Stats & Info: Matt Kalil

Don't discount Matt Barkley on deep throws

March, 27, 2013

Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesHe doesn't have the strongest arm, but Matt Barkley has similar numbers to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III when it comes downfield throws.
USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley was a projected top-5 pick if he had entered the 2012 NFL draft. The third-ranked QB in the 2012 draft class behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Barkley decided to return for his senior season.

There are several reasons Barkley’s draft stock has supposedly dropped: arm strength, lack of athleticism, struggles when pressured. However, what do the numbers say about these perceived deficiencies?

Arm Strength
Since the start of the 2011 season, Barkley threw 24 touchdowns and only two interceptions on passes 20 yards or longer (in 120 attempts). When Barkley missed his receivers on those deep passes, he was four times more likely to overthrow his target than underthrow.

In fact, Barkley put up comparable numbers to what Luck and Griffin III did on passes of 20 yards or longer in their final two seasons.

And, Barkley’s completion percentage actually improved on throws of this distance from 2011 (39.7 percent) to 2012 (42.3).

Barkley may not be able to outrun defenders, but he has shown the ability to throw on the move. When outside the pocket, Barkley completed more than 65 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns -- including 16 touchdowns on designed roll outs -- and just three interceptions.

Passing Under Pressure
Scouts have pointed to Barkley’s struggles with pressure in his face. The numbers show that Barkley consistently has been able to read defenses and hit his hot read when opponents send extra pass rushers. Barkley threw 44 touchdowns and just six interceptions when opposing defenses blitzed.

Additionally, Stats & Information’s video tracking data has Barkley completing 41.3 percent of his passes when under duress in 2012, slightly above the average for all quarterbacks tracked (40.5 percent).

Even Barkley admits he tried to do too much in 2012, but USC’s offensive struggles went well beyond its quarterback play.

The Trojans offensive line struggled after the departure of left tackle Matt Kalil to the NFL and the injury to center Khalid Holmes early in the season. Barkley was sacked six more times in 2012 (14) than 2011 despite playing one fewer game.

USC’s receivers dropped 27 balls in 2012, including eight on passes of 20 yards or longer. In 2011, USC had just 14 drops, four of which were on deep throws.

Also, USC’s running game struggled to gain first downs in key running situations, converting a first down on 11 of 21 third down rushes with two yards or fewer to go. The Trojans’ 52.4 third-down conversion percentage in those situations ranked 103rd in FBS.

USC averaged 7.6 rushes per touchdown in the red zone -- only six FBS teams had a lower red-zone rushing touchdown percentage last season.

Impact of Peterson's injury on power, speed

May, 9, 2012

Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesAdrian Peterson continues to rehab from a knee injury he suffered in Week 16 against the Redskins.
The Minnesota stadium debate isn’t the only issue Vikings fans are monitoring closely this offseason.

Adrian Peterson is working to come back from a gruesome knee injury suffered late last season. Peterson worked out in front of the media on Wednesday, 137 days after tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee.

Peterson is the face of the Vikings franchise, and one of the most productive tailbacks in league history through his first five seasons.

Since his rookie year in 2007, Peterson leads the NFL with 6,752 rushing yards and 64 rushing touchdowns. He has joined LaDainian Tomlinson and Pro Football Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Eric Dickerson as the only players to ever amass 6,000 rushing yards and 60 rushing TD in their first five seasons.

Even if Peterson is able to return to the field early in 2012, there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to run with the same strength and speed as in the past.

Running behind a porous offensive line in 2011, Peterson did some of his best work after getting hit, averaging 2.5 yards per rush after contact. Among the 31 running backs who carried the ball at least 150 times last season, only Ben Tate (2.9) averaged more yards per carry after contact than Peterson.

Peterson may not have the same type of wheels as when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds at the 2007 NFL Scouting Combine. Still, he has the speed to break the long run. Over the last three seasons, only Chris Johnson (34) and Michael Turner (21) have more rushes of at least 25 yards than Peterson’s 20.

His knee injury stands as an early-season obstacle, Peterson stands to benefit as much as anyone from Minnesota’s selection of USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick in last month’s draft. While Kalil’s pass protection is considered to be ahead of his run blocking, he’s sure to be an upgrade over the incumbent starter at left tackle, Charlie Johnson.

With Johnson starting all 16 games at left tackle in 2011, Peterson averaged just 3.8 yards per rush on his 30 carries around left tackle. Of the 27 players who rushed around left tackle at least 20 times last season, only three registered fewer yards per carry than Peterson.

In 2010, when Bryant McKinnie anchored the left side of the Vikings line, Peterson averaged 6.6 yards per rush on carries around left tackle, fifth most among NFL tailbacks.

NFC North draft focus on offensive line

April, 11, 2012
Stats & Information gets you ready for the NFL Draft at the end of the month with a look at the biggest need for each team. Today, we start off with the NFC North.

Chicago Bears
Need: Offensive line

The Bears have allowed a sack once every 10.5 dropbacks over the last two seasons, most in the NFL. No other team allowed a sack at a rate lower than once every 12.0 dropbacks.

They averaged 3.3 yards per rush up the middle last season, 30th in the NFL, with just two 20-yard rushes. When rushing to either side, the Bears averaged 5.0 yards per rush with 18 20-yard rushes.

Chicago drafted OT Gabe Carimi in the first round (29th overall) of the 2011 Draft.

Kiper’s 1st-Round Prediction: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
McShay’s 1st-Round Prediction: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Detroit Lions
Needs: Offensive line, secondary

LT Jeff Backus has played for 11 seasons, and the Lions didn’t re-sign Corey Hilliard, his primary backup last season.

The Lions had 14 rushing first downs outside the tackles (31st in the NFL) and were one of two teams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) without a rushing touchdown outside the tackles.

Defensively, Detroit allowed 59 percent of passes outside the numbers to be completed (fifth-worst in the league).

Kiper’s 1st-Round Prediction: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
McShay’s 1st-Round Prediction: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

Green Bay Packers
Need: Pass rush

The Packers sent five or more pass rushers on 46 percent of opponent dropbacks last season, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL and up from the 36 percent rate in Dom Capers’ first two seasons as defensive coordinator.

The Packers ramped up the blitz last season to overcompensate for a lack of pressure from a standard rush. After recording 30 sacks when rushing four or fewer in 2010 (second-most), the Packers picked up 11 sacks last season, the second-fewest in the NFL.

Erik Walden, Brad Jones and Frank Zombo combined for 5.0 sacks from the outside linebacker position last season, one fewer than Clay Matthews.

Kiper’s 1st-Round Prediction: Nick Perry, LB, USC
McShay’s 1st-Round Prediction: Andre Branch, DE/LB, Clemson

Minnesota Vikings
Needs: Offensive line, secondary

Against five or more pass rushers the Vikings were either sacked, under duress or hit while throwing on 37 percent of dropbacks, fourth-highest in the NFL. Opposing defenses exploited that weakness, as no team faced extra pressure on more dropbacks than the Vikings.

Matt Kalil is the consensus pick by Kiper and McShay, but boosting the secondary might be a more pressing need.

Minnesota allowed 17 touchdowns on throws of more than 10 air yards, the most in the league, and ranked last defending against wide receivers.

Kiper’s 1st-Round Prediction: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
McShay’s 1st-Round Prediction: Matt Kalil, OT, USC