FanDuel - WFBC

November 29, 2007

The Curious Case of Willis' Baltimore-time:
What made it strange was that the Ravens, of any team, should have seen how fungible running back performance was. After drafting Lewis in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft, the Ravens allowed him to start while benching their previous starter, Priest Holmes. Holmes served as Lewis’ backup before departing for Kansas City, where he put up several historic seasons as part of the offensive juggernaut there. Holmes’ replacement as Lewis’ backup was Chester Taylor, who then departed for Minnesota after his rookie contract expired and proceeded to put up a 1216-yard season.

posted by yerfatma to football at 06:52 AM - 9 comments

I think that i get the point of the article, but it doesn't really present a solution. Is the author saying it is only through good drafting that your running game improves, or that improvement on the O-line through free agency is better than trading for a back? If trading for a star back isn't going to help you, I'm curious as to what the "right" way to do it is then.

posted by brainofdtrain at 07:28 AM on November 29

I'm guessing a better line and then maybe a hint of passing game would be useful to the Ravens. This isn't 1938; they're not going to Bronco Nagurski their way through the league.

posted by yerfatma at 08:10 AM on November 29

I had to go looking for a definition of DVOA after reading this. I like the idea of sabrematricians going nuts on football. But anyone looking at the math of the Baltimore Ravens offense has a stronger constitution than I do.

posted by rcade at 09:10 AM on November 29

Interesting article. Thanks yerfatma. I find it difficult to believe that there are football people who don't appreciate that the offensive line is really the key to the whole offense. Tom Brady is having a season for the ages, yes, and his offensive line is having one too. No coincidence. A.J. Feeley had a mostly terric game last week in Donovan McNabb's absence, and the offensive line had one of the best games it's had all year. No coincidence.

posted by DudeDykstra at 12:04 PM on November 29

But anyone looking at the math of the Baltimore Ravens offense has a stronger constitution than I do. I agree. I thought it was impossible to divide by zero.

posted by hootch at 01:56 PM on November 29

I like the idea of sabrematricians going nuts on football. I did too and even bought the pro football prospectus a few years back. The reality though is it doesn't translate as well to football as it does to baseball because it's just to subjective and not as "individual" (in fact the whole first chapter of the book was trying to convince you HOW it could translate to football..it was just a weak argument). For example, how do you compare the value of a CB against another CB? Is a ball caught in zone in an open space the Safeties fault or the Corner? Or did the LB not drop deep enough? Or how do you even know if it was man or zone? Or if the guy thought it was zone but it was really man? etc. As a former CB, I see enough fans sit at these bars complaining about how a CB got "burned" and "sucks" when the play was obvious to me that he was expecting safety help and the safety got sucked up...or the opposite where the CB is supposed to funnel the WR in to help the safety but because he doesn't the safety is too stretched to get to the ball and it looks like the safety is at fault. Offense isn't any more concrete...too many variables like o-line play, QB versatility,etc. It's not as simple as pitcher versus batter and field variances.

posted by bdaddy at 03:41 PM on November 29

Agreed. Basically there are no discrete events in the other major US sports.

posted by yerfatma at 03:53 PM on November 29

Offense isn't any more concrete...too many variables like o-line play, QB versatility,etc. It's not as simple as pitcher versus batter and field variances. I agree. And this is why I'm not a fan of fantasy football. It seems to disrespect the team concept of the game by making it about individual players and disregarding the importance of line play, play calling, etc.

posted by cjets at 10:52 PM on November 29

It's all about the line. While certain backs are talented enough to produce big numbers with sub-par lines in front of them, the majority only excel if the group in front of them are dominant. I don't think McGahee will ever put up consistently great numbers unless he runs behind a great line. Minnesota comes to mind. Running behind guys like Hutchinson, Birk, and McKinnie, Adrian Peterson or Chester Taylor look fantastic. I seriously doubt Peterson would have the huge stats he has if he was playing for Baltimore or Buffalo. In my opinion, Hutchinson is a key. He anchored a line that allowed Shaun Alexander to dominate in Seattle, and now that he's gone, their running game suffers. He goes to Minnesota, and Peterson runs crazy. When Cleveland passed on Peterson and drafted Joe Thomas instead, many Browns fans were upset. In the long run, though, I think they'll see they made a great decision. Bolster your line to the point it's dominant and you can find any number of backs who can be very successful. As a side note from a Bills fan, I would still like to thank Baltimore for taking McGahee. He's a malcontent and not half the runner Marshawn Lynch is now or will be in the future. Willis is custom-made for the horrible offense Billick has put together in Baltimore.

posted by dyams at 12:18 PM on November 30

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