It's tough to know where to begin with Chicago Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb. As I said on this week's Greg Cosell podcast, I blame Webb less for his overall performance, and more the Bears' coaching staff and front office for putting him at a position he's very clearly not qualified to play. But since this column is more about stats and less about scouting, let's stick with the numbers.
Webb already has seven total penalties this season — five false starts and two holds — and five of those seven penalties stalled drives. In fact, after Monday's penalty-fest against the Detroit Lions, the Bears now have 17 offensive line penalties (flags against players inline in their offensive sets, so we're including two false starts on tight end Kellen Davis, both of which happened in the Lions game), and of those 17 penalties, 11 were drive-killers. Of course, the Bears responded to this by benching their two starting safeties.
There are two qualifying quarterbacks in the NFL right now with a particularly nasty stat combo — less than 50 percent of their passes completed, and more than seven yards after catch per completion. That's bad news for the simple reason that when you're benefitting from that much YAC, you should be more efficient. The two players in question are Jacksonville rookie Blaine Gabbert (understandable), and … Baltimore Ravens veteran quarterback Joe Flacco. And THAT's a problem. Flacco actually leads the league right now with an average of 7.12 yards after catch per completion, but he's completed just 49.3 percent of his passes (69 of 140). Granted, his average pass length this season has been above average at 10.11 — only Cam Newton's is higher — that YAC total, crossed with the completion percentage, has to give Flacco fans pause. He seems to have regressed this season.
Speaking of quarterbacks and mistakes, Arizona's Kevin Kolb and Washington's Rex Grossman are the only quarterbacks to lead their teams in penalties with four each through Week 5 (though Eli Manning is tied with three of his teammates at three flags). Kolb has two intentional grounding calls, one false start, and one delay of game. Grossman has three delay of game calls and one intentional grounding penalty.
Though Week 5, just three qualifying runners have not been stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage this season — no negative plays as a running back. Those three backs are Miami's Daniel Thomas (zero stuffs on 41 carries), New Orleans' Pierre Thomas (zero stuffs on 34 carries ) and New England's Danny Woodhead (zero stuffs on 26 carries).
Sam Bradford is one of two starting quarterbacks to have thrown just one interception this season (San Francisco's Alex Smith is the other), and he's got the NFL's lowest interception-per-attempt percentage, but that doesn't mean that Bradford has been efficient. Last year, under Pat Shurmur's restrictive offense, Bradford averaged just 5.95 yards per attempt. This season, under the supposedly more wide-open concepts espoused by new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, he's actually regressed in a vertical sense -- he's averaging just 5.62 yards per attempt. To put just how bad that is in perspective … well, it's lower than the 5.72 Colt McCoy of the Cleveland Browns is currently rocking. McCoy, of course, is currently running an offense designed by Shurmur, and he's got half the arm Bradford has on his best day.
One reason for Alex Smith's new-found efficiency (he's got that one-pick total, but he's doing so at a career-high 7.66 yards per attempt rate) is tight end Vernon Davis. Davis leads all non-running backs this year in catch percentage at 84.6 — he's caught 22 passes among the 26 times he's been targeted. Only Minnesota's Michael Jenkins (20 catches in 24 targets for an 83.3 catch percentage) also factors into the top 10 among non-running backs. The thing to note is that Davis isn't benefitting from a bunch of dink-and-dunk — he's averaging 12 yards per catch, and he's got six plays of 20 yards or more.
On the other hand … would you believe the names at the top of the passes dropped list? Two players lead the league with six drops, and they're two of the more reliable receivers in the NFL — Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark, and Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White. White is also among the league leaders in passes not caught (whether dropped, covered, or errantly thrown at a target) at 22. Another Colts player — receiver Reggie Wayne — is tied with Jacksonville's Mike Thomas for the NFL's lead in that category with 25. After Wayne, there are two Carolina Panthers receivers with 21 passes not caught (Legedu Naanee and Steve Smith), which tells is that as well as Cam Newton has started, there are accuracy issues still to be ironed out.
Maybe one way for the Eagles to get back in track is to split their carries between their quarterback and feature back. Through five games, Michael Vick leads all qualifying rushers in yards per attempt for carries 1-10 in a game (8.6 yards per carry on 37 rushes), and LeSean McCoy leads all rushers on carries 11-20 -- he goes up from 4.8 yards per carry in his first 10 carries of a game to 8.1 from 11 on. Well, not really a great strategy — running Vick that often would get him killed — but the jump in production for McCoy is a point of interest.
- Chicago Bears