Seahawk Similarity Scores: The Offense, Pt. 3

In the conclusion of a three-part series, Seahawks.NET's Doug Farrar finishes a detailed look at Seattle's 2005 offense. Using Football Outsiders' proprietary Similarity Scores and performance-based statistics, and with the help of FO's Aaron Schatz, we turn our attention to the Seahawks' receivers.

(Note: You can find Part One of the Seahawks Similarity Scores series, discussing the historical comparisons to Matt Hasselbeck, here. Part Two covers Shaun Alexander’s 2005 season and can be found here.)

Before I get into the 2005 seasons of Seattle’s receivers, I want to discuss a couple of things about this series of articles, and Similarity Scores as they apply to professional football.

First of all, I can’t thank Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders enough for his help with this project. Aaron is the one who devised the scores we have used in this series, as well as their formulas. He’s been very patient with me as I went back to the well over and over again, asking that this player or that player have his comparisons run, not to mention bombarding him with questions as I tried to make as much sense of these numbers and what they mean as possible. That he did all of this at the end of his own enormous book project (the soon-to-be-released Football Prospectus 2006) speaks volumes about his patience, generosity and true dedication to football research.

The first two articles in this series were far easier to write than this one, for reasons I will detail here. For various reasons, Seattle’s receivers with significant playing time in 2005 (and those who are projected to have significant time in 2006) had what might be called “inconclusive” seasons. With Hasselbeck and Alexander, there had been a season-to-season curve of consistency upon which to base one-year historical comparisons without those comparisons weakening due to spiky career performances. Neither player missed any major time due to injury in 2005. Neither player picked up significant playing time he didn’t get in prior years.

However, in the cases of Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram, Joe Jurevicius and Jerramy Stevens, comparison past performances in recent NFL history is more difficult to do with the same manner of certainty or validity. Aaron endeavors to answer unusual, or non-definitive, single-season performances with two- and three-year comparisons – the three-year comps, and the explanation of the formulas behind those comps, can be found for all four receivers at the end of this article. In addition, we have included these numbers for Nate Burleson.

In an article on running back deterioration published on June 22, FootballGuys.com’s Doug Drinen makes the following assertion:

It's very difficult to find truly comparable pairs where the previous workloads were significantly different.

No matter how you crunch or normalize the numbers, it seems more difficult to make these comparisons stick and stay when you’re not doing one of two things: Comparing single seasons which eventually regress to the mean or provide some sort of believable consistency, or comparing entire careers. Baseball-Reference.com, who put together player comparisons based on Bill James’ book, The Politics of Glory, invented an interesting work-around to this issue – they compare players by career and through each age (season). In other words, you can look up Pedro Martinez, and you can see how he looked from year to year in a comparative sense.

In his first five seasons, as Martinez was developing into what he would become, his comps are such “immortals” as Charlie Kerfeld, Larry Demery and Jake Peavy. As he came into his own in Montréal and Boston, you have the following eight comps: Three Roger Clemens (26/27/28), followed by two Juan Marichals (29/30) and three more Clemens. Even with the statistical vagaries of any athletic career, we have some frame of reference. With football comps, the idea of season-to-season standards is still being developed. But there might be a time when you could go back through the career of, say, John Elway, and see who he was most similar to from season to season.

This would provide an additional perspective we don’t yet have. We know that Elway was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but wouldn’t it give more dimension to his career to know who his closest comps were all the way through? After all, we can look at Pedro Martinez’ year-to-year stats, and they tell us certain things – but if we know that from the age comparisons that he ranks favorably with two of the all-time greats, that tells us something different. If we know that his closest career comparison to date is Sandy Koufax, that tells us still more.

We don’t yet have those numbers for every NFL player, but we do have Football Outsiders’ proprietary statistics, which rate receivers by different standards than the numbers you may be used to. As the FO site explains them:

DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which breaks down the NFL season play by play to see how much success offensive players achieved in each specific situation compared to the league average;

VOA, or Value Over Average.  VOA breaks down every single play of the NFL season to see how much success offensive players achieved in each specific situation compared to the league average, but is not adjusted based on opponent;

DPAR, or Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement, which rates how much better a player is than a "replacement-level" player;

Catch %, which represents the percentage of passes to this receiver completed. This is a reference to incomplete passes, not dropped passes: dropped passes are not specified in publicly available play-by-play.

For the purposes of analysis, we will alter the focus when discussing Seattle’s 2005 receivers – we will turn away from historical comparison as the grading instrument, and use individual comparison instead. So…it’s more difficult to see where these guys rate on the historical timeline – but what we CAN do is endeavor to explain just why Seattle’s passing offense was so much more effective in 2005.

According to Mike Holmgren in a pre-Super Bowl interview, the Seahawks almost halved the number of passes they dropped from 2004 to 2005 – from 43 to 23. Taking that into account, let’s look at how those extra drops affected Hasselbeck’s 2004 season. This is his actual 2004:

Year

Team

G

GS

Att

Comp

Pct

Yards

YPA

Lg

TD

Int

Tkld

20+

40+

Rate

2004

Seattle

14

14

474

279

58.9

3382

7.14

60

22

15

30/155

43

2

83.1

Here’s how that season would look if you added 20 more completed passes with an average gain of 7.14 yards, no additional touchdowns, and no additional interceptions – just the catches:

Year

Team

G

GS

Att

Comp

Pct

Yards

YPA

Lg

TD

Int

Tkld

20+

40+

Rate

2004

Seattle

14

14

474

299

63.1

3525

7.44

60

22

15

30/155

43

2

87.9

Not bad for 14 games, no? And here’s Hasselbeck’s 2005 season:

Year

Team

G

GS

Att

Comp

Pct

Yards

YPA

Lg

TD

Int

Tkld

20+

40+

Rate

2005

Seattle

16

16

449

294

65.5

3459

7.70

56

24

9

24/154

41

7

98.2

2005 was Hasselbeck’s best career year from an efficiency perspective, but this was, in part, because his receivers allowed that efficiency to improve. Let’s take a look at the comparable ratings:

RECEIVING: Minimum 50 passes

Darrell Jackson, 2004 Seattle Seahawks

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

SEA

20.0

29

18.7

32

4.2%

45

2.7%

155

1199

7

56%

Darrell Jackson, 2005 Seattle Seahawks

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

SEA

14.3

26

15.5

26

23.1%

8

26.7%

55

482

3

69%

Jackson’s 2005 wasn’t supposed to be like this. After registering career highs in yards and receptions in 2004 and amassing a total of 155 catches for 2,336 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2003 and 2004, Jackson was on the verge of moving from “1a” receiver status and joining the NFL’s elite. A series of minicamp holdouts didn’t seem to affect his game when the season began – he passed the 100-yard mark in two of his first four games – but he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee against the Washington Redskins on October 2nd and missed the next nine games. Seattle lost to Washington and fell to a 2-2 record, leaving the Seahawks faithful fearing another snakebit season. Little did they know that their team would not lose another meaningful game until the Super Bowl, due in great measure to the men who stepped up and replaced Jackson on the field.

Within his own smaller sample size in 2005, Jackson’s catch percentage speaks to the new reliability of the team’s receivers. Prorated, the numbers he put up in 2005 would most certainly put him in the upper echelon (101 catches/1,285 yards/12.7 avg./8 TD), and his is the most intriguing potential production when discussing what this offense might do for an encore.

Bobby Engram, 2004 Seattle Seahawks

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

SEA

12.0

44

11.2

44

18.9%

25

16.5%

53

499

2

68%

Bobby Engram, 2005 Seattle Seahawks

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

SEA

13.2

29

16.2

25

4.4%

41

9.7%

97

778

3

69%

Engram made a fairly major switch in 2005 when he was asked by Mike Holmgren to move from the slot to split end after Koren Robinson was released. Although the move raised many questions – at 5’10” and 188 pounds, he was thought to be to small for the rigors of the position and too slow to get separation from elite cornerbacks – Engram silenced the doubters as he has always done. Through the first four games of the season, Engram nearly matched Jackson’s production (27 catches to Jackson’s 29, and 316 yards to Jackson’s 376). Engram suffered cracked ribs in the Washington game – the same game that saw Jackson hurt – and missed the next three contests. It’s indicative of Engram’s toughness that his ribs were cracked the first time he was hit in that game, and he went on to catch 9 balls for 106 yards before leaving in the third quarter.

When he returned on November 6th against the Cardinals, Engram picked up where he left off, working in concert with Joe Jurevicius and a gaggle of under-the-radar receivers to help the offense find balance. He caught six passes per game in five of the next seven games, and led the team in receptions and yards for the season. He also provided extremely valuable consistency from season to season in catch percentage, tying for second in the NFL with Steve Smith and Darrell Jackson behind San Diego’s Eric Parker at 71%. Engram will be moving back to the slot as long as Jackson and Nate Burleson stay healthy, and Matt Hasselbeck will regain the use of one of the NFL’s best possession targets over the middle. From 2002 through 2004, 55 of Engram’s catches brought the Seahawks a first down on a third-down play.

Koren Robinson, 2004 Seattle Seahawks

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

SEA

6.3

51

4.9

55

-0.3%

48

-4.1%

67

495

2

46%

Joe Jurevicius, 2005 Seattle Seahawks

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

SEA

20.7

20

23.5

18

20.9%

10

26.8%

84

694

10

65%

"My name in the league ... I've got baggage with my name. I never wanted that." – Koren Robinson, April, 2004

It’s not always easy to define the concept of value, but looking at Joe Jurevicius’ 2005 season, and comparing it with Koren Robinson’s 2004, is about as big a brick in the face as you’ll ever get.

Jurevicius was signed by the Seahawks on March 25, 2005, and moved up the depth chart when Robinson was released on June 2 after the latest in a long line of embarrassments when he was charged on May 6th with DUI and reckless driving. This followed league and team related suspensions in 2004 (including a 4-gamer from the NFL). His errant lifestyle crossed purposes with Tim Ruskell’s character-first credo far more than it did with Mike Holmgren’s supreme enablement – from 2003 through 2005, Robinson had been cited for 21 infractions, including driving 105 in a 60-mph zone - and it was made clear to the 2001 first-round draft choice that he was on his last life with the Seahawks. When Robinson did play in 2004, his time was marked by rabid inconsistency – games in which he appeared to be mentally absent, countered by performances such as the 9-catch, 150-yard masterpiece against the Patriots in mid-October. Robinson’s anemic catch percentage was fifth-worst in the NFL in 2004. For Ruskell’s vision of the team, feast-or-famine production wasn’t going to cut it…

…which is why the Jurevicius move was a sentient mixture of pure luck and sheer brilliance. Luck because the former Buccaneer had missed significant time in 2003 and 2004 due to injury, and sheer brilliance because there are few better examples of the on-field intangible. Jurevicius came in and did everything asked of him, avoided injury, blocked like a maniac, held on to just about everything thrown his way, and provided a supreme role model of toughness and consistency for his battery mates. It was extremely significant that the Seahawks’ top three receivers had a better catch percentage than any other team’s top three with more than fifty passes each – only San Diego had more than one receiver at 65% or above. Jurevicius wasn’t the only reason for this, but he might have been the biggest. When Jackson and Engram were hurt, it was Jurevicius who took the lead. When big catches were needed, he made them. He provided the reliable red zone presence the team desperately needed, leading the Seahawks with 10 touchdown catches, and he wasn’t ever afraid to do the dirty work.

His career year allowed him an impressive long-term contract with the Cleveland Browns, and thousands of Seahawk fan man-crushes in his wake. I try to avoid getting goopy about football players anymore, but I’m proud to say that Joe Jurevicius is a notable exception to that rule.

Jerramy Stevens, 2004 Seattle Seahawks

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

SEA

8.4

14

9.6

12

13.9%

14

18.4%

47

349

3

66%

Jerramy Stevens, 2005 Seattle Seahawks

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch
%

SEA

16.6

5

16.9

6

23.9%

7

24.6%

68

554

5

66%

Some good news and bad for Mr. Stevens, the young man who’s sharing the Super Bowl XL goat horns with a large number of officials…

First, the good news. Stevens’ stats improved in 2005, as he was asked to take the lead role at the tight end position. The bad news? Tight ends appear to be expected to catch a higher percentage of footballs than wide receivers. His catch percentage, which would hold him in very good stead in the latter category, does little for him in the former. Among tight ends with at least 25 passes, that 66% ranks him ninth, but behind twenty other tight ends grouped together by percentage ties. Ten tight ends had catch percentages of better than 70% in 2005, led by Minnesota’s Jim Kleinsasser at 79%.

It’s all well and good that he had career highs in catches (45), yards (554), longest catch (35t) and touchdown receptions (5), but Jerramy Stevens needs to do still more for his team, and that’s the bottom line.

Nate Burleson, 2004 Minnesota Vikings

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

MIN

35.0

6

34.7

7

35.3%

6

34.7%

102

1006

9

67%

Nate Burleson, 2005 Minnesota Vikings

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

MIN

4.8

59

3.1

68

-0.2%

53

-5.8%

52

328

1

58%

Well…here’s inconclusive for you. We don’t really know what we have in Nate Burleson. Is he the supremely productive youngster Minnesota saw in 2004, or the injury-prone disappointment of 2005? From a tools perspective, he’s closer to fine than most – he’s tough, persistent, and able to pick up the tough yards after the catch, a crucial component of Seattle’s West Coast Offense. The general opinion seems to be that he’s in for a fairly huge rebound year in 2006. If that doesn’t happen, there may be a relative unknown lurking in the shadows, ready to strike.

A Sleeping Giant?

Under 50 catches, 2004

Joe Jurevicius, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Player

Team

DPAR

PAR

DVOA

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch %

DPAR Rank

83-J.Jurevicius

TB

10.6

11.5

27.6%

32.0%

37

333

2

73%

3

Under 50 catches, 2005

Player

Team

DPAR

PAR

DVOA

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch
%

DPAR Rank

18-D.Hackett

SEA

9.1

10.2

16.3%

20.8%

43

400

2

65%

1

In 2005, we saw the first flashes of what D.J. Hackett might become. A reliable deep threat (especially when Jackson was hurt), Hackett caught passes of 47, 42, 38, 31 and 26 yards among his 28 total receptions. Looking back at Jurevicius’ 2004 season, in which he missed six games with a herniated disc in his lower back, that career year we discussed before seems a bit more plausible. Could Hackett be the next receiver to explode on scene for Seattle? Any serious starting time would have to be predicated on injuries to one of the top three, but Hackett provides an intriguing combination of size, speed and strength. You’ll hear a lot of hype about Peter Warrick as the #4 man in the Seahawks’ receiver corps during training camp, but don’t sleep on D.J. Hackett.

In fact, buy the stock now.

Now, to the historical comparisons. Since the seasons of Seattle’s receivers were “inconclusive” in 2005, we are doing three-year comparisons here. This method of comparison is called the “harmonic mean”. Normalized numbers (N Rec/Nrcyd/NrcTRD/N Y/C) are created by multiplying a player’s stats for the year in question by the stats of all players in that position for said year, then dividing this numbers by the stats for all players at said position in the 2005 season. The idea is that by using that progression of logic, we are able to “insert” a player from previous years into another season with some manner of realism.

All of these methods are explained by Aaron himself on this page.

The basic method for Similarity Scores:

FOR ALL POSITIONS

  • Subtract 15 points for each year difference in age between the two players
  • Subtract 15 points for each year difference in career experience between the two players
  • Subtract 10 points for a difference in one game played
  • Subtract 20 points times the difference in games played after one

(For example: If Player A was in 16 games and Player B was in 13 games, that's 50 points.)

And for wide receivers:

WIDE RECEIVERS and TIGHT ENDS

  • Subtract 3 points times the difference in receptions
  • Subtract 1 point for each difference of 2 receiving yards
  • Subtract 8 points times the difference in receiving touchdowns
  • Subtract 10 points times the difference in yards per catch

DARRELL JACKSON, 2005 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Lname

FName

YEAR

TEAM

G

rec

recYD

recTD

Y/C

N Rec

Nrc YD

Nrc TD

N Y/C

AGE

CAR

3 YR

Jackson

Darrell

2005

sea

6

38

482

3

12.7

37

498

3.3

13.3

27

6

1000

Conway

Curtis

1997

chi

7

30

476

1

15.9

31

496

1.1

16.0

26

5

867

Muhammad

Muhsin

2001

car

11

50

585

1

11.7

49

592

1.1

12.2

28

6

825

Gray

Earnest

1984

nyg

12

38

529

2

13.9

49

600

2.2

12.3

27

6

809

Reed

Jake

1998

min

11

34

474

4

13.9

35

472

3.9

13.6

31

8

805

Logan

Dave

1981

cle

14

31

497

4

16.0

45

609

4.9

13.6

27

6

803

BOBBY ENGRAM, 2005 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Lname

FName

YEAR

TEAM

G

rec

recYD

recTD

Y/C

N Rec

Nrc YD

Nrc TD

N Y/C

AGE

CAR

3 YR

Engram

Bobby

2005

sea

13

67

778

3

11.6

66

804

3.3

12.2

32

10

1000

Pearson

Drew

1982**

dal

16

46

679

5.3

14.7

63

829

7.0

13.1

31

10

844

Sanders

Ricky

1992

was

15

51

707

3

13.9

57

786

3.5

13.9

30

9

844

Curtis

Isaac

1982**

cin

16

41

569

1.8

13.9

56

694

2.4

12.4

32

10

844

Brooks

Bill

1995

buf

15

53

763

11

14.4

51

739

10.0

14.6

31

10

844

Carter

Anthony

1993

min

15

60

775

5

12.9

63

855

5.8

13.5

33

12

842

JERRAMY STEVENS, 2005 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Lname

FName

YEAR

TEAM

G

rec

recYD

recTD

YD/C

N Rec

Nrc YD

Nrc TD

N Y/C

AGE

CAR

3 YR

Stevens

Jerramy

2005

sea

16

45

554

5

12.3

45

554

5.0

12.3

26

4

1000

Cross

Howard

1992

nyg

16

27

357

2

13.2

44

563

3.2

12.8

25

4

944

Pollard

Marcus

1999

clt

16

34

374

4

11.0

46

495

4.7

10.7

27

5

919

Marsh

Doug

1984

crd

16

39

608

5

15.6

39

533

4.4

13.7

26

5

917

Holman

Rodney

1986

cin

16

40

570

2

14.3

48

621

2.5

12.9

26

5

896

Brady

Kyle

1998

nyj

16

30

315

5

10.5

40

402

5.4

10.0

26

4

892

JOE JUREVICIUS, 2005 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Lname

FName

YEAR

TEAM

G

rec

recYD

recTD

Y/C

N Rec

Nrc YD

Nrc TD

N Y/C

AGE

CAR

3 YR

Jurevicius

Joe

2005

sea

16

55

694

10

12.6

54

717

11.0

13.3

31

8

1000

Proehl

Ricky

1997

chi

15

58

753

7

13.0

60

785

7.5

13.1

29

8

833

Engram

Bobby

2002

sea

15

50

619

0

12.4

47

622

0.0

13.2

29

7

803

Turner

Floyd

1994

clt

16

52

593

6

11.4

52

602

6.2

11.6

28

6

798

Sherrard

Mike

1992

sfo

16

38

607

0

16.0

42

675

0.0

16.0

29

7

785

Smith

JT

1985

crd

14

43

581

1

13.5

58

690

1.2

11.9

30

8

785

NATE BURLESON, 2005 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Lname

FName

YEAR

TEAM

G

rec

recYD

recTD

Y/C

N Rec

Nrc YD

Nrc TD

N Y/C

AGE

CAR

3 YR

Burleson

Nate

2005

min

12

30

328

1

10.9

30

339

1.1

11.5

24

3

1000

Hawkins

Courtney

1994

tam

13

37

438

5

11.8

37

444

5.2

12.0

25

3

887

Anthony

Reidel

1999

tam

13

30

296

1

9.9

29

285

1.0

10.0

23

3

869

Dixon

Floyd

1988

atl

14

28

368

2

13.1

34

410

2.2

11.9

24

3

855

Crowell

Germane

2000

det

9

34

430

3

12.6

34

447

3.3

13.0

24

3

851

Jones

Gordon

1981

tam

13

20

276

1

13.8

29

338

1.2

11.7

24

3

851

*Strike Year – adjusted numbers.


Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him here.

Aaron Schatz is the Editor-in-Chief of FootballOutsiders.com, Lead Writer and Statistician for the “Football Prospectus” annual volume, and an NFL analyst for FoxSports.com. He has also written for the New York Times, the New York Sun, the Boston Globe, The New Republic Online and Slate, and has done custom research for NFL.com and a number of NFL teams. Before creating Football Outsiders, he spent three years tracking search trends online for the internet column, “The Lycos 50”. He has a B.A. in economics from Brown University and lives in Framingham,
Massachusetts, with his wife, Kathryn, and daughter, Mirinae.


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