Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Tale of Two Lines

The Vikings-Titans match up will feature two of the most hyped defensive lines coming into the season. We all know about the Vikings' line, but the Titans, fresh off a playoff berth, feature Albert Haynesworth, one of the only tackles that can be fairly compared to Kevin Williams, a Pro Bowl defensive end in Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Javon Kearse, who while getting up in age, is still a big name defensive end.

And unlike the Vikings line, the Titans have been living up to the hype all year. They have 11 sacks already almost all of which have come from their defensive line. Haynesworth has 3, and Vanden Bosch, Kearse and DT Tony Brown have 2 each. With those sacks have come a 9.9% adjusted sack rate, the third best in the NFL, and well above the NFL average of 7.0%. They've also held opposing running games to 3.54 adjusted line yards, the 7th best in the NFL. And these totals aren't out of line for the Titans, as they've finished 9th and 11th in ASR in the last two years that they weren't missing Haynesworth because he was hurt or impersonating a Riverdancer.

The Vikings will try and counter with an offensive line that is still missing its starting left tackle. But, while they've been below average, allowing 6 sacks and an adjusted sack rate of 7.5%, the 18th best in the league, they're still doing better than the last three years. The Vikings offensive line's best finish in ASR was 22nd, in 2006. Last year, they were 30th, and they were 28th in 2005. Of course, they've always been able to run the ball and they're 2nd in the league, behind Denver, with 5.03 adjusted line yards.

The Titans offensive line is more well rounded, but they haven't had quite the same success running the ball as the Purple. While they're 17th overall in Adjusted Line yards, with 4.15, they were 4th in Adjusted Sack Rate last year and have been even better this year, allowing only 2 sacks in their first three games and with a 2.8% ASR, they have the second best Adjusted Sack Rate in the NFL.

That means the Vikings' defensive line will not have an easy task on Sunday if they plan on meeting their preseason hype. While the new Purple People Eaters have looked impressive the last two weeks, and especially against the Panthers, their ASR still isn't much better than it was last year. The last three years, the Purple have been 28th, 31st and 21st overall in ASR. This year, they're 18th, but they're still below average, with a 6.8% ASR. They've still been dominating the run, holding opponents to a league best 2.66 adjusted line yards, but as we've seen, that's not enough to be the kind of dominant defense line that can carry a team to the playoffs.

For the Vikings' to be successful, they need their pass rush to get to the quarterback like the Titans' pass rush has. They've shown they can do it against the Colts and especially against the Panthers. They need to be able to do it against the Titans as well if they want to continue to climb out of the 0-2 hole they've dug for themselves.