11/2011 Football Talk: Eli’s Elite Season and Deep Passing

In the last Football Talk column, I spent the majority of the article defending Tony Romo . Before I get into this piece, I want to say that the song “Innocence” by Disturbed is a great one to listen to if you are angered by the men who did nothing at Penn State . I can’t believe six grown men completely ignored what happened, but I’ll leave it at that without going on to a rant. As a PSU fan, I just don’t want to talk about it. I also have a rap-related question for you all, and it concerns Big L’s “Put It On”. Is the dude with the Jamaican accent really Kid Capri? Thanks in advanced to those of you who will attempt to answer this baffling- to an idiot like me- question.

Eli Manning doesn’t have Steve Smith anymore and has been playing with inexperienced receivers who are talented, but they aren’t very good route-runners. Manning has been an MVP candidate thus far, because he has basically led his team to the top in the NFC East and led an amazing comeback to take down the Pats . Deja vu aside, Manning has the second highest air yards per attempt, and this is a testament to his elite play and downfield proficiency. In fact, Aaron Rodgers – perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time by the end of his career- is the only player higher in AY/A with an insane 8.3. Yeah, you read that right; 8.3.

What makes Eli so special is his ability to play well under pressure- pass rushing and clutch play- and he can make basically any throw. The guy is one of the elite quarterbacks from a scouting perspective, it’s just that he makes bad decisions from time to time. Or at least he used to. This season, Eli has dramatically cut down on his turnovers, and that makes him all that more dangerous when you look at his terrific arm strength and underrated accuracy.

This next subject has a lot to do with efficiency and other geeky concepts that may one day be well-known across the NFL; going deep is more efficient. We can all agree that yards per carry and yards per attempt are the basic efficiency statistics for running backs and quarterbacks alike, and the receiving equivalent of these two statistics is yards per target.

When looking at the top ten leaders in the NFL for yards per target in the 2010 season, I noticed that all but one of them had a Deep% over 30. This theme is still apparent when looking at the top 25 receivers in yards per target, and thus this makes YPT a flawed statistic due to this. However, it does tell us that offenses would be more efficient on a per play basis by going deep. Even when you factor in the chance for a turnover, it is still worth it because the increase is only a few percentage points. This pales in comparison to the consistent uptick in efficiency.

I’m not saying that teams should bomb it out there all the time, but I am saying that most teams are far too complacent. Just look at Aaron Rodgers and Packers , or even the aforementioned Eli Manning and the Giants passing attack.


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