DVOA Matchup - Redskins at Seahawks, Pt. 1

Two years ago, these two teams met at Qwest Field in the divisional round. The Seahawks beat the Redskins on their way to the Super Bowl, but Washington remembers a close battle and they're excited for the wild card rematch. Doug Farrar uses Football Outsiders' revolutionary statistics to preview this game.

DVOA Matchup - Redskins at Seahawks

The stats used in this analysis are all available at Football Outsiders - the DVOA and DPAR stats referenced here are theirs, and are explained here. In addition, if you want to drill down and get really forensic, you will find some amazing numbers in the "Head-to-Head" section of the FO Premium Database.

Part One: Washington's Offense

Team

Total DVOA

Rank

Weighted DVOA

Rank

Variance

Rank

WAS OFF

1.0%

17

4.2%

15

5.3%

24

SEA DEF

-5.4%

11

-6.9%

5

10.4%

6


The Quarterbacks

Player

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

INT

Comp
%

J.Campbell

WAS

42.7

17

37.6

16

9.8%

20

7.0%

435

2564

12

11

61%

T.Collins

WAS

29.0

20

28.0

19

49.1%

3

46.9%

113

828

5

0

64%

Todd Collins: When Quick Release Isn't a Choice

In college, the phrase "system quarterback" is pejorative; when personnel executives see a player protected by schemes that wouldn't survive a day in the NFL, they run screaming into the night if they're smart (Hello, Colt Brennan!). In the NFL, where the issue is survival over potential, "system quarterback" is a compliment. Especially toward the end of the season and into the playoffs, going with the reliable veteran that you know will get you from "A" to at least "M" is generally preferable to the young-un with the rocket arm who's still filling out his resume. Here is where you want Crash Davis, not Nuke LaLoosh.

Todd Collins is everything you'd want a system quarterback to be. He's so prototypical, he doesn't even make you think about the designation -- he's a pigment-impaired pocket passer who's about as mobile as Floyd Womack. He doesn't take sacks because he knows when his line is starting to break down and when he has to go to what I call the "Derek Anderson Shuffle" -- that 1-2-3-throw dance that makes pass-blockers look better than they are. He's deathly familiar with the offense run by Washington offensive coordinator Al Saunders; Saunders and Collins spent 2001 through 2005 together in Kansas City. While Collins didn't get in a lot of games, he knows enough about that system to feel comfortable and to spread the ball around.

That's just what he's done in relief of franchise/future quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell worked one or two short outlets and Washington's receivers went the first eight games of the 2007 season without catching a touchdown pass. Collins can read through the offense quickly and make a decent attempt to get the ball off beyond five yards even with pressure. Take a look at the DVOA (FO's per-play stat), not the DPAR, which is cumulative. Collins isn't the future of the Redskins, he's the here and now, but that here and now is pretty impressive. Only Tom Brady and David Garrard have better DVOA numbers through the 2006 season. You can argue sample size in Collins' case, but momentum outweighs many concerns. And when you're talking about the Washington Redskins, momentum's the name of the game.

Team

1st Half DVOA

Rank

2nd Half DVOA

Rank

Late/Close DVOA

Rank

WAS OFF

0.8%

16

1.1%

19

-9.1%

24

SEA DEF

-4.9%

10

-5.7%

10

3.8%

20

 




One thing I've noticed about the Washington linemen is that they're fairly efficient, but they will wear down. Left tackle Chris Samuels did as good a job blocking Dallas' DeMarcus Ware in the Redskins' 27-6 season-ending win against the Cowboys as I've seen this year -- for about a quarter and a half. After that, Ware shaved Samuels down, and Dallas' front seven, a powerful, speed-rushing unit, closed the gaps and forced Collins to go from five- and seven-stop drops to a quicker release. Collins' ability to adjust to that puts him in a stable of relatively sack-proof quarterbacks with Drew Brees, Derek Anderson and to a lesser extent, one Matthew Hasselbeck.

Example: In 2006, Seattle ranked 28th in Adjusted Sack Rate. In 2007, with no changes on the line and no discernible improvement at any position, the Seahawks' ASR rank improved to 19th. There is one primary reason for that -- Hasselbeck's ability to get rid of the ball a bit more often before disaster strikes. Collins has that same ability, as does Brees, as does Anderson. Part of the value of a system quarterback is that he can offset his system's deficiencies.

That, of course, works the other way as well.

Washington's Running Game

Another thing that Collins' ability to spread the ball around has done is to give more lanes to Clinton Portis. That's a good thing for Portis, because this is not a back that'[s going to out-perform his blockers. The 2007 Redskins ranked 17th in Adjusted Line Yards, but 28th in 10+ Yards. Only Chicago, Kansas City and Arizona finished with a lower yards-per-attempt number for their rushing plays -- the Redskins' 3.73 was almost half a yard lower than the league average of 4.18, which is why they rank 23rd in rushing DVOA. Portis learned in Denver to make a cut and accelerate, and he can slip through fairly small seams, but he's not a back who can withstand stuff after stuff. Portis' first-quarter touchdown was an example of good left side blocking by tackle Chris Samuels and guard Pete Kendall, but also Portis' patience and ability to sift through trash at the line and burst out. The Redskins also had success against Dallas running sweeps with right guard Jason Fabini pulling left.

The Receivers

Player

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch
%

82-A.Randle El

WAS

17.7

24

17.9

27

19.8%

15

20.1%

77

728

1

66%

89-S.Moss

WAS

6.8

62

5.9

62

-6.0%

67

-7.4%

115

808

3

53%

Under 50 Passes

Player

Team

DPAR

PAR

DVOA

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch
%

85-J.Urban

ARI

9.9

9.1

25.6%

21.6%

38

329

3

58%

80-K.McCardell

WAS

9.6

8.9

32.1%

28.0%

31

256

1

71%

Tight Ends

Player

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Passes

Yards

TD

Catch
%

47-C.Cooley

WAS

19.2

6

18.2

6

15.9%

12

14.3%

110

786

8

60%

Huh. Betcha didn't think you'd see Jerheme Urban up there at the top of the Below 50 Club, did you?

The only matchup that should be any real issue at all for the Seahawks, and the player who may provide the biggest overall issue for Seattle's defense, is tight end/H-back/Swiss army knife Chris Cooley. Cooley will line up just about anywhere, and he's a route threat from Checkdown City to 10-15 yards downfield. He's an excellent route-runner for a tight end, and his blocking adds to the package. The Seahawks rank 19th in DVOA against tight ends, and as we've mentioned before, every Washington quarterback sees this guy as their one solid option. He will make things very tough for linebackers, and he'll sit in zones all day.

Santana Moss is Washington's #1 receiver. His skillset isn't dissimilar to that of Deion Branch in that he has great ability to cut in short-area traffic as well as great deep speed. He's certainly having a better time of it since Collins came on board -- his yards per catch have shot through the roof. Collins will like to fire the ball outside to Moss when he's under pressure on intermediate routes, but what you see above in the numbers is a lack of consistency, and Moss is not a receiver who will demand that a defense roll coverage his way. This gives the Seahawks and their much-improved pass coverage an advantage when dealing with Moss, Antwaan Randle El and Keenan McCardell. As such, the X-Factor is Cooley, as it has been for nearly every Washington opponent all season. Stop Cooley, and you hold the key to Washington's offense.

Tomorrow, we'll look at the Washington defense, a few specific custom numbers for defensive backs on both sides of the ball, and what Seattle's great penalty drought could mean in this game.


Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, a contributing author to Pro Football Prospectus 2007, and he writes NFL previews for the New York Sun.


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