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NFL Scouting: Phillip Rivers Leads Impressive Performances By the Numbers

Phillip RiversEarly in the season fans may often see somewhat inflated stats as players get off to a hot start before regressing back down to the mean as the season progresses. Using ProFootball Focus.com and their wide array of stats (learn about them here), I wanted to highlight a few players that have made their most of their opportunity and have stood out amongst others through three weeks.

  • Phillip Rivers has been quite impressive over the first three weeks for the San Diego Chargers. In 2010, Rivers had his best season accuracy wise with a completion % of 66%, this year he is completing 66.7% of passes whilst under pressure. Rivers has been outstanding in keeping his composure under duress. With an accuracy of 85.7%, Rivers holds an immense lead over the next best-ranked QB accuracy % (Peyton Manning, 71.4%). Accuracy is determined by the number of aimed passes a quarterback completes with drops counted as completions, intending to account for WR mistakes outside of the quarterback’s control. Furthermore, Rivers has torched defenses that blitz him, throwing for 7 of his 8 touchdowns when blitzed with a QB rating of 122.9. Despite great success from the quarterback under pressure, San Diego has found themselves on the wrong side of a 3-point deficit twice despite leading both times in the 4th quarter. The Chargers are 1-2.
  • With some teams running play action as much as every third passing play, many quarterbacks are finding great success by keeping the defense on their toes, with a few of them downright dominating when using play action. Peyton Manning has exploited defenses thoroughly over the first three weeks on the way to a 3-0 record. In each of his three games when throwing after play action, Manning has recorded a QB rating of 141.4 or higher, with a perfect 158.3 QB rating this past weekend. Not only has Peyton been the most accurate on play action plays, but he also has been making the most of these opportunities. With 14.6 yards per attempt (YPA) on play action drop backs, Manning has thrown further downfield than any other quarterback, by a good margin too (2nd: Eli Manning, 12.1 YPA). And with only a 7.4 YPA on non-play action plays, it’s apparent how valuable Denver thinks of their play action opportunities.
  • With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, life has been good for wide receivers in Green Bay. In 2011, Jordy Nelson led the league with a stellar 150.2 WR rating when thrown at. In 2012, Randall Cobb was 4th in WR rating with a 119.5 (Jordy Nelson’s 130.3 WR rating ranked 4th but his 71 targets just missed the cut of the required 50% of WR targets). It has been more of the same thus far in 2013 as Jordy Nelson ranks 1st overall with a 154.3 WR rating, and Cobb coming in at 14th. With 5 TDs combined between the two of them, it has been smooth sailing once again for the Packers passing attack.
  • With total passing yards growing exponentially every year, a need of an efficient pass-blocking running back has become more and more crucial. For Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE), PFF uses a formula that combines sacks, hits, and hurries to determine a player’s “PBE”. No runner has been a better pass blocker this year than Frank Gore. As the only running back with a PBE of 100% (playing at least 50% of all the Pass Block), Gore has shown how valuable of an asset he is in his duty of keeping Colin Kaepernick clean. In 38 pass blocking snaps, Gore has yet to let up a single hurry, let alone a sack; including an abnormally high rated game that resulted in a 1.8 Pass Block rating for Frank Gore against a strong Green Bay defense. Rounding out the rest of the leaders, in 28 pass blocking snaps both Mike Tolbert and Demarco Murray both have only allowed 1 hit resulting in a near perfect PBE score.
  • On the other side of the field, familiar faces top the leader boards for defensive end Pass Rush Productivity (PRP). After a field day against the Giants (1 sack, 1 hit, and 8 hurries), Carolina left end Charles Johnson has propelled himself to the top with a total PRP of 15.4, including 18 total pressures. Two Dallas Cowboys have also moved into the top 10 after a big day last Sunday. Demarcus Ware and George Selvie combined for 12 total pressures and 3 sacks against the St. Louis Rams. It comes to no surprise that Demarcus Ware is near the top of the leaderboard as he has steadily been an imposing threat to defenses. However, this year due to the Cowboy’s shifting from 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, Ware will have even more opportunities at the quarterback. Already he has been rushing the quarterback 7% more on passing snaps.
  • A name many may have never heard of is leading the league in Coverage Snaps Per Reception and is also ranked 3rd in Yards Per Coverage Snap. Starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher of the Philadelphia Eagles is having what appears to be a great year. He is also ranked 2nd in Coverage Snaps Per Target, a sign that he is rarely targeted by opposing quarterbacks. On the other hand, this is all too familiar for Fletcher, who last year was having a very similar season with the Rams before being benched after a three-penalty game against the Patriots in Week 10. He only played 20 snaps the rest of the season. Though he missed Week 2 with a concussion, Bradley Fletcher has been mistake free thus far. It will be interesting to track how effective Fletcher is throughout the season.