Back in September after the victory over the Tennessee Titans, I wrote an article about Luke McCown’s seven yards per attempt. I outlined how it can alleviate some pressure placed on Maurice Jones-Drew (turns out he didn’t need it) and the running game and open up some plays down field. I also made some outrageously errant predictions on the Jets/Jags game, but we don’t need to dwell on that, do we?
Would seven yards off dinking and dunking pass plays work well for the Jaguars? How well did other quarterbacks do? Was Blaine Gabbert even close to hitting that level? Can we hit it in 2012. We don’t really know, but we can definitely look at the numbers and see what they tell us.
Considering Pocket Hercules’ (errr….Pocket Atlas…it’s gonna be a thing!) dominance all season, is it fair to assume that if the Jags’ passing offense hadn’t been dead last, he could have eaten up more yards against less 7-9 men fronts? Absolutely. And at the very least, we would have been getting more yards on the whole.
MJD averaged 4.7 yards per attempt on 343 attempts. Blaine Gabbert averaged 5.4 yards per attempt on 413 attempts. What can this tell us? It tells us that there really wasn’t any incentive for defenses to cover the Jaguars’ passing game (duh), but that means that the defense could hardly make it worth their while to defend the pass when MJD easily could have exploded into the second level of the defense and laid the corners and safeties to waste or run past them all day.
What if things had been different?
Of the top 10 quarterbacks in yards per attempt, including Matt Schaub pre-injury, six of the ten made it to the playoffs. Two of them still have a chance to meet each other in the Superbowl (Eli Manning and Tom Brady). How is this relevant (besides the obvious success of quarterbacks who pick up 7.8 – 9.2 yards per attempt) to the Jaguars?
Only three of the quarterbacks(Schaub, Vick, and Rivers) had a running back in the top 10 of total yards all year. So the other seven (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton) were able to promote successful offenses with running backs that didn’t have to perform at a super high level (keep in mind that MJD won the rushing title by ~250 yards). Of those top ten rushers, none of them were in the top 10 of rushing yards per attempt (Cam Newton was the top player in yards per attempt though).
Does this mean that a running focused offense won’t be successful? Not overly, some teams desperately need the balance (Ray Rice and Joe Flacco). It does mean that even though the defense obviously had more respect for the passing game, and had to divert more men to stopping the pass, the successful teams were able to find success despite not fielding a top rusher.
And the lowest of the top 10 quarterbacks averaged 7.8 yards per attempt. Sure, it’s 4/5ths of a yard higher than the seven yards per attempt I said could make the Jaguars successful at the start of the 2011 season. But imagine if we even hit seven? Blaine Gabbert would have had the potential of 2,891 yards off his 413 attempts. A full 600 more than what he had all season and enough of a threat to force one or two more men away from the line.
Blame the quarterback, blame the receivers, blame Dirk Koetter, whoever you want really. It doesn’t change the fact the Jaguars have a failing system in place to capitalize on the abilities of Maurice Jones-Drew. Seven yards per attempt isn’t very high. But the amount of pressure placed on our dear running back from an anemic passing attack needs to change.
We increase the extra couple of yards from yards after the catch, from better route running, from falling forward rather than backward, what have you, and the Jags become considerably more balanced and are able to move the ball far more effectively. Maybe they could have been one of the six teams to make it to the playoffs.
We’ll never know. We don’t know.
But what if we had?
– Luke N. Sims