ESPN Stats and Info and “The Calvin Johnson effect”

Posted by ttwentyman on February 13, 2013 – 12:35 pm

I had a chance to sit down with new running backs coach/run game coordinator Curtis Modkins and new tight ends coach Bobby Johnson last week and both coaches said they were amazed at the looks they’ve been seeing from opposing defenses as they watched last season’s cut-ups.

“There are looks on film watching the cut-ups from last season that I haven’t seen in many years,” Johnson said of what he and Modkins are seeing on how defenses played the Lions this year.

“You’re seeing many looks, especially from a run-game standpoint; when you draw the diagram and install the play you draw the most basic, cleanest look (from the defense) and (the Lions) got that look quite a bit because people were worried about Calvin and Matthew and the pass game.

“As we say in the business, there’s some very juicy looks right there.”

ESPN NFC North writer Kevin Seifert did some terrific research with the help of the ESPN Stats and Information department that lends credence to what Johnson and Modkins are seeing in the cut-ups.

In 2012, the Lions ran more plays (855 of a possible 1,160) against defenses with six or fewer defenders in the box than any other team, according to Seifert. They also faced, by far, the fewest number of “stacked” boxes — eight or more defenders within two yards of the tackle and five yards deep. That happened on only 1.6 percent of their plays (19 of 1,160).

Give the Lions credit for trying to run the football against such looks. In 231 attempts, they rushed for an average of 4.48 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns. But they managed a first down on only 18.6 percent of those runs, tied for No. 21 in the NFL, Seifert wrote.

“With Calvin (Johnson) and the receivers we have in place, the quarterback and what they’ve done in the passing game here, it does allow you to have some boxes that are conducive to having a good running game,” Modkins said. “I’m excited to see what we can do with that. It’s a little different than what I’ve seen the last three years.”

It just goes to show how incredible Calvin Johnson’s 2012 season was. With six or fewer defenders in the box, and five or more in coverage, Johnson caught 91 of his 122 passes for 1,428 of his 1,964 yards and all five of his touchdowns.

Seifert’s article was appropriately titled: “The Calvin Johnson effect”

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