Tennessee Advanced Stat of the Week: Net Yards Per Attempt

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistJanuary 22, 2013

Fewer sacks would really help Locker in the NY/A department.
Fewer sacks would really help Locker in the NY/A department.Tom Lynn/Getty Images

The offseason is the perfect time to review the progress the Tennessee Titans made in key statistical indicators.

The Titans excelled on defense when it comes to this key indicator in 2011, but tumbled down near the bottom of the league last season.

For the uninitiated, net yards per attempt is a derivative of the grandfather of all passing stats: yards per attempt (YPA). In actuality, YPA may be the single most telling stat in football.

If you want to know why teams win and lose, look first at their YPA. Passing yards are wholly irrelevant to winning football games, but YPA goes a long way in determining the outcome.

Like its stately cousin, NY/A helps us understand what happens each time the quarterback drops back for a pass. For reference, NY/A is calculated by subtracting sack yardage from passing yardage, then dividing by passes attempted plus sacks. In other words:

(yards passing - sack yards) / (pass attempts + sacks) = Net Yards per Attempt

The Titans' defense was an embarrassment in 2012, ranking dead last in points allowed. Shockingly, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray kept his job through it all.

In retrospect, it should have been a shock that the Titans went backwards. Their 2011 sack rate was one of the worst in the league, and they did little to upgrade the pass-rush for the 2012 season.

While Kamerion Wimbley tossed in six sacks, it wasn't enough to bolster the rush of the front four. Overall, the Titans did manage to dramatically improve their sack rate, thanks in part to 11.5 combined sacks from linebackers Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown.

There's a price to be payed for all the blitzing, however. Despite more overall pressure, the Titans' NY/A dropped from 5.9 yards per drop back (fifth in 2011) to 6.6 NY/A (20th in 2012).

The defensive backfield simply wasn't able to hold up on the increased pressure of more man coverage necessitated by the extra rushers.The Titans dropped all the way to 24th in normal YPA, tumbling from third overall in 2011.

When judging the Titans' offense the lack of pocket awareness by Jake Locker stands out. Locker's base YPA was a respectable 6.9. That's slightly below league average, putting him 19th overall.

Thanks to a high sack rate, however, Locker drops to 22nd in NY/A, losing nearly a full yard per drop back. While some of that can be pinned on the Titans line, sack rate is more closely tied to quarterback play. Locker's was almost identical in both 2011 and 2012.

Even with the sacks, Locker represented a major upgrade of Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck had one of the worst NY/A numbers in football, barely edging out Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert among qualified passers.