Quick Hit: Pass/Run Ratios 2010 vs. 2011
Anyone who has been following the NFL knows that passing yardage is up significantly this year. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are both on pace to throw for over 5,700 yards, Aaron Rodgers will hit 5,400 at his current rate and rookie 1st overall pick Cam Newton is on track to hit 4,925 yards. The league average is 242.8 passing yards per game, up from 221.6 last year. While a 21 yard difference per game may not seem like much, that adds up to an increase of over 10,000 yards across the league.
Part of the increase has come from an increase in yards per attempt. Last season, the average was 6.2 Y/A. This year, it’s up to 6.5. There are probably a number of factors: generally good weather, a lack of tackling drills in camp leading to more yards after the catch, shortened offseason programs, new league rules on hitting receivers etc.
The other part of of the league-wide passing increase is that teams are calling pass plays more frequently than last year. Here is the percentage of plays which are passes per team [(pass attempts+sacks)/total offensive plays]:
The difference column shows how much more a team is passing the ball in 2011 compared to 2010 (positive numbers indicate more passing, negative indicates more running). Two of the top 3 teams in terms of increased passing have new coaches (Mike Munchak in Tennessee and Pat Shurmur in Cleveland) and, somewhat surprisingly, the team which has reduced their passing the most also has a new coach (The 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh). The Raiders are the only team thus far in 2011 which has run more than they have passed.
Overall, pass plays make up 58.55% of league wide offense in 2011, compared to 56.93% in 2010. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change as the weather gets worse and defenses (presumably) start to tighten up.