Packing the Stats: James Jones vs. Donald Driver
Here’s a post that is sure to spark some heated debate. We’ve had quite a few comments lately about the infamous James Jones and his comparison to the esteemed Donald Driver. Most of this has stemmed from two points of contention: (1) the Green Bay Packers’ decision to keep Driver despite his declining performance, and (2) the reputation of Jones in regard to dropped passes.
So, as I am wont to do, I took some time to research each of these player’s performances in 2011. I discovered some interesting things along the way, but let me first present to you some of the raw statistics (thanks to PFF):
|J. Jones||D. Driver|
|Yds. / Rec.||16.7||12|
|YAC / Rec.||7.7||3.8|
As you can see, Jones and Driver are very comparable as Packers receivers, with just about the same number of snaps and targets each. They do fill slightly different roles, though, as Jones provides more support in run blocking than Driver. Jones is also more of a deep threat, being targeted 11 times on passes of 20 yards or more, compared to Driver’s 3 targets in that range. That said, they both saw about 30 targets each in the 0-9 yard range, with most of their targets coming over the middle.
Now, it’s quite obvious that Jones was an overall more productive player. He caught just one more pass than Driver in the same number of targets, yet he put up almost 200 yards more. And while the deep balls do make a difference, Jones was able to rack up 150 yards more than Driver after the catch and recorded more missed/broken tackles.
The two marks against Jones are that he had one fumble and two interceptions on passes thrown at him (though only one of those was on a dropped pass, as we’ll see later).
At this point, it’s hard to argue that Driver is a better option than Jones at wide receiver for 2012. But one thing that people keep pointing to is Jones’ frequency of dropped passes. While the Super Bowl season was a big factor in that reputation, it doesn’t really hold true for 2011, at least when compared to Driver.
Both receivers had the most dropped passes among the group in 2011, but Driver actually had two more drops than Jones. Now, the common response to this is that Driver made his catches when they counted, and he showed up in big moments. But is that the truth, or is it a memory bias that mistakes what actually happened?
While going through every game and every catch by each player is not really a productive use of my time, I was able to go back and look at each player’s dropped passes. By comparing their drops, I figured it could indirectly suggest how meaningful the rest of their catches were. So I went through some of the game film to see when their drops occurred – the time, down-and-distance, route type, score at that point, and how the drive ended. Here’s what I found:
|Week (Opp.)||Time||Down||Route||Score||Drive End|
|Wk. 3 (Bears)||Q2 2:28||1-20-OPP 25||Post||14-7||FG|
|Wk. 4 (Broncos)||Q4 12:21||2-10-GB 37||Dig (INT)||42-17||INT|
|Wk. 5 (Falcons)||Q3 2:03||2-10-GB 32||Comeback||15-14||TD|
|Wk. 11 (Buccaneers)||Q1 10:40||2-16-GB 6||Fade||0-0||TD|
|Wk. 15 (Chiefs)||Q2 0:15||3-2-GB 35||Slant||0-6||PUNT|
|Wk. 17 (Lions)||Q3 10:25||3-2-GB 26||Post||24-19||PUNT|
|Week (Opp.)||Time||Down||Route||Score||Drive End|
|Wk. 3 (Bears)||Q1 0:43||1-10-GB 40||Dump Off||7-0||TD|
|Wk. 5 (Falcons)||Q3 5:38||3-5-OPP 39||Post||6-14||FG|
|Wk. 6 (Rams)||Q1 7:21||2-17-OPP 23||Dig||0-0||FG|
|Wk. 10 (Vikings)||Q4 15:00||2-12-OPP 38||Dig||31-7||TD|
|Wk. 14 (Raiders)||Q1 5:42||1-10-OPP 29||Fade||7-0||TD|
|Wk. 15 (Chiefs)||Q2 13:02||3-10-OPP 49||Post||0-6||PUNT|
|Q2 2:47||2-10-GB 3||Fade||0-6||PUNT|
|Wk. 17 (Lions)||Q1 6:41||2-G-OPP 7||Post||0-9||FG|
It can be hard to really quantify what constitutes a “game-changing” drop, but we can simplify it somewhat by isolating the third down drops, since it results in a failure to convert. Each player had two drops in third down situations, so on that level they are equal. However, both of Driver’s drops were at points when the Packers were trailing in the game, whereas only one of Jones’ third down drops came at such a point.
It might also be worth pointing out that Driver had two drops during the Chiefs game in Week 15, which as we all know was the Packers’ only regular season loss. Jones only had one that game, though it did come on a quick no-huddle play at the end of the half while still in their own territory.
So while we can’t conclusively say (without hours of research) that Driver showed up in bigger situations than Jones, we can say that Jones didn’t really drop that many passes in crucial moments of a game. Coupled with the productivity we saw from our original stats, I’d conclude that it’s a weak argument all around to say that he is a worse player than Donald Driver at this point in time.
With all of the football down time this month, I’ll see if I can do a little bit of film study to compare them further. For now, though, this should provide a solid jumping off point for the discussion of these two players going into 2012.
Feel free to share your thoughts below on the information presented and any critiques you might have of my analysis.——————Follow @ChadToporski