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PFF Pass Rushing Productivity: Jason Jones, Albert Haynesworth, and Immediate Upgrades

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The fine folks over at Pro Football Focus continued their personnel evaluations today by looking at Pass Rushing Productivity among interior lineman.  Interestingly, to me at least, three familiar names showed up in the article:  Jason Jones, Albert Haynesworth, and Tony Brown.

First things first, though.  What exactly is Pass Rushing Productivity?

Same format, same simple formula: we take sacks, hits, and hurries (with weighting toward sacks) divide it by the number of snaps spent rushing the passer, apply a multiplier to tidy it up and that all spits out the PRP.

While it's unclear how the weighting is done, the general idea is to show how often a pass rusher impacts the opposing offense on any given play.  So, where do our familiar faces fit in?

The study was bifurcated into two sections:  2010 and 2008-2010.  For the aforementioned parties, 2010 wasn't anything to write home about.  Jason Jones showed up at 13th, but neither of the other two even showed up on the list.  

These results are hardly surprising.  After a much publicized falling out with the Washington staff over the new 3-4 defense, Albert Haynesworth became a second string DT.  He played in only 8 games last year, and started none of them.  I'm still a little shocked today that Shanahan forced the 3-4 on the Washington defense despite the fact that his defensive roster included the highest paid DT (3 Tech) in NFL history, and arguably the best defensive lineman in the NFL when motivated.  While I do think Albert acted like a child, I still can't understand how an NFL coach could be that stubborn and close minded.  Whatever the case, I'm starting to digress a bit.  Point here is that Albert Haynesworth's absence from the list in 2010 shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.  I'd liken it to a new NFL team signing Peyton Manning and then insisting that he exclusively run a zone-read offense.  Albert's lack of productivity in Washington does not necessarily mean that he will not be productive when reinserted back into a 4-3 defense.

The poor performance out of Tony Brown shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone here at MCM.  He battled knee problems all year, and actually had arthroscopic knee surgery done to fix the problem.  So, 2010 isn't exactly representative of Tony Brown's effectiveness in the passing game.

Given the circumstantial drop off in production in 2010, it was really 2008-2010 that had me most interested.  So, where did they stack up?  And, more importantly, how does this relate to the Titans in 2011?

Another name that could be interesting – though it comes with considerable baggage – is that of Albert Haynesworth. Things haven’t gone his way since moving to Washington, but on the field (when he’s been on it) he’s always been productive. For someone willing to take a gamble on Albert the person, they could get one heck of a player. He finished fifth overall, just behind Shaun Rogers and ahead of two of his former Titan teammates in Jason Jones (seventh) and Tony Brown (ninth).

PFF pretty much sums up my thoughts in this paragraph.  In looking back at the data from 2008-2010, Fat Albert, JJ, and Downtown all showed up in the top 10.  Interestingly, Albert still stacks up at 5th over that period despite criticisms over laziness in 2009 and the wrong system in 2010.  I don't have access to the raw data, but my initial take away is that this is due to the fact that Albert was freakishly dominant in 2008.  And, it makes one wonder, could Albert come back here, with a chip on his shoulder, and prove the naysayers wrong again?  

The big question here is what Jerry Gray's plans are with this defense.  In the latest interview, here's what he had to say about the 3-4:

We drafted some bigger guys up front, which will enable us to do a little bit of that... You will see a little more than the old, traditional four guys down.  I promise you that.

We're going to get some other schemes, some other guys on the football field to try to create a little illusion and help us with the third downs.

Gray has indicated in the past that he intends to run more of a hybrid, but the latest comment makes me wonder if he intends to transition to a full blown 3-4 over the next few years.  Only time will tell, I suppose, but for the context of this article it's important that the scheme allow for a disruptive, 3 Tech defensive tackle.  My hope is that unlike Shanahan, Gray will adapt to the personnel available.  Included in that availability is Albert Haynesworth, either via trade or free agency (if Washington elects to cut him).

There's been a lot of doom and gloom about the upcoming season, especially from me.  Our reality is that the Tennessee Titans, in their current form, could likely be one of the worst teams in the NFL.  Interestingly, the addition of a competent quarterback and Albert Haynesworth could be the difference between a 4-12 season and a 10-6 season.  Those polar opposites aren't intended for dramatic effect.  I think with these two personnel moves the swing could be that pronounced.  Side note:  Coincidentally, I think the QB best suited to fill our need is on the Skins as well...Donovan McNabb, though that's a somewhat different topic.

Cold Hard Football facts did a study recently that measured Offensive QB rating and Defensive QB rating.  I commented on it yesterday in one of the threads, so I'll just defer to that as our explanation for the study:

They examined Offensive Team Passer rating, and Defensive Team Passer rating (the QB rating achieved by a team’s opponents over the course of a season). Then, they took the differential between the two. Ie. The 1960 Browns team had an O Passer rating of 109.5 while their defense had a D Passer rating of 51.7. The differential between the two is 57.8.

Winning Passer Rating Differential is the fast track to winning a championship in pro football. Of the top 25 all time, 14 won NFL championships or Super Bowls. Three others lost in the championship game.
Of the 71 champions since 1940, an incredible 26 of them – 37 percent – finished No. 1 in Passer Rating Differential; another 14 finished No. 2 in Passer Rating Differential. In other words, 56 percent of NFL champions were No. 1 or No. 2 in PRD. Now you know why we call it the “mother stat.”
The average champion ranked 3.4 in Passer Rating Differential.
These 25 teams were near impossible to beat, with combined record of 299-63-4 (.822). Put another way, the average record of the Top 25 in Passer Rating Differential was 12 wins against 2.5 losses.

That's pretty compelling stuff.  And, while I know that this is oversimplified, I think that bringing in a qualified veteran QB and Albert Haynesworth could be the fast track to improving this stat for the Titans.  Even if we leave the QB situation alone for the moment, the addition of Fat Albert could still improve this metric for us.

For different reasons, all three of the aforementioned linemen work better in a platoon.  Bring back Albert and let the three headed monster pick up where they left off...wreaking havoc in the backfield.  I've always subscribed to the idea that the best way to improve pass defense is to improve the pass rushing ability of your front four.  We saw this in 2008.  When the front four was operating at an elite level, we ranked 5th in the NFL in Pass Defense DVOA.  And, may I remind you, Nick Harper was a starter on that defense.  With the loss of Albert Haynesworth, the Titans dropped to 25th in Pass Defense DVOA in 2009.

Obviously, there are a few "X factors" here. 

1.  Can Albert perform at an elite level if he returns to Tennessee sans Jim Washburn?

2.  Will age affect the performance of Tony Brown and Albert Haynesworth?

3.  Can Jerry Gray effectively use these guys in his scheme?

I'm inclined to think that none of these issues will be a problem, but there's no way to know for sure.  Of course, we'd have to pick up the last two years of Albert's contract (nothing beyond that is guaranteed).  He's due $5.4 Million this year and $6.7 Million next year.  That's a lot of Benjamins, but we've got the cap room to stomach those numbers.

In the NFL, rarely is there such a thing as a quick fix.  The addition of Albert Haynesworth may be the closest thing that we can get.  The impact he could have on this defense might be dramatic.  If so, this defense suddenly becomes very dangerous.  And, if we're lucky enough to have a Josh Freeman-type sophomore year our of Jake Locker (that's a big if), then we could suddenly be one of the better teams in the NFL as soon as 2012.