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How much did the Titans’ offense improve when VY came in? Prt 3

[Ed.-Hopefully this re-post fixes the problem with the earlier post.  Sorry for the inconvenience.]

I’ll have another draft post coming this weekend, but in the meantime I thought I’d get back to my continuing series of how much the Titans’ offense changed when VY replaced Kerry Collins as the starting quarterback after the bye week.

In part one of this little series, I wrote about how Kerry Collins and Vince Young compared statistically, and how Vince Young compared to quarterbacks of other teams who changed signal-callers at midseason.  Part two covered how starting field position affected drives.  For this third part, I thought I’d take a break from statwork and look at some actual plays.

Going back to part one, Young improved over Collins in a couple areas, and the biggest was probably interceptions.  As a starter last year, Kerry threw 19% fewer interceptions per attempt than an average quarterback.  This year, overall, he threw 10% more than an average QB.  Back in 2007, Vince as a starter threw 22% more interceptions than an average quarterback, while this year he threw 3% fewer, and did better than that as a starter.  So, given these stats, I thought it’d be a useful task to see how they each QB threw their 2009 interceptions.

I’ll go through this in chronological order, starting with Kerry’s interception in the Steelers game and running through Vince’s pick against Seattle in Week 17.  The lone exception is Vince’s interception against the Patriots, since the secret to that has already been exposed.

All the normal disclaimers to any game watching apply in full force to these observations: I’m doing this off the TV broadcast, not coaching tape, so identifying defense, play design, and passing lanes may be difficult if not impossible.  I don’t know what play was called or who if anybody made any assignment errors, or anything else that could have or should have happened, as opposed to what I can see of what did happen.  Anyway, on with the show:

W1, aPIT: 2-5-PIT 44 (1Q 1:51) K.Collins pass deep left intended for K.Britt INTERCEPTED by T.Polamalu at PIT 5.
After some success with short passes, the Titans take a shot downfield.  I-formation, White the deep back, twins left in Britt (slot) and Washington (wide).  The Steelers bring 3 DL plus Harrison from a standing position against Roos and drop off both LBs on the offensive right side.  Collins has a pretty clean pocket and throws about 40 yards downfield for Britt on a corner route.  Polamalu, in coverage, makes a great one-handed interception.  On replay, this looks like a poor ball from Collins, an underthrow that should go to the corner of the end zone but doesn’t.  Britt doesn’t help out Collins very much, but all he realistically could’ve done was prevent a costly interception, not turn a poor throw from his QB into a good one.

W2, vHOU: 2-13-TEN 22 (2Q 10:58) K.Collins pass deep middle intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by E.Wilson at TEN 42.
CJ is the lone setback, with Gage and Washington stacked right and Cook(?) split left.  The Texans are lined up in an “over” look, but drop the LB on the line and bring LB Cushing on a blitz up the middle.  Facing pressure after CJ’s mediocre blitz pickup, Collins is probably looking for Washington, but throws the ball too far and behind him.  This looks like a little bit of miscommunication and a lot of poor throw by Collins, though the OL breakdown doesn’t help, as CJ didn’t do a good job of picking up Cushing, Scott and Mawae didn’t do their jobs, and Stewart was getting pushed back by Mario Williams (though that last didn’t really affect the play).

W3, aNYJ: 2-10-TEN 26 (2Q 3:52) K.Collins pass deep right intended for C.Johnson INTERCEPTED by E.Smith at TEN 45.
Titans line up in a 3WR set, with CJ the lone setback, Washington wide left, Gage slot right and Britt wide right, plus Crumpler next to Roos.  The Jets are showing 3 DL + 3 LB and tight on Gage and Washington, 7 yards off Britt.  Collins drops back and apparently doesn’t see anything he likes.  CJ moves into the right flat and then when Collins rolls right moves up the sideline, on a kind of wheel route.  Collins tries to find CJ, but S Eric Smith does a great job to stay between him and Collins and there’s simply not an angle for this pass to be completed.  It’s a great individual play by Smith, but Collins should probably have just thrown this ball away instead of trying to make a play.  Collins rolled right after some sign of pressure from the Jets; Jenkins pushed Mawae back and Douglas got some push splitting Roos and Harris (playing LG), though Harris did have him contained.   But, this was almost as much phantom pressure as real pressure, in terms of how much it actively prevented Collins from making a play.

W3, aNYJ:  2-15-NYJ 44 (4Q 4:22) K.Collins pass short left intended for A.Crumpler INTERCEPTED by D.Harris at NYJ 29.
Base personnel, with Hall offset left of CJ in the backfield, Crumpler on the line next to Stewart, Gage close in left, and Washington wide right..  The Jets are showing an “over” look to go with the 4 DL and bring only the DL.  Harris, who I thought generally did a good job, got pushed back into Collins’ area by DT Sione Pouha.  Kerry was unable to step into his throw and it’s intercepted by underneath defender David Harris.  If Leroy Harris can give him the space to step into this throw, this should be a 20 yard completion to Crumpler.  Instead, the 1v1 battle was lost, and it costs the Titans possession.

W4, aJAC: 1-10-TEN 38 (2Q :17) K.Collins pass short right intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by G.Alexander at TEN 48.
Blame CJ for this one-the Titans, down 27-3, are likely content to run out the clock, but the draw play to #28 picks up about 16 yards and a first down, plus a clock stoppage on out of bounds.  The Titans come out in their base two minute personnel of 3 WR+TE+RB.  Scaife lined up on Stewart’s wing, Washington wide right, two other wideouts slot and wide left.  The Jaguars bring 4 and Collins throws for Washington on a deep comeback on the right sideline, which pass goes right to S Alexander.  Simply a dreadful, awful, unforgivable interception by a veteran QB, and maybe the pass more than any other that convinced me there was nothing to be gained from playing KFC the rest of the year.

W4, aJAC: 1-10-JAX 30 (3Q 5:53) K.Collins pass deep right intended for J.Cook INTERCEPTED by D.Cox at JAX 11.
A tighter formation than most, with Cook and Scaife TEs right side, Gage close in left, and Washington close in right, with CJ the lone setback.  The Jags gets some push up the middle, and Collins throws off his back foot.  Intended for Cook, who is open, but the lack of followthrough means the pass sails on him, right to Cox, who has an easy interception.  I forgave Collins for the pick he threw from the Jets game in similar circumstances, but he simply has to be smarter than this.

W5, vIND: 3-6-TEN 24 (3Q 13:52) K.Collins pass short right intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by T.Jennings at TEN 31.
Shotgun, Scaife and Crumpler TEs to the right side, Washington split right, Gage(?) split left, and CJ to Collins’ left.  The pass for Washington is about an 8 yard sitdown, only the pass is too far inside and Jennings is able to beat Washington to the ball.  Poor ball placement by Collins, it appears, though he didn’t get much help from Washington.  Pressure was not a factor on the play.

W6, aNE: 2-8-TEN 37 (2Q 8:02) K.Collins pass deep left intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by D.Butler at NE 35.
By this point, the Titans are down 24-0 already and the day and the defense are looking lost, though mid-2nd quarter is early enough it’s not completely hopeless.  CJ is the deep setback, Hall offset left, Scaife next to Roos, Washington split left, and somebody else (hate the snow contrast) split right.  It’s a simply go route for Washington down the left sideline, and it’s simply another poor throw by Collins.  If I were in a generous mood, I’d say the wind got this deep ball and killed it, but I simply don’t know that to be the case.

W10, vBUF: 3-10-TEN 35 (2Q 5:30) V.Young pass deep middle intended for L.Hawkins INTERCEPTED by J.Byrd at BUF 36.
Third and long, so it’s shotgun 3-wide for the Titans. Scaife TE right, CJ the lone setback, Hawkins in the slot to the right side.  The Bills bring the 4 DEs, plus LB Posluszny, plus S Wilson on a delayed blitz, plus they stunt DT Johnson.  CJ should have pickup on Posluszny but instead misreads the play and moves to pick up Wilson.  VY off a deep drop has quick pressure and throws the ball up for grab to Hawkins, who runs what looks like a simple seam route.  Byrd is playing deep middle and has an easy interception.  Bad blitz pickup forced VY to make a quick decision, and he made a poor one.

W13, aIND: 3-5-TEN 43 (2Q 5:54) V.Young pass short right intended for K.Britt INTERCEPTED by J.Lacey [A.Bethea] at IND 48.
Trips left (Scaife, Hawk, Washington), with CJ the lone setback beside VY in the gun.  The Colts bring 5, including Freeney, who lined up as a DT, on a stunt up the middle, and Mawae and Scott fail to pick him up, forcing VY to scramble.  Under pressure, VY moves to his right and throws for Britt as he’s about to head out of bounds.  From my vantage point on that sideline, it seemed like Britt seemed to quit on the route and Lacey easily beat him to the ball for the pick.  It’s tough to fault VY for trying to make a play on third down with his team down 14-3, but the throw is slightly across his body and into traffic.  Sadly enough, the better decision was probably to simply throw the ball away and punt it back.  Whatever play the Titans called was obviated by the Colts’ schemed pressure.

W15, vMIA: 2-8-TEN 25 (1Q 14:13) V.Young pass deep right intended for B.Scaife INTERCEPTED by V.Davis (C.Crowder) at MIA 49.
Double TE right, Scaife wing over Crumpler, one wideout to each side.  The Dolphins bring an extra rusher, but CJ gets the pickup and VY has a clean pocket.  He throws for Scaife on a corner route about 17 yards downfield.  Crowder has underneath coverage, and VY doesn’t get the ball over him.  The ex-Gator tips the ball up and it pinballs around before falling into the arms of Vontae Davis.  This was simply a poor throw by VY-on this pattern, you MUST get the ball over the underneath defender and he fails to do that.

W16, vSD: 1-10-SD 29 (2Q 12:58) V.Young pass short middle intended for A.Crumpler INTERCEPTED by B.Siler at SD 19.
I formation, Hall in front of CJ, Crumpler moved from right to Roos’s wing left, Washington split wide left, Gage split wide right. Chargers are showing 8 in the box, with 4 “DL” and Merriman (who’s been a coverage guy, not a pass rusher thus far). The Chargers bring what looks like 5, but Ellison is shadowing CJ and drops off to follow when #28 moves into the left flat. The other 3 guys in the box, LBs, drop into coverage. It looks like man coverage, based on the outside, but Merriman, Cooper, and Siler were playing zone. VY reads man and sees Crumpler come open inside of Cooper, and doesn’t see Siler lurking in the middle of the field. Bad read by VY or, alternatively, credit the Chargers for confusing him with combo coverage.

W16, vSD: 2-10-TEN 29 (3Q 3:08) V.Young pass short right intended for K.Britt INTERCEPTED by E.Weddle at TEN 40.
Trips right, Gage flanked by Washington (inside) and Britt. Chargers bring the obvious 4, CJ heads out into the field. VY throws for Gage about 12 yards downfield on the right-comeback, or maybe out route. Gage had outside positioning, but Weddle made a good break on the ball, plus the pass was too far inside to avoid CB Cason, who was in the area. Poor throw and poor decision by VY, though I feel like Britt could’ve done a better job of fighting for the ball.

W17, aSEA: 2-7-TEN 30 (1Q 6:01) V.Young pass deep right intended for J.Gage INTERCEPTED by D.Grant at SEA 28.
Titans come out in a 2 TE, 2 WR set with Scaife in the left slot, Alge on Stewart’s wing, and CJ the lone setback.  Gage is lined up wide right with CB Trufant playing 7 yards off.  VY playfakes to CJ, and Amano pulls to the right side, as though it’s a counter play.  It is, instead, a rollout to the right side.  VY faces no immediate pressure, but uncorks a long throw 42 yards downfield.  It’s about 5 yards overthrown for Gage, and Grant, playing deep safety, has an easy interception.  I have no idea what VY saw downfield, but this looks like an absolutely horrific read and throw by a QB under no pressure.  On the replay, it looks like Gage runs either a sloppy route or one more to the middle that he cuts off because he sees that Grant has coverage over the top.  A poor read and throw by VY.

So, what to make of the preceding?  In some respects, absolutely nothing-interceptions, even with a QB like Collins who threw a lot, represent less than 5% of all of a QB’s pass attempts for the year, and there’s no guarantee that kind of small subset is anything like representative of anything.  A still partial but better analysis would include all the near interceptions and the dropped interceptions, but I don’t have a convenient list of those.  But, from this sample size, a couple tentative conclusions:


  • OL pressure seems to figure more prominently in Collins’ interceptions than in VY’s.  Yes, part of this is VY’s mobility, but I think part of it is I think the OL just got better over the bye week.  That was something I noticed, most prominently, in screen passes, which were generally a disaster early but worked reasonably well later.  I’ll be curious to see if those bear out when I run the rushing numbers later in the series.
  • Both QBs threw interceptions because of poor reads and bad passes, but for VY this was the dominant type.  Thinks like the above and the Chargers breakdown make it clear that, while VY was greatly improved over 2007, he still needs to get much better if he wants to be a great NFL QB.
  • From the small sample size, and what I re-watched of the games, it wouldn’t surprise me to see VY rank poorly in something like KC Joyner’s Bad Decision percentage.  Yes, he’s better, but not that much better.
  • A good number of the interceptions came against 3-4 defenses.  It wasn’t just schemed pressure, but power inside seemed to play a big role.  Harris at LG and Amano at C should be a better come, in power terms, than Amano and Mawae was; Mawae in particular got overwhelmed at the point of attack.

Next up in this series: I haven’t decided yet.