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Run Defense

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; The Usual Suspects thread made me consider this- If I was running this company and wanted it to improve what would I do? I would find the weakest link and improve it. This defense was bad last year. Not bad, ...

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Old 03-09-2005, 02:17 PM   #1
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Run Defense

The Usual Suspects thread made me consider this- If I was running this company and wanted it to improve what would I do? I would find the weakest link and improve it. This defense was bad last year. Not bad, horrendous. So bad that even though they were a top 5 defense for the last quarter of the year they still drug the bottom in total d.
we can see improvements- mike mc is a real shutdown corner. it took him a while to fit in. fakhir still has some proving to do but he certainly stepped up enough to give him a shot at being another starter at corner. bellamy is decent but not great and not getting any faster. tbuck gone and smith in should be a solid step up. there is an overload of good pass rushing de's. but when ya remember the defense of last year what was the killer? it was run defense- all season long. i think far too much has been made of the final four wins of the season. for the year teams averaged 4.6 yds per carry every time they handed a ball off to run against this team, 141 yds per game average! this includes the spectacular 4 game finish. in week 14 pittman had 24 carries for 131 yds. yeah, there were the early season embarrasments of the emmitt's and barlows running at will. but it never got substantially better. week 12, nick goings 36 for 122, week 11 atlanta 186 rushing yds, week 10 denver 165yds...

my question is what has been done to improve this? hasn't bellamy led the team in tackles the past two seasons with tbuck not far behind? to me that is a big DUH. smith will make more plays and miss fewer tackles than jones but stopping the run is not the primary calling for free safety. i can only see nothing done. it looks like the same big hole up the middle to run through to me. young is serviceable but he needs to be next to a big hole plugger. sullivan may have spoken this winter but he has a lotta crawling, walking, and running to do to catch up with what goes through his mouth. he will buck the odds to not go down as an alltime 1st round bust not just for the saints but league wide. losing bryant will hurt if he walks. i like watson and bock as much as anyone. i cannot however dismiss that both are still very young and learning. neither is overpowering physically either. allen? i won't say anything to avoid being labled a basher. few would argue he could find a starting job on any other nfl team though. hodge is written off as gone, no matter what he was or wasn't that is a subtraction. cie grant cannot be counted on for anything at this point no matter what skills or potential he had/has. the rest of the lb's are what they are, nothing to count on.
to contend seriously, any team must have a defense above the bottom of third of the league (21st-22nd) imo. can anyone give me hope that adding smith to the returning cast do that?
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Old 03-09-2005, 05:42 PM   #2
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Run Defense

i guess not. i\'m pouring another beer.
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Old 03-09-2005, 05:48 PM   #3
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Run Defense

I think it will help but, without a grade A defensive tackle and some linebackers that can fill holes, it will be a lot to ask of him to be the savior of this defense. I think the passing defense got better but the run defense is still the same. Maybe Sullivan will see the error of his ways and step up, maybe Watson and Bockwalt will step up their game in their second year. I certainly hope so. I just think it\'s a lot to ask of 2 sophs.
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Old 03-09-2005, 05:50 PM   #4
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Run Defense

I\'m starting to feel like a broken record on this...

In analyzing the defense (from another thread), I proposed that it was the pass defense that really needed addressing rather than the run defense. The statistics on tracking defensive performance on a play-by-play basis showed that the pass defense gave up more yards early in games, went for longer plays (over 10 yards) and failed to stop teams on 3rd and long passing situations. Most of the yards given up in rushing defense were late in games where the Saints were down by 13 points or more, exactly where you would expect them to be.

From this, one can argue that upgrading the secondary would be the higher priority, then DT, then LB. Smith will bring a \"clock cleaning\" threat for passes over 10 yards, which were the Achilles heel last year.

Also, statistically, because the Saints were far behind in many games, the number of pass plays in the 2nd half was significantly higher than run plays, as the run was abandoned. When you abandon the running game, the statistics for running the ball will correspondingly fall. It would be fallacious to attribute the lack of running production on Deuce or the blocking. Game situations far more dictated the run/pass play selection and therefore the running statistics.

......

As for penalties, The defense had many many many pass interference and illegal contact calls, as well as some fatally timed personal fouls (mostly in the 1st 12 games). This aspect more than anything contributed to the persistent defensive struggles. Again, having trustworthy help over the top by Smith will go a long way to alleviating the pressure on the cover corners.
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Old 03-09-2005, 06:07 PM   #5
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Run Defense

now there is some reasoning xan. i can understand the logic that you forward but would like to see the data rather than a statement to verify that. could you link me to a source of the play by play totals and when they occured in game statistics that you reference? personally i remember more games where they were torn up top to bottom running and passing. just from game recall there were countless 3rd and 3\'s and less where everyone and their brother saw a run coming and they still couldn\'t stop the opponent. more times it seemed more traditional run them into the ground then throw at will rather then bombs away first. but my fading memory isnt something i bet on. thanks for providing the stats to make your point clear.
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Old 03-09-2005, 06:22 PM   #6
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Run Defense

I compiled it from play by play into a spreadsheet, and performed statistical analysis from there. I posted the specific stats on another 2 different threads relating to defense, but I can\'t remember which ones. I\'ve got no link. If you have a specific question, I\'ll go do some research on the file. It took 11 hours last time, so give me some time.
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Old 03-09-2005, 06:39 PM   #7
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Run Defense

don\'t run yourself ragged but it would be appreciated. would it be too simplistic to surmise your thought as being shutdown the pass first then they won\'t be able to run even if we do have some certified weak links against that? i\'m trying, it just doesn\'t reconcile to the sum total of what last season was to me. anyone else?
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Old 03-10-2005, 01:20 AM   #8
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Run Defense

Actually, Xan put this argument forward several weeks ago. For the most part I find it VERY interesting (and obviously time and labor intensive in its making), though the results seem to buck some conventional football wisdom.

Here is a thought. Defenses are standardly designed to make the other team one dimensional. This allows you to call better plays, focus your defensive attacks (like blitzes and zone rotations), and throw off the opponents game plan. Usually, teams try and take away the running game (because that kills play action as a real option), but there is no reason a team couldn\'t succeed by taking away the passing game and forcing the run. Thus, improving our pass defense is a very real option for seriously improving our run defense. (This is agreement with Xan\'s view.)

Here is a point in Xan\'s argument that is also of interest to me:
When you abandon the running game, the statistics for running the ball will correspondingly fall. It would be fallacious to attribute the lack of running production on Deuce or the blocking.
While I agree with that, our run-pass distribution was about 47/53 (run/pass), so we didn\'t really abandon the run in a very real sense. If someone could show that our run-pass distribution was significantly different last year (in that it favored the run much more), then I might be inclined to think that our running game trailed off due to our being behind this year. Otherwise, isn\'t it plausible that our running game was just worse this year than last year?

Here is a problem with statistical analysis in general (though this is certainly NOT intended as a knock against Xan\'s first rate work): there is a paradox, known as Simpson\'s Paradox, in statistical analysis. The \"paradox\" is this, for any trend in the data, there is some sub-set of the data for which the exact oposite trend holds. In english, if you focus on the wrong \"parts\" of the statistical analysis, you could get the exact opposite result from the truth. Why does this matter? If you cut the data up too finely (or too broadly), you can make errors and not even notice it. Thus, without some idea of which way to cut up the data, interesting errors can occur. The point: be careful of statistical analysis without some \"intuitive\" or good reason to cut the data in the way it has been. (I think that Xan has done a good job of not falling in this kind of trap, but I\'m leary of statistical results that go strongly against conventional wisdom.)

"... I was beating them with my eyes the whole game..." - Aaron Brooks :cool:
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Old 03-10-2005, 02:53 AM   #9
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Run Defense

I think that adding Dwight Smith does help as long as he is able to provide playmaking ability to the secondary with constantly merely serving as the last line of defense in stopping backs from breaking for scores. If he is allowed to do this, then we will be able to move Bellamy into the box more often. If MckEnzie lives up to his billing and if Brown can step up, along with the pass rush from this heralded group of DEs, then Smith can patrol center field and allow Bellamy more flexibility in getting to the pack to assist the young LBs in stopping the run.
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Old 03-10-2005, 04:28 AM   #10
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Run Defense

Most of the yards given up in rushing defense were late in games where the Saints were down by 13 points or more, exactly where you would expect them to be.
Couldn\'t you argue that ALTHOUGH opposing teams were one-dimensionally relying on the run to keep the clock running, our run defense wasn\'t able to get the job done?
Not only did they give up a lot of yards, but the yards per run was high enough to keep drives alive. Somehow this doesn\'t fill me with confidence that teams couldn\'t come out in the first quarter and pound the ball from the get-go.
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