Fillability Index: NFC West

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 26, 2008



The Fillability Index is our annual look at each team's off-season acquisitions and departures.
 
We continue today with the NFC West, a division which couldn't suck any worse. Take, for example:
  1. Our Relativity Index, a measure of how teams perform relative to the average performance of their opponents. Two NFC West teams, San Francisco and St. Louis, rounded out the bottom two spots on this indicator last year.
  2. The performance of each team's front office this past off-season. Let's put it this way, when Arizona, the worst organization in the history of football, boasts the best off-season performance, your division is in a world of hurt.
The Fillability Index is the best way found anywhere in the seedy underworld of online football analysis to measure the off-season moves of each NFL team. Its brilliance is found in its simplicity: we size up each team based upon their statistical strengths and weaknesses last year, as measured by their rankings in all of our Quality Stats, and then determine whether they made the necessary off-season personnel moves to shore up those weaknesses.
 
Pretty simple. Yet nobody else does it.
 
So on to the Index.
 
(Index Key: Bend = Bendability Index; Score = Scoreability Index; PYPA = Passing Yards Per Attempt; DPR = Defensive Passer Rating; OHI = Offensive Hog Index; DHI = Defensive Hog Index; Big Play = Big Play Index; Relativity = Relativity Index; ST = Special Teams)
 
ARIZONA (2007 Quality Stats rankings)
28
6
9
22
22
20
26
20
18
 
Additions:
LB Clark Haggans (Pittsburgh)
DE Travis LaBoy (Tennessee)
QB Briant St. Pierre (Pittsburgh)
LB Matt Stewart (Cleveland)
TE Jerame Tuman (Pittsburgh)
 
Subtractions:
WR Bryant Johnson (San Francisco)
LB Calvin Pace (New York Jets)
LB Darryl Blackstock (Cincinnati)
DE Chris Cooper (Seattle)
S Terrence Holt (Carolina)
 
Draft Picks:
1 (16) Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State
2 (50) Calais Campbell, DE, Miami
3 (81) Early Doucet, WR, LSU
4 (116) Kenny Iwebema, DE, Iowa
5 (149) Timothy Hightower, RB, Richmond
6 (185) Christopher Harrington, DE, Texas A&M
7 (225) Brandon Keith, OT, Northern Iowa
 
Cardinals Fillability Overview 
We have a general rule in the Cold, Hard Football Facts cardboard-box world headquarters: if the number of girls we slept with in college is greater than the number of playoff games your franchise has won in 88 years of NFL football, than we get to insult your franchise until it weeps like ... well, those same three girls we slept with in college.
 
So it is that we spare no opportunity to make fun of the Cardinals and their two postseason victories since 1920.
 
In fact, there is no greater joy in the otherwise joyless lives of the Cold, Hard Football Facts crew than making fun of the Cardinals.
 
With that said, the House that Bidwill Infested may actually have shown a rare semblance of a clue this off-season.
 
Of course, you'd have to be a deaf, dumb and blind kid not to see the statistical clues the 2007 Cardinals left behind: namely, they needed to do something about a defense that ranked 20th in our Defensive Hog Index, 22nd in Defensive Passer Rating and 28th  in Bendability (our measure of team-wide defensive efficiency).
 
So Arizona attacked its defensive weaknesses in the draft and in free agency. In the draft, their first two picks, and three of the top four, were all devoted to defense. The bulk of the talent acquired in free agency was also on the defensive side of the ball. Steelers linebacker Clark Haggans is the only one among them with major impact potential, while defensive end Travis LaBoy registered six sacks off the bench last year for the Titans.
 
Of course, some of those defensive acquisitions were out of personnel necessity, as well as statistical necessity. The Cardinals lost a slew of defensive players to free agency.
 
Still, overall, it was an off-season filled with signs of progress by an organization that has ignored that defensive side of the ball in recent years in a crazed, Millen-esque quest to wildly gobble up wide receivers in the draft (as CHFF readers know, grabbing WRs high in the draft is almost always a bad decision) and horde used-up offensive players in free agency.
 
It spells progress for an organization that's suffered the indignity of scoring less often than we did in college.
 
Arizona Fillability Grade: B+
 
***
 
ST. LOUIS (2007 Quality Stats rankings)
32
30
27
20
30
16t
28
32
13
 
Additions:
K Josh Brown (Seattle)
TE Anthony Becht (Tampa Bay)
OG Jacob Bell (Tennessee)
WR Reche Caldwell (Washington)
QB Trent Green (Miami)
CB David Macklin (Washington)
QB Bruce Gradkowski (Tampa Bay)
 
Subtractions:
WR Isaac Bruce (San Francisco)
OG Milford Brown (Carolina)
LB Brandon Chillar (Green Bay)
QB Gus Frerotte (Minnesota)
 
Draft Picks:
1 (2) Chris Long, DE, Virginia
2 (33) Donnie Avery, WR, Houston
3 (65) John Greco, OT, Toledo
4 (101) Justin King, CB, Penn State
4 (128) Keenan Burton, WR, Kentucky
5 (157) Roy Schuening, OG, Oregon State
7 (228) Chris Chamberlain, LB, Tulsa
7 (252) David Vobora, LB, Idaho
 
Rams Fillability Overview
The Rams sucked so much in 2007 that Hoover offered to buy the organization. The 2007 Rams ranked 30th in Scoreability, 30th in our Offensive Hog Index, 32nd in Bendability, and 32nd in Relativity.
 
The Rams were in the top half of the NFL in only two categories, 16th (tied) in our Defensive Hog Index and 13th in our Special Teams Index.
 
Naturally, indicative of an organization that's wound itself into a dizzying downward spiral of ineptitude since its dynasty-crushing loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, the Rams proved they could f*ck up a statistical free meal here in the 2008 off-season.
 
St. Louis devoted its first pick to defensive end Chris Long, despite the fact that the defensive hogs were one of the team's few competitive units last year. Long may prove to be a Hall of Famer. But it doesn't change the fact that the Rams clearly needed help in other areas long before they needed help along the defensive front.
 
The Rams, for example, were in much greater need of help for the offensive hogs: the St. Louis offense last year averaged just 3.78 YPA on the ground (25th) and surrendered Negative Pass Plays on 12.22 percent of drop backs (28th). 
 
Yet the first offensive lineman the team took in the draft was third-rounder John Greco out of mid-major Toledo, and the only offensive lineman grabbed in free agency was fifth-year guard Jacob Bell, formerly with Tennessee. A nice player. But hardly the guy who's going to change the fortunes of one of the worst offensive lines in football. Yes, Orlando Pace returns after an injury-filled season in 2007. But unless he can suddenly play all five positions, the OL will still need help.
 
The Rams also lost one of the great players in their recent past, aging wide receiver Isaac Bruce, and replaced him in free agency with Reche Caldwell. Bruce, a potential Hall of Famer, may be old and past his prime. But Caldwell couldn't even get on the field with the Redskins last year and has 152 career catches with 11 TDs in six NFL seasons. That's a downgrade by any measure.
 
St. Louis Fillability Grade: G (or whatever is worse than F-)
 
***
 
SAN FRANCISCO (2007 Quality Stats rankings)
16
26
32
28
27t
16t
20t
31
1
 
Additions:
DE Justin Smith (Cincinnati)
WR Isaac Bruce (St. Louis)
RB DeShaun Foster (Carolina)
WR Bryant Johnson (Arizona)
QB J.T. O'Sullivan (Detroit)
CB Allen Rossum (Pittsburgh)
LB Dontarrious Thomas (Minnesota)
 
Subtractions:
WR Darrell Jackson (Denver)
DE Marques Douglas (Tampa Bay)
OT Kwame Harris (Oakland)
RB Maurice Hicks (Minnesota)
OG Justin Smiley (Miami)
LB Derek Smith (San Diego)
QB Trent Dilfer (Retired)
 
Draft Picks:
1 (29) Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina
2 (39) Chilo Rachal, OG, USC
3 (75) Reggie Smith, CB, Oklahoma
4 (107) Cody Wallace, C, Texas A&M
6 (174) Josh Morgan, WR, Virginia Tech
7 (214) Larry Grant, LB, Ohio State
 
49ers Fillability Overview
San Francisco deserves some credit for recognizing that its greatest weakness in 2007 was in its passing game – the 49ers were dead last in the NFL last year with just 4.08 Passing Yards Per Attempt.
 
To put that dreadful passing "attack" into perspective, consider that:
  • It was nearly 1 full yard per attempt worse than the No. 31 team in the NFL last year (Miami, 5.05 Passing Yards Per Attempt)
  • About half the teams in the league averaged more yards per attempt running the ball.
Clearly, this is a team that needs help in the passing game. And, as we said, the 49ers recognized this need: they grabbed receivers such as Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson in free agency.
 
There's only one problem: the 49ers have nobody to get the ball to these guys. Hell, even if the 49ers enlisted the aid of Mr. Peabody's Way-Back machine and fielded the 1942 version of Don Hutson and Jerry Rice circa 1995, it's unlikely the passing game would improve greatly with J.T. O'Sullivan at the helm.
 
After all, O'Sullivan's ascension to the starting QB job in San Francisco – the heir to the throne of Tittle, Brodie, Montana and Young – merely serves to highlight the fact that these are the darkest days in the history of the once-mighty San Francisco empire.
 
When the 49ers failed to take a quarterback in the draft this year, we made the same assumption as everyone else: they're still committed to Alex Smith, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft.
 
Well, we all know what happens when you assume.
 
And now we know the truth: the 49ers had absolutely no faith in Smith, as he's now playing second fiddle to a guy who's attempted just 26 passes in his first six NFL seasons and has never started an NFL game.
 
In other words, the greatest move the 49ers made to improve the worst passing game in football last year (and one of the worst passing games in modern NFL history), was to pick up O'Sullivan, a free agent quarterback who's now with his seventh team in seven seasons.
 
And the worst part? The 49ers last year had a serviceable defensive line (16th in our Defensive Hog Index) and a dreadful offensive line (27th in our Offensive Hog Index). So how did they address this problem in the trenches?
 
That's right. The 49ers spent their first draft pick on a defensive lineman, instead of an offensive lineman.
 
If Eddie DeBartolo Jr. were dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave.
 
Only the acquisitions of Bruce and Johnson prevent this off-season from being a 1906 earthquake-type disaster for San Francisco.
 
San Francisco Fillability Grade: D-
 
***
 
SEATTLE (2007 Quality Stats rankings)
2
12
13
2
23t
4
12t
9
16
 
Additions:
OG Mike Wahle (Carolina)
RB Julius Jones (Dallas)
RB T.J. Duckett (Detroit)
DE Chris Cooper (Arizona)
K Olindo Mare (New Orleans)
TE Jeb Putzier (Houston)
CB Omare Lowe (Atlanta)
LB D.D. Lewis (Denver)
 
Subtractions:
RB Shaun Alexander (Unsigned)
K Josh Brown (St. Louis)
LB Kevin Bentley (Houston)
DT Chuck Darby (Detroit)
WR D.J. Hackett (Carolina)
LB Niko Koutouvides (Denver)
TE Marcus Pollard (New England)
DT Ellis Wyms (Minnesota)
OT Tom Ashworth (Unsigned)
 
Draft Picks:
1 (28) Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC
2 (38) John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame
4 (121) Red Bryant, DT, Texas A&M
5 (163) Owen Schmitt, FB, West Virginia
6 (189) Tyler Schmitt, LS, San Diego State
7 (233) Justin Forsett, RB, California
7 (235) Brandon Coutu, K, Georgia
 
Seahawks Fillability Overview
The Seahawks have been the class of the NFC West over the last several years, which is kind of like saying they were the most sober guy at the Cold, Hard Football Facts Christmas party.
 
It's not much of an accomplishment.
 
Sadly, Seattle performed like a second-rate team in the 2008 off-season. Its biggest need this year was to shore up a group of offensive hogs who ranked 23rd in the NFL last year.
 
The Seahawks did little in this area, however. In fact, the lone addition to the offensive line through free agency or the draft was 10-year NFL veteran Mike Wahle, who spent the last three years with Carolina. He's a nice pick up and a true NFL ironman who has missed just three starts over the last seven seasons. But a 31-year-old one-time Pro Bowler out of Navy is not going to single-handedly change around the fortunes of an offensive line that struggled last year, even as it routinely faced some of the weakest defenses in football.
 
Instead, the Seahawks seemed strangely fixated upon its Defensive Hogs – a unit that ranked a lofty 4th in our Defensive Hog Index last season. Seattle grabbed defensive lineman with its first and third picks in the 2008 draft, and added two more Defensive Hogs in free agency.
 
Sure, the Seahawks suffered some attrition in its defensive front. But it doesn't change the fact that Seattle more or less ignored its greatest statistical weakness from 2007, while focusing instead on boosting one of the toughest defensive units in football last year.  
 
Those moves represent a classic Fillability Index failure: shoring up a statistical strength instead of a statistical weakness. It's a lost opportunity for Seattle to create seperation from the pack in the worst division in football.
 
Seattle Fillability Grade: D-

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