After taking my time getting through the intro information and explanations, I finally got down to business in Pro Football Prospectus 2008. Each team section had general essays (the 49ers essay was by Kevin Lynch of the Chronicle). After that they threw out a variety of statistical information about the team and individual players. One of my favorite sections was a discussion of strategic tendencies by a team as compared to the rest of the league.
Running on Second and Long
As a football fan, one of the most frustrating plays is the running play on 2nd and long. I realize you can't always pass, but for a poor offense that often seems like a give-up type of play. I can't count the number of times the 49ers had 2nd and long and handed off to Gore to cut a 2nd and 14 to 3rd and 9.
Well, the 49ers ran on second and long 42% of the time, good for sixth in the NFL. Would you consider this a lack of confidence in Smith or whomever else was QB? My 2007 PFP is at home so when I get back I'm gonna check it out and see what the numbers were in 2006.
Sacks by LB/DB
We all realize the 49ers generated very little in terms of a pass rush last season. It shows in the statistics as well. For the average team, defensive linemen had 62.2% of their teams sacks. The 49ers defensive linemen contributed 40.7% of their sacks. In the straight up 3-4 the defensive linemen don't get as many sacks as the 4-3, but even if the 49ers ran the 4-3 100% of the time last season I don't imagine their defensive linemen would have loaded up on sacks. This stat will be interesting to watch this season with the addition of Justin Smith and Kentwan Balmer. It's especially interesting to see where Smith gets any of his sacks. He may be lining up at outside linebacker or in some sort of elephant role, so we'll see where he gets pressure.
Runs, Power situation
A power situation is third or fourth down with 1-2 yards to go, or at the goal line on any down with 1-2 yards to go. In this situation, the 49ers ran the ball 47% of the time, good for 30th in the league. The average team ran in this situation 62% of the time. So, does the 49ers relative lack of rushing in this situation indicate a lack of confidence in the offensive line? When you've got a guy like Frank Gore, I'd imagine you'd want to use him as much as possible. One possible explanation I just thought of was that maybe trailing so often they wanted to pick up larger chunks of yards and a short run for a first down would take too much time of the clock given the situation. Any thoughts?