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Charting the Tide, Offensive Review | Texas A&M Aggies

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EL TRACTORCITO TE DESTRUIRA

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Connelly invented all of this; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.

But first, let’s revel in Bama’s other beast in the backfield.

Jake Coker is a deceptively large man, as classic pocket passers tend to be. He’s also deceptively quick, and when you combine those two things, you get a lot of power… deceptively. Well, at least before Saturday, because now the cat’s out of the bag. Coker is not going to slide and let you get a free shot in, he’s just going to flat run you over, and personally I’m a big fan of that regardless of what position you play.[1] Derrick Henry’s dominance was certainly more pervasive against the Aggies, and he’ll get more than a few sentences to himself down the line, but this play[2] was so fun to watch I felt it deserved special attention.

1 | That being said, Jake… uh, maybe try to take just one hit per run next time? Just a thought.

2 | And its cousin, where Coker shows some elusiveness before trucking a defensive back.

Confused?

  • Air Yards — The down-the-field or vertical yardage gained on a pass play as a result of the quarterback’s throw (i.e., prior to the receiver’s involvement), as measured from the line of scrimmage. So for forward passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the Air Yardage would be negative. This metric is also tracked on incomplete passes — underthrown balls are measured from where the ball lands, and overthrown balls from where the intended receiver is. Balls tipped at the line or thrown away are not measured. The companion statistic on completed passes is yards after catch — the sum of Air Yards and yards after catch on a completed pass equals the yardage gained on the play.
  • Catch Rate — The number of balls caught over the number of targets for an individual, or how often a receiver makes the catch when targeted.
  • Disruptive Plays — A sum of sacks, stuffs (tackles for loss on a ballcarrier, as opposed to a QB on a pass play), blocked kicks/punts, passes defensed/broken up, interceptions, and forced fumbles. Think of these as things that got you multiple helmet stickers when you were playing peewee.
  • Distance Splits — Aside from the quarterback performance chart (which is in terms of Air Yards), all distances refer to the yardage to go for that particular down, not how much yardage would be required for a successful play (see Success Rate).
  • Percent of Total for Rushing and Passing Splits by Down — These numbers refer to the percentage of first down plays that were a rush, second down plays that were a pass, and so on, NOT the percentage of rushes that were on first down. For example, the sum of first down pass frequency and first down rush frequency will be 100%, but the sum of first, second, third, and fourth down rush frequencies will be well in excess of 100%.
  • Garbage Time — Defined as when a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth.
  • Pass Direction — One the quarterback performance chart, the pass directions (left, middle, right) refer to the third of the field the ball was thrown to, as defined by the hash marks, relative to the direction the offense is moving (i.e., from the quarterback's perspective). 'Left' throws are to the leftmost third, 'middle' throws are to the area between the hashes, and so on.
  • Run Directions — See the figure below. Defensive letter gap terminology is on the top in blue, and offensive hole terminology is on the bottom in green. Rushes are coded as 'Left Tackle' if they head through the left B and C gaps / the 3 and 5 holes, and so on.
  • RunDirection

  • Success Rate — A 'successful' play is defined as gaining 50% of required yardage on first down, 70% of required yardage on second down, and all of the required yardage on third and fourth downs — required yardage is another term for the distance required for a first down on a given play. Success rate is simply how often a team is successful.
  • Target — The intended receiver on a pass play. All pass plays have intended receivers, with the exception of passes that were tipped at the line, thrown away, or otherwise thrown in such a manner as to render identification of an intended receiver impossible.
  • YAC — Passing Yards After Catch, the amount of yardage gained by the receiver after catching a pass. YAC + Air Yards = Passing Yards.
  • iPPPIsolated Points Per Play, the amount of Net Equivalent Points gained per successful play. This is the best explosiveness metric the advanced stats community currently has; read more about it here.
  • Line Yards — The number of rushing yards on every run attributable to the offensive line’s efforts. Read more about it here.
  • Highlight Yards — The number of rushing yards on every run attributable to the running back’s efforts. Line Yards + Highlight Yards = Rushing Yards. Read more about it here.
  • Opportunity Rate — The percentage of carries where the back has an opportunity to accrue Highlight Yards; read more about it here.
  • Running Back Rating (RBR) — An overall quality metric for running backs, this is the product of Opportunity Rate and Highlight Yards per Opportunity.
Overall Offensive Performance

Quarter Breakdown
Metric 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Plays 20 137 14 125 22 92 9 52
S. Rate 60.0% 46.0% 28.6% 45.6% 31.8% 41.3% 22.2% 36.5%
iPPP 1.5 1.1 0.7 1.1 1.1 1.5 1.4 1.1
Pass % 35.0% 43.7% 38.5% 55.6% 45.5% 47.3% 33.3% 48.0%
P. S. Rate 57.1% 44.1% 40.0% 42.0% 30.0% 37.2% 0.0% 25.0%
P. iPPP 0.9 1.3 0.9 1.5 1.6 1.8 --- 1.0
Rush % 65.0% 56.3% 61.5% 44.4% 54.5% 52.7% 66.7% 52.0%
R. S. Rate 61.5% 48.7% 25.0% 50.9% 33.3% 45.8% 33.3% 50.0%
R. iPPP 1.8 0.9 0.5 0.6 0.7 1.2 1.4 1.1

Observations

As with the defense, the Tide offense operated for all but one drive of the game in competitive time, with the lone garbage drive a clock-killing effort to finish up the fourth quarter. In a disturbingly similar result to the Arkansas game from a week before, the Tide completely dominated the first quarter, only to see success rates drop over the remaining three frames. Oddly enough, iPPPs rose as success rates fell, with the Tide mixing in negative plays with lengthy runs and passes down the stretch. The mid-game dip had a lot to do with Ryan Kelly missing the second half, but we’ll get into that more in a bit.

You’ll note a lot of that first quarter success came on the ground, and that was all Henry. Texas A&M had absolutely no answer for him early on, and while the seemingly inexhaustible supply of big plays provided by the defense were the main reason the Tide won this game, Henry’s early dominance helped put the Aggies in a hole they had little hope of escaping.

Formation / Playcall Breakdown
Call Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Shotgun 31 47.7% 54.9% 45.2% 44.4% 1.5 1.2
Pistol 22 33.8% 25.9% 36.4% 43.8% 1.0 1.0
Under Center 12 18.5% 19.2% 25.0% 41.0% 1.0 1.1
No Huddle 41 63.1% 62.8% 36.6% 44.3% 1.4 1.1
Huddled 24 36.9% 37.2% 41.7% 42.4% 0.9 1.3
Play Action 7 10.8% 12.3% 28.6% 48.0% 1.4 2.0

Observations

An increased workload for Henry means more Pistol, which the Tide went to on about a third of their competitive plays against the Aggies. It was lethal in the early going, but fell victim to the same slowdown that afflicted the Tide offense as a whole in the second and third quarters. The Tide did most of the damage out of the shotgun, which was both the most successful and explosive formation against the Aggies.

As you might expect, play-action passes were not as effective as they have been for the Tide, as the everpresent threat of Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall ensured Coker wouldn’t have much time in the pocket. Sure enough, the one classic play-action bomb dialed up by Kiffin in this one resulted in the lone sack of the game for the Aggies.

Personnel Breakdown
Group Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
11 38 58.5% 41.6% 36.8% 42.3% 1.2 1.4
10 15 23.1% 24.8% 40.0% 44.0% 1.5 1.3
12 5 7.7% 14.9% 60.0% 41.7% 1.5 1.0
20 3 4.6% 6.7% 33.3% 44.4% 0.4 0.7
21 2 3.1% 7.2% 0.0% 51.7% --- 0.9

Observations

It doesn’t seem to matter if the Tide go with two, three, or four wide receivers in their single back sets, as after seven games it’s clear what they’re going to get — a success rate in excess of 40% and iPPPs in excess of 1.2. 10 and 11 personnel are by far the Tide’s two most frequent alignments, with 10 personnel being the slightly better option against the Aggies.

Down and Distance Matrix
Distance Metric Down
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Short
(0-3 Yds)
Plays 0 6 3 18 3 20 1 4
S. Rate --- 66.7% 33.3% 77.8% 0.0% 50.0% 100.0% 75.0%
iPPP --- 0.2 5.8 0.9 --- 0.4 0.7 1.8
Medium
(4-6 Yds)
Plays 1 5 4 32 2 17 0 3
S. Rate 100.0% 40.0% 100.0% 62.5% 50.0% 41.2% --- 33.3%
iPPP 0.8 0.5 0.7 0.6 1.8 1.0 --- 0.9
Long
(7-10 Yds)
Plays 26 166 7 61 3 19 0 2
S. Rate 50.0% 45.8% 28.6% 41.0% 0.0% 21.1% --- 0.0%
iPPP 1.0 1.3 1.7 1.6 --- 1.4 --- ---
Very Long
(11+ Yds)
Plays 1 9 7 23 7 21 0 0
S. Rate 0.0% 22.2% 0.0% 26.1% 28.6% 14.3% --- ---
iPPP --- 1.5 --- 1.8 1.3 1.3 --- ---

Observations

So, third downs are a problem that is not going away. The Tide went just 3/15 on the down during competitive time, and this wasn’t at all related to Kelly’s injury — two of those successful conversions came when he was out of the game entirely.

There are a couple of things going on here. For one, the offensive philosophy has shifted from the ruthlessly efficient outfits of the Jim McElwain era to one more reliant on big plays in the passing game, which is an inherently inefficient approach[3] that makes up value through explosiveness. This worked great last year with Amari Cooper and Blake Sims at the controls, but despite some noticeable progress over the last few weeks, this group’s not there yet. The overall lack of success on early downs produces a lot of third and longs — note that most of the Tide’s third downs were in excess of seven yards to go this week — which are not good bets for any offense.

3 | Against quality defenses, anyway. Lookin’ at you, Big 12.

The other problem, as Gary Danielson was all too happy to harp on during the broadcast, are the negative plays. Alabama is currently ranked 121st in the country in tackles for loss allowed after seven games, tied with four other teams at 54. There are only three teams in the country worse than the Tide in this metric — Fresno State, Connecticut, and Kent State, who are collectively 8-13 on the year. Those teams are awful, and the fact the Tide is sitting amongst this group but also 6-1 in the SEC is unbelievable.[4]

4 | It’s not, it’s the defense.

The former problem has gotten better — targets in the passing game have shifted to more reliable receivers, which improves completion percentages and success rates accordingly. Coker has made better decisions with the ball, taking off and scrambling when the play’s not there as opposed to forcing a bad throw. But the latter problem? That’s mainly because of…

Offensive Line Performance

Rush Splits by Down, Distance, and Direction
Metric Attempts Rush % S. Rate iPPP LY/Att.
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
All Carries 33 60.9% 51.3% 48.5% 55.2% 0.6 0.5 3.1 3.0
1st Down 12 53.6% 53.8% 58.3% 40.0% 0.9 0.8 3.3 2.7
2nd Down 15 80.0% 56.1% 33.3% 55.4% 2.1 1.0 3.0 3.6
3rd Down 5 46.7% 38.7% 0.0% 37.5% --- 0.6 2.4 2.7
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
6 85.7% 79.2% 33.3% 63.6% 3.2 0.8 0.8 2.2
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
4 71.4% 54.4% 100.0% 72.4% 0.7 0.6 6.0 3.5
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
14 54.3% 46.7% 50.0% 41.8% 1.2 1.1 3.3 3.3
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
9 60.0% 43.4% 0.0% 0.0% --- --- 3.0 2.5
Left
End
7 21.2% 16.6% 28.6% 46.7% 0.5 1.1 3.8 3.7
Left
Tackle
4 12.1% 11.6% 75.0% 52.4% 0.6 1.0 3.8 3.0
Middle 15 45.5% 47.5% 40.0% 43.0% 2.1 1.0 2.3 2.7
Right
Tackle
5 15.2% 11.6% 20.0% 38.1% 0.8 0.4 3.1 2.5
Right
End
2 6.1% 12.7% 50.0% 56.5% 1.6 0.7 5.5 3.9

Observations

… and whether it is coaching or injuries or whatever, it doesn’t seem like the type of situation that gets fixed in-season. It was blatantly apparent when the Tide was melting down at the end of the first half that Kelly is the linchpin of this whole operation. J.C. Hassenauer[5] is a talented guy who honestly played ok given that he was dropped into a tough situation last week, but he’s a steep, steep dropoff from Kelly. He’s also a true sophomore with limited snaps under his belt, so that’s ok!

5 | Not his identical twin C.J. Hassenauer, who’s the center blocking for Derrick Harvey. Confusing, I know.

Effectively running the ball up the middle evaporated when Kelly went out, as the Tide’s success rate dropped from 63% to 11% and iPPP went from 2.3 to 0.9 on those carries. Five of the Tide’s six rushing attempts on short yardage came with Hassenauer at center; four of them were stuffed for a loss. Both of the Tide’s successful third and fourth down runs in competitive time came after Kelly left the game, which seems encouraging until you recall those two conversions were a Coker scramble off a bootleg pass and a toss to Henry designed to get him far, far away from the line. I point these things out not to attack Hassenauer, but to highlight just how important Kelly is to the offense. And that doesn’t begin to get into whatever afflictions Cam Robinson is dealing with or the Dominick Jackson Experience.

Running Back Performance

Advanced RB Splits
Metric Attempts Opp. Rate Hlt. Yds. / Opp. RBR
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
All Carries 33 53.1% 46.2% 6.7 4.6 3.5 2.1
1st Down 12 58.3% 39.3% 4.5 3.3 2.6 1.3
2nd Down 15 46.7% 56.3% 10.9 5.6 5.1 3.2
3rd Down 5 50.0% 39.1% 2.3 2.4 1.1 1.0
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
6 40.0% 46.2% 24.5 7.4 9.8 3.4
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
4 100.0% 57.1% 2.0 2.0 2.0 1.1
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
14 50.0% 45.9% 6.8 5.1 3.4 2.4
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
9 44.4% 33.3% 2.3 2.1 1.0 0.7
Left
End
7 57.1% 56.7% 2.5 4.5 1.4 2.6
Left
Tackle
4 75.0% 35.0% 3.5 10.4 2.6 3.7
Middle 15 50.0% 43.0% 11.1 5.1 5.5 2.2
Right
Tackle
5 40.0% 33.3% 1.8 1.1 0.7 0.4
Right
End
2 50.0% 65.2% 12.0 2.2 6.0 1.5

Observations

When the line was able to break the backs loose, though? Oh my goodness was it fun to watch. As you’ll see momentarily this chart is almost entirely Henry, and he was so good on Saturday it was largely irrelevant when he was handed the ball or in what direction he was running.

As has been the case for most of the season,[6] the left side was money, with many of the successful “Middle” runs going between Ross Pierschbacher and Kelly. The numbers on 2nd down and short yardage are a bit inflated due to Henry’s 55-yard touchdown run coming on a 2nd and 1.

6 | And, really, for most of Saban’s tenure.

Individual RB Stats
Player Atts. S. Rate Opp. Rate HLT Yds. /
Opp.
RBR LY/Att.
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Henry, Derrick 28 46.4% 46.5% 59.3% 47.9% 6.8 5.5 4.1 2.6 3.4 3.2
Drake, Kenyan 5 0.0% 47.9% 20.0% 45.8% 4.0 2.1 0.8 1.0 1.1 2.9
Harris, Damien 0 --- 20.0% --- 20.0% --- 7.0 --- 1.4 --- 1.2

Observations

The only way to consistently stop Henry is to get him around the lower legs before he’s up to speed, because if you go high or try to get him past the line of scrimmage, you’re going to have a bad time. Every so often it works — I distinctly recall one play where Henry was stoned one-on-one a yard or so beyond the line of scrimmage — but it’s rare, and when you have a defense noted for poor tackling the end result is this. Roughly 60% of Henry’s carries went for five yards or more, and he averaged about a 12 yard carry on those runs. A good chunk of that came on the 55-yarder of course, but that was the most explosive carry in a day full of good running.

Kenyan Drake was not part of that day, as he struggled to get anything going before a thigh injury limited him to just a few snaps in the second half — Henry’s success being the only reason we didn’t see any carries for Damien Harris as a result. We’re hearing every week now about how the coaching staff is instructing him to play more within himself and that he doesn’t need to house it on every play, and you can see there’s a bit of a frenetic quality to his game this year — like, incidentally enough, he’s trying to score every time he touches the ball. I’m sure a lot of that is mental, as he’s still working back from his injury a year ago and trying to show the scouts how explosive he can be. Given the persistent blocking issues, you’d think the quicker, more elusive back would be the more successful option, but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case here.

Quarterback Performance

Map of Quarterbacking Excellence
Air Yards Metric Left Middle Right Totals
2 3 19 24
Behind
L.O.S
Comp. % 1/1 (100.0%) 1/1 (100.0%) 5/5 (100.0%) 7
S. Rate 0.0% 0.0% 40.0%
iPPP --- --- 1.0
0-5
Yards
Comp. % 1/1 (100.0%) 0/0 (---) 7/8 (87.5%) 9
S. Rate 0.0% --- 37.5%
iPPP --- --- 1.2
6-10
Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 2/2 (100.0%) 0/2 (0.0%) 4
S. Rate --- 100.0% 0.0%
iPPP --- 0.7 ---
11-15
Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 1/2 (50.0%) 2
S. Rate --- --- 50.0%
iPPP --- --- 0.9
16+ Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 1/2 (50.0%) 2
S. Rate --- --- 50.0%
iPPP --- --- 2.4

Observations

Not a big day throwing the ball for Coker, but given the opposing team’s pass rush and Henry’s rushing success, that’s to be expected. The completion percentage was there, but per usual most of that came on the short stuff, and given the Tide was behind the chains for most of the last three quarters there was not much success to be had there. The one truly deep throw Coker managed to get off was incomplete primarily due to a nice play from converted RB Brandon Williams.

Incompletions Breakdown
Type Count Percent of Total
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Misfires 3 12.0% 16.9%
Defensive Wins 3 12.0% 13.3%
Drops 0 0.0% 5.6%
Offensive Errors 0 0.0% 1.0%
Penalties 0 0.0% 0.5%

Observations

No drops, no miscommunication, and no penalties, which suggests a pretty clean game from the receivers. Coker misfired a few times, but none of them were of the type where it was questionable who he thought he was throwing to, which is a nice improvement. The Aggies secondary notched a couple of pass break-ups, and Garrett tipped one at the line, which accounts for the three defensive wins.

Pass Splits by Down and Distance
Metric Attempts Pass % S. Rate iPPP
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
All Passes 25 39.1% 48.8% 36.0% 39.5% 1.1 1.5
1st 13 46.4% 46.2% 46.2% 49.4% 1.2 1.6
2nd 4 20.0% 61.3% 25.0% 37.9% 0.7 1.4
3rd 8 53.3% 43.9% 25.0% 26.1% 1.3 1.0
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
1 14.3% 20.8% 0.0% 50.0% --- 0.5
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
2 28.6% 45.6% 50.0% 30.8% 0.7 0.8
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
16 45.7% 53.3% 37.5% 41.1% 1.2 1.6
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
6 40.0% 56.6% 33.3% 36.7% 1.3 1.6

Observations

As you’d expect, most of Coker’s attempts came on the longer yardage downs, with Henry being the preferred option on medium and short. Those first-and-ten attempts were where most of the production came from, as most of the unsuccessful attempts came in other situations. Overall success rate was not too far off of the seasonal average, but iPPP was well short of the usual mark.

Receiver Performance

Individual WR Stats
Player Targets Catch Rate YAC/Catch Pts./Target
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Ridley, Calvin 8 87.5% 75.0% 3.1 6.9 0.5 0.8
Mullaney, Richard 6 66.7% 64.0% 2.8 3.2 0.4 0.7
Howard, O.J. 3 100.0% 70.8% 10.7 7.1 0.9 0.7
Stewart, ArDarius 3 33.3% 46.7% 0.0 5.2 0.1 0.4
Drake, Kenyan 2 100.0% 76.5% 1.5 15.7 0.0 1.0

Observations

The big winner this week was O.J. Howard, who caught all three of his targets and averaged almost 11 yards after each reception. The going was bit rough for Calvin Ridley and Richard Mullaney, who caught the ball well but weren’t able to do much with it after the catch. ArDarius Stewart is becoming less and less involved in the offense each week, which is unfortunate for him but probably the right call based on his numbers, which are abysmal. Actually, how about giving all of Stewart’s targets to Drake for a week and seeing what happens? Probably couldn’t hurt, as he has the highest catch rate and points per target on the team, albeit on just 17 targets.

ROLL TIDE