Analyzes imply Teddy Bridgewater’s offensive model may work for Denver Broncos
As the Denver Broncos announced Teddy Bridgewater as a starting quarterback, there appeared to be some setback regarding his perceived lack of deep balling prowess. The dominant idea was that the defenses would stack the box and stuff the Broncos offense, because no team will be afraid of a “Check-down Charlie”.
Even if these opinions are true – although this is more of an overreaction than anything else – the game of “dink and dunk” works in the NFL. I have analyzed 10 NFL seasons of play-by-play data that indicate that a short passing game and football execution can be very effective in moving strings.
Let me break it down.
Improve the odds
A team that gives itself more chances, even if it is not done with high-profile games, is a good offense. Look no further than the origins of the West Coast offensive designed by the late Bill Walsh and his horizontal pass attack that kept the defenses on their heels, leading to a dynasty in San Francisco.
Bottom line, moving the chains would give the Broncos more scoring chances. At the very least, it will help the club’s strongest unit: defense.
In the 10 years of data, there have been approximately 59,000 disks and over 37,000 of them have caused the chains to move at least once. All of these discs are included in many cases of ‘stacking the box’ defenses and quarterbacks without strong arms leading to an offense.
I’m not just talking about converting at the third down. Each time a team crosses this marker, on any down, they give themselves another set of chances to start over.
Breaking it down further, it doesn’t matter if a team runs or passes the first down. It is a 50/50 split between the race and the pass for these 37,000 discs which led to a first attempt for the offensive.
Getting at least three yards on this play was the threshold to put the offense in the required position to move the chains to third base. Instead of setting 22% odds on a first down game that won less than three yards, games that scored more than three improved the chances of third down success to almost 50%.
By digging even deeper, some light is shed on the effectiveness of rushing the ball on the first play in a set of downs. Most of the passes that are thrown in this first game end without winning due to incompleteness.
Of the 8,700 passes that gained zero yards, only 48% of those passes ended up moving the chains at least once. This percentage is slightly better than the races which won no yards, at 46%.
By including games that have gained one, two, three, and four yards, racing games become the most viable option. Rushing the ball increases the chances of the offense, as the team goes a greater distance up to four meters from the passing game.
I don’t know why this happens – when both ways of attacking gain the same distance, but it does.
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The rushed attack offers the best chance of success
The rushed attack outperforms the passing attack overall. Running first to start training and gain 0 to 4 yards has a 55% chance of moving chains. Passing that first initial down and gaining 0 to 4 yards has a 52% chance of doing the same.
Frankly, 3% is a small difference and it’s probably insignificant, but it’s good to know that the running game in the NFL today can still be an effective tool for attacking a defense.
What this means
What this analysis suggests is that an offense can throw the ball or “dink and dunk” and still have a decent chance of getting another first down. That’s important for the Broncos because they’re going to have a good running game with two running backs – Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams – who can break tackles and generate yards.
Williams is the most likely full back to get those hotly contested yards and he’s a fresh young rookie. This bodes well for the Broncos as Bridgewater is able to connect fairly regularly with his safety valve.
He plays it safe until he gets a shot in the field. Playing it safe works in the NFL, even if it doesn’t turn fans on.
An annoying offense that can shake the chains combined with a defense that could end up in the league’s top 5 will win games for the Broncos. It should make fans happy, even if it doesn’t get them excited.
Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasHallNFL.
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