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Another Great Guest Blog

This one comes to us from Harry. He's a junior at UVA on exchange in Sydney, Australia, who is following the NFL from there and is a big Skins fan. (He got up at 6:45am here to watch the Colts/Ravens game, 9am for the Superbowl, and 4am for several March Madness games). He did a litrle breakdown of the D Line in relation to other needs. It was a great email he sent me and I thought you guys would enjoy it, so we're posting the puppy.

He's from NOVA and is a Foreign Affairs and Psychology double major at UVA, but in the last year says he he started seriously considering a career in, gasp, sports journalism. Harry, brother, don't sell yourself short. You see destined for bigger and better things. Don't sell yourself short (I have promised to help out in any way I can should he actually pursue ths field, however).

Anyway, here's Harry's thoughts:

I have seriously
considered becoming a sports writer.

Hey J-La,

I'm a big fan of Redskins Insider (I post as Sheriff Gonna Getcha). I had some thoughts and stats about the Landry pick for all the people who really wanted a lineman.

Let me start off by saying that I was a huge Jamaal Anderson advocate and really wanted the Redskins to draft him (or Okoye). After we made the pick official and the reality of it set in (about 3:30am here in Sydney) I started trying to get excited about our defensive backfield and its numerous playmakers. But for some reason I couldn't let go of the idea of having a relentless pass-rushing, run-stuffing DE for our line. But then I took a look at some of our stats for the last three seasons.

I looked at our 2004 defense (ranked #3), 2005 defense (#9), and our pitiful 2006 defense (#31). One stat group I studied included Sacks, Interceptions, and Forced Fumbles because these plays can all have a large impact on the game. We can call them Defensive Impact Plays (DIP). The total DIP numbers were 70 (40 S, 18 INT, 12 FF), 66 (32 S, 16 INT, 18 FF), and 36 (19 S, 6 INT, 11 FF) in 2004, 2005, and 2006 respectively (there was one FF each year by an offensive player which was removed).

There was a slight decrease from 2004 to 2005 (just as the defense had a slight overall decline) but the numbers are fairly comparable. But what jumps out at you is that we had 30 less DIP in 2006 than in 2005. Now I know that anyone who watched us this year would not be surprised at any of these numbers. But they are much more surprising when you break them up into Defensive Back, Linebacker, and Defensive Line stats for each year. Here is what that looks like:

Sacks INT FF
DB 9 15 7 31
LB 11 2 3 16
DL 20 1 2 23
40 18 12 Total = 70

DB 4.5 10 9 23.5
LB 11.5 5 6 22.5
DL 16 1 3 20
32 16 18 Total = 66

DB 1 5 4 10
LB 5 0 4 9
DL 13 1 3 17
19 6 11 Total = 36

Gregg Williams is known for using an aggressive blitzing defense so these numbers make sense. For instance, when our defense was considered to be at its peak (2004), the DBs and LBs combined for 47 DIP out of 70, or 67% of DIP. In 2005, when our defense was still very effective, the DBs and LBs combined for 46 DIP out of 66 total, or about 70% of DIP. Now in 2006, with the loss of Ryan Clark (FA), Walt Harris (FA), Pierson Prioleau (INJ), and even Sean Springs (INJ) for 7 games, the DBs struggled to produce, resulting in 10 DIP.

The LBs regressed as well with only 9 DIP. But the interesting thing is that the DL still managed a respectable 17 DIP, compared to 20 DIP in 2005 and 23 DIP in 2004. The DBs and LBs combined for only 53% of DIP in 2006, down from 70% in 2005 and 67% in 2004.

Many of us Skins fans have been wondering aloud about the lack of urgency the 'Braintrust' has displayed towards upgrading our Defensive Line this offseason. We only had five picks in this draft (only one first day pick) and yet we used one pick on a DB, two picks on LB, two picks on offense, and exactly zero picks on the DL. But perhaps Gibbs is not completely wrong when he says that our DL is just fine. Yes, Griffin is our only standout. Yes, neither Golston nor Carter is much of a force against the run. Yes, Griffin and Daniels are old and slowing down.

But this line still produced last year despite multiple injuries. According to the DIP index, they performed much better than both the DBs and LBs and were not far from their DIP production of the last two years when we had top ten defenses in the league. Plus, Andre Carter really did not settle in until late in the year when he was given fewer instructions and more freedom to simply play.

Looking at these stats, our DL may not have been our biggest problem last year. Our DBs and LBs had the biggest drop offs in performance. With an offseason that has included solid upgrades in the DBs (Landry, Smoot, and Macklin) and LBs (London Fletcher), perhaps our defense will return to form in Gregg Williams' creative blitz-happy schemes in 2007.

Even if you don't completely buy my argument, these statistics have to make you a little more at ease about our defense in the upcoming season.

P.S. If people are going to argue that DBs and LBs aren't going to help with the run as much as a DL, I would agree. But our defensive yards/carry stats for the last three years make that point less relevant. In 2004, we gave up 3.1 yards/carry which was 1st in the league. In 2005, we gave up 4.1 yards/carry which was 21st in the league. In 2006, we gave up 4.5 yards/carry which was 25th in the league. Yet, in terms of total yards (tradition way to rank defenses) and points/game given up, our defenses ranked #3/#5 in 2004, #9/#9 in 2005, and #29/#27 in 2006. Though the yards/carry shot up from 2004 to 2005, our overall defense only slightly regressed. And when our yards/carry only slightly increased from 2005 to 2006, our overall defense plummeted. Therefore, with this (admittedly miniscule) sample, DIP was actually a far superior indicator of our overall defensive performance than our ability to stop the run (illustrated by yards/carry).

By Jason La Canfora  |  May 1, 2007; 12:26 PM ET
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