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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Statistics Show Big Change for Vikings Under Pat Shurmur

By Arif Hasan

The Minnesota Vikings have had a revival on their offense, despite their recent drop in the standings overall. While it may get lost in the noise of the consecutive losses, fans should take heart in how well the offense has performed despite the limitations imposed upon them by injury and talent.

For one, the Vikings are simply scoring more on drives than they did before. In the past two weeks, the Vikings have ranked 16th in points per drive but in the eight weeks prior ranked 28th. They’ve also created first downs at a better rate, too—in drive success rate, they’ve ranked 12th over the last two weeks while ranking 27th in the prior weeks.

And it’s significantly different. Any theories as to how Pat Shurmur was secretly running the offense in Weeks 2-5 should be thrown out the window. The Weeks 1, 7 and 8 offense featured a three-step or faster drop on 56.5 percent of dropbacks, with a one-step drop on 16.4 percent of dropbacks.

That largely didn’t change through the season—in Weeks 2-5, for example, the offense went three-step or faster on 57 percent of dropbacks and one-step or faster on 18.6 percent of passes.

Weeks 2-5 were virtually identical to Weeks 1, 7 and 8.

But in the past two weeks, the offense significantly ramped it up; 76.2 percent of all dropbacks were three-steps or faster and a whopping 48.8 percent of the Vikings’ pass plays called for one-step or faster. That’s a lot of numbers to throw down at once, so it may be useful to get a visual:

There was no single week under Norv Turner where the Vikings featured one-step drops on more than 40 percent of their passing snaps, but in both weeks with Shurmur as the coordinator, they hit 47 and 50 percent. There was only one week with Turner as the playcaller where they asked for 3-step dropbacks more than 65 percent of the time, but both weeks with Shurmur asked for 3-step dropbacks over 70 percent.

It’s a clear difference, and one we can see with average depth of target, too—how far the ball travels down the field from the line of scrimmage.

Sam Bradford had an astonishingly low average depth of target of 5.5 over that span of time, the lowest in the league. For context, Christian Ponder’s 2012 had one of the lowest average depth of target in the history of the statistic (tracked by Pro Football Focus) and it was at 6.8.

Before Week 9, Bradford’s depth was a relatively low, but much more standard, 7.5 aimed yards per target.

This isn’t a criticism of Bradford; the issue with Ponder was that he couldn’t be trusted to do much more than throw short to Percy Harvin. For Bradford, he’s being asked to replace one of the worst running games in league history with screen passes—and has to deal with much worse pass protection.

Still, it’s a pretty significant change. Using Pro Football Focus data, we can look at how the rest of the league stacks up in average depth of target, and compare it to Bradford’s last two weeks:

This is designed to take pressure off of the offensive line and emphasize the after-catch ability of receivers. Despite Bradford’s incredibly low depth of target over the past few weeks, he’s actually thrown at 7.3 yards per attempt—ranked 17th among quarterbacks in the last two weeks. If one looks at passer rating, which places a heavier emphasis on completions, he ranks 9th among qualified passers in that time span.

Minnesota ranks second for those two weeks in percentage of yards coming from after-catch work, with only Kansas City ahead of them.

That work has included a longer look at Stefon Diggs, who has had shorter depths of target in this new offense than with Turner, but is certainly making the most of it. He had a more versatile route tree in Week 10, and could be the key to making this offense go:

^ updating the above tweet with Stefon Diggs’ #NextGenStats route chart from today’s game. A little more downfield work than Week 9 pic.twitter.com/WIiVKqKH4V

— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) November 13, 2016

Accounting for 42 percent of the offense’s passing yards, it’s clear that the offense runs through him more than ever before. Often, passes to Diggs, Patterson, Thielen or Wright will replace runs, too.

In the past two weeks, Minnesota has run the ball less often than all but four teams—Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay and Pittsburgh. In the first eight weeks, they ran it more often than all but seven teams. Given the historically bad running game the Vikings have, it makes sense to downplay it.

But there’s one issue at play; the Vikings won their first five games, which are a pretty big part of the Norv Turner playcalling sample. Because teams tend to run the ball when they have a lead in order to drain the clock, it’s not an entirely fair assessment of the possibilities. When you look at the statistic when the game is within seven points, the Vikings ranked 12th in run rate under Turner and 30th under Shurmur.

It’s absolutely clear that Minnesota is replacing their ineffective runs with passes, and it’s paying off. Though the change in yards per play (from 24th to 19th in one-score situations) is somewhat small, the yards are more consistent—which is why they produce first downs at a far better rate than before; as mentioned above they moved from 27th in the league to 12th when it comes to producing first downs.

One final thing people have noticed is that the pace has changed. Their time between plays has dropped significantly, from 28.4 seconds—eighth slowest in the league—to 20.5 seconds, faster than anyone else in the NFL.

A lot of that changes after accounting for the fact that passes are faster than runs and that incomplete passes stop the clock, but the point largely remains the same: the Vikings have a much faster-paced offense than they did before because of Pat Shurmur.

Not only that, they’ve varied the pace between drives in order to keep opponents off-kilter. For example, they had a drive in the third quarter of the Lions game where there were 33.75 seconds between every play, and two drives between the Detroit and Washington game where the time between plays was just over 29 seconds.

At the other end of the spectrum, they’ve had drives where the time between plays was under ten seconds. Naturally, the fastest drives were at the end of the second and fourth quarters, but the Vikings played with more urgency with Shurmur than they did under Turner.

In hurry-up situations at the end of halves when the Vikings are attempting to score, the Vikings averaged 10 seconds a play in the past two weeks and 15 seconds under Norv Turner.

Despite all the misery that comes with a losing streak, Vikings fans should be happy about the change in playcalling. It’s already having a big impact.

The post Statistics Show Big Change for Vikings Under Pat Shurmur appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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