Monday, August 19, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Dickenson vs. Jones

With the Riders on a well-timed bye week I thought I’d take the opportunity to compare where new head coach Craig Dickenson is at as compared to where the man he replaced was at the same time last season. For the purposes of this analysis I’m going to go beyond the obvious things. You know, like the fact that Craig Dickenson awns more than one shirt and seems to not have a deathly aversion to open buttons. And other obvious things, like the fact that this year we actually just signed guys we actually wanted in the free agency and didn’t cut most of them before game 4. No, for this I dug into the stats and came up with the following.

After 8
% Change

Offenisve TDs
Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Sacks allowed
Points allowed
Passing Yds allowed
Rushing Yds allowed
Special Teams
Punt Return Avg
Opponent Punt Ret Avg
Kickoff return avg
Opponent Kickoff Ret Avg
Net punt avg
Players Dressed

It’s actually a lot of positives, starting with the win column. For me the overall results are not surprising but the specific areas are.

Coming into the season I think we fully expected the O to suck, the D to be a question mark and the special teams to continue being strong. Well instead we got an O that is pretty strong, a D that still has some questions but is mostly good and a special teams that are an utter disappointment.

Let’s start with the O. I don’t think you need stats to tell you that they are infinitely better. 9 offensive TDs last year vs. 21 this season.  The contrast made me wonder if our O is actually good or just seems awesome compared to the garbage we endured last season. So I went back to 2017 when we also had a good offense.  We had 24 TDs through 8 games then so we are actually pretty comparable. It’s nice seeing the turnovers down and the O-line holding relatively steady (especially given the multiple personnel changes). People ask whether its all Fajardo or whether McAdoo has changed. I say it’s a bit of both. Obviously if you look at the offense when Glenn and Fajardo are under centre vs. pretty much any other QB its obvious that good things happen when McAdoo has faith in his QB and pretty much nothing happens but runs and hitches when he doesn’t. But Fajardo is certainly having an impact. I remember hearing Coach McAdoo say that every play he calls has someone going deep. It takes a QB willing to make that throw. Fajardo has no fear of the deep ball and is accurate when he does.

Defense is actually better in pretty much every category. Something that is probably a surprise given the departure of Chris Jones who was one of the best defensive minds in the game. What you are seeing under Shivers is something I predicted before the season… a far less sexy but more steady and reliable D. You aren’t seeing the game changing plays and piles of turnovers that Jones produced but you are seeing a D that is locking things down and not taking risks that lead to big play potential. It would be nice to see the turnovers go up but as we saw in the Montreal game, this D can step up when needed to take the pressure off an underperforming O.

Special teams is the unpleasant surprise. The only real positive has been kickoffs, though stats are a bit misleading there. Our kickoff returns are legitimately better thanks to Purifoy. Our coverage however… sure the returns are smaller but that’s mostly due to the fact that Ferraro has so little distance on his kickoffs that our cover teams can take like 3 steps and make a tackle. Punting is where things have all gone to hell. Returns are down slightly but our coverage has been awful. Look, you’ve heard me rant on Jon Ryan and his inability to kick outside the numbers. I don’t want to beat that dead horse too much more. I'll just say that a casual observer might think “hey our net punting is up by a yard with Ryan”. That is technically correct but this marginal increase in net punting comes at insanely high risks as we have already given up 8 big plays on kick returns compared to just 3 last season. I’d rather a slightly lower net and more reliable coverage than this “kick it like hell and hope for the best” strategy we are running. Honestly did not expect special teams to be the biggest concern in Dickenson’s first year coaching. Hope he gets that figured out.

So the early results for Dickenson have been mostly positive. For me, the big question will be how he does down the stretch. Chris Jones was notorious for terrible starts to the season but then playing great football down the stretch. If Dickenson can likewise have this team peak late in the season good things will be in store.


Govind said...

The defensive numbers being slightly better is a big surprise. Just curious, for points allowed did you take out the return TDs and TD's given up by the offence? (although I think there only is one of those)

Rider Prophet said...

Those numbers are total points allowed. If we go to just points allowed by the D we are at 152 this year, down from 184 in 2018.

Defense certainly doesn't seem that much better to the eyes but they are getting it done

Dan said...

The entertainment value is up too. It is always more difficult to get excited about a team with no offence even if they are winning. A long way to go but feeling pretty optimistic.

Rider Prophet said...

Dan - Optimism is the right word. We've seen that all 3 phases can play well (at times).