Playbook Confidential: Chargers at Vikings

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

We're going to do another quickie this week for an even more-meaningless-than-usual pre-season game. The cover story was the anemic yards per carry of the running game, and inability of a young offensive line to deal with the Vikings pass rush. Looking into some details reveals Norv showing a few quirks this week. For starters, Whitehurst play faked much more than Rivers ever does. There were 8 play fakes by Whitehurst on a total of 22 passing plays in Week 3, where Rivers had only given his token fakes on 4 of his 23 passing plays so far in 2012. This can probably be chalked up to two reasons. The first is that Whitehurst is much more convincing at it, so Norv probably calls it more for him. The second may have been in the hopes of slowing down that brutal pass rush. In terms of results, this game was a lot like last year's home game against Denver when the offensive line was similarly injury depleted. There was only really one sustained drive out of seven, and that was a 13 play / 44 yard mish mash of penalties and Whitehurst scrambles. The cumulative pre-season play log is here

The tendency we identified last week, running from balanced receiver formations, was back with a vengeance. Let's really hope this is a deliberate pre-season disinterest in variation.

Receiver Formation Run Pass Run %
Balanced 7 7 50%
Unbalanced 6 15 29%

The run pass balance showed the usual 1st down coin toss and 3rd down run abandonment. The 2nd down pendulum swing is a formula we're going to try really hard to crack this year. This week the run meter for 2nd down was way up.

Down Run Pass
1st 6 7
2nd 5 7
3rd 2 8
Total 37% 63%

The favorite personnel group of Playbook Confidential snuck in for three plays this week. That would be none other than "20". This was unfortunately, not 2011's "20" with two pretty good halfbacks (Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert) running whacky stuff. This was pre-season "20" with mostly Jackie Battle and Jacob Hester simply pass blocking on obvious passing downs. The less used "22" also made a really big showing with rather disastrous results; seven plays for a total of -3 yards.

Personnel 1st 2nd 3rd Total
11 0 1 8 9
12 4 4 1 9
20 1 1 1 3
21 2 5 0 7
22 6 1 0 7

A quick and dirty high level look at the formations shows a lot more fullback use than normal. This makes me wonder if Hester could be on the roster bubble and was given him a chance to perform. Maybe it was just a reaction to poor offensive line play; extra protection on pass plays, and a more deliberate attempt to establish the running game.

Formation # Plays
Ace 10
I 7
Shotgun 11
Jumbo 7

Click here for a detailed explanation of Playbook Confidential terminology.

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