The unsung hero award of last Sunday has to go to punter Sav Rocca. With a seven-point lead and 3:34 left to play, Rocca booted a net 63-yard punt from the Redskins’ own 9-yard line. That punt alone was worth +0.04 Win Probability Added (WPA), putting the Rams at their own 28 instead of midfield. Rocca came to the rescue more than once Sunday and had another big-impact punt in the second quarter, netting 56 yards from the Redskins’ own 15, worth +0.03 WPA. His net effect on the Redskins’ fortunes was better than nearly any other offensive skill player, except Ryan Torain and Jabar Gaffney.
Ryan Torain reappeared with a vengeance, posting a +0.13 WPA, +4.9 Expected Points Added (EPA), 7.1 yards per carry, and a 65 percent Success Rate (SR). In today’s league it’s rare for a running back to carry an entire offense. His +4.9 EPA essentially means that his plays can claim credit for about 5 points of Washington’s 7-point margin of victory. Torain’s 20-yard touchdown run made the highlight reel, but just as important were two runs just before the two minute warning, for 6- and 4-yard gains, which together converted a first down and burned time off the clock. Nothing else was working against St. Louis, not Roy Helu, not Tim Hightower, and definitely not Rex Grossman.
Grossman has followed his good start with two consecutive poor outings, but it’s too soon to say he is holding this team back. He turned in another stinker Sunday, worth -0.14 WPA, -8.7 EPA, 32 percent SR. Grossman’s adjusted yards per attempt for the game amounted to 1.8. The league average is 5.0. But overall this season, he’s been almost perfectly average in nearly every way, which is what I suspect the best the coaches could have realistically hoped for when the season began.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan continues to make an impact. He added to his stats with a forced fumble, 6 tackles, 5 of which are ‘success plays’—tackles or other plays that are setbacks for the offense. He ranks 3rd in +WPA and 6th in +EPA for all linebackers so far this season.
The defense is clearly the strength of the team. I’ve got them ranked 5th in both EPA and WPA allowed. In terms of efficiency stats, the defense is also ranked 5th in the league based primarily on its 5.4 net yards per pass attempt allowed. (The league average is 6.6.) The offense is ranked 17th, for an overall opponent-adjusted ranking of 10th. If they keep playing at their current level, and notwithstanding any critical injuries, the Redskins are on pace for 9 or 10 total wins with a 60 percent chance at the playoffs. Of course, those are big ifs, and recent teams have started just as well, only to fall victim to a lack of depth.
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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.