While I wouldn't call myself a true sports "analytic," I do dork out over statistics. Always have. Back in the day, for true stat geeks, numbers were like nudity. There was no internet, so you had to work to find statistical information, and the team-by-team numbers in the weekly issues of The Sporting News were like a numbers dork's version of Playboy.
Now, of course, that's all changed. The same way a bare bosom or six person orgy is mere keystrokes away in a search engine, so, too, can you get virtually any advanced analytical number in a matter of seconds.
For the uninitiated, PFF grades every player on every snap of every game, a cumbersome effort that I can't decide if it sounds better or worse than it actually is. On the one hand, if you're one of their analysts, you're watching football. I mean, how bad could it be?
On the other hand, you're watching every facet of line play, blocking, route running, and special teams play. As much as I love football, that doesn't sound fun to me. I mean, I'm interested in which players are good and bad at those facets of the game, I just don't need to know every nuance of every play.
In other words, I love a good meat lasagna. I just don't need to know every ingredient in the recipe.
So thankfully, PFF is there to net it out for me. For us, actually! With six weeks left in the season, I think I'll start to make a Tuesday staple out of the Texans PFF scores and provide some observational analysis of these scores. A lot of the data will validate some of what he thought we saw on Sunday, some of it will make us scratch our heads. That's good. Not everything is cut and dried.
So without further ado, here are some of the more important Texans PFF scores for Week 11:
(NOTE: For those unfamiliar with the PFF scoring system, a negative score is bad, a positive score is good. A negative score under between 0 and -1 is slightly bad, anything worse than -1.0 gets a red mark on the site. A positive score between 0 and 1 is slightly good, and anything above 1.0 gets a green mark on the site.)
1. The offensive line was as good as we thought they looked. The line set the tone in this game from the get go, and ultimately a) paved the way for Alfred Blue to rush 36 times for 156 yards, b) controlled the game enough for the Texans to run the ball a team record 54 times, and c) kept Mallett from getting sacked even one time all game.
PFF SCORES, OFFENSIVE LINE (pass block, run block) LT: Duane Brown: +1.3 (+1.4, -0.4) LG: Ben Jones: +3.1 (+1.3, +1.6) C: Chris Myers: +4.0 (+0.8, +3.1) RG: Brandon Brooks: +0.6 (+0.3, +0.1) RT: Derek Newton: +1.8 (+1.9, -0.4)
NOTES: Five positive scores for all five guys, that hasn't happened all season...Jones and Myers scores for run blocking were indicative of how they got to the second level all afternoon.
2. The only "red mark" negative player on offense was Damaris Johnson with a -1.1. For a guy who gets a ton of snaps in the slot (55 of 86 snaps on the field), Johnson has been short on impact plays, had a bad drop on a third down, and because of his size gets almost zero yards after contact. They tried one deep ball to him, but again, his lack of size makes it almost impossible for him to come with a ball in traffic.
3. Both running backs had "green mark" scores, Alfred Blue with a +1.6 and Jonathan Grimes with a +1.1. If you've ever been part of a school play, you've probably seen at least one showing where the lead actor is sick or out for some reason, and so some bit player understudy gets bumped up to lead and some curtain jerker gets bumped up to bit player. Well, Sunday Blue and Grimes got bumped up one level each, from bit player and curtain jerker, respectively. And both came up big.
4. Ryan Mallett's commendable debut didn't translate into a big PFF score. He had a total of -0.1. Maybe this shouldn't be all that surprising. Because it was his first career start, Mallett's command and avoidance of mistakes was fairly remarkable, but numbers are numbers, and the PFF scoring system doesn't take into account which career start this is for a player. 20-30 for 211 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT with no real threat of running the ball is, statistically, a pretty average day.
5. J.J. Watt scores a 4.9 defensively and we're like "Oh, ok, whatever." Watt was amazing again this week (as he is every week), with the highest PFF score on the team, and still it didn't crack the upper half of his performances all season:
Week 1: +7.4 (vs WAS) Week 2: -0.2 (at OAK) Week 3: +2.9 (at NYG) Week 4: +15.0 (vs BUF) Week 5: +2.6 (at DAL) Week 6: +8.2 (vs IND) Week 7: +2.3 (at PIT) Week 8: +9.2 (at TEN) Week 9: +6.4 (vs PHI) Week 10: BYE Week 11: +4.9 (at CLV)
6. Brian Cushing looked like the old Brian Cushing and his score of +3.2 is indicative of that. It was nice to see Cushing back out there running around, healthy, nearly popping Brian Hoyer like a balloon twice, but his biggest play of the game was one of the least physical plays he made, poking a ball loose from Cleveland RB Isaiah Crowell's grasp, allowing Watt to recover a fumble that ended a brief period of "bizarro complementary football" for the Texans.
7. Jadeveon Clowney (-1.3) and Whitney Mercilus (-4.4) struggled. Clowney likely struggled because he's a rookie with rust going against Joe Thomas. Mercilus probably struggled because he was moved around and saw less action because of Clowney's return.
Other notable PFF scores: WR: DeAndre Hopkins: +1.3 TE: Garrett Graham: -0.6 WR: Andre Johnson: +0.3 TE: C.J. Fiedorowicz: -0.2 TE: J.J. Watt: +1.0
NT: Ryan Pickett: -1.2 RE: Jared Crick: -2.0 OLB: Brooks Reed: -0.3 ILB: Akeem Dent: +1.3 CB: Johnathan Joseph: +3.5 CB: A.J. Bouye: -2.4 SS: Danieal Manning: +2.1 FS: Kendrick Lewis: -1.5 SS: D.J. Swearinger: -0.6 ILB: Mike Mohamed: +1.1
K: Randy Bullock: -1.2 P: Shane Lechler: -3.3 ST: J.J. Watt: -2.0