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Football Prospectus - Defensive Front Seven

I recently received a copy of this year's Football Prospectus. This book, like baseball's counterpart, provides plenty of complex and detailed statistics comparing one player's contribution, against the league's average.

One stat called DVOA (Defensive Adjusted Value over Average) separates the value of a 3-yard run. For example, a three-yard run on first down is considered a failure whereas a three-yard run scoring a touchdown or a first down is considered a success. You don't have type of breakdown in mainstream dogmatic statistics; a three-yard run is a three-yard run. The goal is to compare situational plays across the league distributing credit towards meaningful results.

I want to run down the Bengals compared to the league average in sections. There are just too many stats to explain everything in one little post, so I'll break down by areas. This is the first time I've fully analyzed something this complex, so in a way, this is new to me too.

The Bengals are known for having a weak defensive front. The defensive line is undersized and the linebackers are blocked too easily. This, you say, I already know.

The teams defensive fronts are based on a stat called Adjusted Line Yards. ALY takes carries from all running backs and assigns "responsibility" to the offensive line based on the following percentages:

  • Losses: 120% value
  • 0-4 Yards: 100% value
  • 5-10 Yards: 50% value
  • 11+ Yards: 0% value
The resulting numbers are "adjusted based on down, distance, and situation, and normalized so that the league average for Adjusted Line Yards per carry is the same as the league average for RB yards per carry." Got it? In layman's terms, this stat basically explains how well the Bengals defensive front (DL, LB) did against opposing offensive lines.

The best Adjusted Line Yards went to Seattle with a 3.55. This means Seattle's defensive front did better than the league based on down, distance, and situation. Remember a yard that gains a first down or touchdown is really bad for a defensive front whereas a yard on first down at mid-field is meaningless. This adjustment brings a clearer perspective on how the defensive front performs on situations.

The worst in the NFL is Atlanta sporting a 4.76.

Cincinnati ranked 30th with a 4.56. Remember, if the opposing offense gains zero yards on the ground, its worth 120% for the defense, opposing offense gains 5-10 rushing yards is worth half and gains of 11 yards or more is worth 0%.

Power success is what the opposing offense does on third and fourth down with two yards or less for a first down or a touchdown. Included in this stat are attempts on first-goal and second-goal on the two yard line and in. The lower the percentage allowed the based on rush attempts.

Cincinnati allowed 64% power runs to gain their goals. Carolina was the best allowing 46% and the Jets were disastrous allowing 83%. The Bengals ranked 19th among the league; 64% is the league average.

This stat takes the percentage of the opposition's rushing yards that result in 10+ rushing yards. What percentage of the rushing yards that result with 10 yard plus plays? The Bengals ranked 13th across at 16%

On first down rushes that result with zero or negative gains or less than a fourth of an offense's successful plays (45% of yards needed on first down for a first down, 60% of yards needed on second down for a first down and 100% of yards needed on third and fourth down), it's considered a "stuff". The Bengals ranked 28th with 20% of the opposition's rushes resulting in "stuffs".

Team percentage is a percentage of the number of times a single player is involved in certain plays.

Odell Thurman, 14.5%
Brian Simmons, 11.6%
Landon Johnson, 10.7%
Justin Smith, 8.7%
John Thornton, 5.6%
Robert Geathers, 4.5%
David Pollack, 3.8%
Shaun Smith, 3.1%

Based among linebackers, Odell Thurman was ranked 18th. Among lineman, Justin Smith was ranked 8th.

Plays a single player prevents the opposing offense from gaining their "success" (45% of yards needed on first down for a first down, 60% of yards needed on second down for a first down and 100% of yards needed on third and fourth down).

Odell Thurman was the best on the Bengals defense creating 64 stops. Justin Smith was second best with 48.

Defeats are the number of plays that stops the offense from gaining a first down or touchdown on third or fourth down, stops the line behind the line of scrimmage on any down, or a play that results in a turnover.

Again, Odell Thurman was the best with 30 defeats. Justin Smith was second with 21 and Landon Johnson was third with 14.

As you can see Odell Thurman means a lot to the defense beyond the obvious middle linebacker position. Justin Smith, to my surprise, contributed big time. Even though, you take all the single player stats and compare them to the team stats that are ranked, on average, across the league, this defensive front requires more help.

Obviously the team added some talent. Sam Adams will help immensely if healthy. Peko and Rucker could do well with some seasoning.