Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Bonus Tuesday Sentimonies: Where are we at?

*** I originally had this typed up and ready to go for Monday thinking this would be a great bye week post but then the damn Riders had to go and make headlines and force me to do work and type up a whole other post. Anywho, the end result is you get a bonus post***

Last year around this time I did a comparison of where the 2017 Riders were at in comparison to the 2016Riders after 7 games . Given the bye week, I thought I would take the opportunity to do something similar and compare where the Riders are at this season after 7 games in comparison to where we were last year at this time.

After 7 2017 2018 Difference % Change
Wins 3 3 0
Points 197 151 -46 -23%
Offensive TDs 20 8 -12 -60%
Passing Yards 2228 1407 -821 -37%
Rushing Yards 514 823 +309 +60%
Sacks allowed 16 10 -6 -38%
Turnovers 9 16 +7 +78%
Points allowed 172 175 +3 +2%
Passing Yds allowed 2041 1796 -245 -12%
Rushing Yds allowed 678 536 -142 -21%
Sacks 15 16 +1 +7%
Turnovers 12 15 +3 +25%
Special Teams
Punt Return Avg 11.1 11.7 +1 +5%
Opponent Punt Ret Avg 9.4 10.6 +1 +13%
Kickoff return avg 25.5 23.1 -2 -9%
Opponent Kickoff Ret Avg 20.6 19.6 -1 -5%
Net punt avg 35.7 34 -2 -5%
Penalties 50 57 +7 +14%
Players Dressed 60 55 -5 -8%

The results should not be overly surprising. In very general terms, the defense is playing much better and the offense… well they are offensive. While we have the same number of wins as last season, I would say we got there in very different ways. We started very slow in 2017 losing our first 2 and going 2-4 before starting to right the ship. In many respects our offense had to compensate for our defense, which struggled out of the gate. This year we have essentially been playing .500 ball all season and it’s our defense compensating for our offense.

Let’s dig deeper into the numbers…

Offensively the thing that stands out (other than the fact that touchdowns have become an endangered specifies) is that we have actually improved in 2 surprising areas. Our run game is vastly improved. As someone who has devoted more space on this blog to bemoaning McAdoo’s staunch opposition to running the ball than pretty much any other non-ostrich related topic, I do have to acknowledge that he’s changed this year. And while the “run up the middle a million times” philosophy is not what I had in mind, we are running more and we are gaining more yards per run than last year. The second surprising area is that sacks are down. Our O-line scared the crap out of me coming into the season (and for the first few games they proved me right). But they have been steadily improving and as a unit are ahead of last year. Obviously running the ball a lot more plays into this as you can’t give up a sack on a run play… well I’m pretty sure I have some teams that could but it is a lot harder.

The bad news (and more important news) is that scoring in down, TDs are way down, passing is down (in a league that now revolves around passing) and turnovers are up. Hopefully with a healthy Collaros and all our receivers actually playing receiver we can build on our run game and improved protection as the season progresses.

Defense is unsurprisingly better across the board. Points allowed is up a tiny bit but when you consider that the offense is turning the ball over more (creating short fields) and offering next to no offensive support, I would argue that even holding points allowed consistent is an accomplishment. Biggest improvement is in our run defense and to me that is clearly a product of the emphasis we put on improving our front 4… particularly the interior of the line. Last year Steele was our best DT. This year he is our 3rd best DT. That’s helping stuff the run and helping keep Hughes and Jefferson free to pressure the QB. The fact that the D is generating more turnovers is a big reasons we have 3 wins, as is their ability to contribute to scoring. Last season the D scored 5 TDs all season… we have 3 in just 7 games so far. Just imagine how much better this D could be if they got some offensive support?

Special teams is a bit of a mixed bag, though we are generally around where we were last year. When you consider that we are without our top 2 special teams tacklers from last season (Denzel Radford and Glen Love) and guys like Francis have missed time, it’s not entirely surprising to see some struggles here. Young guys like Gagne and Chevrier are being leaned on in their place. One area that’s not on my table that I do want to note is our surprising improvement in the kicking department. I think we were all expecting a drop off from Crapigna to Lauther but thus far he’s been 5% more accurate on his kicks and (in an underappreciated but important category) averaging close to 5 yards more on kickoffs.

Looking at the last 2 lines we see that penalties are up, which is not a good trend. We also see that our roster is continually getting more stable. In year 1 Jones swapped players in and out like they were playing cards en route to dressing a record number of players. Last season we got more stable and this season we are even better. It shows that Jones has pretty much identified his core group and is now making changes mostly for injury sake.

While our offense has been hot garbage, I would argue that as a whole team we are likely slightly ahead of last season. Remember that we got hot in the second half. Jones may be unconventional (to put it lightly) but he's been winning games. With Calgary, BC and Winnipeg x2 on deck,it would be a great time to start that second half surge.


Govind said...

Great stuff on the numbers. I think the defensive improvement is even better than the points and yards indicate. I only recall the Hamilton pick 6 as a return TD allowed early in the year last year. So far this year we have had 1 pick 6 and 2 punt returns against, and the numerous short fields you mentioned.
In fact, the 2nd half TD Calgary scored 2 games ago was the first TD the D had given up where the other team started on their half of the field since the long bomb to Williams vs Montreal.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. Sometimes numbers lie. Is our O-line better? In Bridge's last game 37% of his passes covered 2 or less yards. In essence, the chance of getting a sack on those plays is ZERO. It's well known that the shorter than usual passing game was designed to compensate for the poor QB'ing we have. Should the Riders open up the passing game & throw longer passes, then maybe we can say the O-line has improved. Even vs Edmonton, Collaros threw I believe 1 pass over 15 yards. In comparison look at Reilly in Edmonton who goes deep & stands in the pocket longer than anyone. The O-line has to actually hold blocks for awhile. Interesting stat on the CFL.ca website in the detailed stats is sacks per dropbacks. That tells a different story although it doesn't account for short vs long passing plays. The Bombers were tops in fewest pressures last year BUT 22% of their passes went to Harris who, after YAC, had passes that averaged about, you guessed it, 2 yards air time. Greatly helped Nichols' completion % & the O-line stats. I still see our guys as average, definitely a notch below the other prairie teams & the Lions have the personnel to be very good with excellent bookends at tackle.

Anonymous said...

Great work on the breakdown which makes a great conversation starter. The short pass offense is the ideology of our OC when he was in Edmonton, they never had a great offence it was all Def and Reilly.

Hopefully our offence picks up in the second half of season and we make some more noise.

Definatley like that the airlift of players is slowing


Dom aka Sasso in YEG

Rider Prophet said...

Gov - Hadn't heard that half field stat. Pretty amazing

Anon - I fully agree that our play calling makes our O-line look better. I'm under no illusions that they are a great line. Average like you says seems accurate but given that I expected them to be awful, I'll take average at this point.

Sasso - Yeah, having the best QB in the league will mask some issues.