(image via www.nyu.edu)
In this thread, TexasHoosier made a claim that, call him crazy, but he believes the secondary is playing pretty well, Dunta aside. I started looking at the pure, raw numbers, ready to call him crazier than...than....well, crazier than a Texans fan, but I figured that was too cruel. Turns out, the more I dove into the raw numbers, the more interesting the argument.
SPECIAL NOTE: No fancy math used. I don't have time after putting together the numbers, and I just want to get something posted.
Looking at the RAW numbers (emphasis on raw), we've gone from a historically bad defensive football team the first three games of the year to, dare I say, about average?
Here's how we have progressed against the run:
Above, positive numbers are bad for us and negative numbers are good. This is looking at how teams did against our rush defense versus their yearly average. For the year, we've held opponents to 43 yards below their average, or a pretty negligible difference of about 4 yards per game. The biggest problem I see here are pretty massive fluctuations, signaling we lack consistency on stopping the run on a game-by-game basis. However, the trend is definitely positive. We're doing a decent job against the run, and this is reflected by our mid-season winning streak between the Oakland and Buffalo games (Arizona excepted).
Here we are versus the pass:
As with above, positive numbers are bad for our defense and negative are good. I was pretty shocked when I ran these numbers, to be honest. For the first seven games of the season, our pass defense was a sieve. The first two games were ugly, and Jacksonville didn't need to bother passing. Oakland, of course, is Oakland. Then Kurt Warner, Carson Palmer, and Alex Smith (!!!) enjoyed nice games against us. Starting with Ryan Fitzpatrick, we've turned things around from a secondary full of holes to one that's not too bad.
Yes, I feel it necessary to not say great or even average. The BE-SFs are clearly a different team with VY at QB, and Indy still dropped 35 on us in the last three quarters. But yes, we are improving. Here's the big picture:
Overall, we are doing a better job keeping our opponents in check. But two huge factors stick out. First:
While we are consistently forcing at least one turnover a game, we need to do more. Also, I find it interesting that, in the beginning of the year, we were forcing fumbles. Now, we are forcing interceptions. I believe this is in large part due to the philosophy of the teams we are playing and when. My conclusion is that teams had success rushing the ball against us early in the year and are now trying to throw more.
The other factor, and to me, it's huge, is our miserable 19 sacks. This is clearly a poor number, ranking us third from the bottom in the league.
Remember that super aggressive defense we were promised by Frank Bush? I don't see it, either. Upgrades at SLB, SS, CB2, and an improved Amobi Okoye seem to be having a greater effect on our improvement than the scheme. And when watching our coverage scheme, I still think I'm watching Richard Smith.
I also can't help but believe that our schedule - we've only played three of the top 10 offenses in our 12 games - is helping cover other problems.
Nevertheless, the improvement on defense is something, and after years of Richard Smith's ineptitude, and this season gone down the tubes, I'll take the improvement and hope there's much more around the corner.