For all the talking DeAngelo Hall does off the field, his play has been quiet on it. Hall has yet to make any notable plays. He has just 0.09 +WPA, 3.1 +EPA, and just two passes defended, well below average for a starting cornerback on all accounts. He leads the team’s four corners in tackles with 11, and only 2 of them are ”successes,” meaning offenses have completed a lot of passes in his direction. Whatever positive contribution Hall has made was wiped out with Dez Bryant’s game-changing catch on 3rd and 21 last Sunday. Hall’s facemask penalty alone dropped the Redskins’ win probability (WP) from 0.40 to 0.24. The play in its entirety was truly devastating, dropping the Redskins’ WP from 0.87 to 0.24. Josh Wilson has been the bright spot at the position so far totaling 0.50 +WPA, 11.0 +EPA, and 9 ”successes,” including 4 passes defended.
Speaking of penalties, the Redskins are one of the best in the league at avoiding them. They rank second with 0.23 penalty yards per play, about half the league average. That number may not have much meaning on its own, but historically, teams with penalty rates that low tend to win an extra half game per season than average.
Rex Grossman reminded us of why he inspires so little confidence. It was his first negative performance of the young season, but it was fatal. A field goal drive in the final two minutes is something a veteran quarterback should be able to accomplish more often than not in today’s pass-friendly league. It’s no longer an unlikely heroic feat. Grossman is competent in many situations, but when defenses know a pass is coming, such as on third down or in the two-minute drill, he’s far below average. Before the game gets down to the wire, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should take the pressure off Grossman by using play action liberally on 1st and 2nd downs, and running on 3rd down. Yes, run on third down. It’s surprisingly successful on middle-and-long-to-go distances because it’s so unexpected. It will also teach opposing defenses they can’t pin their ears back for a pass rush on each and every third down.
The Redskins’ run defense has suddenly become worrisome. Washington now ranks second to last in the league with a 49% Success Rate (SR) allowed on running plays. This means opposing offenses are succeeding on about half their runs, while average for NFL defenses is 42%. Monday night, Felix Jones notched a 61% SR on 8.2 Yards Per Carry (YPC). SR is the stat to pay attention to in terms of grading the running game. It correlates with wins much better than other running stats, including YPC. YPC and total yards are heavily influenced a few long breakaway runs, which certainly have an impact but do not predict future performance. On the offensive side, the Redskins are just above average with a 42% SR.
Dallas linebacker Sean Lee victimized the Redskins, as I warned last week. Monday, he led his team with 8 total tackles, 7 ‘successes’, 2 passes defended, an interception, and the game-clinching fumble recovery. His impact was enormous for a defender in a single game with 0.46 +WPA and 11.7 +EPA.
There were 10 total field goal attempts Monday night, and the numbers say 4 of them were significant mistakes—3 by Dallas and 1 by Washington. The Cowboys’ decision to kick on 4th and 1 from Washington’s 9-yard line in the second quarter was particularly timid.
Jason Campbell, the quarterback jettisoned in favor of Donovan McNabb and then Rex Grossman, is off to a hot start . He’s led the Raiders to a 2-1 record, losing only to the potent Bills in a 38-35 shootout. Campbell isn’t just riding the coattails of running back Darren McFadden’s strong season so far. Campbell has 1.04 WPA (ranking 4th), 20.7 EPA (9th), 6.3 Adjusted Yards Per Attempt (AYPA) (8th) and a 54% SR (3rd) — well on pace for career highs.
Sam Bradford is struggling in his second year in the league, when young quarterbacks tend to take a big step in the right direction. In 3 games, he totals -0.46 WPA and -0.15 EPA, with a 38% SR. In terms of conventional numbers, he has only a 51% completion rate (second worst among starters) with 4.7 AYPA. He’s taken 11 sacks, third most in the league. These numbers don’t speak well of Rams first-year offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the man who replaced Mike Shanahan in Denver.
You can find a glossary of terms and stats we use at Advanced NFL Stats here.
Brian Burke is former Navy pilot who has given up his F/A-18 for the less dangerous hobby of football analysis. He is the creator of Advanced NFL Stats, a website about football, statistics, and and game theory.