By Bill Barnwell, Football Outsiders – special to BSMW Patriots Game Day
When the Invisible Turf Monster caused David Givens and his ACL to part ways last week, I was shocked to even discover that David Givens still existed; while Tennessee appears to be a black hole for all success and notoriety right now (unless you are practicing for your mixed martial arts debut on unsuspecting opposing players), I still would’ve periodically expected to read something about a player who received a $24 million contract this offseason and was seen as a legitimate loss to the Patriots’ offense. I started to think about the other ex-Patriots who’d lost their way: Damian Woody getting benched for being unable to control his weight in Detroit, Lawyer Milloy going from being a reason to hate your coach to becoming a league vagabond, or Ty Law’s year barely holding his head above water on a Jets team trying to drag him to the bottom. While Law did have 10 interceptions last season, there were other metrics compiled by Football Outsiders that showed his slippage from the league’s best. He stopped 41% of the passes thrown in his direction, a number that ranked 80th amongst starting defensive backs in the league; he allowed 7.2 yards per pass attempt in his direction, which ranked 33rd. What I thought would be interesting to do for this week’s column would be to take a look at the ex-Patriots and see how they’re faring this year on foreign soil, using some of the advanced metrics at our disposal at Football Outsiders. I’ll explain each of them as they come up.
Joe Andruzzi (CLE)
Andruzzi’s currently playing left guard for the Browns, who currently have the worst offensive line in all of professional football according to FO’s Adjusted Line Yards. This stat measures the effectiveness of an offensive line in opening holes for a running back versus the effectiveness of a running back in simply being fantastic; as a result, offensive linemen are given less credit for plays where the result is a 30-yard-run and they’ve stopped blocking after six yards than on a play where the run goes for five and they’ve done all the lifting. The results are then compared to the average result against that down, distance, situation, and opponent, and then normalized so that the average team gains the average amount of yards (4.08) that an NFL team does on every play. The Browns, as I mentioned, sit dead last with 3.48 yards per rushing play. The weakness of the line? Left tackle Kevin Shaffer, who may legitimately be a worse run blocker than Richard Seymour. While Seymour is pouting. Shaffer’s .90 adjusted line yards behind him at left end are a ghastly figure, the lowest seen in some time. Furthermore, the Browns are last in the league at runs in the middle of the line, which could be expected due to the problems they’ve had in keeping a center healthy. Behind left tackle, the Browns are 20th in the league — so Andruzzi isn’t necessarily the weak link of the line, certainly, but he doesn’t appear to be great shakes, either.
Tom Ashworth (SEA)
Ashworth has been filling in at right tackle for Sean Locklear, who has been troubled by ankle injuries and the urge to beat up his girlfriend in public so far this season. In that sense, Ashworth is a huge upgrade on Sean Locklear as a human. On the football field? Ashworth’s been a bit of a mess. While Seneca Wallace has taken the blame for Leonard Little’s sack and forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown against the Rams last week, some of the blame has to realistically be placed on the guy Little blew right by, Ashworth. Furthermore, the Seattle offensive line play has gone down dramatically with the loss of Locklear and Steve Hutchinson’s poison pill move to Minnesota; the Seahawks, according to our adjusted sack rate statistic, rank 29th out of 32 teams in pass protection so far this year. Adjusted Sack Rate, much like Adjusted Line Yards, considers the context of opposition, down, distance, and situation so that the protection of teams who drop back 45 times a game (why hello Joseph Harrington!) can be compared to those teams that run the ball 40 times (and you’re doing well, every Jets opponent!) Furthermore, while the Seahawks rush offense ranks tenth in runs at right tackle, they are 24th in runs at right end, plays where Ashworth would be needed to block his end straight up while a guard pulls behind him, or alternately where he might be needed to get to the second-level and clear out a linebacker to make a two- or three-yard gain a seven- or eight-yard one.
Deion Branch (SEA)
Is Deion Branch’s season this year a wash? Are the Seahawks paying him like it is, or expecting it to be a wash for him? It’s hard to say. So far, Branch hasn’t been particularly impressive even whilst learning the offense in Seattle. Looking at the DVOA statistic that measures how Branch does versus an average wide receiver in the same situation, Branch’s -1.1% performance puts him 47th in the league for all wide receivers; it’ll be interesting to see whether that goes up in the second half and Branch returns to being a favorite of the statistic.
Matt Chatham (NYJ)
Establishing a hierarchy of emphaticity for “whoo’s”. Good for Matt. Still a solid special teams player, but the Jets run defense is the worst that the NFL has seen in six years. Not really Chatham’s fault, though.
Christian Fauria (WAS)
Fauria has struggled with an ankle injury in recent weeks and is yet to catch a pass this season in the Redskins offense, which I believe is some sort of mistaken performance art project using the screen pass and Santana Moss as a Christ-like figure.
David Givens (TEN)
See beginning. Givens caught eight passes in five games.
Brandon Gorin (ARI)
Gorin, traded in the offseason for a conditional pick, suited up for the first time last week against the Cowboys in a reserve role. He’s buried on what’s probably the most famously bad offensive line, after the Bears-Cardinals game, in years. On the bright side, he knows who the Bears are; on the brightest side, that joke is officially dead.
Damon Huard (KC)
Hey, finally some nice things to say! Huard was the sixth best quarterback in the league this season according to our DPAR statistic, and that’s even without playing in the first couple of games; his DVOA, which only counts the plays he was involved in, has him fifth. DPAR, by the way, measures the total number of points scored due to plays that the quarterback threw or ran with the ball versus that of a freely-available “replacement level” quarterback (insert your favorite ex-Steve Spurrier QB here). I say “was” instead of “is” because Huard is about to lose his job back to Trent Green, but he’s basically set himself up to be a highly-regarded backup quarterback for as long as he wants to be, and judging from his performance, a starting quarterback in those areas where God has scorched the earth. You know, like Oakland. Oh, and wherever Joey Harrington goes.
Bethel Johnson (MIN)
Last year, Minnesota ranked 12th in kick returns according to our adjusted kick return statistics, which account for location and measures kickoffs versus the average return. This year, employing Johnson as their primary kick returner, they’re tied for ninth. He doesn’t contribute anything to the passing game, but as a kick returner, Johnson’s fine.
Dan Klecko (IND)
Slightly less noticeably booed than Adam Vinatieri upon his return to New England, Klecko has played in six games and made two tackles. Much like I said about Matt Chatham earlier, Klecko’s an uninvolved part of one of the worst rush defenses in all of football.
Adrian Klemm (n/a)
The resurgence of the Packers’ offensive line (eight in the league in Adjusted Line Yards, and second in Adjusted Sack Rate) has gone on without Klemm, who was cut by the Packers before the season started. He hasn’t caught on anywhere, and he may have played his last NFL game.
Ty Law (KC)
As I mentioned earlier, while Law had a gaudy interception total last season, that may have had something to do with the fact that teams weren’t particularly concerned about throwing in his direction. This year, though, Law is doing much better. Football Outsiders tracks how teams do whilst defending the opposition’s #1 WR, #2 WR, other WR’s, tight ends, and running backs, relative again to situation and context. This season, the Chiefs are first in defending against #1 WR’s and 10th against #2 WR’s. I haven’t seen enough of the Chiefs this season to say whether Law is matching up against the opposition’s #1 receiver often or not, but either way, he and Patrick Surtain are clearly both having very effective seasons.
Willie McGinest (CLE)
Even though he hasn’t been playing with them this season, McGinest joined the rest of the Patriots linebackers in taking a comfortably large step back this season. While he won’t be appearing on the side of a milk carton like Mike Vrabel shortly will be, McGinest has struggled with injury this season and has only 16 tackles and 2 sacks in 7 games. On the other hand, McGinest can still serve as an assistant coach for Romeo Crennel whilst hurt, so there’s some added benefit there.
David Patten (WAS)
Patten went from being a nifty deep threat with the Patriots to being the worst regular wide receiver in all of football in 2005, according to both DPAR and DVOA. This year, Patten’s played in four games and caught one pass for 25 yards. His lack of proclivity is disappointing for someone with his surname.
Tyrone Poole (OAK)
I had no idea Poole was still in the league. None. Poole’s been a backup cornerback for the Raiders; while the Raiders’ defense has been solid this season, they’re 22nd in defending passes against the opposition’s #3, #4, and #5 wide receivers. He hasn’t hurt himself yet, though, which at least saves on physio costs.
Antowain Smith (n/a)
Smith was cut by the Texans at the beginning of the season and hasn’t caught on anywhere. He hasn’t officially retired, but when all Google News turns up for you are items from press releases about how you’re being passed for team records, you’re done.
Adam Vinatieri (IND)
Accounting for the effects of playing in a dome half the time and the distance of his kicks, Adam Vinatieri’s been the 12th best kicker in football this season on field goals. Of course, the one game-winning kick he had to make, he did so without fail, leading to Bill Simmons’ peak in the 2006 season. On kickoffs, though, Vinatieri was expected to be an improvement on the weak-legged Mike Vanderjagt; instead, though, the Colts have had the worst performance on kickoffs in all of football; the team has lost 8.9 points worth of field position since the beginning of the season. The Patriots, meanwhile, have gained two points of field position; that’s an eleven-point swing, and something to think about when analyzing the Gostkowski-Vinatieri tradeoff that not many people do.
Ken Walter (n/a)
Genesee County, Ohio Bowling Results, courtesy The Flint Journal:
Whitey Craine Memorial – Bryan Reagan 299-775, Bob Wirsing 298, Jesse Koch 289, Spider Edwards 771, Justin Crosby 279-752, Ken Walter 278-739, Larry Hubbard 704, Tim Bailey 279, John Ross Jr. 277, Tracy La Rose 288.
Ted Washington (CLE)
Is still enormous. Plays nose tackle for the Browns, who are 24th in the league in rush defense DVOA. Will remain enormous for foreseeable future, die, disintegrate into large pile of ash. So, he’s pretty much remained the same.
Damien Woody (DET)
Sprained his foot in Week 5 and was placed on IR. The Lions were 0-5 at that point. Woody has as many catches as Mike Williams, though, so presumably Matt Millen is pleased with his performance. In slightly worse news for Woody, the AOL Sports Blog noted last month that he’s being sued for $250,000 by a woman who claims Woody promised her financial security, marriage, and her own business to break an engagement to another man. The high point of the lawsuit, though, was the woman’s insistence that she’d agreed to have extensive dental and cosmetic surgery at Woody’s request. At that point, though, Woody was probably just trying to see what he could get away with, right?
Fred McCrary (ATL)
McCrary is the reserve fullback for the for the Falcons, who have the sixth best rushing offense in all of football. This is the antithesis of the Klecko and Chatham notes, except their almost perfectly-equal irrelevance to their teams’ success or failure.