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  1. So I see a lot of hand wringing about DK. I get it some people do not like DK.but I thought I would address some the Hints, Allegations and things left unsaid ( great CD by Collective Soul btw) regarding our much maligned OC..... Trashing our OC is nothing new. It is a time honored tradition From Greg Knapp to Mike Mularky, to DK, To Sark... and yes even to boy wonder Kyle Shannahan... Fire__________ is a tradition that will never die, I have seen this fan base basely bash ball coaches a billion times.....biggly. It would not be football season without armchair qbs in their moms basement ( not that there is anything wrong with that) calling every call that does not work a bad call... regardless of what it was. Alliteration aside When you look at the actual raw numbers of each mans first year here you will see that DK actually has been more productive as a play caller.... yeah I know.. Facts and stuff... who needs them when you have personal bias , conjecture, and a madden level knowledge of football! Note... I know this will not change anyone's mind because that really does not happen here.....once a player or coach gets a certain stink on them... it never really goes away... no matter how well they play or coach after that. I chose to focus on Points scored because of 2 reasons. A: It fits the agenda that I am pushing ( this is most important) 2. I focus on points because at the end of the day there is only one thing that matters... The Scoreboard... Did you score one more point than the opposing teem when the clock hit zero.... that is what matters ,Everything else is fluff....which unfortunately for 2 of the seasons that I will be examining , the Falcons fell woefully short as a team.. too much fluffer and not enough nutter. Here is KS's overall history as a play caller https://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/ShanKy0.htm I highlighted 2015 and the scoring ranks as I will do for 2017 and 2019 The falcons finished 21st in scoring and 5th in yards en-route to https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/atl/2015.htm We scored 20 or less 8 times.... literally half of the season. we scored 10 points or less 2 times ,and we actually got shut out once... That panther game was painful to watch....almost as painful to watch as Cams wardrobe choices in his post game press conferences. We score 30 points in a game twice. and were 26th in the nfl in giveaways. I am sure I will hear the tired old response... " his system works it just takes time all the motion confuses teams!!!".... Ok cool Then why in the 12 years as a play caller has KS scoring offenses been below league average (16th or worse) EIGHT times...... EIGHT.. that is like a lot in relation to 12 years. Now granted the years that he has been above league average.... he has been well above league average 3 top 5 finishes including a historic number 1 and a top 10 finish way back in 09. Still for someone who is suppose to be the second coming of the "modern era of the nfl play callers" His offenses have been...... kinda sucky. Still though year 2 we went from 21st scoring to 1st. A jump that would not happen if fans had their way......People were ready to run him out of town on a spike after year 1. He got a lot of heat...As usual some of it was indeed was justified....But most was most was not( As I type this I think Matt Ryan threw another interception to the Colts) The guy who came after him had the most team success his first year... mostly because he had the best defense by a long short behind him.... Still Sark got all kinds of hate here.. some justified... most not. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/SarkSt0.htm#all_coaching_history The falcons were 8th in and 15th in points en-route to https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/atl/2017.htm We scored 20 or fewer points 7 times and scored 30+ 4 times while being 9th in giveaways.. the 2017 offense was the unluckiest offense I have seen in a long time with 5 or 6 of the flukiest ints that you would ever see. We went from 15th scoring to being top 10 in scoring in 2018 mostly because we cut down on the turnovers... While I was not his biggest fan, I think he should have had another year but that is the life in the nfl... I personally think Smitty should have gotten another year too... .so what do I know. On to DK... number 15 in scoring but number 1 in @vel & @athell's heart ( Not calling you guys out.... just thought of you when I was writing some of this.... you should feel special) https://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/KoetDi0.htm As you can see DK has has some good offenses himself... not the historic 2016 type offenses but some good quality well above average offensive years. Like KS though... if you look at his entire career. he has had more below average years than he has above. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/atl/2019.htm To this point we are 15th in scoring scoring 30+ points 3 times ( 29 two more times).. interesting enough we are 1-2 in those 30+ point games.......just saying!. We are 10th in yards and we have been held to 20 points or less 4 times and 10 points twice and we are 20th in turnovers. it is hard to be a top offense when you keep giving the ball to the other team...... especially when the defense does not do a good enough job of getting the ball back for you. The killer for all 3 seasons have been turnovers.. Those cost us AT LEAST 3 games in 2015 & 17 and they played a huge part in at least 4 games or this year....Turnovers are bad Mmmkay I have also seen the annoying comment of the falcons needing a "modern" nfl offensive coordinator ... which is both ignorant and lazy considering we use some of the same concepts as pretty much everyone else. even when our own fans do not see it. True story : .In the game thread yesterday I saw someone say that DK does not know how to use stack formations...Literally 2 minutes after the falcons ran multiple plays with.... stack formations. Side note: Here is where some of the teams with " modern nfl play callers" rank in terms of point scored. https://www.espn.com/nfl/stats/team/_/table/passing/sort/totalPointsPerGame/dir/desc Notice the Texans with the mobile QB and the "modern nfl offense"... They are scoring a whopping.... .9 points more per game Philadelphia eagles... " innovators" ( rip off artists.. potatoes- grapefruit...same thing) of the RPO.. along with the Philly Philly ....aka Riggs play for the underrated classic "Still hot Kathy Ireland kicks a football"....err I mean Necessary Roughness( you should go watch it).....They are scoring a whopping .4 more points than the Falcons La Rams.... Sean McVay is the poster child for " modern nfl head coach: I have seen words like "unique" "Innovative " " Gets carded when he buys beer at Ralphs" get used to describe him. He has first round talent all around the offense...It has huge many deals to wr, QB, and Running back who only plays 45% of the snaps..... They averaging an incredible .2 points more than the Falcons..... Maybe we can get lucky like the Bangles and hire a guy who passed McVay in the hallway once so that we can score 15 points a game....one can dream. Green bay Packers... Home of the greatest qb to ever grace a state farm commercial... and Aaron Rogers .They are averaging a whopping .1 points per game...... That is about as close as Arron Rogers mustache trim.. Cleveland Browns..Just a helmet swing and a miss behind the Falcons averaging 2.3 LESS than the falcons. Chicago Bears and Nagy... who is a disciple of Andy Reid. who's offense is another poster child for the "modern nfl".. averaging 5.2 points less than the Falcons. Btw I hope these " modern nfl play callers" have " modern nfl couches... because that is exactly where most of they will be come the playoffs " But if those guys had Ryan and Jones........" They don't ... KS did and still ranked worse than where we are now and do you know why??? An interception is an interception regardless of the name on the jersey of the guy who threw it... a fumble is a fumble regardless of the name of the guy who fumbles... calling a pass play when you can just run the ball and ice the game ..... Well you get my point. To wrap this up..... I don't know if DK will be back next year..... I hope he does I am in the minority in hoping that he is . I hope that he is but recognize He is not perfect.... He has his faults like every play caller in the nfl but some of the ignorance and strait up hate towards the guy is not warranted... just like it was not warranted vs KS in 2015 or Sark in 2017... as it probably wont be for the new guy we will probably will have in 2020 when guys take time to adjust to yet another system...... Look for Volume 2 of this post in about 12 months Because lord knows as soon as the team struggles at some point the peanut gallery will be boiling over with comments about how he should have done X when he did Y....and when he does do Y... then he should have went with X.... but to a different direction than the first time.. Just to drop this nugget. DK >>> KS head to head ( look it up) That is enough word salad for the evening.... Good night.
  2. 2018 Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones finished his season racking up 1,677 yards with 8 TDs after scoring all 8 in the last 9 weeks of the season. Rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished his 2018 season with 821 yards and leading all rookie receivers with 10 TDs. Finishing 7th of all receiving TD leaders. Slot receiver Mohamed Sanu finished his season with 838 yards and 4 TDs. Do you believe under the coaching of Dirk Koetter the Falcons can have the best Trio of receivers in 2019? Check out my new highlight video and decide for yourself.
  3. When we’ve talked defensive player options in regards to the NFL draft, everyone has brought up defensive tackle in the first round. To me, there are only 2 DT’s that could make an immediate impact on our defense day 1. Quinnen Williams Ed Oliver Both will be gone by the time it gets to #14. Which leaves us with 3 options. Reach for a defensive lineman (Yes, all other defensive linemen options will be a reach in the first round), take an offensive lineman, or trade down. I will definitely be fine with the latter two ONLY if the front office makes it up to us by picking up this player in the draft. Jachai Polite I’ve watched film... Dude has first round-grade talent. But a lot of pundents are saying “But the attitude and piss-poor combine and football IQ”. All smoke... The dude is a competitor and a football player. Combine that with the fastest first step I’ve seen in a while and dude is THE best pure pass rusher in the draft and it’s not even close. I honestly think he screwed himself in the combine on purpose because he actually plays to the measurables Vic Beasley posted in the combine. As a matter of fact, if we pick him, I think he’ll be everything Vic was supposed to be for us and could make an impact day 1. People talk about him falling to the 3rd round.... He absolutely will not lmao mark my words. I would be chomping at the bit if he fell to the late second round. The best chance we would have at getting him will be to trade down. He fits the Dan Quinn mold for sure. I hope we could get him some kind of way. In the right system he could be an absolute pass rushing monster.
  4. Week 1 is here in Minneapolis, where this Falcons fan lives. I've been here for less than a year, and have been itching to get into U.S. Bank Stadium. I figured the Falcons wouldn't be here until 2020, so I'd have time to save up for a good seat--create an experience for myself, you know? My assumption, though, is that an away game this season means a home game next season when the Falcons play the NFC North. 2020 would've been enough time to raise the fundage for a lower level visitors' side seat. No way I can do it in less than five months, though. Oh well, just venting. Excited for the draft and the new season! Enjoy yourselves, folks! Much love from the Minnesota Chapter of the The Brotherhood.
  5. FALCONBLOOD'S MOCK DRAFT / OFFSEASON 3.0 ATLANTA FALCONS EXTENSIONS (Cap Increased) Julio Jones Grady Jarrett FURTHER ATLANTA FALCONS CUTS (Cap Increased) OG Fusco P Bosher FURTHER ATLANTA FALCONS FREE AGENT SIGNINGS DE Ezekiel Ansah, Former Lion - A true “prove it” deal for the very talented pass rusher. His health a question mark, the Falcons will look to limit his snaps. He still may not have played his best football. The Falcons sign a truly exciting name at edge, but as with most late free agency signings, there is definite risk here. OT Jermey Parnell, Former Jaguar - A 33 year old veteran with likely only a couple more seasons in him, he held out for a better deal, but eventually signed with the Falcons, who he was initially linked to in free agency via multiple rumblings. LB Kemal Ishmael, Recent Falcon - A re-signing to be sure, Ishmael is a Falcon thru and thru. His veteran presence will only benefit the Falcons linebacker depth and special teams. A reunion was first hinted at by Vaughn McClure. THE 2019 NFL DRAFT *NFL Trade Value Chart Points are courtesy of DraftTek.com FIRST ROUND The Arizona Cardinals TRADE their 1-1 and 5-139 picks (3036 pts) to the Oakland Raiders for their 1-4, 1-27, 2-35, 7-218, and 7-235 picks (3034.8 pts). 1-1) The Oakland Raiders (Cardinals) select QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma 1-2) The San Francisco 49ers select DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State 1-3) The New York Jets select DE Josh Allen, Kentucky 1-4) The Arizona Cardinals (Raiders) select DL Quinnen Williams, Alabama 1-5) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select LB Devin White, LB 1-6) The New York Giants select OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida 1-7) The Jacksonville Jaguars select OL Jonah Williams, Alabama 1-8) The Detroit Lions select DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State 1-9) The Buffalo Bills select WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss 1-10) The Denver Broncos select QB Drew Lock, Missouri 1-11) The Cincinnati Bengals select DL Rashan Gary, Michigan 1-12) The Green Bay Packers select DL Ed Oliver, Houston 1-13) The Miami Dolphins select QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State The Atlanta Falcons TRADE their 1-14 and 6-186 picks (1116.6 pts) to the Houston Texans for their 1-23 and 2-54 picks (1120 pts). 1-14) The Houston Texans (Falcons) select OT Andre Dillard, Washington State 1-15) The Washington Redskins select DE Brians Burns, Florida State 1-16) The Carolina Panthers select DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson 1-17) The New York Giants select WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma 1-18) The Minnesota Vikings select OL Cody Ford, Oklahoma 1-19) The Tennessee Titans select CB Byron Murphy, Washington 1-20) The Pittsburg Steelers select WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State 1-21) The Seattle Seahawks select TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa 1-22) The Baltimore Ravens select LB Devin Bush, Michigan 1-23) The Atlanta Falcons (Texans) select DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson After meeting with Wilkins at the combine, the Falcons fell in love with what he could bring to the table versus the pass and run: in one phrase, all out effort. The Falcons felt that Dexter Lawrence would be here, but a bigger dream came true when Wilkins fell here. Immediately joins a talented defensive tackle rotation with Jarrett, Senat and Crawford. His arrival is also insurance for Jarrett’s possible departure next year. 1-24) The Oakland Raiders select RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama 1-25) The Philadelphia Eagles select select CB Greedy Williams, LSU 1-26) The Indianapolis Colts select WR WR A.J. Brown, Ole Miss 1-27) The Arizona Cardinals (Raiders) select OT Greg Little, Ole Miss 1-28) The Los Angeles Chargers select CB DeAndre Baker, Georgia 1-29) The Kansas City Chiefs select DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson 1-30) The Green Bay Packers select WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State 1-31) The Los Angeles Rams select OL Chris Lindstrom, Boston College 1-32) The New England Patriots select TE Noah Fant, Iowa SECOND ROUND 2-33) The Arizona Cardinals select OL Garrett Bradbury, N.C. State 2-34) The Indianapolis Colts select DL Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame 2-35) The Arizona Cardinals (Raiders) select S Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State 2-36) The San Francisco 49ers select WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina 2-37) The New York Giants select CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple 2-38) The Jacksonville Jaguars select OT Dalton Risner, Kansas State 2-39) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select RB Damien Harris, Alabama 2-40) The Buffalo Bills select DT Jeffrey Simmons, Mississippi State 2-41) The Denver Broncos select CB Amani Oruwariye, Penn State 2-42) The Cincinnati Bengals select LB Mack Wilson, Alabama 2-43) The Detroit Lions select CB Justin Layne, Michigan State 2-44) The Green Bay Packers select S Taylor Rapp, Washington 2-45) The Atlanta Falcons select CB Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt The highly intriguing 6’4 cornerback has a believer in the Falcons scouting department, especially after their private workout together, he is one of the more exciting prospects in the draft. Will battle Wreh-Wilson for the dime cornerback role, and eventually the Falcons will look for him to replace Trufant on the roster. 2-46) The Washington Redskins select QB Daniel Jones, Duke 2-47) The Carolina Panthers select OL Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State 2-48) The Miami Dolphins select DE Jachai Polite, Florida 2-49) The Cleveland Browns select DL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State 2-50) The Minnesota Vikings select OL Michael Deiter, Wisconsin 2-51) The Tennessee Titans select DL Zach Allen, Boston College 2-52) The Pittsburg Steelers select LB Vosean Joseph, Florida 2-53) The Philadelphia Eagles select WR Kelvin Harmon, N.C. State 2-54) The Atlanta Falcons (Texans) select OT Tytus Howard, Alabama State It is no secret that the Falcons love Howard as a tackle prospect, they met with him numerous times and now take him in the 2nd, before the many other teams who had heavily scouted him. Immediately will battle Sambrailo for the right tackle position, and eventually the Falcons hope he is their long term starter there. … THE REST OF THE ATLANTA FALCONS DRAFT 3-79) The Atlanta Falcons select RB Miles Sanders, Penn State The Falcons bought into Miles Sanders’ physical style of running to complement their backfield, and became sold on the prospect at the Penn State Pro Day. His arrival adds a power element that the Falcons will look to immediately utilize in short yardage, has an opportunity for a much bigger impact if Freeman cannot get healthy again this year, sharing the load with Ito Smith and likely Barner or Hill. 4-117) The Atlanta Falcons select OL Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama The lineman has real NFL ability to contribute as a pass and run blocker, what especially intrigued the Falcons during their Combine interview was his ability to play guard and center as an NFL starter. He will immediately battle the lesser of Brown or Carpenter for a starting guard role, but eventually he will be looked upon to step into the center role after Mack retires. 4-137) The Atlanta Falcons select WR Mecole Hardman, Georgia The Falcons long have pegged Hardman as an electric weapon in their return game and wide receiver group, falling in love with the kid and his 4.3 speed during their combine interview with him. Hardman will immediately be looked upon to galvanize their return game, but he should draw offensive snaps to weaponize his speed periodically. 5-152) The Atlanta Falcons select DE Jordan Brailford, Oklahoma State A standout at the East-West Shrine game and an eye catcher for the Falcons at his Pro Day, Atlanta grabs an edge with definite upside and immediate special teams ability with this kid. He will join a defensive end rotation with McKinley, Ansah, Beasley, Means and Crawford, and immediately he becomes a presence on special teams. 5-172) The Atlanta Falcons select S Will Harris, Boston College Has 4.4 speed and physical ability that the Falcons will love to add to their secondary; Harris had an excellent Pro Day with the Falcons in attendance and he will help immediately on special teams. His speed will be utilized on special teams, and eventually, with some tutelage, the Falcons will see what they have in him as a starting safety. 6-186) The Atlanta Falcons traded pick to the Houston Texans 7-230) The Atlanta Falcons select P Jack Fox, Rice He greatly impressed the Falcons scouts at the East-West Shrine game enough to give, a more expensive and older, Bosher the boot; he is a real field flipper with a massive leg. Immediately his powerful leg steps into a starting punter and kickoff role. ATLANTA FALCONS ROSTER Key: * = on the bubble & bold and red = significant addition to this mock OFFENSE QB Ryan - Schaub - Benkert* RB Freeman - Sanders - Smith - Barner - Hill* - Langford* FB Ortiz* WR Jones - Hardy WR Ridley - Hardman SWR Sanu - Gage - Blake* - Gray* TE Hooper - Stocker - Saubert - Paulsen - Gray* - Graham* LT Matthews - Parnell - Gono* LG Carpenter - Schweitzer C Mack - Pierschbacher RG Brown - Harlow* RT Sambrailo - Howard DEFENSE DE McKinley - Means - Tuioti-Mariner* DT Jarrett - Crawford - Zimmer* DT Wilkins - Senat - Bennett* DE Ansah - Beasley - Brailford LB Campbell - Riley* LB Jones - Carter LB Oluokun - Ishmael - Grace* CB Trufant - Williams CB Oliver - Wreh-Wilson NB Kazee - Calhoun* FS Allen - Harris - R Neal* SS K Neal - Neasman SPECIAL TEAMS K Tavecchio P Fox LS Harris KR Hardman - Barner - Ridley PR Hardman - Barner - Ridley Base Nickel Defense Defensive Bench: DE Beasley, DE Means, DT Senat, DT Crawford, LB Oluokun, LB Carter, CB Williams, CB Wreh-Wilson, FS Harris, SS Neasman Miscellanious Defensive Bench: DE Brailford, LB Ishmael, LB Riley, DT Zimmer Allen - Neal Kazee - Jones - Campbell Oliver - Ansah - Wilkins - Jarrett - McKinley - Trufant Ridley - Sanu - Matthews - Carpenter - Mack - Brown - Sambrailo - Hooper - Julio Ryan Freeman Offensive Bench: QB Schaub, RB Sanders, RB Smith, FB Ortiz, WR Hardy, WR Hardman, TE Stocker, TE Paulsen, OL Howard, OL Parnell, OL Pierschbacher, OL Schweitzer Miscellaneous Offensive Bench: RB Barner, RB Hill, WR Gage, TE Saubert, OL Gono, OL Harlow Base 11 Personnel Offense
  6. The Ringer - Kevin Clark - The NFL’s Analytics Revolution Has Arrived The football analytics revolution may not be obvious, but it is happening in front of you all the time. There is an NFL team that plans to run more offensive plays to the side of the field farthest from its opponent’s bench. It has figured out, using player-tracking data, that a defensive lineman will sometimes run more throughout the course of a game by shuffling from the bench to the field during a substitution than he will during actual gameplay. Thus, running plays to the far side of the field can help tire out rotating defensive linemen. This strategy is unique but the logic behind it is not. Stories like this are common around the league: A team stumbles upon some shred of data and builds a play, a playbook, a personnel decision, or an entire scheme around it. It changes how a team drafts, calls plays, and evaluates opponents. All of these trends point to one thing: Football’s analytics moment has arrived. We’ve reached this high point for a couple of reasons. The rise of smarter, younger GMs and coaches is part of it. A bigger part of it, though, is the spread of the NFL’s player-tracking data, which is being shared leaguewide for the first time this season. Having access to that data allows teams to build models to analyze plays and players differently, and to simply know more about the game. That’s been a boon to a movement that had already been embraced by a handful of the smartest teams. As other teams try to catch up, they’ve created an arms race to get the best numbers. Essentially, the smartest teams are getting significantly smarter, the average teams are trying to get better, and the dumbest teams are going to be very dumb if they don’t act soon. “It’s about translating that data ASAP and being very, very in tune with the numbers. You can’t be a year behind, you can’t be a month behind.” —Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons general manager “It’s about translating that data ASAP and being very, very in tune with the numbers. You can’t be a year behind, you can’t be a month behind,” said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Teams are examining details they’ve never studied before to get an edge. One scouting department graded a defensive back prospect as an undrafted free agent due in part to his slow 40-yard dash. When that department was able to measure his game speed using tracking data, it determined that it should have listed him as a midround pick. Other teams in the market for linebackers have homed in on what kind of closing speed elite tacklers need. For instance, Zebra Technologies, a company whose MotionWorks service collects game-day data, found that the Cowboys’ Leighton Vander Esch reaches 16 to 17 miles per hour on his best plays. “Teams can go deep on rosters to leverage the tracking data to scout players for the future, maybe in free agency,” said John Pollard, vice president of Zebra Technologies. The new information can also help teams simplify play-calling, like going for it on fourth down more often. The Eagles won the Super Bowl in part because of their aggressiveness in such situations—and in part because they went for two-point conversions when it was mathematically smart to do so. Analytics are not new to football, but this depth of knowledge is. The Eagles have had an analytics department for nearly two decades. “We confirmed,” said Joe Banner, the former Eagles president who helped set up the department, “that there’s a competitive advantage in analytics in a league that is structured to prevent you from having a competitive advantage.” The Patriots have incorporated some level of analytics for years. (Multiple people joked to me that the movement would have taken hold leaguewide sooner if the Patriots ever discussed their efforts publicly.) Earlier this decade, the Jacksonville Jaguars launched one of the NFL’s most notable analytics departments under executive Tony Khan. When former Jaguars general counsel Sashi Brown joined the Browns front office, he employed one of the most forward-thinking, analytics-based approaches in the league. He was fired last year during Cleveland’s 0-16 season, but is credited with helping the franchise accumulate draft picks and young talent. Brown’s successor, John Dorsey, said he’ll continue to use analytics. The Vikings practice facility features a massive analytics hub, and general manager Rick Spielman told me he uses the numbers often. Because of the secretive nature of the sport, it’s impossible to tell what all 32 teams are doing, but the feeling is that just about everyone is in on analytics, which wasn’t the case until very recently. During the 2018 draft, Giants GM Dave Gettleman mocked those who used analytics to question the team’s decision to take a running back with the second overall pick. Football will likely never be baseball, where statistics can basically explain anything. There are too few games and too many variables. But there’s always been a lot of room for more data. “There’s been a shift and I think it’s a lot more recent than people think,” said Neil Hornsby, the founder of Pro Football Focus, one of the sport’s top statistical services. “There are very, very few teams that aren’t doing at least some sensible things with analytics. I would say even two years ago there were still a lot of teams paying lip service.” Hornsby said he thinks at least a handful of teams employed an analytics department simply to say they had one in case an owner asked about it, even if it didn’t have any influence. Matt Swensson, the NFL’s vice president of emerging products and technology, said Next Gen Stats—the NFL’s advanced player-tracking data service—became a full-fledged initiative around five years ago. The data had a limited rollout at the start, and this year is the first time teams have been able to get leaguewide data. Next Gen Stats collects information from chips placed in players’ shoulder pads that reveal their location at all times; the chip can track how fast a player is moving, whether he is sprinting or jogging, the average separation between an offensive player and his defender, and many other metrics. Some of this data is public—skill-position players’ speed, for instance, is published on an NFL website—but the vast majority is available only to teams, who are creating other proprietary stats from the raw numbers. NFL franchises are absorbing millions of data points for the first time, and many football lifers are getting their first deep experience with analytics. “The point we made with our coaches is: We have all this information but so does everyone else. What advantage does it give us to get it? None. It’s what we do with it, the way we use it.” —Kevin Colbert, Steelers general manager The NFL’s relationship with numbers—and in some cases, with smart people—has been complicated, to say the least. Two years ago, I reported on infighting within the league over the release of data and the use of technology. Some teams didn’t want the league to produce automated maps of their route trees because they thought writing them out by hand was a good dues-paying process for younger coaches. Now, there’s no denying the technology and the data are here, and wins and losses are at stake. “The point we made with our coaches is: We have all this information but so does everyone else,” said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. “What advantage does it give us to get it? None. It’s what we do with it, the way we use it. It’s no different than when we go sit at the combine and get all the same information. It’s about finding an advantage in what we do with it.” Colbert is right, and the race is on to figure out how to use the numbers better than everyone else. “It is amazing,” Warren Sharp said, “how many teams anonymously follow me on Twitter.” Sharp is an engineer with his own analytics siteand has been playing around with football statistics for about 20 years. He is among the top minds in football not working full time for a team. In fact, when you talk to people inside the league, some think he might be the top mind, period. Though he’s been writing on the internet for many years, he said it wasn’t until 2018 that teams started reaching out to him to discuss analytics. He says he’s heard from at least five and has done work as a consultant. It makes sense that teams have become interested in outsiders like Sharp. Unlike other sports, which have staffed up their analytics departments over the past decade or so, football doesn’t employ many of the best analytics minds studying the game. (One team decision-maker sarcastically said this is because analytics employees inside NFL buildings are too beaten down from having their ideas ignored by old-school coaches.) Sharp is in high demand because he can help answer a question vexing front offices: Which stats matter? He became interested in how teams win games when he was in college and became convinced of two things, both of which would foreshadow the modern NFL. The first is that an offensive emphasis on passing correlated to wins. The second is more complicated than it sounds. Sharp found that third-down efficiency, long the obsession of announcers and old-school coaches, was not the key to an effective offense. He found that it was better for teams to scrap third downs entirely and move the chains by gaining the necessary yardage on first and second down. “Announcers love to say, ‘This team is 10-of-13 on third down,’ and there’s never any comparison to early-down success,” Sharp said. In his view, teams should run the ball on first down much less than they do. This revelation came to him in the late 2000s, as he watched quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady at their peaks. “I don’t think their strategy was to avoid third down, but I think there was just more aggressiveness. It’s about calling efficient plays,” Sharp said. “You always hear TV announcers, it drives me crazy, they’ll say on second-and-short, ‘Good time to take a shot down the field,’ and there’s a lot of risk in that. The interception rate is higher than it is on a regular play, the success rate converting it is low. Run a play that gets you the first down and take a shot on the next first-and-10 if you want.” There is some evidence that teams are coming around to Sharp’s ideas about early-down aggressiveness. The leaguewide yards per attempt average on first down is 7.4, up from 7.1 in 2017. On second down, it’s 7, up from 6.5 last year. On third down, yards per attempt has actually dipped slightly, from 6.2 in 2017 to 6.0 now. This season, the Rams and Chiefs lead the NFL in first downs, yet are 26th and 31st, respectively, in third-down attempts. Sharp pointed to the Chargers as a team that did not pass enough on first down and did not call efficient plays on early downs last year. This season, Philip Rivers’s yards per attempt average on first down has climbed from 8.1 to 9.7; the 11-3 Chargers are enjoying their best season in years. queries from NFL teams on how to utilize wins above replacement, a statistic that spells out the value of a player. That metric listed Saints receiver Michael Thomas as the most valuable non-quarterback in the league last season largely because of his ability to get first downs. Hornsby said this year the metric ranks Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner ahead of Rams star Aaron Donald because pass coverage carries more weight than pass rush, as offenses can compensate for the latter. As an example, Hornsby points to when Donald was single-teamed against the Bears in Week 14: Chicago took an average of 1.5 seconds to get rid of the ball, thus making it next to impossible for Donald to wreck a play in his usual way. Hornsby, like Sharp, said teams are finally figuring out the value of never giving the ball up. In baseball, analytics staffs had to work to convince managers that you shouldn’t give up outs via sacrifice bunts, since there are only 27 outs for each team in a game. In the NFL, this logic applies to punting. Teams this season average between 10 and 13 drives per game, and 11 teams have fourth-down conversion rates of at least 60 percent. Of the six teams with conversion rates of at least 70 percent, five are locks for the playoffs. The Chiefs have converted 90.9 percent of their fourth downs. The lesson: Do everything you can to keep the ball. This has long made sense to Carolina coach Ron Rivera, who in 2013 earned the “Riverboat Ron” moniker following a string of aggressive fourth-down decisions. He told me that he’d met a banker at an awards dinner earlier that year who specialized in analytics. At Rivera’s request, the banker compiled numbers on fourth-down conversion rates, which Rivera still references. That same year, Rivera said, he became interested in The New York Times’ “Fourth Down Bot,” which indicated when a team should go for it. Still, Rivera admits that it was initially hard to figure out what to do with all the information that player-tracking technology provided. We spoke earlier this season about the Panthers’ run to the Super Bowl following the 2015 season, a game they lost to Peyton Manning and the Broncos. “That was the year we were trying to dive into the analytics,” Rivera said. The Panthers were getting daily practice readings on players’ energy levels, but Rivera said he couldn’t quite contextualize them until the following spring. I asked him whether there was anything he could have done differently. “Probably, probably a lot of things we could’ve done differently,” he said, pointing to optimizing practice and meeting times. Now, he said, the team uses monitoring devices to see how much players’ core temperatures go down during their mandated two-minute water break in practice. Player health monitoring is a massive part of the league’s data revolution. “We’ve learned that if a player is going 6,000 yards every day at practice it’s like constantly driving a car at 1,000 miles per hour—something’s gonna blow, so slow down,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson told me. Figuring out what matters in the data is a hot topic in front offices. Swensson said there are more than 100 data points given to teams, “so all of it is a little mind-numbing.” Dimitroff told me he’s monitoring pass defense closely, as he’s long thought there were better ways to measure defensive back play. Next Gen Stats can now track how close a defensive back is to a receiver on a given play. “I think now every team has some level of personnel support to manage the data itself,” said Pollard of Zebra Technologies. “How teams interpret that data still varies, but there’s not a club I’ve interacted with that’s not using a deeper level of analytics, that isn’t building predictive models.” “When they write the history of all of this, it will start with Virgil Carter,” said Brian Burke, ESPN’s senior analytics specialist. “It’s amazing. Just imagine if Bill James were a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.” Carter is a driving force in two separate football revolutions. In 1970, the Cincinnati Bengals turned to Carter, the backup quarterback, after their starter went down with an injury. The coaching staff changed its offensive strategy to play to Carter’s strengths, using shorter passes and rollouts to compensate for his lack of arm strength. The Bengals won seven straight games to end the regular season, and in 1971 Carter led the NFL in completion percentage. The quarterbacks coach on that team was Bill Walsh and the offense the Bengals designed eventually became known as the West Coast offense, used not only to great acclaim in San Francisco under Walsh, but by dozens of coaching descendents thereafter, including Andy Reid and Jon Gruden. It is still widely used today. If that were Carter’s only contribution to the sport, it would be notable. But during that same stretch, Carter introduced something else, albeit to much less fanfare. It was a 1971 academic paper called “Operations Research on Football” written by Carter and Robert Machol, a systems engineering legend credited with pioneering research in wake turbulence. The paper featured landmark data on the value of possession and quantified “expected points” according to field position, now the backbone to modern football analytics. When I asked Carter this year about the reaction to his paper when it was published, he said there was “none.” He cowrote it while studying in Northwestern’s MBA program during his offseasons with the Chicago Bears in the late 1960s. The Bears helped Carter get the phone numbers of every public relations head in the NFL, and he called them and asked for play-by-play data, which was not yet widely circulated. (He told me the only team to deny his request was the Raiders.) Carter placed punch cards into an IBM computer to process data from 8,373 plays run that year, each with 53 variables on each play, anything from the down and distance, to the score, to the temperature. In the process, he came to believe football stats could never be as all-encompassing as baseball ones; there are simply too many variables. “But I started to realize there were decisions being made that probably didn’t make the best use of expected value,” he said. Head coach Paul Brown did not take to any of his ideas, such as kicking off in overtime instead of receiving, or running out of bounds before the 5-yard line, after which it becomes statistically more difficult to score a touchdown. “Somebody could lose their job,” Carter said, explaining why people were wary of making decisions deemed wild in 1970. Carter ended up writing columns about football statistics as part of a sponsorship agreement with the A.O. Smith Corporation, which sold data processors. He answered reader questions and built on his previous research, but no one in the league took much notice of it at the time. Carter had, however, provided the basis for a lot of advanced football statistics going forward. “It wasn’t the moon landing, but for some respects it was a big deal,” he said. The influential 1988 book The Hidden Game of Football introduced more metrics similar to expected points. Burke, who joined ESPN in 2015, went into football analytics in 2006 as a way of settling office debates. He’s something of a godfather of that era of analytics. He started a blog and built his own models. He expanded on Carter’s work and created “expected points added” and “win probability added.” His work is featured in win probability models widely used by NFL teams to help build charts on when to go for two and when to go for it on fourth down. Burke jokes about how many teams have built more advanced models: “I’m a proud papa, but that baby has grown up and has left home.” In 2005, University of Pennsylvania professor Cade Massey and University of Chicago professor Richard Thaler (who would later be awarded the Nobel Prize) published a paper called “Overconfidence vs. Market Efficiency in the National Football League,” which argued that top draft picks are overrated and that trading back for more picks is almost always the right decision. The instant reaction to their findings was not positive, Massey told me: “I met an NFL owner at a cocktail thing, he was all with me, and as soon as I started talking about trading back, he couldn’t hear anything else. He thought I was a complete idiot.” The idea of trading back has since become widely accepted. Bill Belichick is credited with popularizing the idea in the NFL, and the Browns have recently used it to help stockpile the assets needed to build one of the best young rosters in the league. Similarly, sites like Football Outsiders have popularized dozens of influential stats—among them DVOA—that are now widely accepted in the NFL. One NFL decision-maker mentioned “speed score,” which Bill Barnwell, now with ESPN, developed at Football Outsiders. Aaron Schatz, the founder of Football Outsiders, said, “I never wanted to revolutionize the way football teams were run—I wanted to revolutionize the way they were covered.” He thinks this has happened, at least in part, and points to how many people scoffed when Jon Gruden ripped analytics earlier this year instead of simply dubbing his reaction “old school.” (As Hornsby points out, Gruden did quote Pro Football Focus numbers at a press conference this year, so Oakland’s anti-analytics sentiment may have been overblown.) Schatz also thinks the public availability of all-22 film, which shows every angle of a play, has made analytics better because fans can chart their own plays and develop their own metrics. “The analytics revolution is also a film revolution,” Schatz told me. For those who’ve preached about analytics in the NFL, the promised land is near. “I’ve always said one day we’re going to have a GM who read Football Outsiders growing up,” Schatz said. “I don’t think we’re far off.” Schatz said analytics will be fully accepted only once owners start going along for the ride, when a coach can go for it on fourth down because the numbers say it’s advantageous without fear of getting fired. Hornsby said that he can tell analytics is being embraced more because people are starting to separate the decision from the execution of that decision. The example he brings up comes from Super Bowl XLIX: Malcolm Butler’s game-sealing interception. “It wasn’t the pass, it was the type of pass,” Hornsby said. “[The Seahawks] had run that exact play six times during that year and it had been totally unsuccessful each time; the best they got out of it was a 2-yard outlet on a third-and-5 against Carolina.” The decision to pass was sound. The pass itself was not. The shift in the NFL’s attitude toward analytics is perhaps summed up most succinctly by the story of Matt Manocherian, who, to Schatz’s point, is a Football Outsiders reader. After working in the scouting departments of both the Saints and Browns, Manocherian was let go by Cleveland in 2014 and explored graduate school. He talked to Vince Gennaro, then the director of Columbia’s sports management program. Gennaro is also the president of SABR, the baseball research society, and serves as a consultant for MLB teams. Manocherian had never looked into the analytics side of football, but Gennaro told him that it was the way in. “He said to look at the analytics movements,” Manocherian said. “Baseball is past theirs, basketball is in theirs now, and football’s is still to come. Those are the guys who are going to be running teams in five years.” “He said to look at the analytics movements. Baseball is past theirs, basketball is in theirs now, and football’s is still to come. Those are the guys who are going to be running teams in five years.” —Matt Manocherian Manocherian said that when he was working in the Saints scouting department nearly a decade ago, he was told to ignore most numbers except combine minimums; a cornerback should run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash or better, for instance. He said that New Orleans was considered forward-thinking for the time—one offensive coach told Manocherian that the staff didn’t see interceptions entirely as a negative, instead preferring to focus on explosive plays—but noted that he didn’t get much of an analytics education. (The Saints use analytics now, sources say.) “Ten years ago the average team was saying, ‘We don’t care to hear about this,’” Manocherian said. “Now the average team is saying, ‘We’re kind of starting to understand that it would be a really good idea to figure this out.’” Manocherian is currently a director of research and development and football at Sports Info Solutions, a company that helps teams with analytics. His evolution from old-school-ish scout to analytics guru is indicative of what the next generation of NFL front offices will look like. In the same way that many of the power brokers of the sport—such as executives like Mike Tannenbaum, Howie Roseman, and Mickey Loomis—made their names when the salary cap debuted in the early 1990s, owning a new and previously overlooked corner, analytics employees will rise up the ranks over the next few years as well. Hiring as many smart people as possible to translate data has become a priority. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told me earlier this season that reducing all the data into metrics that truly matter is one of the biggest keys in the modern NFL. “From a personnel arms race, the better and smarter teams have war ships and they are getting the very best missiles and guns for their ship because they know how difficult it is to stay on top with this,” Sharp told me. “Then there are the other teams fighting the same battle and they don’t even know what to do with one gun. They just want to stay afloat, they are trying not to get their coach fired and they’ll be fine being passed over by whoever as long as they keep their jobs.” The arms race is just beginning. Some general managers think it will take years to produce a sample size large enough to start making massive conclusions. “You’ve got to have a history,” the Titans’ Robinson told me. “You can look from a player health standpoint and get returns pretty quickly, but as far as X plus Y equals Z stuff, everyone is so different it might take a few years to get a real database.” The vast majority of the analytics data the NFL collects is not public. Swensson said this is partially for competitive reasons, but also because the league wants to make sure the stats are telling the stories they are supposed to tell, “and that it’s not too overwhelming.” He said that it took a few years for player miles per hour—which has been mentioned during broadcasts for three years—to be put in proper context by fans, and thinks a similar thing will happen with other metrics from Next Gen Stats. He pointed out that the NFL still only does location data and not anything approaching motion capture, so you can’t pick up the specific movements of a player. There is a lot more that could come on the horizon. So this is the start of something new. There will be more data, more decisions made based on that data, and more evidence of what works. It is an exciting time to be smart in the NFL. “In every field there’s way too much, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it,’ and in the NFL that’s particularly extreme,” Joe Banner said. “Now comes the major shift.”
  7. https://actionsportsandnews.com/falcons-are-the-cheat-code-in-madden-19/ When EA Sports released Madden ’04 in the fall of 2003, gamers quickly realized that quarterback Michael Vick, who was the game’s cover athlete, was unstoppable. Back then, if you chose to play with the Atlanta Falcons, you were a cheater, plain and simple. Madden gamers will be saying the same thing about the 2018 Atlanta Falcons, when Madden 19 drops this Friday. You may be laughing at me right now, but hear me out. The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles will be the highest rated team at launch, with a 91 overall. Their roster features nine players with at least a 90 overall rating. But since Madden started live roster updates around 8 years ago, the video game version of a team will reflect how they are performing in reality. Yes, I am saying that the Eagles will not be as good as EA Sports thinks they are. As for the Falcons…their rating will “Rise Up” (pun intended) throughout the season. Atlanta begins the season as the fourth-highest rated team in Madden 19, boasting a respectable 84 overall. Only five players have an overall rating of 90 or above. However, their roster is loaded. Firstly, they have an MVP quarterback. Matt Ryan has built an impressive resume in his 10 NFL seasons. He’ll have an 89 overall to start the Madden season. This includes a 94 throw power rating. Don’t expect any stupidly inaccurate passes from Ryan. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are attribute leaders for the Falcons in elusiveness and speed, respectively. Both men can also catch out of the backfield. Running screens with either guy will work very well. Mohommad Sanu makes a catch vs Tampa Bay Photo By: Greg Collier At receiver, the Falcons have Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and rookie Calvin Ridley. Each man has reliable hands, but Jones and Ridley have the speed that Madden gamers love to see. Ridley will only have a 77 overall rating at launch, but that will surely rise throughout the season. I recommend using the bunches formation to get all three receivers on the field and forcing your opponent to pick his/her poison. The Falcons were a top-10 defense last season, allowing an average of fewer than 20 points. This unit will be an 85 overall when Madden 19 is released. The Falcons’ defense will be even better, in reality, this season, so expect that rating to rise. For those that like to control the middle linebacker manually, Deion Jones is the guy for you. He’s got an 81 man coverage rating, which is the highest of any middle linebacker in Madden 19, along with an 88 zone coverage rating. If you like using the defensive tackle, you’ll want to control Grady Jarrett, who tied a Super Bowl record for sacks two years ago and recorded four sacks last season. He boasts an 86 overall and a daunting 88 rating for block shedding. At worst, his rating stays the same. DT Grady Jarrett in hunting mode vs Tampa Bay Photo By: Greg Collier The AI can handle the secondary for you. The starting corners and safeties are each rated, at least, an 84 overall. The best of the group is Desmond Trufant. The former Pro-bowler is hardly targeted in real life, earning him a 93 overall to start off the Madden season. He’s also got a nice 92 man coverage rating. Every Madden gamer faces a situation where they are forced to settle for a field goal. You will have no worries with Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, who has a 96 kick power rating and a 92 rating in kick accuracy. Get to, or inside, your opponents 38-yard-line and you’ll be in Bryant’s range. Altogether, this is what I’m saying: By choosing the Atlanta Falcons, a mediocre player will be competitive, a good player will win, a great player will 21-skunk every time. By: David Schiele
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