So with the dry spell in real news recently, our comment threads have been trending (there's that word again) in a variety of wild directions. Of course, that doesn't mean that there is a lack of interesting discussion, in fact that is what lead me to this article.
We have all been discussing how the Colts have, or have not, addressed the issues along the offensive line. In one such discussion, I posed a question to StrandedinCarolina about how he would have proceeded differently over the past few years in both Free Agency and the Draft given the same restrictions our Front Office has faced, and he responded with a very well thought out approach that further sparked discussion. Ultimately though, I have been wondering about a few things, that can be easily answered with stats, about how our offensive line has stacked up (aside from the obvious eye test) to the rest of the league. As I looked at a few of the stats, I noticed something interesting about this past season; the number of teams who had at least 40 sacks. Interestingly enough, this stuck out to me because I am one of those people that buys a fantasy football magazine every year to prep for my draft (it is a private league with decent money involved). I remember seeing 40 sacks as a benchmark for a team that gets above average pressure on the QB, and so I would translate that to mean teams that give up more than 40+ sacks to be below average in blocking.
I originally was going to attempt to incorporate QB sacks, hits, pressures into this; however, I could not find a site that held all of this data (there was one, but I will explain my reasoning for not using it in a moment). NFL.com had an offensive line category that listed sacks and QB Hits; however, it only went back to 2009, and I wanted to look at a 10 year spectrum of data. As such, I used the team passing stat line, and I ordered it starting with the greatest number of sacks let up-down to the least. I opted to leave out the QB Hits, as it made creating the Excel sheet a little more intensive than I wanted to analyze the data.
***As I said above, there was another site (AdvancedNFLStats) that had both sacks and QB hits for offensive line stats; however, the numbers didn't match up with those compiled by NFL.com. As such, I didn't want to cross-contaminate the data, so I went with just sacks.***
So here is a link to the actual spreadsheet made public in my Skydrive. I did everything correctly to embed the excel app in the post, and it even shows in the visual view, but it won't show up in my preview of the post. I tried a number of things, but I haven't gotten anywhere. If anyone has any suggestions you can post it in the comments and I'll go back and fix it later, but for now...sorry guys but you'll have to click the link instead.
SO WHAT CAN WE CONCLUDE FROM THE DATA:
I want it to be known that I included the outlier analysis to get rid of the misrepresentation that some sack totals imply, such as the 72 sacks given up one year or the 11 sacks given up in another. I used the standard of anything beyond 2 standard deviations from the mean (so anything beyond the core 95%) to be an outlier.
1. What does the data show?
Sack numbers were trending down from 2003 until 2008. Then from 2008 until now they have clearly been trending upwards. This past season, we see that there was an alarming jump in the number of total sacks and the number of teams who let up a large amount of pressure.
2. So this begs the question, are offensive lines getting worse or are defensive blitzing schemes simply creating more pressure?
This question requires more effort then I wish to provide. It would require me to find consistent data on QB Hits and Pressures as well as determining blitz rates and number of attackers versus blockers and how often a team passes. Its way too big of a task for me to look at alone...and not get paid for it.
3. Where does the data say we are going?
Using linear regression on the bar chart shows that forecasting the same linear regression line over the next 5 years will produce more sacks each year. In this case I used average sacks as opposed to average sacks adjusted for outlier analysis.
Overall presents something interesting to ponder. It ultimately means, depending on how question 2 is ultimately answered (and it is difficult not just because of the amount of work, but also because of the need to factor in good offensive lines/style of blocking vs bad and the same thing on the defensive side of the ball), that pressure on quarterbacks is increasing. It is something that clearly needs addressed from the offensive perspective. Do QBs need to release quick? Do offenses need to consider larger sets so as to compensate for extra blitzers?
I know I probably raised more questions than answers, but I am hoping to spark a new discussion away from the last thread that has been breaking down very rapidly.
At the request of AllHailDickLord, I went ahead and did some analysis of the total pass attempts conducted by offenses over the last 10 seasons. I added the data to the spreadsheet. I changed the first graph a bit, and I also added a new graph at the bottom to give perspective on the number of pass attempts. If you want to see the raw data and what not, it is all on the 2nd Sheet along with the scatter plot of all 10 years.
A quick conclusion is that the number of passes is definitely trending up. No one can say this isn't a passing league, because teams on average are passing 52 times more a season than before; that number is like adding 1-2 games depending on the style of offense your team has. As result of the increased number of pass attempts, and the sack numbers increasing as well, you don't really see an effect on the sack percentage numbers. If anything, it is actually trending down because the proportionality of the increase heavily favors the pass attempts.
Ultimately, I could see why teams are bringing more pressure and why the pressure is getting there more often; there are simply just more opportunities.