06 October 2011

By the Numbers: Examining the Saints after Four Games

At four-week intervals, I'll be reviewing the Saints to see how they rank league-wide using a smattering of data.

We'll look at a variety of offensive and defensive statistics, and see how the Saints have fared thus far. We'll also highlight stats/rankings from the Saints' top performers and lastly, we'll dig up some random data to boot.  Again, all of the subsequent rankings will be in relation to the entire NFL. 

Here's how the Saints stack up through the first 4 weeks of the season. There are a lot of stats to follow. You've been warned. 

Offense, general
* Points per game, 5th: 31.8
* Yards per game, 2nd: 454 
* Yards per play, 6th: 6.3 
* Third-down conversions, 2nd: 55% 
* Red zone scoring attempts/game, 3rd: 4.8 
* Red zone scoring percentage, 20th: 42.1% 

Also noteworthy, the Saints rank 6th in time of possession. In the first half of games thus far, the Saints' time of possession percentage is a middling 47.2% which ranks 21st league-wide. In the second half, however, the Saints rank first in time of possession percentage at 61.4%. 

This stat can mean a host of things, but it might indicate that the Saints have a tendency to start slowly on offense and then find their rhythm as they make adjustments to defensive tactics during the game. 

Offense, rushing 
* Rushing attempts per game, 13th: 26.5 
* Rushing yards per game, 10th: 119
* Rushing yards per attempt, 7th: 4.5

Noteworthy among the rushing stats is that the Saints dedicate a significantly lower proportion of their offensive plays to running the ball. Specifically, the Saints rank 26th in the league in rushing percentage. More specifically, the Saints call runs on only 36.7% of their offensive plays. But regardless of the low proportion, the Saints have been efficient in their rushing attack thus far. 

Offense, passing
* Passing attempts per game, 1st: 43.5
* Passing yards per game, 2nd: 335
* Passing yards per completion, 20th: 11.2

Also in the passing game so far, the Saints have been just mediocre at protecting Drew Brees. The Saints rank 17th in the league in sacks allowed/game with 2.2. They do a little better in sack percentage, which measures what percentage of pass attempts results in sacks. In this category, the Saints rank 13th at 4.9%. 

Defense, general
* Points allowed per game, 20th: 24.5
* Yards allowed per game, 15th: 348
* Yards allowed per play, 13th: 5.5
* Third-down conversions allowed, 16th: 37.7%
* Red zone attempts allowed per game, 13th: 3
* Red zone scoring percentage allowed per game, 26th: 58.3%

The ugliest stat I discovered is that the Saints are 31st in first-quarter defense, allowing an average of 9.5 points in the first quarter. Overall, the defense improves to allow just 8.5 points total in the second half which ranks 10th league-wide. 

Defense, rushing and passing
* Rush yards allowed per game, 9th: 94
* Rush yards allowed per attempt, 22nd: 4.6
* Pass yards allowed per game, 19th: 254
* Pass yards allowed per completion, 25th: 12.1
* Sacks, 3rd: 13

The most glaring areas of the defensive stats are the yards allowed per rushing attempt and yards allowed per passing completion. These stats are mildly alarming and have likely been mitigated by the Saints' excellence at sacking the QB, thus consistently putting opponents in long down-and-distance scenarios.

Now that we've looked at the main offensive and defensive stats thus far, let's look at the Saints' top three performers this season. After that, I'll cover some random, but important, stats and rankings. 

Drew Brees
* Total passing attempts, 1st: 174
* Total completions, 1st: 120
* Completion percentage, 2nd: 69%
* Passing yards, 2nd: 1410
* Passing touchdowns, 4th: 10

Now for some advanced ratings on Brees ...

* Passer efficiency rating (PER), 5th > the traditional NFL metric 
* Quarterback rating (QBR), 6th > a new metric designed by ESPN 
* Win probability added (WPA), 5th > a metric from Advanced NFL Stats  
* Defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR), 3rd > a metric from the Football Outsiders 

Darren Sproles
* All-purpose yards, 1st: 716
* Receptions, 3rd: 26
* Rushing yards per attempt, 1st: 8.9 > among RBs with at least 15 carries
* Kick return yards, 5th: 251
* Punt return yards, 11th: 107

Jimmy Graham
* Receiving yards, 5th: 357
* Receptions by a TE, 2nd: 24 > this ranks 11th overall 
* Receiving yards per game by a TE, 1st: 91.8 > this ranks 8th overall
* Win probability added (WPA) among TEs, 1st
* Defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) among TEs, 2nd

Lastly, here's a look at some other stats and rankings that don't fit neatly into the categories above. These are both team-specific and player-specific. 

Random Data, team
* Turnover Differential, 13th: -3
* Net yards per punt, 2nd: 45.7 > equates to coverage and punt angling
* Offensive line run blocking efficiency, 3rd > courtesy of the Football Outsiders
* Defensive line run stuffing efficiency, 8th > likewise from the Football Outsiders
* Special teams efficiency rating, 11th > also from the Football Outsiders

Random Data, players
* Roman Harper, 3rd in tackles with 24 and 11th in sacks with 3.5
* Jabari Greer, 1st in passes defended with 8
* Pierre Thomas, 10th in rushing yards per attempt with 5.04
* Thomas Morstead, 8th in yards per punt with 48.5

The very last extrapolation I wanted to share is that the LB play has been very poor. The Saints three leading tacklers are Harper, Greer, and Jenkins--all defensive backs. This is an indictment of the front-seven and an area that needs significant improvement. 

If you made it all the way through this, I hope you enjoyed it. 


  1. I'm swimming in stats! Nice.

  2. Luckily Don, you are a very good swimmer. So I'm sure you emerged unscathed.