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Green Zone League Articles

The Season That Was - 2019
By Garth Pearce
Special to gzl-football.com

Well the 2019 regular season is in the bag and I get this feeling of expectations that just weren't met. The landscape has changed as a few teams re-tool their offense for a different look and strategy and it really has shown in the numbers.

Ryan Mallet had the most passing yards but his almost 1-to-1 touchdown to in ration (19:18) leaves him well behind the pack for scoring and QB rating. Matthew Stafford only rated in the top for QB rating, which is his second best season at 92.0, had his worst season for passing yards (3307) and 2nd worst for touchdowns (23). For a guy who throws over 4000 yards regularly this is a big drop as the Lions balanced out their game plan. This has paved the way for the Packers to flip their game plan from run heavy to include more air attack as Mike Glennon tops the league in QB rating at 101.5 and touchdowns with 33, whilst finishing third for yardage with 4167. The Buccaneers also managed to leverage their new starter into a level of success as Ryan Tannenhill finished top 10 in yardage (3890), second for QB rating (95.5) and second for touchdowns (32).

The downside of Green Bays new offense is Doug Martin falling off the rushing radar for scoring. He did finish fourth for yardage but with only 1528 yards he's well down on his regular performances. Speaking of rushing, after a frantic first 4-5 weeks that saw a few players on track for a 2000 yard year, the best we ended up with was Todd Gurley for a revamped Buccaneers with 1621 yards. In past seasons that's normally only good for middle of the pack but takes the crown in 2019, even if LaVonte Bell topped the pile for scoring with 14 touchdowns, with a unheard of showing by the 49ers with rookie 3rd rounder Ernie Gillespie running in 10.

C.J. Washington had the biggest receiving year for anyone since 2016 with 1720 yards, well clear of his greatest competition in Michael Floyd (1475). He was easily surpassed in the scoring stakes as Mike Evans soared to a casual 14 touchdown receptions while San Fran's Terrance Williams pocketed 12 along with Billy Crockett for Green Bay. Now here are 3 guys in their first year for their respective teams making the most of a fresh start (also note that both Evans and Crockett were originally drafted by Chicago).

The usual suspect is leading the blocking again, with Ryan Clady topping the charts with 111 pancakes, a surprising number consider he switched to right tackle this season after dominating on the left side for all these years. Two Raiders follow him on 102 (LT Greg Robinson and FB Jonathan Schaub) whilst Atlanta's Michael Millen rounds out the centurions.

When we look at defense we the leading tacklers are still in the same ball park as usual, the sack leaders like Clowney, Oakman and Bailey are also hitting their numbers, whilst the interception masters, including DeMarcus Milliner and rookie Emerson DuPree, aren't rocking the world either. There are no massive attempts at record breaking here which begs the question as to why the offensive figures are a bit flat. Could be that the general play of entire units is becoming more consistent or just that offensive play calling has changed to tone things down a bit for balanced strategies. Offensive scoring per game is all below 30 points whilst no defense has managed a total yardage average below 300 this year, which does lend plausibility to overall better defense as opposed to individual heroics.

Now I mentioned the 49ers twice in offensive numbers categories and it may be a new age for this team after many seasons finishing in the bottom 5 but now making the playoffs for the first time since 2011 (and first trip under current GM Maurice Heard) by posting the best season result in the teams history (12-4). The Bengals are also back in after a 6 year absence behind a revitalised offense led by former Bucc Josh Freeman and Giovani Bernard running for his first season with over 4 yards per carry.

But it is definitely a new era for teams like the Steelers, Seahawks, Bears and Dolphins who all failed to make the playoffs. The Seahawks have been on a big slide since their 2016 Superbowl and now sit in the bottom 5 (the only shining lights is the ownership of the equally bad Chiefs' first round pick for a top end double whammy). This continuing trend of teams trading out their future first and then ending up in the bottom 10 of the league seems to be a never ending cycle, but it is up to the GM to accept defeat and stay out of the draft (or early season trading) to again balance the ship and get full value for their picks.

This years playoff should be good with the new faces looking to prove themselves whilst the old hands at the playoff scene try not to get embarrassed. The NFC shapes as a tougher conference due to the higher winning factor but could be an even race whilst the AFC looked to be a struggle for a few teams to reach the finish line, let alone carry on afterwards. They'll need to step into overdrive if they want to make the grand stage and be competitive against the NFC.
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