Monday, August 26, 2013

My favorite non-Redskin players to watch

I've tweeted some of these names before, but partly out of boredom and partly because I was reminded by this tweet...

... I decided I may as well put together a little list.

This is not a list of best players. It is merely the ones who for totally subjective and biased reasons I tend to notice and enjoy the most when I catch them on TV. Also I am talking about my enjoyment of them throughout their careers, not necessarily just with their current team.

It's probably not a coincidence that this tends to skew towards team that end up in prime time a lot:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Are tactical innovations in the NFL making football fans' vocabulary obsolete?

You could say I came of age as a football watcher as a teenager in the 90s, so I consider traditional I-formation offenses to be the norm. That style of offense allowed for a fairly clean and simple understanding of what constituted play action. There's more to it than this, and occasional exceptions, but from our perspective as a fan any time we saw a fake handoff we could call it play action and we got by just fine. As Tanier said in a recent Mandatory Monday, "We need to learn enough Spanish to get around Barcelona; not every verb needs to be properly conjugated."

But recent tactical developments in the NFL such as read option and packaged plays (not the same thing, but there is overlap between them and it is not a coincidence that they are arriving in the NFL simultaneously) may force fans like us to abandon some of our simplistic definitions. A read option play in which the running back doesn't get the ball isn't so much a fake because up until the QB reads the defensive end's first step there was a legitimate chance the running back could end up getting a carry. Regular old fake handoffs, of course, are designed to be fake from the beginning.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Redskins I'm watching

Here's a short list of the Redskins I am most interested in watching now that I'm back in the blogging game after a year and a half off:

Will Montgomery

I try not to outright pick on players, but I was probably Will Montgomery’s most consistent critic last time this blog was active. Many commentators described him as at least adequate for a backup, a view which I tended to protest. Of course players improve with experience all the time (and the new offensive approach does wonders to help out O-linemen) so I wasn’t entirely shocked when he looked much better last year. I at least noticed that he wasn’t jumping off the screen as a liability each play, but Pro Football Focus gave him an outstanding +21.3 grade for the season. I strongly respect PFF’s work and find their grade’s informative, though they are not necessarily definitive and I feel free to disagree with them. So now that I am back to doing more detailed analysis I am looking forward to finding out whether Montgomery is as good as they seem to think.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On the problems of evaluating field goal kickers

 If you follow me on Twitter for some reason you may recall my objections to the general fan enthusiasm to cut Graham Gano or Billy Cundiff after every missed field goal or to praise Kai Forbath as a savior after every successful kick. You could be forgiven for thinking I was just being contrarian because I admit that's occasionally my thing. But I actually think the approach to evaluating field goal kickers - not only by fans and media but by NFL coaches as well - is deeply flawed in ways that will take more than 140 characters to discuss.


Let’s get right to the point: you can tell pretty much nothing about the quality of a field goal kicker from his field goal percentage. Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders wrote back in 2006 that “There is effectively no correlation between a kicker’s field-goal percentage one season and his field-goal percentage the next.”

What are some possible reasons for this?

Monday, August 5, 2013

The blog is coming back

I've got the itch again. After a hiatus of a year and a half I intend to start the blog back up for the 2013 season.

It may be in a somewhat limited capacity compared to what I did in the past. It is unlikely I will do the full play by play breakdowns of entire games. Most likely I will re-watch the games and then do more limited posts on certain aspects that I want to highlight.

This is for a few different reasons. The first and most obvious is simple time constraints. Additionally, committing to that format was rather limiting. I would get so hung up on completing all four quarters that it pretty much prevented me from writing other kinds of posts. Less ambitious goals will let me dole out some bite size chunks in a way that can work for readers who don't have the patience to slog all the way through the play by play. I know that if you read my stuff you read every other Redskins blog and site, so by not even trying to be comprehensive it will increase the odds that I can contribute something that you don't see elsewhere.

For this preseason, you will probably not be seeing the usual stuff like roster predictions. This is because I was exceptionally busy last year and was unable to spend any more time on the Redskins than watching each game once, live. I frankly lack strong opinions on most of the bottom half of the roster. So this August I will be getting back up to speed on this team, at least when it comes to the details.

(NB: In 2012 the Redskins built around a superstar rookie QB, were at the forefront of a tactical revolution that swept the NFL, and went on a dramatic win streak to turn what seemed like a lost  season into a surprise playoff berth. Yep, THAT's the year I took off.)

Within the next day or two I should be able to publish a piece I've been working on about the problems of measuring field goal ability and how, as I perceive it, NFL teams do not make rational decisions when it comes to signing and cutting kickers.

After that the first preseason game will be upon us, and we'll just play it by ear from there.

Cool? Cool.