If any of you folks on here are big into analytics and numbers I have an interesting tidbit to share with you.
Bill Connelly, the guy who created the S&P+ formula and considered the top expert in the field of football analytics, tracks returning production every year and he wrote this last year:
The higher the number, the more likely returning production in these areas is to coincide with strong offense:
- Receiving yards correlation: 0.324
- Passing yards correlation: 0.234
- Rushing yards correlation: 0.168
- Offensive line starts correlation: 0.153
With more data, the offensive line correlations have begun to grow stronger, which makes sense, but the conclusion remains: continuity in the passing game matters a hell of a lot, and continuity in the run game doesn’t have as strong an impact.
He also wrote this about the defense:
- Defensive back tackles correlation: 0.404
- Defensive back passes defensed correlation: 0.377
- Overall tackles correlation: 0.325
- Overall passes defensed correlation: 0.324
- Defensive back tackles for loss correlation: 0.299
- Overall tackles for loss correlation: 0.269
- Linebacker tackles for loss correlation: 0.250
- Linebacker tackles correlation: 0.250
- Linebacker passes defensed correlation: 0.228
- Defensive line tackles correlation: 0.154
- Defensive line tackles for loss correlation: 0.119
That’s right, the correlations for defensive back tackles and passes defensed is stronger than the correlations for overall tackles. Continuity in the trenches does not appear to be worth what we tend to think it’s worth. But continuity in the passing game, on both sides of the ball, means a ton.
I mention this because I know a lot of folks are worried about Brooks/Sermon leaving and Stevenson being out for a few weeks. A lot of you seem worried about the defensive line with Gallimore leaving (and Perkins potentially opting out). But if you read the above stats you'll notice that returning production at running back and on the defensive line.... isn't that important. They're actually the least important stats on each side of the ball.
The major factors for determing an offenses' success is QB performance and the play from your WRs. We lose a terrific player in Ceedee but our WR group as a whole should be better with our young receivers being more experienced and with Rattler presumably distributing the ball around more it will make everyone as a whole better at wide out. Rattler himself should be a major improvement over Jalen. With our returning experience on the OL, returning experience at WR, and the improvement at quarterback we should see improvement on offense this year.
The major factors for determing a defenses' success is almost exclusively how much production you return in the secondary, and it goes without saying we are pretty dang experienced in the secondary and all of your young guys from last year are even more experienced. Our defense as a whole should improve just based on this. The only downside we will see on defense is the amount of disruption we lose from Murray. There's a good correlation between LB tackles/tackles for loss and defensive improvement. None of us are expecting anyone in the LB room to be Murray, but this will be a major factor for if the defense as a whole improves or regresses. Will the linebackers be disruptive. If the answer is yes you will see the defense as a whole improve drastically from last year (perhaps top 15-20). If the answer is no then your front seven is pretty soft and no amount of returning production in the secondary will make you a good defense. Everything will fall apart.
This was a bit lengthy, but in short you shouldn't worry at all about the RBs or defensive line. There is almost no correlation at all with returning RB or DL production. Matter of fact Connelly himself only uses returning RB production as 6.5% of his total offensive formula and returning DL production as 5% of his total defensive formula. The entire key to this team winning a national title will revolve around our linebackers. If they're good we'll be good. If they're not then we won't be.