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Why our running game will improve (With history! And stats!)

 
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GaTechRavens


Joined: 25 Nov 2006
Posts: 17667
Location: Madison, WI
PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 4:14 pm    Post subject: Why our running game will improve (With history! And stats!) Reply with quote

I'm a strong believer in awful things getting better by default. Typically, over the course of a season, statistics start off by being rather extreme before normalizing over time. This is important to consider for the Ravens, since our running game has started out in an extreme manner - unfortunately, this one takes the negative side.

So, I decided to see how teams who started out with similarly poor running games through 7 games fared the rest of the season. Did they get better, or were their initial results in fact a reflection of their actual ability going forward? I decided to stick to the last 10 years (for this one) to make it as current as possible:

2006 Cardinals: 2.53, 3.72
2010 Broncos: 2.85 , 4.63
2003 Titans: 2.96, 3.60
2009 Texans: 3.01, 3.82
2005 Cardinals: 3.02, 3.28
2004 Dolphins: 3.05, 3.85
2011 Titans: 3.05, 4.39
2003 Bills: 3.07, 4.47
2005 Panthers: 3.07, 3.74
2005 Packers: 3.11, 3.60
2007 Texans: 3.11, 4.28
2009 Chargers: 3.13, 3.46
2007 Bears: 3.16, 3.14
2011 Giants: 3.19, 3.71
2005 Jets: 3.19, 3.66
2008 Bengals: 3.21, 3.87
2011 Browns: 3.24, 4.08
2006 Browns: 3.25, 3.88

All but one of the teams improved in the second half of the season, most of them by quite a bit. Most weren't necessarily good at running the ball all of a sudden, but they were better. Other than the 2007 Bears, who barely regressed, the smallest improvement an of those teams had was by a margin of 0.26 yards per carry...nothing too small.

Still, that's a pretty small sample size. To add to that perspective, let's look at the worst rushing teams through 7 games from 1993 to 2002:

1999 Cardinals: 2.71, 3.33
1994 Patriots: 2.76, 2.81
1999 Falcons: 2.82, 3.54
1997 Falcons: 2.88, 4.29
1999 Chargers: 2.88, 3.15
1994 Redskins: 2.90, 3.87
1999 Giants: 2.91, 3.58
1993 Buccaneers: 2.93, 3.40
1998 Packers: 3.01, 3.72
1993 Raiders: 3.01, 3.50
1999 Seahawks: 3.01, 3.87
1997 Cardinals: 3.05, 3.28
2000 Falcons: 3.06, 3.77
1997 Dolphins: 3.06, 3.17
2000 Chargers: 3.06, 3.00
1994 Giants: 3.08, 3.50
1995 Buccaneers: 3.09, 4.82
2001 Browns: 3.10, 3.37
1996 Rams: 3.11, 3.86
1995 Oilers: 3.12, 3.74

Once again, all but one improved, most by quite a substantial margin.

It stands to reason that, even if things look hopeless, the Ravens will be better at running the ball the rest of the way than they are right now simply because they've started out so historically bad.. Players/teams with extreme stats return to the mean all the time. The insane paces you always hear about players or teams going for, good or bad, are never sustained. So, even if it seems like our there is nothing about our running game that will improve, it will get better...pretty much by default. Why? Because that's just the way it always goes...and given the track record of the Ravens' running game in recent years, it's pretty much a given that there's more talent and potential than what's being shown right now. Even if they don't return to their 2008-2012 selves, there will be improvement. That I can guarantee.

This should actually make us fairly ecstatic. It's not too often that you know a part of your team will be better in the second half than the first. If the Ravens are 3-4 with a positive point differential despite a historically bad running game, what would their record look like with a running game that is substantially better? Heck, even marginally better?
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Flaccomania


Joined: 12 Aug 2008
Posts: 22857
Location: Parkville, MD
PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's nice to see history back this up.

The Ravens themselves, particularly under Harbaugh, have shown that they can make adjustments and improve as the year goes on. In the past it was mostly a matter of not running the ball enough -- this year, it's not running the ball effectively. However, I have faith that the coaching staff, players, and everyone involved, will find some things to correct during this BYE week and we will see a change. Whether it's blocking scheme, personnel, somebody fired, etc -- Harbs knows this isn't working. The Ravens offense is at it's best when the run game is working, and Rice is still one of our best offensive weapons. Between whatever change we may see and Rice hopefully getting a bit healthier, I think we'll most certainly see an improved run game in the second half of the season. How much improved remains to be seen, but it almost certainly won't stay this bad all season.
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spiritoftruth


Joined: 22 Nov 2006
Posts: 2207
PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While this is great research and the evidence does back up your claim, you've been off with your predictions using the regression to the mean theories when applied to the NFL. For example... The Steelers should force more turnovers this year because last year they had an extremely down year (by their standards). Well they had 20 total last year, and look to be on pace for similar numbers this year. Sometimes, things just don't get better.

But in the case of the Ravens, I do think the run game will improve because the offensive line hasn't been playing up to their talent level.
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GaTechRavens


Joined: 25 Nov 2006
Posts: 17667
Location: Madison, WI
PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2013 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spiritoftruth wrote:
While this is great research and the evidence does back up your claim, you've been off with your predictions using the regression to the mean theories when applied to the NFL. For example... The Steelers should force more turnovers this year because last year they had an extremely down year (by their standards). Well they had 20 total last year, and look to be on pace for similar numbers this year. Sometimes, things just don't get better.

But in the case of the Ravens, I do think the run game will improve because the offensive line hasn't been playing up to their talent level.

It's not impossible for bad luck to repeat itself. I went on record after Pittsburgh's 0-4 start saying that a lot of their failings in the first quarter of the season were flukish, and that may be starting to reverse itself.
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