While Football Outsiders is perhaps the most widely known stats obsessed site, Pro Football Focus has certainly carved out their own niche. In some ways, I believe their grading method is superior to FO, but that's neither here or there.
BCC had a chance to sit down with Khaled Elsayed to discuss how PFF sees the Jaguars in 2010. I just want to thank him for taking the time out to answer our questions and wish PFF nothing but the best.
1. For those who are unfamiliar with PFF, briefly explain what your site is about and how you compile your stats?
We’re an analysis driven NFL site, dedicated to “to producing the most accurate, insightful and highly regarded information on football available anywhere”. In essence we produce data and information about football you can’t get anywhere else – so much so that some of the teams themselves take our data for scouting purposes. There’s a pretty good description here to save me waffling on http://www.profootballfocus.
com/about/grading/ but we break down every player on every play to see who the best players are. We do this through an intense analysis and stats gathering process that takes two people about 15 hours to do one game, it then gets sent to the techy guys to correlate and upload.
2. David Garrard has been a hot topic for many Jaguar fans. What does PFF's analysis say about him?
I’m always a little surprised at the criticism that Garrard gets. He’s not elite, and it must suck having to watch Peyton Manning tear your division up but Garrard is certainly above average even though he struggled a bit down the stretch. We had him ranked as the 12th highest passer last year (that doesn’t factor in his running which would push him to 9th). So he’s ahead of guys like Tony Romo, Carson Palmer and Donovan McNabb which is no mean feat. The struggles in the Jags passing game go beyond him and more to the issue of pass protection which was terrible last year. If there’s a message I’d try to convey to Jags fans is not every team can have an elite quarterback and sometimes having an above average one makes you quite lucky. A lot of teams would kill to have the performance of Garrard behind their offensive line.
3. Your site has consistently singled out LB Daryl Smith for praise. What is it about him that makes him such a highly regarded player?
What’s not to like? He can pretty much do it all and ranked as our top 4-3 outside linebacker despite playing some time in the 3-4, inside and on the line. He was a terrible omission from the Pro Bowl and in true NFL style will probably get there this year after not playing half as well. The best thing about him is probably his run defense, he does a good job of shedding blocks, containing runs and doesn’t miss a lot of tackles (just 8). He did a lot of pass rushing last year as well and finished second on the team in total pressures with 27 in 149 attempts (an excellent ratio). I just re-watched the Indy game from week 15 and he beat Charlie Johnson time and time again which was a real fun thing to see and validated my opinion at the time that Smith may be the most underrated all round linebacker. It’s probably because he doesn’t always appear on the stat sheet but rewatching plays 4 or 5 times, he’s one of the most enjoyable players in the league to. He set a high standard for himself though that won’t be easy to match this year.
4. Besides Daryl Smith, are there any other hidden gems on the Jags, according to PFF's analysis?
I’ll be honest there’s a lot of unproven guys and not many developing who I’d label a hidden gem. I like Mike Thomas but I do wonder about his upside. He had a pretty good rookie year and offered something as a third receiver so how he translates into a full time starter should be interesting.
I’m more intrigued to see how Marcedes Lewis performs this year. He’s one of the most complete tight ends in the league (we ranked him 4th factoring in his blocking and receiving), so I’d like to see him get a little more involved as a receiver where he was only targeted 49 times (That’s 25th among TEs) and kept into pass block 125 times. He’s still a bit inconsistent, but the talent is there.
On Defense we like Terrance Knighton as a run stuffer. He’s a difficult guy to move and wins his battle at the line more often than not. Outside of Derek Harvey, he had the most snaps on the DL (657) and was regularly hitting 80%+ of snaps by the season end. Unfortunately that’s just too much. He’s not an adequate pass rusher (only 1 sack and 6 hurries all year) and they need to do a better job of getting him out on passing downs.
5. How did Mike Sims-Walker rank among WRs in 2009, and what would you expect from him in 2010?
As a pure receiver we had him down in 30th. At times he looked very good (the Chiefs game especially) but he really struggled for consistency and got less and less effective as the season went on. How much of that was down to conditioning I’m not sure, but he’s certainly got the hands (he only dropped 2 passes – excellent numbers on the season) and playmaking ability to be a genuine number one receiver in the league. I’m no projection expert but with better pass protection and learning from his experience as a number one receiver last year, I’d expect him to better himself and not be so invisible at times.
6. How did the Jaguars offensive line rank in 2009, and how much improvement should be expected in 2010?
Neil will kill me if I don’t make use of an excellent article he did here http://www.profootballfocus.
com/blog/2010/07/02/2009- offensive-line-rankings/ . The Jags were down in 23rd with major pass protection problems but a good run blocking line – pretty much sums the team up.
I don’t see much of that changing though it’s hard not to foresee both rookies from last year getting a little better in pass pro. Eben Britton in particular needs to sort this out as he was a bit of a liability at times, given up more pressure than any other right tackle (53). The positive is that they do a good job (along with the blocking of Marcedes Lewis) of setting up the run, though I’m interested to see what the end line up is.
Justin Smiley is a good pick up if healthy, not quite the run blocker Manuwai is but better in pass pro. So the depth has improved but all in all the big improvements need to come from the sophomore tackles. Monroe got better as the season went on which is encouraging but I’ll be eagerly watching to see how he copes with Dwight Freeney this year. It’s probably the most interesting thing for the purists to watch regarding the Jags this year.
7. How will the Jaguars finish in 2010?
This won’t be pleasant. I wrote this piece so take aim at it http://www.profootballfocus.
com/blog/2010/08/29/good- newsbad-news-jacksonville- jaguars/
In short I thought the Jags over achieved last year. And while they’ve upgraded I can see them struggling to get to .500. I like Aaron Kampman but he doesn’t feel healthy, so where is the consistent pass rush coming from? The line may improve but I don’t think it’s going to make things substantially easier for David Garrard who while good, isn’t good enough like a Manning or Brees to overcome shoddy pass protection. In a division as strong as the AFC South I just don’t like their chances of sniffing the playoffs. I have been wrong before so I’m prepared to be surprised but they look like the worst team on paper in the South right now.