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Football Outsiders: Colts Kavell Conner DEFEATS Running Plays

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Gee, thanks Aaron Schatz and the folks at Football Outsiders. The day I write an article suggesting that Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner might not fit in the Colts future plans at linebacker (because they are potentially too small) is also the day I stumble across this article.

Football Outsiders' Innovative Stats. The bane of Skip Bayless clones everywhere.

This most recent article on FO's Innovative Stats (FYI: Matt Grecco normally does this stuff, but he's too busy working for IndyCar this week because, I'm told, there's a race in Indianapolis this weekend) focuses on "defeats." I'll let Aaron explain:

Defeats are defined as any play (tackle, assist, pass defensed, interception, or forced fumble) that does one of three things:

1) causes a turnover

2) causes a loss of yardage

3) stops conversion on third or fourth down

Almost every sack is a Defeat, so it is no surprise that Jared Allen, with his 22-sack season, led the NFL with 33 Defeats in 2011. Jason Pierre-Paul was second with 32, and Derrick Johnson and Terrell Suggs tied for third with 31.

Now, if you look at FO's Most Defensive Defeats chart for 2011, not a single Colts player is listed. This makes sense because... well, the Colts sucked in 2011. However, as we are all aware, there were some bright spots in '11. One of the was (for the most part) Kavell Conner, the third year linebacker who took over the starting WILL linebacker spot last season.

When FO broke down its Defeats Chart into passing and rushing, it was Conner who ranked very high on the list of rushing play defeats.

Here's Schatz discussing Conner, who was No. 2 out of all defensive players in the Most Run Defeats category for 2011:

Kavell Conner! I bet you didn't see that one coming. The 2010 seventh-round pick led the league with 13 run tackles for a loss. He made his average run tackle after a gain of just 2.1 yards, more than a yard closer than any other Colts linebacker. Mathias Kiwanuka was second with 12 run tackles for loss, and Charles Johnson of Carolina was third with 11.

It's worth noting that, once again, the Colts run defense was ten kinds of terrible last season, ranking 29th in yards-per-attempt-allowed (4.3) and 29th in total rushing yards allowed (2,303). They also surrenders 19 TDs, tied for second worst in the league. With Conner displaying such a strong knack for "defeating" run plays, along with Pat Angerer (who is pretty good against the run in his own right), the Colts inability to shutdown the run in 2011 was both a combination of scheme (Tampa 2's weakness is against the run) and inept play of the defensive tackles (Fili Moala really, really stinks).

My issue with both Conner and Angerer is whether or not they can holdup over sixteen games in the Colts new 3-4 scheme. Tiny players get hurt often, and injured players are useless players. Angerer started and played in sixteen games last season, but, when December rolled around, the Colts brass in charge at that time often expressed concern over whether Angerer could stay on the field. Conner missed four games in 2010 with injury, and another game in 2011.

In the team's new 3-4 scheme, it's assumed Conner and Angerer will both play inside backer while Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis move from defensive end to outside backer.