This is meant to be a series of posts that looks at our offense and tries to better understand it. We got a lot of time to kill before the draft, and I can only read so many mocks, so let's mix it up. Anyway, part 1 dissected Greg Roman's resume. If you are interested here is a link: Greg Roman's Resume.
We established that G-Ro is a run first guy, and the most prolific seasons that he has been a part of, as an o-line coach or otherwise, were run first offenses. He has never coached in a high flying attack offense. His years under George Seifert in Carolina they did try to air it out, but the results were...well...not good.
If you are a run first team, there is probably no better down to analyze than first down. You want to run, the defense knows you want to run, and so it is mano-y-mano at its finest.
Here is a chart showing first down yardage on plays categorized (by me) as rushes. You can see a distinct drop of from 2012 to 2013.
Negative and zero yardage plays are up and 6-12 yard plays are down. In terms of averages, the standard for first down is to achieve 4 yards, so that you have 2nd and 6 or fewer yards for another set of downs:
|First Down Performance||2012||2013|
We definitely dropped in 2013, but the league average from my dataset is 43.8%. So, in 2012 we were pretty strong, but in 2013 we fell back to average.
One of the reasons we may have fell back to average is we really tried to run the ball more:
|Quarter||Rushing on First Down 2012||Rushing on First Down 2013|
In 2012, we would try and establish the run but shy away from it in the 2nd quarter. At the end of the game we ran it down their throats. In 2013, we were more even keeled. Some may say "predictable," but I think that it is more complex then that. People tend to remember the guesses when they were right, so if you guess "run" on every 1st down then you are right 6 out of 10 times and think, "G-Ro is so predictable." It would be a fun exercise to actually keep track of your guesses, simply run or pass, and then compare at the end of each game. I may try that next year.
In 2013 rushing on first down was up and yield, or plays where we rushed for 4 or more yards, was down. This is a bad combo. It is worse when you consider passing performance.
The league average for passing on first down, and getting at least 4 yards, was 50.4%. For us, we were at 45.9%. We committed to the run, but then when we did decide to pass it we were below the league average.
Here is the game by game data:
Percent of First Downs for at least 4 yards
|01-Dec-13||Rams||43.8%||41.7% (Crab return)||42.9%|
What is interesting to me is that we clearly had a few good games against the Falcons and Cardinals before our tough playoff run. To be fair, our playoffs included a sub-zero game and two of the best defenses in football, and all on the road. Hopefully our performance in the Falcons and Cardinal games will be carried into 2014.
Finally, to understand the data, we need some context. Here is the league wide first down performance (pass and run together) for 2013:
|team||4+||total first downs|
Anytime we are in the same sentence with the Raiders, Rams, and Bills can't be good.
OK nation, why do you think we were so bad on first down last year? What did you see on tape that supports, or disproves, these numbers? I have some ideas, but I'd like to get some of the site experts to chime in. Is this on Colin, our o-line, Frank Gore, G-Ro, or a combination? In multiple interviews players said our rushing game was down because teams were playing us differently. Did you see anything that supports that?