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Falconsin2012

Nice Analysis: Redzone Struggles

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Interesting analysis on how we use our tools inside the redzone

 

The Falcons offense has looked bad this season, we attempt to break down the Falcons red zone woes.

Football is a game of physicality and strategy similar to chess in an attempt to score touchdowns. No part of the field is more challenging than inside of the red zone which is the area between the goal line and the opponents 20-yard line.

 

The reason why it is so difficult is due to the limitations in space which allows defenders to play closer together, making it a challenge for the offense. Using http://www.pro-football-reference.com as a reference, I have broken down the red zone numbers.

The 2017 Falcon’s offense struggled in the red zone, well by their standards. Part of the issue was a natural regression. In 2016 the Falcon’s offense scored 33.8 points per game which was 7th all time, that number regressed to a solid 22.1 points per game. Part of the issue stemmed from a lack of production which in and of itself came from a lack of an identity inside of the red zone.

 

A lack of an identity? Absolutely!

When teams get inside of the red zone, each team has a preferred method of getting the ball to break the plain. Teams who have dominate offensive lines tend to run the ball straight up the middle of the defense, while teams with a light offensive line tend to want to use misdirection and more passing in order to scheme players open.

In 2016 under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan the Falcons tended to want to use their running backs as the primary option to score inside of the red zone. This was done by either running the ball or using them in space as receivers. The below spreadsheet demonstrates exactly what I mean:

 

  2016 Atlanta Falcons Redzone Offense
Passing Player Tgt Rec Ctch% Yds TD %Tgt
  Devonta Freeman 17 12 70.59% 74 2 17.50%
  Mohamed Sanu 13 9 69.23% 68 4 13.40%
  Tevin Coleman 12 8 66.67% 29 2 12.40%
  Jacob Tamme 11 7 63.64% 53 3 11.30%
  Justin Hardy 10 5 50.00% 22 4 10.30%
  Julio Jones 10 5 50.00% 30 2 10.30%
  Taylor Gabriel 6 6 100.00% 42 1 6.20%
  Austin Hooper 5 3 60.00% 14 2 5.20%
  Aldrick Robinson 3 2 66.67% 9 1 3.10%
  Joshua Perkins 2 1 50.00% 8 0 2.10%
  Nick Williams 2 2 100.00% 20 0 2.10%
  Patrick DiMarco 1 1 100.00% 1 1 1.00%
  D.J. Tialavea 1 1 100.00% 1 1 1.00%
  Levine Toilolo 1 0 0.00% 0 0 1.00%
  Terron Ward 1 1 100.00% 11 0 1.00%
               
  Totals 95 63     23  
               
Rushing Player Att Yds TD %Rush    
  Devonta Freeman 53 127 9 60.20%    
  Tevin Coleman 22 72 6 25.00%    
  Matt Ryan 6 16 0 6.80%    
  Terron Ward 5 17 0 5.70%    
  Taylor Gabriel 1 9 1 1.10%    
  Mohamed Sanu 1 5 0 1.10%    
               
  Totals 88 246 16      

 

Notice how all-pro wide receiver Julio Jones is essentially the sixth and if you include the run, seventh option inside of the red zone. This strategy was effective because Jones dictates coverage so he opens up things for everyone else. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw touchdown passes to 11 different receivers inside of the red zone, and a huge part of that was the ability to not only run the ball but dictate coverage using Jones.

 

In 2017 under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the offensive philosophy changed which resulted in less production in the red zone. Below are the numbers for 2017:

 

 

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  2017 Atlanta Falcons Redzone Offense
Passing Player Tgt Rec Ctch% Yds TD %Tgt
  Julio Jones 19 5 26.32% 33 1 25.00%
  Mohamed Sanu 12 7 58.33% 40 5 15.80%
  Austin Hooper 9 7 77.78% 39 2 11.80%
  Devonta Freeman 8 5 62.50% 60 1 10.50%
  Justin Hardy 7 4 57.14% 23 3 9.20%
  Taylor Gabriel 6 2 33.33% 18 0 7.90%
  Tevin Coleman 4 4 100.00% 46 3 5.30%
  Marvin Hall 2 0 0.00% 0 0 2.60%
  Levine Toilolo 2 2 100.00% 11 0 2.60%
  Derrick Coleman 1 0 0.00% 0 0 1.30%
  Andre Roberts 1 0 0.00% 0 0 1.30%
  Ty Sambrailo 1 0 0.00% 0 0 1.30%
               
  Totals 72 36     15  
               
Rushing Player Att Yds TD %Rush    
  Devonta Freeman 34 70 7 48.60%    
  Tevin Coleman 23 59 5 32.90%    
  Matt Ryan 5 16 0 7.10%    
  Terron Ward 5 9 0 7.10%    
  Taylor Gabriel 2 2 0 2.90%    
  Mohamed Sanu 1 4 0 1.40%    
               
  Totals 70 160 12      

 

The first stat that stands out is the amount of not rushing attempts but rushing touchdowns which went down from 88 and 16 respectively to 70  and 12. That means the Falcons had 18 less rushing attempts and four fewer touchdowns in the red zone from 2016 to 2017. This can be attributed to so many things, to include having fewer plays, as well as bad play at key positions on the offense such as the right guard position.

In short, the team didn’t have the same level of production running the ball and that creates a snowball effect that makes throwing the ball harder inside a small space. As I mentioned above in 2016 Ryan hit 11 receivers for touchdowns inside of the red zone, in 2017 that number dropped to six. You will also notice the amount of targets to Jones almost doubled from his 10 in 2016 to 19 in 2017.

Why is this a bad thing you may ask? Because targeting Jones who doesn’t have a long history of great production inside of the red zone, bogs down the offense and makes play calling more predictable because players know who’s going to get the targets. Do you see the change in philosophy now?

The Falcons went from feeding all pieces to feeding a few and the one who got targeted the most turned 19 targets into only 1 touchdown inside of the red zone, that is unacceptable. Now part of the issue is offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is learning not only how to best feature his players but he is still using Shanahan’s scheme which isn’t his own. Below are the numbers from Shanahan’s first year 2015.

  2015 Atlanta Falcons Redzone Offense
Passing Player Tgt Rec Ctch% Yds TD %Tgt
  Julio Jones 22 13 59.09% 93 5 28.60%
  Devonta Freeman 14 9 64.29% 69 3 18.20%
  Leonard Hankerson 9 6 66.67% 46 3 11.70%
  Jacob Tamme 8 5 62.50% 49 1 10.40%
  Roddy White 8 3 37.50% 18 1 10.40%
  Justin Hardy 6 4 66.67% 26 0 7.80%
  Nick Williams 3 3 100.00% 12 2 3.90%
  Tevin Coleman 2 0 0.00% 0 0 2.60%
  Patrick DiMarco 2 2 100.00% 16 2 2.60%
  Terron Ward 2 1 50.00% 8 0 2.60%
               
  Totals 76 46     17  
               
Rushing Player Att Yds TD %Rush    
  Devonta Freeman 49 116 10 62.00%    
  Tevin Coleman 14 39 1 17.70%    
  Terron Ward 10 24 1 12.70%    
  Matt Ryan 5 9 0 6.30%    
  Patrick DiMarco 1 0 0 1.30%    
               
  Totals 79 188 12      

 

 

Amazingly the numbers look almost identical between 2015 and 2017. Even the attempts and actual touchdowns are similar. To me, this means Shanahan had the same philosophy that is hurting Sarkisian, and that features their best player in the red zone and use that to open other things up. Again the issue here is Jones had never been very production in the red zone in recent years, that’s just not his game. Sarkisian and Ryan admitted during training camp that they were looking at every scheme Ryan had been in to help build the playbook. Outside of 2016, the Falcon’s most productive offense came in 2012. Here’s the numbers for that offense:

 

  2012 Atlanta Falcons Redzone Offense
Passing Player Tgt Rec Ctch% Yds TD %Tgt
  Roddy White 20 9 45.00% 79 4 21.70%
  Julio Jones 20 11 55.00% 108 7 21.70%
  Tony Gonzalez 17 12 70.59% 85 8 18.50%
  Jason Snelling 9 7 77.78% 20 1 9.80%
  Harry Douglas 8 6 75.00% 37 1 8.70%
  Jacquizz Rodgers 6 6 100.00% 22 1 6.50%
  Michael Turner 3 3 100.00% 0 0 3.30%
  Michael Palmer 3 3 100.00% 12 1 3.30%
  Lousaka Polite 2 0 0.00% 0 0 2.20%
  Mike Johnson 1 1 100.00% 1 1 1.10%
  Drew Davis 1 1 100.00% 15 1 1.10%
  Kevin Cone 1 0 0.00% 0 0 1.10%
               
  Totals 91 59   379 25  
               
Rushing Player Tm Att Yds TD %Rush  
  Michael Turner ATL 52 105 10 61.90%  
  Jacquizz Rodgers ATL 17 36 1 20.20%  
  Jason Snelling ATL 6 16 0 7.10%  
  Matt Ryan ATL 5 35 1 6.00%  
  Luke McCown ATL 2 -3 0 2.40%  
  Harry Douglas ATL 1 -1 0 1.20%  
               
  Totals   83 188 12    

 

 

It is important to remember Julio was a second-year veteran and had Roddy White and Tony Gonzales to take some of the weight off of him. Those three players performed great that year as they went on to account for 25 of Ryan’s 32 passing touchdowns.

It is clear the Falcons lack an identity in the red zone. They want to feature their best player more but that hasn’t worked out thus far. In order for the Falcons to be successful as currently constructed, they must get back to spreading the football around. Jones will get his, but other players must also contribute and that won’t happen if plays aren’t drawn up for them. Balance is the key and Sarkisian must understand this if this offense is to take the next step forward

Edited by Falconsin2012
Osiruz, Big_Dog, HASHBROWN3 and 1 other like this

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Good post. Part of Freeman’s reduced targets and carries last year was his time missed playin, but it does seem trying to force it to Julio isn’t always the best way to go. Freeman should’ve had a TD catch last week, but 2016 had more attempts and still over .5 a yard better per RZ attempt than ‘15 & ‘17. That matters in short yardage.

Of course, numbers don’t show how they defended our plays game by game. For example, many times he was 1on1 last week. How often in the RZ? I don’t know. A breakdown might be helpful.

In the context, our pass protection was bad and often if a throw comes out fast it’s to your most reliable target if he is 1on1. It is clear we are better when other players get plays that feature them in situations but our run offense and pass blocking are essential to this or the plays/routes simply won’t develop properly due to time allowed and keeping a D guessing/reacting to you instead of attacking.

So, we’ve yet to see our rush offense be as consistent this year. Thankfully, Tevin’s 9 yard TD run gives some hope. Right side of the line sucked really bad in Philly. Our power game is lacking for the RZ and we need more short burst area receiving options that can run block too if necessary. Hardy, Hooper, Sanu, Saubert, Ridley; etc, even Ortiz fit that description.

Edited by Ergo Proxy

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This is why I emphasised in the off season that we aquire a Tony G figure. We just don't have a red zone threat that is dominant and can open things for everyone. Hoopers Bloopers simply isn't going to cut it, and let's hope Saubert or Ridley can start producing.

sdogg likes this

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3 minutes ago, osiruz said:

This is why I emphasised in the off season that we aquire a Tiny G figure. We just don't have a red zone threat that is dominant and can open things for everyone. Hoopers Bloopers simply isn't going to cut it, and let's hope Saubert or Ridley can start producing.

You can’t just acquire a Tony G.

Problem isn’t players, we got by just fine in 2016. Problem is multifaceted, but we have the weapons. We need the OL to do their job and when players like Saubert and Ridley get their numbers called more they must deliver.

Sun Tzu 7 likes this

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I tend to compare offense to chess. Your lineman clear the way, similar to pawns. You want to open spaces and eventually play the game on the opponent's side of the board. Your bishops are like running backs. Slashing diagonally, they can strike from a distance but are also good in short spaces and early in the game. Your tight ends and slot guys (somewhat) are like knights. Excellent in traffic and to control the middle of the board because they can jump other pieces. They can "post up" and control space in the middle. Your QB is either the king (sitting safely in the pocket) or queen (if mobile). But the old chess adage holds here...use your queen, lose your queen (to capture/injury). Your wideouts are the rooks. Big strike artists at a distance used later in the game AFTER you control the center and have opened things up with your pawns. Not necessarily as good in the middle of the field because it's harder to get them there from where they are positioned. It's not a perfect analogy, but it has a lot of similarities.

Based on this analogy, you want to use the RBs, TEs, and slot guys in a compressed space like the red zone. So I completely agree with the article. The last thing we want to do is force the ball to Julio just so he can get more TDs. He's perfectly capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

falcndave, Ergo Proxy and Wjcorner like this

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26 minutes ago, osiruz said:

This is why I emphasised in the off season that we aquire a Tony G figure. We just don't have a red zone threat that is dominant and can open things for everyone. Hoopers Bloopers simply isn't going to cut it, and let's hope Saubert or Ridley can start producing.

I REALLY wanted Gesicke in this draft. I know he hasn't done squat yet in Miami, but I think that will soon change.

Osiruz likes this

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The Pats, Steelers and Packers regularly use motion inside the 10. Motioning the outside receiver in to create a Trips formation often has a high success rate. The reason for this is because the two receivers that are now on the outside create a bind in coverage while the motioned inside receiver makes a break for the pylon. I see this ALOT. Hardy also has pretty great hands and as far as I can remember he was our last WR to catch a RZ TD. On a hitch route at that.

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1 hour ago, Ergo Proxy said:

You can’t just acquire a Tony G.

Problem isn’t players, we got by just fine in 2016. Problem is multifaceted, but we have the weapons. We need the OL to do their job and when players like Saubert and Ridley get their numbers called more they must deliver.

You don't just acquire a TG, but you have to get a weapon to get you close enough production. This is why I really wanted Jimmy Graham.

ATLSlobberKnockers likes this

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55 minutes ago, Gold4425 said:

We miss L. Toillio's blocking and his's 6:7 presence if used right. DQ needs to stop covering his eyes over the need for a big third back.

What about Brian hill? I am tired of one defender being able to bring Freeman down in tight spaces. He rarely falls forward for that extra yard or two. 

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10 minutes ago, ShadyRef said:

What about Brian hill? I am tired of one defender being able to bring Freeman down in tight spaces. He rarely falls forward for that extra yard or two. 

You’re crazy

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Just now, Wjcorner said:

You’re crazy

Lol I take it you don't think Brian Hill can act as a goal line back? He looked physical enough for me in the Bengals preseason games. 

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3 hours ago, Ergo Proxy said:

You can’t just acquire a Tony G.

Problem isn’t players, we got by just fine in 2016. Problem is multifaceted, but we have the weapons. We need the OL to do their job and when players like Saubert and Ridley get their numbers called more they must deliver.

I've gone back and watched Tony when he played here.. He wasn't fast at all, but he knew how to get open and would catch about anything thrown in his direction.. So obviously we don't need a fast te, just one that understands defense and that is on the same page as Ryan.. I know that sounds simplified, but it seems impossible for us to duplicate it.. Tamme was actually the closest te we've had to accomplish that

Osiruz and Big_Dog like this

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4 hours ago, osiruz said:

This is why I emphasised in the off season that we aquire a Tony G figure. We just don't have a red zone threat that is dominant and can open things for everyone. Hoopers Bloopers simply isn't going to cut it, and let's hope Saubert or Ridley can start producing.

Where I disagree is when you look at the AB's, DHops, and OBJ's of the league. They don't have a Tony G figure either. I hate to say it but Matt and Julio are the constant and they just aren't good red zone players. No way, after 8 years, they still struggle to connect inside the 20. Even Dalton could find AJ for 7 more often. 

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13 hours ago, vel said:

Where I disagree is when you look at the AB's, DHops, and OBJ's of the league. They don't have a Tony G figure either. I hate to say it but Matt and Julio are the constant and they just aren't good red zone players. No way, after 8 years, they still struggle to connect inside the 20. Even Dalton could find AJ for 7 more often. 

Julio struggles freeing himself up and running routes in the RZ, while Matt's ball placement flat out sucks.

Stray Dog THA GAWD and vel like this

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18 hours ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

2012.... Tony G.

Teams had to especially account for him down in the Redzone.

Good times...

If only Ryan would have thrown to him wide open in that NFCCG vs the 49ers.  We easily would have beaten B-more in the SB.

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14 hours ago, ⚡Slumerican⚡ said:

I've gone back and watched Tony when he played here.. He wasn't fast at all, but he knew how to get open and would catch about anything thrown in his direction.. So obviously we don't need a fast te, just one that understands defense and that is on the same page as Ryan.. I know that sounds simplified, but it seems impossible for us to duplicate it.. Tamme was actually the closest te we've had to accomplish that

That's why I wanted Tamme or Jimmy Graham. We needed to do something and we failed. Let's hope Ridley can be a threat.

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22 hours ago, osiruz said:

This is why I emphasised in the off season that we aquire a Tony G figure. We just don't have a red zone threat that is dominant and can open things for everyone. Hoopers Bloopers simply isn't going to cut it, and let's hope Saubert or Ridley can start producing.

We have a dominant red zone threat in JJ11 Sark just doesn’t  use him the right way. I’ve been saying that Sark fell into the same trap as year 1 Shanny in that they both felt that since you have the best WR in the league that’s all you need. The biggest improvement from year 1 Shanny to year 2 Shanny wasn’t just his playcalling and game planning it was his decision to utilize every tool at his disposal rather than just his Swiss Army knife (JJ11).

Sharks offense will never take off if he doesn’t spread the ball around more. If MR2 is locking in on Julio Sark has got to pull him to the side and straighten him out. In short we went from a pick your poison offense in 16 to the one man show in 17. Right now execution issues aside Sark is making it way to easy for the defense. When your average TATF’er can accurately call out plays pre snap you know the men who get paid tons of money are doing the same. 

 

SPREAD the EFFFING BALL AROUND

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