Over the next couple of days, BigBlueShoe, who runs the magnificent Indianapolis Colts blog Stampede Blue, will join me for some collaborative blogging (collaboblogging). In addition to being a fantastic writer, Big Blue Shoe hosts the weekly SB Nation podcast. And, of course, his Colts have what the Saints want -- a Super Bowl -- while he has what I want -- a logo that features ponies. So be sure to visit Stampede Blue over the next few days.
I kind of glossed over the Saints' chapter in Football Prospectus during yesterday's post, partially because I just really needed to clear that post, and partially because I didn't want to reveal too much of their chapter. Football Prospectus is fantastic reading, and it's exceptionally informative. If you're a fan of Baseball Prospectus, you will love what the Football Outsiders are doing. Even if they did forecast the Saints to have an 8-win season.
But I wanted to re-visit the Outsiders' assertion that Mike McKenzie and Jason Craft would see dropoffs in their performances. While the information in Football Prospectus is proprietary, I'm going to share a bit of their statistics regarding the performance of the Saints' cornerbacks in 2006. If you would like to know more about the stats, buy the book. I say that as if you didn't already own it.
The stat that really hops out at you is success rate. Now, the Outsiders have a pretty complex, rigidly-structured game charting project, one that allows them to track things like this, so stats like this are exceptionally grounded in reality. Success rate is defined (for members of the secondary) thusly:
The percentage of plays targeting this player on which the offense did not have a successful play. This means not only incomplete passes and interceptions but also short completions that do not meet our baselines for success (45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, 100 percent on third or fourth down.
This statistic is significant because it helps to explain just how well Mike McKenzie and Jason Craft played last season. Craft ranked first -- among 81 ranked players -- with a 64% success rate. Let me reiterate that: in 2006, on 64% of the plays that were directed at him, Jason Craft achieved a measure of success, a higher rate than any of the other 81 ranked players. That's truly a staggering notion, considering that his 2005 success rate was a meager 45%. McKenzie was no slouch himself: his 61% success rate ranked 6th in the league. Comparatively, Fred Thomas' 51% success rate ranked 48th.
So why does that portend dropoff? As mentioned, both are 31, an age when skill position players in the NFL see declines in their levels of play. Add to this the fact that McKenzie's rate bucked a trend of performance degeneration, while Craft's appeared like a bolt from nowhere. What I'm saying is, both are at risk to get burned like hamburgers this season -- unless they can reproduce seasons that look like statistical outliers.
And if they don't, I'm going to begin making my own I Can Has Cheezburger? memes about the Saints' defensive secondary. Actually, I may just do that anyways, it lookz like fun.