I don't know if I've really compiled much about how players were used in
the past, but I thought it was interesting to see how our players are
being used as of last year.
All data below from sportingcharts.com:
For linemen, essentially, you're talking longevity more than anything
else. That said, there was an amount of moving around that did happen
occasionally, including some bizarre games where the right side started
as Geoff Hangartner and Nate Chandler at G/T respectively, but then
reverted to Chandler/Byron Bell by the second series. As well, there
were a few snaps where Travelle Wharton made it to RG. None of these
figures count those weird plays where Bell or Jordan Gross would switch
sides to create an unbalanced line and neither checked in as eligible
for those plays.
It would, however, show Geoff Hangartner playing some TE as part of his
snaps, and doesn't differentiate.
The numbers show the tumultuous situation at guard. Six different
starters, and another (Byers) who didn't make it through a game to
start. Byers was hurt after only a few plays; Garry Williams made it 15
into the season.
TE is more interesting for the backups. Olsen playing 1000 snaps was
5th on O overall and missing 29 plays gives a minimal number of plays
for injury and scheme. Olsen tends to play a WR role when the team
truly splits wide, so there aren't many times he's asked to be off the
Hartsock's an interesting case to see roughly how much the team plays a
2nd TE, obviously. Even with a Pro Bowl level fullback the team uses
Hartsock liberally, and since he was hurt he and Brockel combined to
play roughly 50% of snaps. Brockel played some snaps at fullback, and
typically moves around a lot more than Hartsock. Brandon Williams will
show more in camp this year, hopefully, but for now he's stuck behind
specialists. Brockel's the second most productive of the group, with
one carry/1 yard, and 1 reception for 12 yards (they also have him down
for a fumble) - the other two have zero stats. Hartsock's value as a
near-starter who blocks exceptionally well can't be understated.
At RB, the snaps get muddy between the starters - since there's no real
notice as to whether Tolbert is playing the fullback or tailback; the
natural assumption is that, with Jonathan Stewart chipping in about two
games of snaps, that it was more RB. Barner can be valuable depth but
hasn't earned a lot with his 24 snaps (most late in finished games).
Tolbert plays the most of any of them, and plays special teams.
1766 snaps for the four DTs of a possibly 2028 suggests that about 13%
of snaps, a DE was at DT (1 of 8). The rookie DTs both playing over 50%
of possible snaps is definitely more than they anticipated (Rivera
suggested both would play about 30% apiece). Cole, the other "starter"
so to speak, played the fewest snaps right at the 30% promised; Star
played the most, almost at 60. Star flipped between the NT and UT
frequently. I wish I had better stats for that - you can assume Cole
played mostly NT, and Short/Edwards mostly UT, but that's still
anecotal. If you outright assume that, Short/Edwards were 84%, Star and
Cole combined for 90%, and yet Star and Cole played together a fair bit.
At DE, it felt like the team leaned on Addison (who was active more)
over Alexander, though Alexander started more games and had a very
similar stat count. Again anecdotal, but the 4th rounder appears to
somehow be the guy they go to when they need a base end, and that lines
up with the productivity of the smaller Addison/Horton. The trio threw
in 65% of a season's snaps for one player combined, and the unit as a
whole pitched in 2250 snaps (2.21 players' worth of total snaps, i.e.,
21% more than they'd have if two played every snap and no more/less).
LB shows the top two playing the exact same number of snaps. I don't
remember either being hurt enough to come out (Davis actually played
through a broken-skin finger dislocation - he also had to be helped off
after his INT mid-season but change of posession he wouldn't miss snaps
there either). Naturally most of the snaps lost to a 5th DB are from
SLB. The source also fails to show snaps by Jon Beason.
The tumultuous spot of the defense, obviously. Munnerlyn leads, and
doesn't get subbed much. A good run defender and good in coverage, hard
to explain the 4.25% he didn't play. Mitchell and Mikell had injury,
and Mitchell didn't start the season as strong as he finished it, but
Mikell also got the hook for Robert Lester a few times.
The other CB spot(s) get pretty grizzly, where the team has six
non-Munnerlyn players. Melvin White obviously started the meat of the
season before transitioning back out to a more situational role; Josh
Thomas started the year and got hurt, then came back and got the hook
because he couldn't defend the deep pass, and many would follow in his
footsteps. There were so many comeback stories in this spot - Drayton
Florence went from preseason starter to sitting at home week 1, only to
be back for week 3.
So the guys who played most outside Munnerlyn were an undrafted from a
small school and a street FA at CB, and two bargain FAs at S (one of
which joined the team very, very late). With the one year deals, the
team got immense production, if not always exceptional quality, for
their money at DB, but consider that outside the rookies and preseason
superstar Josh Norman (remember him? Four picks in preseason, 102 snaps
when it mattered), the only player under contract is the
catastrophically injured Charles Godfrey.
The team has 53 of a possible 64 starts into guys who aren't under
contract to 2014. There's room to bring some guys back, as Munnerlyn
should be a priority and they should cheaply snag whoever's less
expensive of the safeties (while seeing whether Mitchell himself is cost
effective) to pair with giving Lester a shot at a job. It's not
insurmountable to think of bringing back, inexpensively, someone like
Florence, either, but the team has to find a consistent guy opposite
Munnerlyn who can be as good as the 5'8 nickel, but also be a better
matchup. Longterm success at defensive back isn't sustained with seven
different corners playing, or by throwing more undrafted rookies at it.
One reason to look at special teams snaps, outside of seeing who
led/provided significant value, is to see extra value on the back end of
Richie Brockel led in snaps by a fair margin. He uses size and relative
speed on punt units, and I believe he's a wing on the FG teams; he's in
the return teams as well. Normally a four phase player and gunner,
Colin Jones had 45 fewer snaps than Brockel, a top blocker. Mario
Addison is a bit of a surprise at end, where the size/speed thing
becomes a big deal. You can see a value of a quick 260 lb guy playing a
line spot on punt team or
Jason Williams surged, for a guy with only 11 games, to be 6th. It's
not completely out of bounds that three LBs, generally the heart of any
special teams unit, were three of the top 6 and 4 of the top 8.
Melvin White makes sense to have been top ten in snaps, and lesser DB
starters have to do that a bit. But it's interesting to see Luke
Kuechly in there, and you'll see other names in there on what would be
the kick defense team (like the two DTs). The snap counts cut off short
of 59, so I don't know if anyone else was in there, but 30 players show
up on this list so it has to be somewhat comprehensive.
Greg Hardy shows up with 61, and sure some of that's on kick defense as
a jumper but I've seen him going down on punts, too. And he's just as
fast as in '11 when he'd play some gunner.
Armond Smith played 73 snaps on ST in only 5 games, which is impressive.
Especially compared to a guy like Lester, who had some ailments in
there but you'd figure a starting-level safety (as I believe him to be,
anyway) who showed up in 12 games would show up in more than 7.5 snaps
per game. But his role as the KR protector led to a better average for
Ted Ginn in the second half of the year (Ginn only has to make the 2nd
guy miss) and helped lead to the punt block by Jason Williams (the Jets'
weird habit of putting a wing back in motion as a gunner). It also led
to a costly, weird penalty v/s NO (Lester lining up on the long snapper)
as a variation where Lester snuck in to rush.