Pa Warren Sharp
Posted by FOX Sports NFL
Matt Rhule is the worst coach in the NFL
Carolina tried to take a short cut at the QB position under Matt Ruhl.
He believed he knew better than the other NFL teams and coaches around the league. He never wanted to rebuild, teach a young QB or deal with growing pains and early losses. He wanted a shortcut.
He wanted wins out of the box with veteran QBs that other teams knew weren’t working but he thought he could fix.
Thus began his reign.
What’s disappointing about the Panthers is that they’ve had high picks in every draft since Ruhl took over.
They finished seventh overall in 2020 and took the DT Derrick Brown.
They finished eighth overall in 2021 and took CB Jaycee Horn.
They went sixth overall in 2022 and took OT Ikem Ekwonu.
They knew they didn’t have a quarterback. They could draft a passer any year since he was hired, and could even package picks to go up the board and take one.
Instead, Rhule decided to find failed QBs around the league. Where did that leave them?
Besides the fact that the Panthers are 1-3 and 6.5 point home underdogs this week?
Also, that Baker Mayfield, like every QB who played for Ruhl, looks even worse than before he came to the Panthers?
Since he entered the league in 2020, Rhule has the lowest mark of any NFL head coach.
This means that even though we know his teams haven’t been the best, his quarterbacks have struggled, and we’ve had very low expectations for his teams, he still can’t live up to those expectations, which were already on the ground floor.
The betting market predicts that his teams will lose, but they set him on points. During the week, bookies and bookies determine the fairest line that his teams can lose. On game day, it must be known exactly how many points his teams will lose, and millions of dollars have moved the line to the right place.
But when the game starts, his teams are behind all the coaches in the NFL.
While owners shouldn’t care about the betting markets, in this case the betting market came out loud and clear with Matt Ruhl. He is the worst coach in the NFL.
Rams pressure cooker
The Rams just played 49erswho entered the game ranked second in pressure rate at 40.4%.
The 49ers recorded a 42% pass rush on Monday night. Matthew Stafford‘s dropbacks, accumulating nine hits and seven sacks.
Ahead of the Rams, who lost their backup center during the game to injury? The Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas is the new second-ranked team in pressure, and their 40.0% rate is just behind the 49ers, who moved up overnight.
The Cowboys have recorded more QB hits (36) than any other team in the NFL. Their offense isn’t as creative as Kyle Shanahan’s, but if their defense shuts down the Rams offense, they can keep this game.
The Rams’ struggles continue with a 24-9 loss to the 49ers
Matthew Stafford struggled during the Rams’ loss to the 49ers on Monday night. Colin Cowherd talks about the Rams’ struggles in the post-Super Bowl season.
Week 4 started with of Bengal beating Dolphins. But the Bengals trailed the Dolphins 15-14 through three quarters. It wasn’t until they scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter that Cincinnati secured the eventual 27-15 victory.
The Cowboys also won 25-10. But they also conceded in the first half. And they led by just five points early in the fourth quarter when they scored 10 unanswered points to set up a one-sided final score.
Both of these teams have struggled due to very ineffective performances from their respective attacks.
In fact, the two teams tied for 31st and 32nd this week in percentage of early fumbles that lead to the first fumble.
League-wide, just over 25% of early downs (first or second downs) convert a new set of downs.
The Bengals dropped 14.9% and the Cowboys converted 14.3%.
Before you assume they took their foot off the gas late and were therefore ineffective, I’ll remind you of the score early in the fourth quarter and the fact that neither team had a significant lead. Additionally, in the first through third quarters, both of those teams still ranked 31st and 32nd in percentage of early downs to convert on a new set of downs.
On the season, the Bengals offense ranks 30th and the Cowboys 23rd.
Both of these teams should emphasize early downhill efficiency. If they succeed, they won’t need to push to the same extent in the late games.
Fortunately for the Bengals, they will be next to face the Ravens‘ defense that allows early snaps to convert into first snaps at the highest rate in the NFL.
Keep an eye out for Geno
Gena Smith ranks third in the NFL in EPA (Expected Points Added) per attempt. That’s a stat I didn’t expect to see a month into the season.
He ranks first in passing success rate and second in EPA/attempt when throwing the ball behind the line of scrimmage. He has the No. 1 completion percentage in the NFL and is exceeding expectations.
The scary part? This team can get better if they improve in the red zone.
He currently ranks 13th in the red zone in EPA/dropback. Outside of the red zone, he is the third EPA/answer and second in success, behind only him Josh Allen.
In accordance with Dan Pizzutalast week vs Lviv, 59% of shots were between 2.5 and four seconds, which Next Gen Stats considers “in rhythm.” On the season, 49% of Smith’s early passes are in rhythm, which ranks sixth in the NFL.
Compare this with Russell Wilsonwho had just 34% of his early down passes completed “in rhythm” last year, which ranked 33rd out of 42 QBs.
Additionally, 76% of Smith’s pressure drops resulted in on-target attempts. That’s the highest mark in the NFL (average rate 59%). He keeps his eyes down low and still looks at the defense, even under pressure.
Geena Smith and Rashaad Penny lead the Seahawks to a win over the Lions.
Genea Smith finished with 320 yards and three touchdowns and Rashaad Penny ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle’s 48-45 win over Detroit.
Wilson, on the other hand, is down a league-average 59% this year, nearly 20 percentage points lower than Geno.
Will the Thursday night games be tough?
Examining yards before contact per rush attempt gives a good indication of how well offensive lines are opening up holes for the running backs, as well as how effectively those running backs are occupying those holes.
Those numbers correlate closely with overall rushing efficiency, and as a result, Broncos running backs ranked 32nd in EPA/att (-0.66) and Colts 30th (-0.52).
Both teams are dealing with back injuries. The Broncos just lost their best running back, Javonte Williams, for the season. RB1 Colts Jonathan Taylorwas injured in the game and is questionable whether he will play Thursday.
On the season, the Broncos and Colts rank in the bottom five in both yards per rush and EPA/rush.
Both of those rush defenses rank above average in yards per rush, though the Broncos have been terrible in EPA/rush allowed.
If neither game can get things going on Thursday, the game will be decided by a matchup between two ineffective passing attacks.
Zach Wilson wins, but has an obvious weak spot
He had a -0.03 EPA/att average, a 34% success rate, 7.0 yards per attempt and only 50% completions. The Steelers beat him on 30% of the downs, which ranked ninth in the NFL last week.
And when he got hit, he was the most susceptible QB to it in the NFL. Check out his cleavage:
In non-blitz games: +0.32 EPA/attack, 39% success, 8.4 YPA, 60% completions
In blitz games: -0.86 EPA/attack, 25% success, 3.7 YPA, 27% completions
He ranked 33rd out of 34 quarterbacks in efficiency against the blitz, but fifth out of 34 QBs in efficiency when not blitzing.
In the previous two games without TJ Watt, the Steelers blitzed at a rate of 25.6% and recorded a pressure of just 27.3% when blitzing. And when they blitzed, they held QBs to a +0.04 EPA/att, a 55% success rate (ninth worst), a 9.4 YPA (seventh worst), and a 67% completion percentage.
But look at what Wilson did in Week 4 against the blitzing Steelers: A -0.86 EPA/att, 25% success, 3.7 YPA, 27% completion percentage.
When the Steelers won last week, they recorded a 43% pass rush compared to 27% the previous two weeks.
The Jets’ problem gets more complicated: They’re about to face the Dolphins.
Miami shines at seventh in the NFL (YAMA was below average on the 22nd until last week).
And while the Dolphins defense in the first two weeks of the season had the seventh-highest blitz rate but the second-lowest pressure rate (a deadly combination that helped opposing QBs), over the past two weeks the Dolphins have blitzed at a 30% clip but have the second-lowest greatest pressure rate in the NFL, creating pressure on 42% of opposing downs.
It came against Bills and Bengalis. And both of those games were tough — against Buffalo in the sweltering heat and against Cincinnati on short rest.
The Dolphins are now coming off a mini-bye. And the Jets are broken along the offensive line. Their initial RT, Max Mitchellwas carried off the field near half-time.
They have already lost Mehi Bectonhis replacement Duane Brownthen George Fant. All on IR. They advanced with the right guard Alia Vera-Tucker to left tackle, chalk Nate Herbig in right fence and inserted Conor McDermott at right tackle.
Against a strong Dolphins pass rush, Zach Wilson may be fighting for his life again on Sunday.
Warren Sharp is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He is the founder of Sharp Football Analysis and has worked as a franchise consultant for the leagues and previously worked for ESPN and The Ringer, among others. He studied engineering before using his statistical acumen to build predictive football models. You can follow Warren on Twitter at @SharpFootball.
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