Over the weekend we chatted with the Football Outsiders crew, who are promoting the release of the Football Outsiders Almanac -- a great book for any football fan. We've split off some of the bigger topics into their posts. Here are a few questions and answers on other subjects.
Local move keeping Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker?
Logical. I think Rey will be a guy who comes off the field in a lot of passing situations. As good as Burfict was last year, it is a stretch to turn him into a guy who makes adjustments.
According to the FOA, the Bengals were simply not good running to the left. We know that Andrew Whitworth has been dealing with a knee/leg issue over the past two years, which he had surgically corrected during the offseason. But do you think that the lack of success is identified with personnel or Jay Gruden's scheme?
I know they were pretty right-handed in their tendencies: I think they only ran 8% of the time around left end, when the average is 12%, and they had similar tendencies at left tackle. I am not sure how much of that involves line personnel. I am guessing that Gruden is less worried about the splits and more worried about getting more dynamic overall.
You write that the Bengals weren't very good in six-linemen sets, only averaging 2.2 yards per play. Why do you think that was? Lack of personnel, or just the nature of opposing defenses crowding the box?
My gut tells me that they wanted to use Orson Charles as a blocking tight end in a package that involved a lot of power runs and shots up top to Green with six-man protection. Then, Charles was not up to the task, so they experimented with the six-man wrinkle. I know Charles is penciled into a blocking back role this year, and of course they have the two tight ends. What you will probably see this year are similar concepts, but with two TEs to one side, and Charles or one of the tight ends acting as an in-line blocker.
The Bengals had so few secondary weapons last year that I think Gruden just figured he would get an extra blocker in there and wait for Green to get open or BJGE to find a hole.
You also write that Bengals opponents only threw to their No. 1 receiver 18 percent of the time. Fair assessment that that's the result of Leon Hall and Terence Newman's production? Or was there a strategic benefit for opposing team to challenge other defenders?
The Bengals AFC North opponents are not heavily dependent on funneling passes through a go-to receiver. The Steelers had Wallace and Brown, the Ravens had Boldin short and Torrey long, and the Browns don't count. That makes it easier for those teams to avoid a certain CB, and frankly it also skews our percentages a little bit because you are facing teams with two 110-target guys, not Larry Fitzgerald and prayers. Also, never underestimate what a great pass rush does for secondary data: you get a lot of checkdown passes because of pressure, and less shots deep to the #1 guy.
Make sure to pick up your copy of the Football Outsiders Almanac today.