FanPost

Do we really run better to the right? An investigation.

 

It seems obligatory around here for first time posters to let everyone know that they are indeed posting for the first time, so let's get this out of the way, shall we?

(I suspect that it's to elicit sympathy from other readers, who are used to being spoiled with great writing and analysis from the regulars, who set the standard high.  Tomlin says that the standard does not change, though, so I'm not sure how well this ploy by first-timers actually works since BTSC readers probably agree with those sentiments...)

Anyway... Hello, everyone, this is my first Fanpost.  Been reading the site for about a year and a half, but only became a member in October.  It's great to be here.

Having said that, I wanted to share some statistics with you on our running game.

(I think this is where I say, "More after the jump.")

I've been putting together a data base of offensive performance, and so far have games 5 (Browns) to 12 (Ravens) processed.  It's basically a compilation of the Game Books that the NFL publishes; plus the Offensive Participation charts put together by the kind folks at Steelers Depot (thanks for the head's up, fajita); plus stuff that I pick up when I go back and watch the tape.  8 games is, of course, half a season, and it coincides with the return of Big Ben after his suspension.

We have a lot of very perspective and knowledgeable people on this site, and I've read several times in articles and comments that we run better to the right.  I'm a numbers guy myself, so I like to verify things with measureable statistics, and I decided to put that affirmation to the test.  Do we really run better to the right?

First, some basic data on our running game during this eight game span:

·         We had a total of 514 offensive plays.  We passed 259 times, BB was sacked 22 times and we ran 233.  Counting the sacks as pass plays, that means 54.7% of the time we have dropped back to pass and we've run 45.3%.

 

·         The high-water mark for passing was the Patriot game, when we pretty much abandoned the run in the second half after we fell behind by a wide margin.  77.1% of the plays were drop backs (again, including the sacks).  We only ran 4 times in the entire second half and not at all in the 4th quarter.

 

·         In percentage terms, the high-water mark for running was the Brown game, BB's first after his suspension.  We ran 56.5% of the time.  But the game with the most running attempts was against the Bills (45), when we posted our highest yardage (206).

 

·         We have averaged 113 yards per game on the ground.

Now, here's the chart on how we have fared rushing, considering the direction of the play:

Games 5 through 12

DIRECTION

ATTEMPTS

YARDS

YDS/ATT

% ATTEMPTS

LE

7

43

6,1

3,0%

LT

29

117

4,0

12,4%

LG

30

78

2,6

12,9%

ALL LEFT

66

238

3,6

28,3%

 

 

 

 

 

M

60

193

3,2

25,8%

 

 

 

 

 

RG

43

229

5,3

18,5%

RT

42

193

4,6

18,0%

RE

14

58

4,1

6,0%

ALL RIGHT

99

480

4,8

42,5%

 

 

 

 

 

Kneels

8

-5

-0,6

3,4%

 

 

 

 

 

GRAND TOTAL

233

906

3,9

100,0%

 

Comparatively speaking, we do worst when we try to run it straight into the middle.  But we have indeed favored the right side and, not only that, we rack up more yards per carry when we actually run that way instead of left or "up the gut."  Kudos to all of those who sensed this intuitively without needing a stats table to notice (unlike me).  So, yes, we do run better to the right in terms of yards per carry.

But why?

I am not an expert on line play, so I tried looking for some "obvious" reasons for this.  For example, at first I wondered if the injuries that we've had could be a factor in the difference in running effectiveness.  We've had a "revolving door" in the words of one poster, but have we had more injuries on the left than on the right?  

After looking at the Offensive Participation charts, it would appear that we've had just as much turnover on the right side as we have had on the left.  To wit: 

·         During the 8 game span, we've had Legursky, Foster and Essex all play RG. Adams played RT in all of them, though he missed the latter part of the game against Miami and was recently injured versus the Ravens.   He was replaced by Jonathan Scott the first time, by Essex the second. 

 

·         On the left side, at tackle it was Starks until he went down against the Bengals, and it's been J. Scott ever since.  At LG, Kemoeatu was replaced by J. Scott, Legursky and Foster during the game and a half he was out, but then came back. 

 

·         In the middle, Pouncey, of course, has been a veritable rock, only missing some snaps against the Bengals.

So then I wondered, could we have more bodies blocking when we run right vs. when we run left?  In other words, is there more TE or FB support when we run to the right vs. when we run to the left?  Put another way, is there something in play construction itself that could be behind the difference in rushing effectiveness?

For this analysis, I eliminated all of the kneels, which leaves us with 225 running attempts.  Then for each attempt, I used Offensive Participation to record when we had TEs on the left (one or two) or on the right (one or two); when we had a FB or even a HB sharing the backfield with the RB; and when we had neither TEs or backfield help. 

Here's are the results on a percentage basis:

 

 

Blocking Support Line Up

DIRECTION

RUN

TE's on

TE's on

FB or

None

 

ATTEMPTS

Left

Right

HB

 

ALL LEFT

100,0%

51,5%

72,7%

50,0%

1,5%

M

100,0%

50,0%

75,0%

40,0%

6,7%

ALL RIGHT

100,0%

30,3%

85,9%

31,3%

4,0%

TOTAL

100,0%

41,8%

79,1%

39,1%

4,0%

 

If we take the "All Left" data, you'll notice that 51.5% + 72.7% + 50.% + 1.5% is greater than 100%.  That's because each attempt can "score" more than 100%.  Why?  Due to the way that I tabulated the data, if we had just one run play to the left with 1 TE on the left, 1 TE on the right and a FB on the field at the same time (believe it or not, it has happened this season), the table would show 100% / 100% / 100% / 0%.

I'm not really sure what conclusion to draw from the plays when we ran up the middle, but to me the table does suggest that we offer a bit more blocking support when we run right, vs. when we run left. 

Why?  When we run right, 86% of the time we have at least one TE on that side, and in addition, nearly 1 in 3 plays to the right include a FB or HB.  When we run left, we're actually more likely to have TEs on the right side of the field: nearly 73% of the time we have bodies on the right, compared to having bodies on the left side 52% of the time.  Perhaps that's why we use the FB more frequently when we right left; maybe he's "playing the role" of a second TE when it comes to blocking.

One thing that is true: we are much more likely to load up the right side with 2 TEs when we run right, than we are to load up the left side when we  go left.  Although I don't present those percentages in the previous table, 35% of the runs to the right feature 2 TEs on that side; we had 2 TEs on the left only 15% of the times when we ran in that direction.

Of course, after all of these statistics, the answer could be even simpler: the guys on the right side of the line might just be better run blockers than the guys on the left.  But like I said, I'm a numbers guy, so I had to crunch some data to wrap my head around my initial question.

Anyway, what do you guys think?

Hoping that there are actually readers who have gotten this far without their eyes glazing over, this is Chileburger signing off.

(P.S. Please let me know if the graphs were clear enough in support of the text.  Thanks!)

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