clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL Preseason: Meaning of Stats Lies Somewhere Between "Nothing" and "Basically Nothing"

"Coach, you're not even looking!"
"Coach, you're not even looking!"

It's kind of hard to write anything about the Seahawks for me right now because of my inability to attend training camp. I guess I just didn't get the "Attend training camps" genes from my parents. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad!

Regardless, I wanted to put something together today and yesterday I was thinking about preseason stats. One should not spend too much time thinking about preseason stats, but somehow every year people do. We are so obsessed with box scores and stats that it's hard to not get excited when they start rolling in during the month of August. I honestly don't think that a lot of people take them seriously, especially not the ones that frequent this fine website, but there are still people out there that do.

What you want to see is not in the numbers, but what the eyes tell you. How many mistakes did Matt Flynn make? How good were the cuts that Robert Turbin made? How come we never even thought of the fact that Russell Wilson's height allows him to run under the defenders! That's obviously what we are really looking for, and not how many touchdowns Tarvaris Jackson threw against a team's backup secondary.

This is a short list of things that preseason stats are like:

Butterface - Good from far, but far from good.

Penn State Officials - Deceptive and you can't trust them.

Post-80s Eddie Murphy Movies - You want to like them, but wow they are bad.

Life - Almost meaningless.

Man, that last one sure was depressing, wasn't it? Notice I said, "Almost." What kind of a jerk am I to say that preseason stats aren't totally meaningless? Well, it's not necessarily that the stats are indicative of talent, but a talented player could still put up good stats in the preseason and be poised for a breakout. However, that breakout player is still surrounded by bad ones that put up similar or better numbers. They are surrounded because the stats are basically meaningless, however it's still meaningful to that player that he's playing so well.

Take Antonio Brown for instance. He had 16 catches for 167 yards as a rookie drafted in the sixth round. Maybe few people outside of the organization or Pittsburgh thought there was a really bright future for him. Then he led the NFL preseason in receiving with 9 catches for 230 yards. Brown then had a breakout season, catching 69 passes for 1,108 yards and he looked pretty good doing it. His reports in camp this year during the Mike Wallace holdout make him seem like a good candidate to go even further with production.

So the preseason stats mattered right? Well, the next two leaders in preseason receiving were Derek Hagan and Matthew Slater. So you can't count on the stats for anything, but just maybe they are indicative of a talented player.

I rarely see people go back a year and look at preseason stats to compare them to what happened during the actual year. I guess because they have better things to do. But I don't! With the preseason now just a week away, I decided it would be a good time to do so. I make a lot of bad decisions. Who remembers how the Seahawks stats lined up in August of 2011? Wow, you do? I can't even remember the list I wrote comparing preseason stats to other things five minutes ago.

Here are some numbers...

5, 6, 7, 8

Now here are some stats.

The Quarterbacks

Next year I will probably remember a lot more about this years preseason because of my position at Field Gulls now, but I did not really remember much about last preseason. For instance, I had no idea how much better Charlie Whitehurst was than Tarvaris Jackson:

Whitehurst - 42 of 62 for 405 yards, 1 TD/0 INT

Jackson - 32 of 55 for 269 yards, 1 TD/2 INT

If we put any merit into the actual statistics, Whitehurst would have won the job and still, many people wanted Whitehurst to start over Jackson. I have not and still do not argue that Jackson is a very good quarterback but he still appears to be a lot better than Whitehurst when it's not preseason. Every year you get those preseason warrior quarterbacks that are backups and become valuable commodities on the trade market, we saw it first hand with Matt Hasselbeck how it worked out, but it is often meaningless. Whitehurst probably still gets work because of his size and level of competence in short spurts.

Other interesting preseason quarterback numbers:

Stephen McGee of the Cowboys is another one of those guys that could be interesting to some other teams, or even move up on his own. McGee got a lot of action in the preseason last year, leading the NFL in yards and attempts. He went 52 of 81 for 610 yards in four games with 3 TD/2 INT. It will be interesting to see what happens with the 26-year-old as time progresses.

In NFC West stuff, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton scuffle for the starting quarterback job but it was Richard Bartel that had a monster 2011 preseason by going 37 for 54, 530 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT and a QB rating of 115.5. He's actually a lot older than I thought (29) and has been shuffling around the NFL since 2007. If you want to search for Richard Bartel on Google you actually have to type in "Richard Barte" before it will auto-suggest it. Now that's bad! See what kind of trouble you get into when you start looking at preseason stats?

However, in relation to quarterbacks, I'd say we are going to look a lot this season at the those three guys we've been talking so much about and which one looks the best, but it's possible that the stats will reflect who looks the best. It's also very possible that they will not and they have zero indication of how the winning quarterback will play during the regular season. But just because we can't indicate how they'll do based on the stats doesn't mean that they can't happen to have both good statistics in the preseason and the regular season.

Also interesting to me is that Cam Newton had a terrible preseason, completing 42.1% of passes for 1 TD and 0 INT. He then had one of the best rookie seasons for a quarterback ever. If Russell Wilson has a bad preseason it won't mean he'll have a bad regular season, if and when he gets the call. But if he has a bad preseason I also don't expect him to get the call very soon.

Matt Flynn was 22 for 40 for 311 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT last preseason.

If you ever needed an indication on the meaning-ness of preseason stats: Tim Tebow completed 20 of 31 passes. 64.5%! That's more complete passes than he had during the entire regular season. (You know that's not true yet you thought it might be for a second.)

If it still matters to anyone here, if you're still looking for a franchise quarterback, there are several names that I think are going to pop up a lot during the preseason as potential franchise guys: McGee, Chase Daniel of the Saints, Mike Kafka of the Eagles, Sean Canfield of the Saints, Ryan Mallett of the Patriots, Scott Tolzien of the 49ers are a few. Mallett has reportedly looked great in camp.

In NFC West battles, of which there are several, we will be looking at Kolb v Skelton and also keeping an eye on the backup quarterbacks in San Francisco. How Colin Kaepernick looks will be very interesting to me and if Tolzien has a really good preseason, we could see Kaepernick traded out of the division.

Running Backs

Some of the interesting preseason leaders in 2011 were Kendall Hunter, Ryan Mathews, and Roy Helu. Some of the not interesting leaders were Da'Rel Scott of the Giants, Armond Smith of the Browns, Joique Bell of the Saints and Dion Lewis of the Eagles. However, I think that at least Scott and Lewis could have futures and honestly just don't know much about Smith or Bell.

The Seahawks had a guy that was 16th in preseason rushing yards and his name is Thomas Clayton. Do you know how many teams Clayton has played for in six seasons? 49ers, Patriots, Browns, back with Patriots, back with Browns, back with Patriots, Seahawks, back with Browns and now the Arizona Cardinals. He moves around more times than A.C. Slater did as a child. (Yet oddly never moved again when he got to Bayside.)

Sometimes running backs get a lot of work if they need to get up to game speed or something but Marshawn Lynch got just six carries in two games. He had fewer yards than Dorson Boyce, who was a Seahawk. If he was recovering from some injury, I forget. Expect to see a lot of Turbin, of course, but also the guys behind him like Kregg Lumpkin and Tyrell Sutton. This preseason will be very important for watching Robert Turbin and seeing what a starting version of Turbin could look like.

Around the NFC West, I'm looking to see what Ryan Williams looks like after missing a year. Beanie Wells is on the preseason PUP right now but looking to get back before the preseason ends. Of course I'm also looking to see how Thomas Clayton does in Arizona!

In San Francisco I want to see how LaMichael James looks because I really wanted LaMichael James. It is a really crowded backfield for the 49ers with Hunter, Frank Gore, and Brandon Jacobs but I expect that James would get a lot of snaps in the preseason.

The Rams are getting prepared to transition out of the Steven Jackson era and rookie Isaiah Pead is a popular sleeper this season so I'll be looking to see how Pead does. I C U Pead.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

I already talked about Brown, Hagan, and Slater but interesting enough is Larry Fitzgerald who was fourth in yards with 183 on just six catches. Fitzgerald versus backups is just stupid stupid dumb dumb. You had nobodies on the leaderboard but you also have some of the biggest name receivers in football like Fitz, Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Marshall. These guys just eat up these opportunities.

Also, Joique Bell was 16th in receiving? I really need to learn more about this Joique fellow.

The Seahawks preseason leaders as follows:

Golden Tate - 9 for 103

Anthony McCoy - 9 for 90

Dominique Byrd - 7 for 85

Doug Baldwin - 9 for 69

Leon Washington - 6 for 62

Chris Carter - 4 for 55

Mike Williams - 4 for 47

Kris Durham - 7 for 46

Pat Williams - 3 for 36

Man, Chris Carter and Pat Williams? If you just looked at the numbers, you'd learn nothing. We know by now that's obvious. We're going to be looking hard at wide receivers this preseason and its doubtful anyone will put up big numbers because of how close it appears the battle for position is. After Sidney Rice and Baldwin, who really knows?

We'll be looking to see who plays the best over those four games and somebody is going to win a starting job, a couple of guys will end up on the bench, a couple will end up on the practice squad, and the rest will get cut. It would be the most interesting battle in camp if it weren't for the quarterback battle, and if you're like me and assume that Flynn is going to win the job, then it is the most interesting.

In the NFC West, I'm looking to see how all of the 49ers new receivers work together. I want to see who could possibly step up in St. Louis. And I want to see how Michael Floyd looks in Arizona.

He probably looks hot because desert.

Defensive Stats

There really aren't even enough games to separate leaders from the pack with defensive stats but Aldon Smith led the preseason with 3.5. I would like to see Bruce Irvin blow up a few quarterbacks, that's for sure.

But Aldon Smith wasn't the only one with three sacks and I've never heard of Jacquian Williams or George Johnson. I mean, I'm sure I've heard of a George Johnson but not this one for Tampa Bay. ("I don't even own a gun." Really hard to get those italics to read when its only the letter 'a')

And then next you have Von Miller with 3, too! WE LEARN NOTHING FROM THE STATS BUT THEN WE KIND OF DO?!

Pep Levingston had 2.5 sacks for the Seahawks last preseason.

Anyways, that's all I really have to say about preseason stats. (That's all, Kenneth? This is over 2000 words you bandicoot!) Yep, and you clearly just read them all, sucker. Maybe next year I'll get to go to training camp and then it's all downhill from there.

The stats are completely meaningless to us because we don't know how to separate the real from the mirage by only looking at the stats. Von Miller and Aldon Smith had a lot of preseason sacks and a lot of regular season sacks but George Johnson and Jacquian Williams did not. For the Seahawks, we'd love to see the Hawks put up good numbers because why wouldn't we, but it really won't have any indication on anything. If Phil Bates goes out there and catches 12 passes for 250 yards, it's probably going to get him a job, but not necessarily because of the "stats" but because he did a good job of catching passes and then gaining yards with those catches.

If he goes out there and catches an 80 touchdown pass on a 10-yard screen in the fourth quarter against the Titans third string defense though, it will basically only be important that he caught it and didn't drop it. The 80 yards would be almost inconsequential unless he displayed some sort of second gear speed that made you go "Wow, he's fast!" But the stats won't mean a damn thing.

I really need to stop writing this article about the preseason... STAT!

Follow me on Twitter