DVOA Matchup - Redskins at Seahawks, Pt. 2

Seahawks.NET
Posted Jan 4, 2008


In Part 2 of Seahawks.NET's preview of Saturday's Seattle-Washington wild card playoff game, Doug Farrar turns his attention to Washington's defense, details the truth about Stop Rate, and reveals why Deon Grant should be going to the Pro Bowl.

DVOA Matchup - Redskins at Seahawks

The stats used in this analysis are all available at Football Outsiders - the DVOA and DPAR stats referenced here are theirs, and are explained here. In addition, if you want to drill down and get really forensic, you will find some amazing numbers in the "Head-to-Head" section of the FO Premium Database.

Part Two: Life after Death

We're going to quickly acknowledge the obvious and move on -- the Washington Redskins are playing like a team possessed after the November 27 death of safety Sean Taylor. Reams of virtual InterPaper have been used to discuss and debate the reasons behind that untimely passing and the effect it has had on the teammates he left behind.

So, we'll give a quick contemptuous sneer to those knights of the laptop who jumped to the sorts of conclusions they always seem to when young men of color are victims of violence (see Hamlin, Ken, circa 2005) and a respectful nod to the kind of inspirational and metaphysical stuff we can't codify but still makes a huge difference in sports in certain cases.

On to the numbers and what they mean.

Washington's Defense

Team

Total DVOA

Rank

Weighted DVOA

Rank

Variance

Rank

SEA OFF

5.6%

14

9.1%

10

3.1%

31

WAS DEF

-7.2%

6

-6.5%

7

12.1%

2

Earlier this week, Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was heard to say that his focus when facing the Seahawks would be making sure Seattle's running game doesn't work. It's an interesting gambit, since one would think that all you have to do to negate the Seahawks' ground game is to wake up in the morning, but … that's what we have. Bobby Engram's response? "I like single coverage."

Indeed. If the Redskins go with the same kinds of run blitz packages that kept Julius Jones and Marion Barber to three yards on the ground in the first half of Dallas' loss to the 'Skins last week, it won't last long. Williams and his troops were able to get away with that strategy because Terrell Owens (who carves Cover 2 schemes like the proverbial turkey) was nursing a sprained ankle, and the rest of the Dallas offense was ending the season in craptacular fashion.

Against a Seattle offense that may actually feature Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett on the field at the same time (will wonders never cease?), Williams will find himself bringing up an extra safety to stop Shaun Alexander, only to get whomped upside the head by Air Holmgren. Since Williams hasn't gotten this far by ignoring obvious matchup problems, let's assume he'll adjust and back off the eight-in-the-box theory -- if he runs it at all -- after the Seahawks take their opening drive downfield for seven in surgical fashion.

When that happens, and the Redskins fan out to deal with all those three- and four-wide sets, the most important matchup becomes, of, course, the two interior lines. Washington's tackles versus Seattle's guards and center. If the Seahawks are able to negate Washington's intent to fold their line, it keeps the ball in the air and the schematic craziness coming. If the Seahawks have to bring everyone in to acknowledge the fact that Chris Spencer and Rob Sims are toiling in the Great Unknown and Chris Gray should be selling insurance these days? The Seahawks will be playing Washington's game. And that's not a game they're physically equipped to play anymore.

Adjusted Offensive Line Yards/Sack Rate

 

TEAM

Adj. Line
Yards 

RB
Yards

Power
Success

Power
Rank

10+
Yards

10+
Rank

Stuffed

Stuffed
Rank

29

SEA

3.74

3.93

52%

27

20%

10

32%

32

TEAM

Sack
Rank

Sacks

Adj.
Sack Rate

SEA

19

37

7.1%




Adjusted Defensive Line Yards/Sack Rate

 

TEAM

Adj. Line
Yards 

RB
Yards

Power
Success

Power
Rank

10+
Yards

10+
Rank

Stuffed

Stuffed
Rank

17

WAS

4.19

3.67

65%

20

8%

1

23%

20


 

 

TEAM

Sack
Rank

Sacks

Adj.
Sack Rate

WAS

26

33

5.7%






The Seahawks' offensive line has been bad most of the season without much relief. After week 3, it ranked 19th in ALY and 14th in ASR. At the season's halfway mark, the ranking was down to 30th and 19th, respectively. Like water, the line found its lowest level and stayed there. Fortunately, Washington's defensive line doesn’t bring
the kind of penetrative ability that would alter Matt Hasselbeck's plan to spread the ball around. Especially if Seattle's "secret weapon" is utilized.

According to Football Outsiders' 2007 regular season stats, the Seahawks rank fourth in passing DVOA in shotgun formation, behind only Jacksonville, Indianapolis and New England, This despite the fact that Mike Holmgren is an avowed hater of the formation and his team ran shotgun plays 80 times in 590 overall passing attempts. That 13.6 percentage was the NFL's lowest. Washington's front four doesn't bring pressure that much, but Holmgren might be wise to think outside the box nonetheless.

Secondary Concerns

Taylor's death left a hole in the Pro Bowl roster, and Dallas' Roy Williams was named to the team in Taylor's stead. Why, some Seahawks fans asked, was a man who has an illegal tackling rule named after him, and was suspended one game this season for a violation of that rule, going over Deon Grant, a big reason that Seattle's secondary has been playing so much better in 2007? If you look at the FO numbers, the answer is, "We don't know, either".

 

Total Plays

Stop Rate

Passing Stop Rate

Rushing Stop Rate

Pass Defeats

Run Defeats

Yards per Pass Play

Yards per Run Play

D. Grant

82

57%

41%

72%

5

2

10.1

3.8

R. Williams

94

38%

30%

51%

9

3

9.7

6.1











It's a mystery.

What might we see from Washington's defense on Saturday afternoon? On Thursday, Williams compared Hasselbeck's command of the offense, and the lanes it might open for running backs, to what Todd Collins is doing with Washington's offense. They're playing man coverage with cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot. "Shawn has enabled us to play the style of play that we wanted to play here really going down the stretch because he is able to hold up by himself out there with nobody helping him," Williams said. "He has been very, very consistent. A corner has to play consistent in the most stressful times of the ball game without any help. He is out there by himself. He has done that very well. You will see a lot of the offenses don’t even try him anymore. When he is able to produce the way he has been producing he has been able to force throws away from him. I think that is respect that he is getting playing at a very high level.”

Springs ranks second in the NFL in Stop Rate against the pass among cornerbacks at 56%. Smoot is tied with several other cornerbacks at ninth with 46%. Marcus Trufant's 41% and Kelly Jennings' 35%? Not quite the same. Washington's corners are experienced, used to floating on that island, and they could bedevil Hasselbeck in the medium-to-long game. Most likely, the Seahawks will at least attempt to make something of the running game, but will be forced to concede to reality and bring the matchup around to their own territory -- those managed short throws and occasional bombs that have marked Seattle's offensive success in the second half of the season.


Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, a contributing author to Pro Football Prospectus 2007, and he writes NFL previews for the New York Sun.



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