Despite the fact that our position at the basement of the west division has not changed, most people will agree that the Riders are a better team than last. I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to worse than the 2016 Riders but the Hamilton Ti-Cats have proved otherwise. Anyway, I thought I would take the opportunity over the Riders’ bye week to dig into exactly how much better the 2017 Riders are after 7 games than the 2016 Riders were.
Below is a comparison of the stats after 7 games between 2016 and 2017.
|Passing Yds allowed||2213||2041||-172||-8%|
|Rushing Yds allowed||643||678||+35||+5%|
|Punt Return Avg||7.9||11.1||+3||+41%|
|Opponent Punt Ret Avg||12.8||9.4||-3||-27%|
|Kickoff return avg||19.5||25.5||+6||+31%|
|Opponent Kickoff Ret Avg||24.7||20.6||-4||-17%|
|Net punt avg||32.8||35.7||+3||+9%|
The first thing that jumps out is that there is improvement in every category but 1. Some of the increases are dramatic and some are incremental but its improvement pretty much across the board. Let’s take a closer look at each category.
What stands out here is that we are actually scoring points (almost exclusively at home but that’s another topic for another day). Scoring is up 43% and we have doubled… I repeat doubled… the number of times our offense has crossed the goal line. We have also drastically decreased turnovers. The offseason focus on upgrading our O-line and receivers seems to be working.
Again, scoring is what jumps off the page here. We are allowing 26% less points that last season. Don’t get me wrong are defense still has its deficiencies (particularly in pass defense) but they are a far cry from the utter garbage we fielded last year. This may be in part to a decrease in a statistical category I didn’t track above “players converted to defensive starter from god knows what they were before”. Seems playing actual defenders has its advantages.
This is the one that really caught my eye. I had a general sense just from watching the games that we are playing pretty solid on special teams but I didn’t realize how much better. Our kick and punt returns are significantly better and our coverage teams are allowing smaller returns… particularly on punts.
Overall we are seeing a more disciplined team as penalties are down… as are fines (at least since the actual season started).
I think some of this improvement is a product of the last category in my table there. Unlike last year where our game roster was a constant carousel of players on and off, on route to dressing a record 100 players, this year there is a lot more stability overall. Key is the stability we are getting along the O-line and in the secondary.
Ultimately the only statistical category that matters is winning and we are still clearly the 5th best team in the West division in that regard until we prove otherwise. So while I’m hopeful, I’m not yet on the “the Riders have turned the corner” bandwagon yet. That said, I do think it’s important we take a step back and appreciate that we seem to be headed in the right direction following one of the biggest tear downs and rebuilds in recent memory. But also keep in mind that when your starting point is rock bottom, a few big steps forwards doesn’t immediately put you back on the top.