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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FACT CHECK: Preston, part 2

This is the continuation of my fact check on Mike Preston's post-Cleveland Browns game column, "Despite win over Browns, Ravens defense has big problems."

Please check out the previous post for part 1.

Claim #4: The Browns ran for 91 yards on 29 carries and the Ravens appeared to be in good position, but they didn't shed blockers. End Chris Canty and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw failed to hold the edge as the Browns got outside numerous times.

Let's look at the not shedding blockers claim.  Another stat from Pro Football Focus determines the run stop percentage of outside LBs based on the number of run snaps that they participate in, and the number of tackles they get that constitute a loss for the offense.  In other words, did the play achieve something positive for the O? If not, the defender gets a 'Stop' stat. 

As you can see, Suggs had a 19% stop rate and Upshaw had a 14% one.  But the eyes open when we compare this to the rest of the league for week 3:

Suggs had the BEST PERCENTAGE IN THE NFL.  Upshaw was THIRD IN THE NFL.  What more do they have to do to constitute a good game in the mind of Preston?!  Yes, the Browns blocked well on certain plays and turned the corner.  But they didn't achieve any of their goals with this: no 100 yard gainers, no true ball control (seeing as how they had less time of possession), and no WIN.

Let's look at Canty's stats:

His Stop % is slightly above average, falling into the upper third of the league this past weekend.  But he got nicked up at the end of the third quarter, and his snap count became the third lowest in the NFL for 3-4 defensive ends.  Considering, he did ok.

I should mention that "shedding blockers" is inherent in making stops, so that point is covered here.

MyVerdict: FALSE.  Unless perfection is the standard, which no one in the entire league reached in this week, in this style of defense, we have to say that the stats and outcome favor the Ravens defenders on this point.  What do you think?

Claim #5: "As far as pressure, the Ravens got very little on Hoyer. The Browns did run a lot of plays that required him to release the ball quickly, but there were times when he had light years to pass."

Here is the PFF metric on time in pocket.  Yes, these guys are thorough and measure everything.  You really should consider getting a subscription to this great service.  

The column to notice is "Time to Throw" and "Time to Attempt."  These are different, because the first is the time until whatever action is taken--throwing, running, getting sacked.  The second one is the time for actual pocket throws.  The numbers, again, gain much more perspective when added to the context of the entire league.

Hoyer is 21st in the league for week three in the amount of time to throw.  He's actually tied for 26th in the "Time to Attempt" category.  And while some of this may be attributable to the quick releases that Preston mentions (which, in my previous post, we saw went for 0-9 yards and little success), being in basically the bottom third of the league for this metric is nowhere near having "light years" to throw.  Flacco had more time.  Cam Netwon had more time vs. Pittsburgh.  Mike Glennon had more time in that obliteration vs. Atlanta.  Hoyer either had time or he didn't, and they chose to get the ball out of his hands quickly on a number of plays, but these stats definitely reflect pressure, or even the attempt by Cleveland to get away from the potential pressure by throwing fast.  That kind of respect is not given to a team on the decline with their pass rush.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that Hoyer's pass pressure percentage was a league-low 7.4%.  Yet, his attempts show that he threw many passes (18 of 25) in under 2.5 seconds.  That's 67%.  Are 7 passes enough to measure the effectiveness of the pass pressure?  The week before, we pressured Rothlisberger many more times (11), and his time in pocket was the lowest in the NFL.  So I have to acknowledge that the Browns' strategy of quick throws helping pressure worked, but it was not successful.  Do you see the difference?  

MyVerdict: There is SOME MERIT to this claim, but it is not 100% TRUE.  Do you agree?

Claim #6: It didn't look good and there was little to get excited about on defense. Harbaugh heaped a lot of praise on the Browns after the game, but the Ravens just really played poorly on defense.
They didn't make any big plays. They had trouble stopping the run and had even more problems with the pass. If the Browns knew how to finish off games, the Ravens would have lost.

We gave up more plays on defense than is Raven-like, but it is week three.

Meanwhile, I am excited about blocking a FG.
I am excited about holding the Browns to under 100 yds rushing.
I am excited to holding them to the majority of passes going 0-9 yards.
I am excited that Suggs is still Suggs, and Upshaw is proving to be a real stud.
I am excited that Asa Jackson held his own and was very active.
I am excited that CJ Mosely had a great outing.
I am excited that Jimmy Smith continues a steadily strong season.
I am excited that we held them when it counted, at the end of the game.

I am excited that we WON.

Sounds like plenty to be excited about.

MyVerdict: FALSE.  What do you think?

In conclusion, it seems that there are many discrepancies in this column between opinion and supporting fact.  That kills credibility. When there seems to be a frequent occurence of negative outlook, one begans to wonder what the real meaning is behind these columns.  Yet, fear not; I will continue to Fact Check Mr. Preston and anyone who strongly asserts against the Ravens regularly.  If they prove true, more power to them.

Let's just make sure it's for a reason.