Field position and the Titans’ offensive success

One of the things I wrote about during the offseason when I looked how the Titans’ offense changed when VY became the starting quarterback was the importance of field position.  Given the Titans’ success at scoring points despite not putting up many yards of offense, I thought it would be a good idea to update those numbers for this year thus far and see how they compared.

Chart? Chart.

2009-VY 2010
# Drives Pct. Zone # Drives Pct.
10 10.10% 1-9 5 6.49%
18 18.18% 10-19 7 9.09%
39 39.39% 20-30 32 40.51%
22 22.22% 31-50 20 25.97%
10 10.10% Oppo 13 16.88%

For the sake of this exercise for 2010, I removed all drives that ended at the end of the half or game.  Obviously, after only seven games, we’re not getting the same number of drives we did last year, but that the Titans are getting dramatically better field position is apparent from this chart.  Last year, even limiting ourselves to the games VY started, when the Titans were better offensively, they started almost 30% of their drives inside the 20.  This year, the total isn’t much more than half that.  They’ve started somewhat more drives in 31-50 range, but the big difference is how frequently they’re starting in opponent’s territory.

Just how valuable is starting in opposing territory?  Well, chart #2:

2009-VY 2010
Pts Per Drive Zone Pts Per Drive
2.20 1-9 0.60
2.05 10-19 1.43
1.62 20-30 1.78
2.68 31-50 3.20
4.40 Oppo 3.85

Obviously, we’re dealing in the realm of some small sample size theater and single drives can have a big impact on these numbers.  For example, if the Titans score a touchdown on their next drive that starts inside the 10.  The general trend is clear, though: drives starting in opposing territory are worth much, much more than drives starting inside your own 30.

The key takeaway from this second chart is that the Titans’ offense this year is not more productive than it was last year.  Instead, the apparent offensive improvement is the result of the offense being handed better field position.  The causes of that better field position will hopefully be the subject of a future post, but I will briefly note one driver of that is Marc Mariani has been a much better returner than what the Titans threw out there on both punts and kickoffs last season.

I’ll have the first of the promised O-line/running game posts later this week, though the more serious stuff will have to wait until the bye week.

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