3rd and It Doesn't Matter

The Post has a great article showing one of the big successes for the Redskins has been 3rd down on both sides of the ball.  The offense is 4th in the league in 3rd down conversions. The defense has allowed only 4 first downs in the 20 3rd downs they’ve faced this year versus the 13 for 21 the offense has converted so far.

I have four words for the Post– regression to the mean.

I’m not trying to be a downer.  I really don’t want to get down on this team right now. But there is no way this team is going to keep up a 62% 3rd down conversion rate.  And the thing is we aren’t scoring TDs at a rate to make up for a drop in 3rd down efficiency. Despite being 4th in 3rd downs, we’re 21st in points scored. Without a higher TD rate, the offense will slump big time when we naturally regress to the mean.

On the other hand, those who have taken my advice and gotten their copy of Football Prospectus 2007 will know what I am about to say about the defense. While 20% is an unrealistic goal, expect the defense to maintain its success on 3rd down. According to the Prospectus, the Redskins had one of the worst drops in defensive 3rd down efficiency ever.  While obviously some of this can be attributed to injuries in the secondary, the drop was so bad that some of it can only be attributed to really bad luck. 

People don’t like to think of luck as a major part of sports but it does exist.  Luck is best seen in a player’s career year.  A few broken tackles, another player getting hurt so you get more playing time, a few good bounces and you go from a regular starter to an all-pro for the year.

So, with the expected regression to the mean, a little turnaround of our luck from last year, and a healthy secondary we can expect this team to get better and stay better. Not 20% 3rd down conversion good, but very good.

I guess I feel like crap saying that both the offense and defense will get worse, but the defense will only get a little worse.  Nice things to say, huh?.

But what I’m really trying to say is that we need to improve, particularly in the number of field goals we settle for.  Look for this to be a growing problem, or something we fix shortly if we’re going to have a great season. I think as Jason gets more experience we should improve the TD rate.

-DW

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