Pats defense: Ongoing discussion

Willie Clay's Big Play

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Unfortunately, I did not get to watch too much of the game last night. But when I was watching I was looking out for Barmore. To my untrained eye, he seemed to be a handful anytime he wasn't doubled. Even the plays where he wasn't making contact with Ryan he was still altering the throw by closing and getting both hands up. Pretty exciting to see a homegrown wrecking ball on the d-line.
 

tims4wins

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Unfortunately, I did not get to watch too much of the game last night. But when I was watching I was looking out for Barmore. To my untrained eye, he seemed to be a handful anytime he wasn't doubled. Even the plays where he wasn't making contact with Ryan he was still altering the throw by closing and getting both hands up. Pretty exciting to see a homegrown wrecking ball on the d-line.
Feels like a home run of a pick.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Unfortunately, I did not get to watch too much of the game last night. But when I was watching I was looking out for Barmore. To my untrained eye, he seemed to be a handful anytime he wasn't doubled. Even the plays where he wasn't making contact with Ryan he was still altering the throw by closing and getting both hands up. Pretty exciting to see a homegrown wrecking ball on the d-line.
And the frequent doubles of Barmore clearly helped Godchaux, who got a few pressures and big plays in the running game when going one on one against a guard.
 

lexrageorge

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Love the fact that Barmore’s development is a big in your face to Bedard’s hatchet job on him after the draft.
 

Ed Hillel

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Barmore is like a combo of Wilfork and Seymour. He is a special HoF level talent if he stays healthy and focused.
 

joe dokes

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I wonder if Barmore's and Judon's success has helped stem what appeared to be slides from Hightower, Van Noy and McCourty, all 3 of who looked at least a step slow early on. Hightower still can't really cover anyone, but at least last night, Ryan had to make a real throw to complete the pass over him, instead of the receiver just being wide open. Rounding into shape? Trusting the new guys more? It doesn't really matter, but its obvious (to me) and a good thing.
 

SteveF

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I think part of what's going on with defense this year is how best to defend the run with a light box. I think most of the NFL is going the Fangio/Staley route, but the Patriots are doing something a bit differently. They are playing a lot of 505/okie fronts in base defense/early downs out of 3-3-5. This could be a function of personnel (which might also be a function of roster building philosophy).

The balanced front allows the Patriots to disguise safety rotations, which linebacker is crashing, and whether the 5s are going inside or outside the tackles. All of this is good for generating pressure in the pass game/hiding coverages while also disguising the run fits. (Compare to the Fangio/Staley system where you sacrifice some pass rush (gap and a half) and getting upfield for being more solid in coverage by rotating the safety late into the box to help the run fit.

Of course this leaves the guards uncovered (505), so you frequently have linebackers taking on guards in the run game. If your linebackers are 235, that's probably a problem. If your linebackers are 260, maybe it's less of a problem. And the demand for 260 lb linebackers isn't what I'd call brisk these days, so maybe that's a roster building advantage.

The problem is when your linebackers can't hold up in the run game, of course. Then you probably get run out of 3-3-5 into 4-2-5 and maybe the entire idea falls apart. They mostly held up against the Browns in 3-3-5 (though they did use more even front that game than usual), so maybe that's proof of concept.

Edit: Something should probably be said about the nature of the Patriots nickel in that they frequently play 3 safeties instead of 3 corners, but I don't have anything particularly insightful to say about it beyond the mere fact of it.
 

SMU_Sox

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@SteveF great post as usual. Even fronts are on the decline all over the league with exceptions of a few teams. I know the Colts run a lot of even fronts for what it’s worth. As for the 3 safeties: I think with Bryant, DMC, Phillips, and DMC the advantage to big nickel 3 safeties is the versatility. Dugger and Phillips can play ILB, in the box, split zone, robber, etc. Last night for example Dugger was all over the place doing everything. When you swap one of those guys out for a true corner you lose some of that versatility. Coverage wise Phillips has always been good there and Dugger has made leaps in his game in year 2. Dugger being able to take athletic tight ends 1:1 is huge. Might just be as simple as that. You need to have versatile safeties like Dugger and Phillips for that to happen though of course. Contrast Dugger and Phillips to Jamaal Adams. Adams is really good as a run defender and pass rusher and in the box but he can’t cover anyone. Jamaal Adams cost the Seahawks 2 first round picks too. The Pats are getting better production from both those guys and Phillips was a reasonable middle class deal and Dugger only cost them his 2nd round pick.
 

Bleedred

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I couldn't be happier with this defense and how they are performing. They're a joy to watch and are the key to a successful playoff run. I am definitely concerned that the gaudy numbers they are putting up are against very challenged offenses. The Jets suck, Carolina was playing with an injured QB and their stud starting RB was at 50% or less. Cleveland was missing their two top RBs. ATL was missing Corderelle and their top WR. This is not to say that this defense isn't very good and playing excellent football. But the true test comes against Tennessee and Buffalo, and to a lesser extent Indy.
 

SMU_Sox

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Minor but I’d say the tests are against the Bills and the Colts and to a lesser degree the Titans. Titans offense will just be Tannehill and AJ Brown. They really aren’t as good as their record and offensively they haven’t looked good since Henry got hurt (and even before then they weren’t a juggernaut).
 

Euclis20

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Minor but I’d say the tests are against the Bills and the Colts and to a lesser degree the Titans. Titans offense will just be Tannehill and AJ Brown. They really aren’t as good as their record and offensively they haven’t looked good since Henry got hurt (and even before then they weren’t a juggernaut).
Agreed here. It's bizarre to see the current 1 seed in the AFC sitting 18th in DVOA. If that somehow holds up, it would be the worst rating by a #1 in recent history by a mile (09 Colts and 15 Broncos were the two lowest ranked 1 seeds over the last 20 years, both finished 8th).
 

DJnVa

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https://www.clnsmedia.com/lazar-bill-belichick-built-a-modern-day-bully-in-the-patriots-defense/

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s team-building strategy is known for zigging when the rest of the league zags.

When the rest of the league is moving towards speed over size and playing strength to combat pass-heavy offenses, Belichick is still employing 260-pound linebackers, nose tackles, and run-stuffing defensive ends.

Belichick is building a modern-day bully on defense to overpower offenses at the line of scrimmage while integrating more zone coverages to defend play-action and spread formations.
 

BaseballJones

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JC Jackson is officially a stud #1 corner. He no longer has the benefit of having Gilmore draw the best opposing WR. Here's Jackson's stats on passes thrown against him this year:

72 targets, 36 completions, 50.0% completion rate, 6.5 yds/target, 1 td, 7 int, 16 passes defended, 35.8 passer rating

He's been unbelievable.
 

NortheasternPJ

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JC Jackson is officially a stud #1 corner. He no longer has the benefit of having Gilmore draw the best opposing WR. Here's Jackson's stats on passes thrown against him this year:

72 targets, 36 completions, 50.0% completion rate, 6.5 yds/target, 1 td, 7 int, 16 passes defended, 35.8 passer rating

He's been unbelievable.
He’s going to look great in a Jets or Jaguars uni next year. I don’t see anyway BB pays him. I hate to see him gone but I doubt they franchise him or pay him $18+ a year.
 

pedroia'sboys

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He’s going to look great in a Jets or Jaguars uni next year. I don’t see anyway BB pays him. I hate to see him gone but I doubt they franchise him or pay him $18+ a year.
I remember people lamenting that the Patriots didn't tag and trade Trey Flowers the same offseason Seattle tagged/traded Frank Clark for a 1. I feel like I am missing something because teams do not pursue this avenue often. Teams will be flush with cap space this off season.
 

lexrageorge

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Pats will have the ability to structure a longer term contract for JC Jackson into the cap space they will have. He'll only be 27 next year. Would not be surprised if the Pats made an aggressive offer to keep him.
 

SteveF

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Did anyone watching the game notice the personnel packages on defense yesterday? Did they stick with 3-3-5 in spite of being gashed? Thus far this year they've used 3-3-5 about 7 times as often as 3-4-4. They've been in 2-3-6 and 2-4-5 more than twice as often as 3-4-4. The reason I'm asking is because I'm starting to wonder how much of a priority stopping Tennessee from running the ball really was vs. preventing play action passes. One schematic point Lazar brought up was the speed with which the guards were getting to the second level, engaging the Patriots linebackers further down field than they have been in the past. The uncovered guards are a weakness of this Patriots front and it seemed like Tennessee really exploited that.

But some of those defensive calls... that 3rd and 3 at the end of the half... jfc. If this team makes the playoffs (which seems likely at this point) my hope is Bill micromanages the defensive play calls.

Edit: Looking over the highlights there were some second and longs where the patriots were in 3-3-5 against 21 and Tennessee would just run at the Patriots' safety who was essentially playing inside linebacker. They'd line up in the I and run away from their tight end (where Hightower was lined up) and run at Dugger. It also looks like they played more 4i (or maybe even 3, hard to tell given the angles) than 5 and the line just didn't get penetration or two gap particularly well. Hard to know how representative the highlights are though.
 
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Eddie Jurak

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I think they need to back up the truck for JC. He's a turnover machine - that is value over and above the difficulty receivers have chatching baclls when he guards them..
 

Seels

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I've thought JC is the best corner the team has developed since Law. Even in Gilmores DPotY season Jackson outplayed him quite a bit. (I mean, not overall, but Jackson was better than Gilmore in more than a few of the games).

I agree - back up the truck. He's an absolute stud and has been since the day he came into the league.
 

Eddie Jurak

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I wonder what those linemen are thinking as they quadruple team Barmore. Are they entirely in the moment doing what seems like the best thing from their point of view, or is there a little voice thinking "Oh shit! Tannehill is going to get killed."
 

lexrageorge

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Looks like D'Onta Foreman gets knocked away by his own teammate, #76, left guard Rodger Saffold. Not really sure what either of them are doing, to be honest.
 

Silverdude2167

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I wonder what those linemen are thinking as they quadruple team Barmore. Are they entirely in the moment doing what seems like the best thing from their point of view, or is there a little voice thinking "Oh shit! Tannehill is going to get killed."
Honestly, the only one who looks like they screwed up is the RB. He should have chipped Judon, everyone else has their assignment.
The LG left his man, as the LT had him and he stopped his rush to keep Tannehill in the pocket which is how he became the 4th man.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I think they need to back up the truck for JC. He's a turnover machine - that is value over and above the difficulty receivers have chatching baclls when he guards them..
I've thought JC is the best corner the team has developed since Law. Even in Gilmores DPotY season Jackson outplayed him quite a bit. (I mean, not overall, but Jackson was better than Gilmore in more than a few of the games).

I agree - back up the truck. He's an absolute stud and has been since the day he came into the league.
It'll be interesting. We've been in this spot so many times with big players entering FA, debating on this site all February about how they need to tag somebody, and then BB just shrugs and lets the guy enter the market.

I do think there are a couple reasons why this situation might potentially be different. First is that the team does have cap space. We're projected to have nearly $30m in space with 48 players under contract in 2022, a few potential cuts will open up a bit more (Jonathan Jones, Henry Anderson), and the cap situation going forward is pretty good. The advantage of having Mac Jones on a rookie deal is precisely to be able to spend money to keep your difference-making All-Pro CB1. Second is that we could end up moving on from both McCourty and High this offseason, both of whom are FA. When you're losing that much veteran leadership in the back 7 I can see an argument for keeping other parts of the pass defense stable. It'll be a lot easier to integrate a new FS when one half of the field is completely locked down by JCJ. Finally, it does seem like more and more teams are willing to trade significant draft capital for star players in their primes, including secondary players (Jalen Ramsey, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jamal Adams). Those guys still had some time to run on their rookie deals, which enhanced their value, but largely teams were paying for the quality of player and knowing they would give that guy a big deal. I can see BB deciding to tag JCJ but with the idea of keeping all options open.

There are some other big needs beyond CB - OT, free safety, off ball LB. But I could see us handling those needs in other ways, with fewer dollars, maybe bringing in cheaper veterans at FS and ILB and then drafting an OT in the first round who can compete with Wynn/Onwenu immediately but also be groomed to be the longer term Wynn successor at LT.
 

dcdrew10

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Looks like D'Onta Foreman gets knocked away by his own teammate, #76, left guard Rodger Saffold. Not really sure what either of them are doing, to be honest.
I saw the same thing. I feel like Foreman was supposed to chip, then be open for a dump off, but Saffold got lost, moved to his right, hit Foreman and took both of them out of the play. Like Silverdude, I initially thought that Foreman was supposed to chip the edge, but he was set up with his right foot slightly back, so he could push left and he immediately took off inside. Either way, it looks like they were schemed into poor execution.
 
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SMU_Sox

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@SteveF i read that they were in base 44% of the time - that’s a lot. They did a lot of big nickel too. Strange that they had issues vs the run but their guys got washed too easily. Something to keep in mind going forward for sure.
 

Deathofthebambino

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It'll be interesting. We've been in this spot so many times with big players entering FA, debating on this site all February about how they need to tag somebody, and then BB just shrugs and lets the guy enter the market.

I do think there are a couple reasons why this situation might potentially be different. First is that the team does have cap space. We're projected to have nearly $30m in space with 48 players under contract in 2022, a few potential cuts will open up a bit more (Jonathan Jones, Henry Anderson), and the cap situation going forward is pretty good. The advantage of having Mac Jones on a rookie deal is precisely to be able to spend money to keep your difference-making All-Pro CB1. Second is that we could end up moving on from both McCourty and High this offseason, both of whom are FA. When you're losing that much veteran leadership in the back 7 I can see an argument for keeping other parts of the pass defense stable. It'll be a lot easier to integrate a new FS when one half of the field is completely locked down by JCJ. Finally, it does seem like more and more teams are willing to trade significant draft capital for star players in their primes, including secondary players (Jalen Ramsey, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jamal Adams). Those guys still had some time to run on their rookie deals, which enhanced their value, but largely teams were paying for the quality of player and knowing they would give that guy a big deal. I can see BB deciding to tag JCJ but with the idea of keeping all options open.

There are some other big needs beyond CB - OT, free safety, off ball LB. But I could see us handling those needs in other ways, with fewer dollars, maybe bringing in cheaper veterans at FS and ILB and then drafting an OT in the first round who can compete with Wynn/Onwenu immediately but also be groomed to be the longer term Wynn successor at LT.
The bolded is the key. The Pats haven't been in a position where they didn't have to pay their QB a very significant percentage of their cap in a long, long time (last season notwithstanding). That will change how BB views and pays the remaining roster, and anyone who has paid attention to anything over the years knows the one position that BB needs for his defense to work is a shutdown corner that can eliminate one side of the field. Law, Revis, Samuel, Gilmore, etc. It's the key to his entire defensive philosophy. I've been surprised before, but I'll be really, really surprised if JC Jackson isn't here next year.

Of course, Felger and Mazz already have their false narrative ready to go. During BB's presser on Sunday, when asked about JCJ, he said something along the lines of "If you leave trash out there, JCJ is going to pick it up." Mazz said his immediate reaction was "There is no way the Pats will sign him in the offseason" and then Felger responded with "Yeah, I think Bill is saying anyone can do what JCJ is doing...." Of course, any normal human would have read into that line as a compliment by BB to JCJ, meaning "If you make a mistake against him, he will make you pay," but not those fucking idiots, so I hope they resign him, so someone can stick that shit back in their faces.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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The bolded is the key. The Pats haven't been in a position where they didn't have to pay their QB a very significant percentage of their cap in a long, long time (last season notwithstanding). That will change how BB views and pays the remaining roster, and anyone who has paid attention to anything over the years knows the one position that BB needs for his defense to work is a shutdown corner that can eliminate one side of the field. Law, Revis, Samuel, Gilmore, etc. It's the key to his entire defensive philosophy. I've been surprised before, but I'll be really, really surprised if JC Jackson isn't here next year.

Of course, Felger and Mazz already have their false narrative ready to go. During BB's presser on Sunday, when asked about JCJ, he said something along the lines of "If you leave trash out there, JCJ is going to pick it up." Mazz said his immediate reaction was "There is no way the Pats will sign him in the offseason" and then Felger responded with "Yeah, I think Bill is saying anyone can do what JCJ is doing...." Of course, any normal human would have read into that line as a compliment by BB to JCJ, meaning "If you make a mistake against him, he will make you pay," but not those fucking idiots, so I hope they resign him, so someone can stick that shit back in their faces.
From your lips to God's (BB's) ears. I would love to see JCJ back. And to see Felger and Mazz eat shit on this one.
 

SMU_Sox

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For those of you who are curious what PFF thinks about the Pats defense (and I have a lot of issues with PFF) here are the individual player grades and positional rank among those with at least 20% snaps. Positional group classifications by PFF so KVN is lumped in with ILBs and Bryant is considered a slot corner.

IDL:
62.9, T54/140, Christian Barmore
59.1, 70/140, Davon Godchaux
57.1, 77/140, Lawrence Guy
41.9, 131/140, Carl Davis

Edge:
68.8, 47/122, Matthew Judon
68.6, T48/122, Deatrich Wise
60.1, 88/122, Josh Uche

Linebacker:
69.1, 15/94, Kyle Van Noy
64.8, 22/94, Ja’Whaun Bentley
62.2, T26/94, Dont’a Hightower

Safety:
81.3, 6/98, Adrian Phillips
73.3, 20/98, Devin McCourty
70.3, 28/98, Kyle Dugger

Corner:
76.2, 11/122, JC Jackson
68.4, 32/122, Joejuan Williams
66.3, 41/122, Myles Bryant
62.1, 65/122, Jalen Mills
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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Wow. Maybe Collinsworth is right about Wise. Or maybe PFF has its own issues. :)
A few years ago, most of us were wise to PFFs bullshit. They've gotten better, but they're far from infallible.

Any system that puts Judon as a middle of the pack edge guy is allowing itself to be ignored.
 

Eddie Jurak

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A few years ago, most of us were wise to PFFs bullshit. They've gotten better, but they're far from infallible.

Any system that puts Judon as a middle of the pack edge guy is allowing itself to be ignored.
It actually makes a certain amount of sense in Judon’s case. The Patriots likely give him certain responsibilities that aren’t readily obvious to PFF.
 

mwonow

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It actually makes a certain amount of sense in Judon’s case. The Patriots likely give him certain responsibilities that aren’t readily obvious to PFF.
I dunno. I would think that "frequently tackling the guy with the football while he is in the backfield" would have pretty evident value...
 

Eddie Jurak

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I dunno. I would think that "frequently tackling the guy with the football while he is in the backfield" would have pretty evident value...
Sure. But PFF might ding guys whose assignment is to not lost contain or something, leading to seemingly not making plays.
 

lexrageorge

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I dunno. I would think that "frequently tackling the guy with the football while he is in the backfield" would have pretty evident value...
PFF defenders will say it's because it was all the fault of the OL's blocking Judon.

Another example of why I'll roll my eyes when Belichick is criticized for not relying on "the analytics" as much as other coaches.
 

Was (Not Wasdin)

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For those of you who are curious what PFF thinks about the Pats defense (and I have a lot of issues with PFF) here are the individual player grades and positional rank among those with at least 20% snaps. Positional group classifications by PFF so KVN is lumped in with ILBs and Bryant is considered a slot corner.

IDL:
62.9, T54/140, Christian Barmore
59.1, 70/140, Davon Godchaux
57.1, 77/140, Lawrence Guy
41.9, 131/140, Carl Davis

Edge:
68.8, 47/122, Matthew Judon
68.6, T48/122, Deatrich Wise
60.1, 88/122, Josh Uche

Linebacker:
69.1, 15/94, Kyle Van Noy
64.8, 22/94, Ja’Whaun Bentley
62.2, T26/94, Dont’a Hightower

Safety:
81.3, 6/98, Adrian Phillips
73.3, 20/98, Devin McCourty
70.3, 28/98, Kyle Dugger

Corner:
76.2, 11/122, JC Jackson
68.4, 32/122, Joejuan Williams
66.3, 41/122, Myles Bryant
62.1, 65/122, Jalen Mills
That safety group plus JC Jackson is a great back third. Wow.
 

BigJimEd

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It actually makes a certain amount of sense in Judon’s case. The Patriots likely give him certain responsibilities that aren’t readily obvious to PFF.
Isn't that really just a nicer way of saying the grade is useless?
I haven't paid attention to PFF in several years and I know they've made changes but isn't that the crux of the argument against their stats? That they are "guessing" far too often. I mean if you don't know a player's responsible then you can't grade them.
 

Eddie Jurak

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Isn't that really just a nicer way of saying the grade is useless?
I haven't paid attention to PFF in several years and I know they've made changes but isn't that the crux of the argument against their stats? That they are "guessing" far too often. I mean if you don't know a player's responsible then you can't grade them.
No. Batting average has all sorts of limitations and problems. Is it 'useless?' Of course not.
 

Super Nomario

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No. Batting average has all sorts of limitations and problems. Is it 'useless?' Of course not.
The difference is, because we know how batting average is calculated, we understand its limitations and problems, know what it's telling us and not telling us, know what players it systematically overrates and underrates, and know what other metrics we can look at to fill in those gaps. Because PFF is a black box, we're guessing on all that stuff.
 

Eddie Jurak

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The difference is, because we know how batting average is calculated, we understand its limitations and problems, know what it's telling us and not telling us, know what players it systematically overrates and underrates, and know what other metrics we can look at to fill in those gaps. Because PFF is a black box, we're guessing on all that stuff.
True, and that does matter. "Useless" still seems extreme to me.