our offensive line wins upfront, we should be able to have our way with the Chargers 23rd ranked defense.

Packers over 49ers- A little revenge for last year. I don't think these Packers are as good as last year's Packers, but I also don't think this years 49ers are as good as last years 49ers. Kaep may look to run here early to put nightmares from last year in the Packers head, but I don't think he'll keep it up. Last season, he looked to be running to score every single time. This year, he appears to be running to slide. Rodgers shook the rust off last week and I think he comes out firing here. I think a healthy diet of Lacy/Starks and Rodgers scrambling for some timely first downs keeps the ball with Green Bay most of the afternoon. The 49ers throw to catch up late but it won't be enough.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Wild Card Picks

Playoffs, fella.  You feel good?  You ready?
We almost made the trip up to Green Bay this weekend for the game, but it didn't work out in the end.  While a playoff game in Lambeau sounds amazing, sitting at home and watching it isn't going to break my heart.
You have any thoughts of heading up to Cincy tomorrow?

To the picks.

Colts over Chiefs
I keep going back on forth on this one.  At the end of the day, I think the Colts defense - much improved as of late - will be able to keep Charles in check.  If they can do that, they'll win.

Eagles over Saints
It's partly because it's away from the Superdome, but it's mainly because the Eagles have looked terrific as of late.  They're more comfortable with the offense now.  I think the Saints will need a couple turnovers to win this, but Foles doesn't really make many mistakes, opting to throw the ball away or take a sack rather than throwing into coverage.  It'll be close, but the Eagles will pull it out.

Bengals over Chargers
I get nervous every time the majority of people pick my team to win, so I assume you're very nervous right now.  The Chargers have a good team, and they could give the Bengals some problems.  But the Bengals have a very good team.  The only way I see the Bengals losing this is if Dalton throws a few interceptions.  While that's certainly possible, I think he'll be good enough here to win.  We've talked about this: all you need to win in the playoffs is to catch fire for a few weeks.  Dalton is fully capable of that, as we saw in weeks 14-16 when he threw 9 TDs against 0 INTs.

Packers over 49ers
I'm currently working on a game plan to beat the 49ers.  Hopefully that'll be up tomorrow at Packer Update.  I know it's unlikely that the Packers will win this.  They need everything to break right, and they need the defense to be better than it has been all season.  With Rodgers and Cobb back, they should be able to put up points.  Here's what they need: slow down the run and capitalize on mistakes.  Kaepernick will throw a couple balls that could be intercepted.  The Packers need to make sure they catch those balls.  On offense, they'll need to pound the ball (which might be a bit of a challenge with Lacy banged up, but Starks is more than capable of doing it as well), and hit a few big plays.
They can win this game, but it won't be easy.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bengals vs. Ravens: Five Things

Five good things: 

1. Vontaze Burfict. Figured I'd go ahead and get this out of the way. After missing practice for most of the week due to concussion protocol, Burfict suited up Sunday and had a 14 tackle, 1 for loss performance. He did allow 10 completions in coverage, but many of these were during garbage time as the Ravens tried to catch up late. This capped a season where he led the league in tackles, with 171, and made his first Pro Bowl. A great game to cap a great regular season.

2. Dre Kirkpatrick. Surprise surprise. Kirkpatrick had the best game of his young career with 9 tackles, three passes defensed, two interceptions and he returned one of those for a touchdown. He wasn't without fault, as there were a couple of times he was beaten but the Ravens were unable to capitalize and his first pick came on a fourth down play where just knocking down the pass would have given Cincy better field position. But that's nitpicking. He looked much better this game.

3. Offensive line. Dalton wasn't touched, not a hit nor sack, and was only pressured on nine of his 37 dropbacks. The running game picked up 111 yards on 30 carries (3.7) YPC and a TD. Starting center only played eight snaps before leaving due to injury, but backup Trevor Robinson came in and played well. Or so I thought. PFF gave Robinson the worst score on the line, but I didn't really notice him either way. Either way, I thought he filled in admirably.

4. BJGE. BJGE had 11 carries for 66 yards, 6.0 YPC being his highest of the season by far. I thought he ran hard, but there were also holes open inside, which I attributed to the addition of Robinson to the lineup. He looked quicker than he has in sometime and I'm hoping this BJGE shows up next week.

5. Pass rush. This was one part good game by the pass rush and one part Flacco had a bum leg, but either way I'm satisfied. Flacco was only sacked twice, but hit seven times and pressured 16 times on the afternoon. Carlos Dunlap didn't get a sack on the afternoon, but knocked down a pass and hit Flacco three times. Hopefully, this is the d-line that shows up next Sunday.

Five bad things: 

1. Turnovers/Andy Dalton. Four turnovers, all with Dalton's blood on them. As discussed in our look at Dalton's interceptions, perhaps not all four were 100% his fault but this is still not a way you want to close out the regular season. Dalton is far from a great QB, but he doesn't have a habit of 4 interception games or throwing the ball up for grabs so I'm not too concerned that he'll just start putting passes up for grabs next week, but turning the ball over can't happen against San Diego.

2. Penalties. 10 for 76 yards. Three of which gave Baltimore a first down, two on third down while we had the ball to make things harder on ourselves. In hindsight, it's amazing that we won a game by 17 points where we turned the ball over four times and had ten penalties. Again, not an encouraging way to end the regular season.

3. Injuries. Good grief. Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eiffert missed the game due to injury. Backup TE Alex Smith started and dislocated his wrist so he's out for the year. Kyle Cook left the game and is questionable for the Chargers game. Wednesday's practice saw nine starters plus supersub Vincent Rey miss practice. I'm hoping this is just giving guys an extra day to get right, but goodness.

4. Special teams. The punt below got Shawn Powell cut from the team. It went 10 yards and that seems generous.

5. NFL standings. Are we sure the Ravens really won eight games this year? Did anyone watch all eight with their own eyes? After all the awful things that happened to us here, we still won EASILY and it could have been worse (remember the Dalton interception on the BAL 1 yard line). These Ravens stink.

Wild Card round, home against the Chargers.

1. Back to the playoffs for the third straight season, only this time as a favorite. We've been on the road the last two seasons at Houston, but are now hosting the Chargers. Cincinnati is 8-0 at home this year, have scored at least 34 points in the last five home games and have won games in Cincy this season by an average score of 34-17. 

2. On the flipside, the Chargers are a 4-4 road team where their average score has been 25-24. Also, the weather for Cincinnati at game time? In the low 30s with a decent chance of snow. A slight change from the perfect 70 something degree weather in San Diego the last time these two teams faced off in early December, a 17-10 victory for the Bengals.

3. The Chargers finished the year with the #5 overall offense in yards per game, fourth in passing yards per game and 13th in rushing yards per game. Snowy weather would probably change the Chargers gameplan a little, but with Rivers accuracy, multiple running backs that can catch the ball and an above average running game, it wouldn't change things drastically. The Bengals defense finished with the #3 defense in yards per game, fifth against the pass and the run in yards per game. We figure to have Terrence Newman back after three weeks off, so between that and the weather I'm hopeful that we can limit the big plays San Diego is able to pull off.

4. Cincy finished the season with a the #10 offense in yards per game, eighth in passing and 18th in rushing yards per game. The Chargers defense finished 23rd total, 29th against the pass and 12th against the run. This cold weather could help us or hurt us. Help us because our offensive line manhandled San Diego during the last meeting. If we're able to do so again, we should be able to run the ball just fine, control the clock and limit Andy Dalton putting the ball in the air during snowy conditions. It could hurt us though because SD is weak against the pass, and that's a strength of ours. Hopefully a number of very short routes will get Dalton in rhythm early and he'll be able to recreate the great second half he had against SD where he completed 70% of his passes and had a QB rating over 130.

5. There's a lot in our favor here. Our home record. SD struggling to beat KC's backups. Us getting the early game and having SD travel west (this is like them playing at 10 am). The weather. Our offensive strengths are their defensive weaknesses. Their offensive strength is our defensive strength. I'll make a prediction later, but I'm feeling pretty good about this one now. Ask me again in 10 minutes.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Response to Dalton's Interceptions

First things first, great work. Thank you for taking the time to do that.

Second, I hate you. Why would you do that?

Third, in a strange way, I surprisingly remember every single interception. And every picture brought back my visceral reaction upon seeing the pick live. A few notes below.
  • You noted that 7 of his picks came against Baltimore, but another 3 came against Cleveland. That's 10 picks in four games. Half of his interception total on the season in one quarter of the games. 10 picks in the other 12 games makes me feel slightly better.
  • Earlier, I guessed that 13 of the interceptions came intended for AJ Green. The actual number was 12. Nobody knows their trash quarterback like me, bubba.
  • There are a couple that I think would go either way.
    • #1. I remember this being a great play by Charles Tillman at the time. The throw wasn't perfect (a recurring theme), Green didn't exactly box him out (also, a recurring theme) and you've watched the play more recently than I have but I just remember being impressed with a great play by Tillman. 
    • #2. A bad choice to throw in triple coverage but I remember being very impressed with the throw itself. It hit Green in the hand so I'd put that on him.
    • #9. Similar to #2. Not a great choice to throw into double coverage or to lead Sanu into harm's way, but I feel the throw itself was a good one. Hit Sanu right in his hands. It's not Dalton's fault he got his bell rung as soon as the ball got there. Actually...yeah, it probably is.
    • #14. You're spot on. Green does dog it coming out of some shorter routes and will not fight for the ball if it looks like the DB is going to get it. Again, Dalton did him no favors with the throw, but a little more knees-to-chest effort out of Green and this is probably an incomplete pass at worst.
    • #17. The pass was a tad short, but Jones had two hands on it before the defender even turned around. Any higher and it's uncatchable, any lower and Graham makes an easier play on it.
  • The most infuriating on this list, as a fan? #20. More than the blatant overthrows. More than him not seeing a guy drop in coverage. #20 drove me absolutely insane. 27-17, 8:27 left on the clock and we're looking to put away Baltimore. We had went 70 yards in four plays, and BJGE had just reeled off a great 11 yard run to get down to the 1. What better way to really start putting this game away than to run it back down their throat? Instead, on 1st and 1 Dalton puts one up for AJ Green but not high enough and it's picked off.
    • My initial ire is at Jay Gruden. Why dare call a pass on 1st and 1 in that situation? Alas, he did not. The call was a run-pass option with the choice up to Dalton. He saw single coverage on Green and chose to pass. It was a poor one. 
    • To Dalton's credit, some of the gentlemen at Football Outsiders swear that this one is on Green. Dalton was to put the ball in one spot and fast, and he did so. Green was supposed to do the rest but did not and Jimmy Smith came down with it. I disagree with that, but they know a lot more about football than I so I won't argue that. I will argue that the ball should have been ran there. Say you get stuffed three (or four) times at the 1, you're killing clock and forcing Baltimore to go 99 yards. Awful decision by Dalton, to me. 
  • Bolts from the Blue, a Chargers blog, took a look at each of the four Week 17 interceptions. A good read here.

Dalton's 2013 Interceptions

You asked for it, so here it is.  I had to wait for the end of the season to get all of them (and good thing, since he threw a 4 INT masterpiece in the finale).  I wanted to get this up before the playoffs (you know, to give you nightmares), so here you go.
I took all the images from the broadcast.  Some of them are a little blurry, but it's pretty easy to tell what's going on in each one.  I thought of rolling with All-22, but you can't see some of the action all the clearly with those views.  And it takes me longer to put together.
I have a handful of stats to throw out there, but I'll save them for the end of the post.

Dalton threw 20 interceptions during the year, so we'd better get started:
(To see a larger version, click on the picture.)

#1 (Week 1)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: Dalton stared down the receiver, then threw the ball too far to the inside.  It was undercut by the defender.

#2 (Week 1)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: This was a bad decision to throw into triple coverage.  But it hit Green in the hands.  It bounced off Green's hands and into the waiting arms of the defense.

#3 (Week 3)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: Stared down the receiver and underthrew the ball.  Look at where Shields is on that play.  If you're trying to force the ball in on that play, that needs to go a lot higher.

#4 (Week 4)
Intended receiver: Eifert

What happened: High and behind Eifert.  He was able to get his hands on it, but it was a terrible throw.  Bounced into the arms of a defender.

#5 (Week 5)
Intended receiver: Eifert

What happened: Throw across his body into the middle of the field in the red zone (where the defense is always packed more tightly).  Just didn't see the LB.

#6 (Week 6)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: Didn't see the LB.  After these last two, I'm not entirely sure Dalton knows what a LB is.

#7 (Week 8)
Intended receiver: Bernard

What happened: Didn't see the DE that dropped into coverage.  Run fire zones on blitzes all day and he'll have 15 interceptions.

#8 (Week 9)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: Late and inside.  Man...just look at that picture.  I'm cringing just looking at it, and I'm not even a Bengals fan.

#9 (Week 9)
Intended receiver: Jones

What happened: Late and inside.

#10 (Week 9)
Intended receiver: Sanu
I have two images for this one.

What happened: Bad decision and a bad throw.  The ball is tip, and then...

...Sanu is destroyed as the Dolphins intercept the ball.

#11 (Week 10)
Intended receiver: Eifert

What happened: Overthrown.  Badly overthrown.

#12 (Week 10)
Intended receiver: Jones

What happened: It was ripped out of the receiver's hands.  But the throw was terrible.  Jones was moving to the outside, and the ball was thrown in.  Jones had to reverse his momentum and try to make a play on the ball inside.

#13 (Week 10)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: It's hard to see the ball here.  But, if it helps, that deep safety is reacting to it.  He's 6 yards past Green.  It's safe to say this ball was overthrown.

#14 (Week 11)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: Thrown outside before Green was out of his break.  This one was interesting.  It appeared to me that Green was slow out of the break.  I'm not sure if he has a reputation for dogging it on routes sometimes, but that's exactly how this looked.  It appeared to be a timing pattern that Green was just too slow on.  I haven't watched enough of the Bengals to know whether Green does this on a regular basis.  What say you on this?

#15 (Week 11)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: Floated a sideline pass to Green, which Haden promptly nabbed and took to the house.  Bad decision.  Worse thrown.

#16 (Week 13)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: You remember this one.  You were there.  It appears as though Dalton was trying to throw a punt.  Needless to say, overthrown.

#17 (Week 17)
Intended receiver: Jones

What happened: Dalton saw Jones man-to-man on the outside and threw a jump ball.  Not a terrible decision, and not a terrible throw.  The CB made a great play on it.

#18 (Week 17)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: Overthrown.  There's no touch on this ball.  Just a laser over the head of Green.

#19 (Week 17)
Intended receiver: Green

What happened: He threw this directly between two receivers.  Given his propensity for forcing throws to Green, I assume he just launched it over Green's head.  It's worth noting that Green is making no reaction to this throw, even though it looks like he has a shot at it.  I assume he thinks it's going to a deeper receiver.  That could be the case.  Who knows.  Dalton's accuracy looks like a shotgun half the time.

#20 (Week 17)
Intended receiver: Green:

What happened: A fade, low and inside.  Again, if you're throwing a ball to a covered Green, err on the side of throwing it high, especially in the end zone.  That way, either Green catches it or no one does.  Throwing this pass in this situation is ridiculous.

A few stats:
7 of his interceptions (35%) were against Baltimore.
12 of his interceptions (60%) were on throws to Green.
9 of his interceptions (45%) came at home, while 11 of them (55%) were on the road.

My conclusion: pretty much every single one of these rests on Dalton's shoulders.  I'll forgive him #14 (Green slow out of the break) and #17 (jump ball to Jones), and give him a partial pass on #2 (a bad throw, but Green still had a shot at it).  The rest of these are horrible passes, horrible decisions or both.  With his lack of arm strength, he needs to have pinpoint accuracy and great decision-making skills.  He appears to have neither.  It's possible he'll improve his decision-making, but, having just finished his third regular season, I don't see his accuracy improving.
And I'm dubious on his decision-making improving, as well.  A lot of these decisions here are rookie mistakes.  I can see him making some of these in his third year, but not all of them.  He could surprise me, but, at this point, I think this is the QB he will be for his career.  Sorry man.

I'm not telling you anything you don't already know on him.  If the Bengals sign Dalton to a lucrative, long-term extension, they will be making a HUGE mistake.