Ninja Goro's Graphical Analysis of Lechler and the Raiders defense

I've previously looked at Shane Lechler's punting and the Raiders defensive performance, but now I wanted to combine the two and plot the graphs together to get a visual sense of how Shane Lechler is contributing to the Raiders' defensive field position.

The full blog entry including the graph discussed in this post is on the ninjagoro site :

To realize a noticeable increase in the Raiders' defensive performance, the goal is to get the ball to beyond the 24 yard line. The PPD curve starts to slope downward sharply at around the 24 yard line (after being rather flat from 83 to 25). However, if we are comparing to the NFL average, the goal shifts upwards to around the 38 yard line.
Look at where Lechler is punting the ball and where the returns are coming out to and how they relate to the PPD curves.

From the first zone (90-100), Lechler is getting the ball out to the 28, which is very near the down-curve, but the return gets to the 39, which is right into the region where the PPD graph starts to flatten out. At the 39 yard line, the Raiders ppd is 2.8! However, look at the NFL Average. Lechler gets the punt well into the desirable plateau area and the return comes out to the bottom tail of the curve. The NFL Average's PPD at 39 yards is nearly a point less than the Raiders, at 1.9 points per drive.

In Zone 2 (80-90), Lechler had 13 punts from the 82 yard line. He got the ball out to the 23 yard line and the return brings it back to the 36. On the Raiders' PPD, Lechler gets the ball just into the tapering area of the curve and the return brings it well into the middle hump. Against the NFL Average PPD curve, however, Lechler's punt gets to the plateau zone and the return gets to just the beginning of the up-slope. The PPD of the Raiders curve at the 36 yard line is 2.8, for the NFL Average, it is 1.9.

In Zone 3 (70-80), Lechler had 24 punts from the 73 yard line. The gross punting gets to the 19 and the 14 yard average return brings the ball out to the 33. Again, the gross punting gets to the downslope of the Raiders PPD and well into the flat zone of the NFL Average ppd. The return gets a PPD value that is nearly the same against the Raiders curve (2.7), but slightly less for the NFL Average (1.7)

In Zone 4 (60-70), Lechler had 12 punts from the 65 yard line to the 12 yard line and returned out to the 25. The gross of that punt is a fantastic zone, well within the tapering off of scoring for both Raiders and NFL Average. The return, though, take 13 yards off that and gets into the scoring zone for the Raiders. Raiders PPD of 25 = 2.5, NFL Average = 1.5.

In Zone 5 (50-60), Lechler had 14 punts from 54 to the 7 returned to the 14. 14 finally gets into the tapering off zone for the Raiders PPD and also gets beyond the plateau area for the NFL average. PPD Raiders (14) = 1.9, NFL Average = 1.5.

In Zone 6 (40-50), Lechler had 12 punts from the 45 to the 7 returned to the 9. These are well into the "pinning the opponent"-area of the field. The Raiders PPD at 7 was still rather high at 1.6 and 1.2 for the NFL Average.

Raiders total points allowed : 185.1 NFL Average total points allowed : 127.9 Difference : 57.2
So this means that if the Raiders defense had been able to perform at the NFL Average from the 9 to 36 yard lines, the points resulting from Lechler's punts would have been reduced by 57 points (just over 8 touchdowns).

I discussed previously that very poor defense results in little benefit is strong punting or good field position. What we see is precisely that. When Lechler is punting against the Raiders' defensive PPD graph, the majority of the punts have their resulting drives begin well into the solid scoring area of the Raiders' curve. Lechler could just have punted it 10 yards less and had nearly the same productivity.

But improving the defense just incrementally to the NFL average has a huge effect. Now, nearly all the punts are getting well into the low-scoring zone of the graph. From the 60 yard line, the NFL average drops sharply. Around the 39 yard line, the NFL Average graph starts to flatten out into the long plateau zone. Most other defenses improve substantially when they get to defend 70+ yards of the field.

The defense is going to get better in 2012. We've had a tumultuous time and now we've got a new regime. And as the defense improves (and we should all expect the Raiders' defense to be better than average), Shane Lechler's value as a punter will increase. As Shane's punting value increases, the overall defensive performance will increase. What I am saying is that the defensive efficiency on the field will translate to an even more increase in prevention of points scored because we have a field position weapon in Shane Lechler. Hopefully, this graph explains why.

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