FanPost

Playcalling analysis part II: 1st and 2nd down

In my prior post "Let's examine our 3rd down playcalling", we looked at some numbers comparing the two halves of our Bronco season regarding 3rd down. We learned, among other things, that under Tebow our 3rd down situation has been especially rough, and our average 3rd down distance has been over 7 yards. 

Keep in mind I'm trying my best here to make tables that are somewhat readable. If you don't like stats, this probably isn't your post. It took me a lot of time so be nice. :)

In this post we'll look at what's happening on 1st and 2nd downs. Some of what we find may surprise you (it did me!). 

Just like in the first post, I'll divide the season into Orton's 18Q and Tebow's 22Q of play. This isn't about the quarterbacks as much as the playcalling--we're trying to get a feel for what Tebow can do and how playcalling has changed since he took over. This is not a post for or against anybody!

First we'll look at 1st Down.

Rush-yards

Avg Gain

# 1st down

runs

C/A  yds

Gain/Att.

# 1st down

passes

Avg 2nd

Down to go

Oak L

9-24yds

2.7

0

13/25  124yds

5.0

7

9.8

Cin W

16-52yds

3.3

0

9/12  146yds

12.2

5

7.6

Ten L

10-31yds

3.1

1

7/15  67yds

4.5

3

7.9

GB L

13-68yds

5.2

2

7/12  93yds

7.8

4

7.6

SD L (1st)

7-34yds

4.9

1

2/3  6yds

2.0

1

6.9

ORTON

55-209yds

3.8

4/55   7%

38/67 436yds

57%

6.5

20/67  30%

8.2

SD L (2nd)

7-56yds

8.0

2

3/5  79yds

15.8

3

7.2

Mia W

16-77yds

4.8

3

4/14  73yds

5.2

4

8.6

Det L

16-104yds

6.5

3

10/17  81yds

4.8

3

6.8

Oak W

18-178yds

9.9

5

5/10  82yds

8.2

2

6.8

KC W

23-105yds

4.6

2

0/2   0yds

0

0

6.8

NYJ W

17-55yds

3.2

1

3/5  45yds

9.0

1

7.3

TEBOW

 

97-575yds

5.9

16/97  16%

25/53 360yds

47%

6.8

13/53  25%

7.2

A few points:

1. Our rushing effectiveness on 1st down is up considerably since Tebow took over (over 2 yards per carry). Some improvement was already evident though the last game or two that Orton played. The problem is, that good defenses like the Jets can shut it down. 

2. Our chance to run for a first down on a first down play has more than doubled since TT took over (16% vs 7%).

3. The SHOCKER to me is that despite TT completing 10% less of his first down passes, his yards per attempt is actually slightly higher than Orton's were. In other words TT is actually, by that measure at least, more effective at throwing on 1st down than Orton. 

4. By the time we get to 2nd down, under TT we are on average one yard closer to a first down than Orton was (7.2 vs 8.2). There are two reasons for this: Tebow has a better running game per carry average, AND Orton's numbers are skewed slightly because of all those holding penalties early in the season.

5. It should be noted that while it seems by our production on first down that we should be in a better situation than 2nd and 7 or 8, the sacks allowed and penalties on first down have altered our overall effectiveness into a 2nd and long average situation.

 

Moving to second down data:

2nd AND:

1-3 yds

4-7 yds

8-10 yds

11+ yds

Totals

ORTON

Rushing

7-6yds

13-70yds

11-60yds

4-22yds

35-158yds   4.5ypc

First Down  Success %

3/7

43%

6/13

46%

2/11

18%

0/4

0%

11/35

31%

Passing

1/1 13yds

10/16 94yds

15/25 156yds

3/10 25yds

29/52  288yds  5.5y/att

First Down

Success %

1/1

100%

5/16

31%

7/25

28%

1/10

10%

14/52

27%

Tot. Suc %

4/8 50%

11/29 38%

9/36 25%

1/14  7%

 

 

 

 

TEBOW

Rushing

15-88yds

32-179yds

19-85yds

9-53yds

75-405yds   5.4ypc

First Down  Success %

11/15

73%

11/32

34%

4/19

21%

1/9

11%

27/75

36%

Passing

     1 /4 3yds 

3/15 33yds

12/19 173yds

1/ 4   -1yd

17/42  208yds  5.0y/att

First Down

Success %

1/4

25%

3/15

20%

9/19

47%

0/4

0%

13/42

31%

Tot. Suc %

   12/19  63%

    14/47  30%

   13/38  34%

       1/13   8%

Ok, now things are getting interesting.

1. First of all, notice that under Orton, our run/pass ratio on 2nd down was 40/60 and under TT it's 64/36. This makes sense because TT provides a better running game. HOWEVER...

2. Tebow is actually statistically better than Orton at ACTUALLY GETTING A FIRST  DOWN ON SECOND DOWNS, whether on the ground or via the pass (right hand column). 

3. Tebow's weakness on 2nd down is on 2nd and 4-7 yards. He's actually better when it's 2nd and 8-10 (a lot better in terms of passing !) This holds true even in the running game. Is this because of poor execution or because of McCoy's play calls?

4. Overall, running the ball on 2nd and 11+ doesn't work. Period. Why do we do it as much as we have? (It doesn't work to pass either.)

5. In my estimation, TT is a better QB on 2nd down. Why we don't pass more on 2nd and long is beyond me. TT success rate passing is over double (47% vs 21%) his rushing success rate! The numbers show he can and has made those throws.

 

Something interesting I noticed while watching games and going through this data: we suck on the first play of a drive:

 

 

 

First play

of Drive

Rushing

Passing

ORTON

Plays netting 3 or less yds

17/30

8/18

25/48

52%

 

Overall average

4.2 ypc

5.4 yds/att

 

TEBOW

Plays netting

3 or less yds

27/53

11/18

38/71

52%

Overall average

4.8 ypc

7.7 yds/att

 

This table shows what the chances are that we gain 3 or less yards on the first play of a drive. We almost always run the ball, and either way we're ineffective. Not only do we often gain less than 3 yards, we actually often gain less than 1 (or even negative). I'm not sure why this is, but I think we need to be more aggressive starting out a drive, because that's how we set the tone. If the defense is never challenged, we've got an uphill battle. I'd like to see more plays like the opening play of the Jets game for example. That kind of play call has only happened a couple times all year to start a drive. More please!

 

Overall, a few final summarizing comments to spur discussion:

1. Tebow is not less effective on first or second down than Orton was. Actually he's more effective. His problems are mostly on 3rd down. As a consequence, I'd like to see more aggressive 1st and 2nd play calls so as to avoid third downs.

2. McCoy seems to have the opinion that 2nd down is to move into position for 3rd down. I think 2nd down is to get a 1st down. There is a big difference. I would like to see more aggressive playcalling all the way around, but that's just my preference. There are arguments both ways I think. I do think we should avoid 3rd down at all cost until TT can reliably move the sticks. 

3. Like I mentioned in the first post, we've got to get our receivers to position themselves beyond the 1st down stripe. Many of Orton's passing 1st downs were to Lloyd. The young receivers we have now need to work on getting far enough up field to actually get that first down. Our struggles are not only at QB but also at WR (and pass protection). 

4. My final comment is that I expected TT to look a lot worse on paper than he does from a passing perspective. In many areas he's already outperforming Orton, who was a pretty good passer IMHO. My belief now is that while he obviously needs to improve, that there is plenty of blame to go around for why the offense doesn't move the ball better, and some of that goes to the coaches as well. I expect continued improvement, and by the end of the year, we may not need last second heroics. It will take work from everyone involved not just TT, and I hope everyone realizes that.

So what do you think?

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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