I'll have a post or two later this week on the all-22 from the season finale against the Jaguars, then we'll probably be starting our normal offseason positional analyses. Before that, though, I have a data dump-type post or two I want to run, and I'll start with the one today on penalties.
Were the Titans a heavily-penalized team or one not hurt very much by penalties in 2012? It seems like it should be an obvious question to answer one way or the other, but it's kind of both. On the one hand, the Titans were flagged 135 times for penalties, and their 106 accepted penalties against ranked them in the top ten in the NFL in that category. They were clearly a far cry from the almost amazingly flag-resistant Falcons, who had a mere 55 penalties accepted against them last year. Then again, the Falcons were an extreme outlier, ranking first by an amazing 17 penalties. Despite their nominal ranking of tenth, the Titans were nearly as close to the Vikings, who had the fourth-fewest penalties, than the Ravens, who had the second-most.
On the other hand, all those penalties didn't hurt the Titans that much, especially comparatively speaking. Though they ranked tenth in penalties against, they only ranked eighteenth in penalty yardage at 847 yards. True, that's more than double the yardage of the extreme outlier Falcons, but it's also nowhere close to the Ravens, who had 1,127 yards in penalties, or the Steelers, who averaged more than 10 yards per penalty against. The better ranking in penalty yardage implies the Titans committed relatively fewer long penalties, especially long pass interference penalties, than did other teams. While teams didn't get those free yards, though, they did get plenty of extra chances to stop the Titans on offense or gain yards on a Titans defense. On the whole, I would say that even though yardage wasn't a big issue, those extra chances against bad units hurt the Titans.
To get a better idea of just what type of penalties hurt the Titans in 2012, I'll go through position group by position group.
Jake Locker-7 penalties, 44 yards (4 delay of game, 1 illegal forward pass, 2 intentional grounding)
Matt Hasselbeck-3 penalties, 12 yards (2 delay of game, 1 horse collar tackle)
Team-1 penalty, 5 yards (delay of game)
I threw in the miscellaneous delay of game here, since that's a penalty normally assigned to the quarterback. One of Locker's intentional grounding calls was, of course, absolute nonsense, and Hasselbeck successfully appealed his fine for the horse collar tackle. I don't have final 2012 penalty numbers year, but even 7 delay of game penalties would have led the league in that category in 2011, and it was a big jump up from only one such penalty (on offense) in 2011. If you're looking for a theme in this category, three of Locker's four delays of game came after the bye week. Delay of game penalties happen for various reasons, and it's hard as an outsider to figure out where exactly the fault lies, but whatever happened to cause them, whether communication problems, trouble getting the play in, or trouble getting lined up, needs to be cleaned up.
Chris Johnson-1 penalty, 0 yards (1 illegal formation)
Darius Reynaud-1 penalty, 0 yards (1 illegal bat-ST)
Jamie Harper-1 penalty, 10 yards (1 illegal block-ST)
Quinn Johnson-2 penalties, 4 yards (1 holding, 1 illegal block-ST)
Backs don't get many penalties. I'll use the -ST suffix to denote penalties incurred on special teams. QJ's hold came on a run play, which means no Titans back was flagged for a hold in pass protection in 2012. CJ's illegal formation penalty came when he flexed out wide and lined up on the line of scrimmage, and the Titans already had a player on the line of scrimmage. I've tried on illegal formation penalties to figure who precisely was at fault to the best of my ability, but it's possible I am misattributing some of them.
Brandon Barden-1 penalty, 10 yards (1 holding)
Jared Cook-2 penalties, 15 yards (1 false start, 1 offensive pass interference)
Craig Stevens-4 penalties, 20 yards (1 false start, 2 holding, 1 illegal motion)
Taylor Thompson-1 penalty, 10 yards (1 holding-ST)
The average NFL team was flagged for offensive holding 17 times in 2011. The Titans were flagged 16 times in 2011.
Kenny Britt-4 penalties, 35 yards (1 false start, 3 offensive pass interference)
Michael Preston-1 penalty, 5 yards (1 offside-ST)
Nate Washington-1 penalty, 0 yards (1 illegal motion)
Kendall Wright-4 penalties, 20 yards (1 false start, 2 illegal formation, 1 offensive pass interference)
Receivers should not be flagged for many penalties. Beyond the wacky first half of the Colts game when the Titans were flagged three times, twice very questionably, the Titans were only flagged once for offensive pass interference all year. That's pretty much in line with NFL norms. Only two false start penalties all year by wide receivers is pretty good, I think.
Kyle DeVan-1 penalty, 0 yards (1 holding)
Leroy Harris-2 penalties, 10 yards (2 false start)
Steve Hutchinson-2 penalties, 10 yards (1 false start, 1 holding)
Deuce Lutui-4 penalties, 18 yards (4 holding)
Kevin Matthews-4 penalties, 25 yards (1 false start, 3 holding)
Mike Otto-1 penalty, 5 yards (1 false start)
Mitch Petrus-1 penalty, 0 yards (1 face mask)
Michael Roos-5 penalties, 20 yards (4 false start, 1 holding)
David Stewart-10 penalties, 70 yards (1 false start, 4 holding, 3 illegal formation, 2 personal foul)
Fernando Velasco-4 penalties, 25 yards (3 false start, 1 holding)
Dave Stewart did most of his damage in the first Texans game, getting flagged four times that game. Also, when you play a lot of backup offensive lineman, sometimes they hold a lot. Stewart had a problem with holding, getting called four times, but together Lutui and Matthews had as many holding penalties as the rest of the offensive line put together. Considering in an ideal or even non-terrible world neither one of them sees the field for the Tennessee Titans at all, I can live with that so long as neither is in line for serious playing time in 2013. I'm not too worried about Lutui; Matthews is another issue.
Yes, Michael Roos has an occasional issue with false starts. Considering the whole package, it's something I can live with. Two of Velasco's false start penalties came Week 14 against the Colts when he played left guard and Matthews played center, in case you're wondering why a center has that many false starts.
Jurrell Casey-1 penalty, 0 yards (1 offside)
Keyunta Dawson-1 penalty, 0 yards (1 offside)
Karl Klug-1 penalty, 5 yards (1 neutral zone infraction)
Sen'Derrick Marks-4 penalties, 24 yards (3 encroachment, 1 face mask)
Mike Martin-5 penalties, 40 yards (1 illegal block-runback, 2 neutral zone infraction, 1 offside, 1 roughing the passer)
Derrick Morgan-6 penalties, 10 yards (1 defensive holding, 2 neutral zone infraction, 3 offside)
Scott Solomon-2 penalties, 13 yards (1 illegal formation-ST, 1 roughing the passer)
Kamerion Wimbley-2 penalties, 15 yards (1 offside, 1 roughing the passer)
Jarius Wynn-2 penalties, 19 yards (1 encroachment, 1 face mask)
That's 16 snap-related infractions from the defensive line grouping, or a good three games' worth of work from the Jim Washburn era. Personally, those didn't bother me as much as I think it did most other people-penalties aren't all bad, and sometimes they're just a cost of doing business. Can Derrick Morgan work on those 5 snap-related penalties he had next season, without hurting his pass rush game?
Random fun fact: all of Sen'Derrick Marks' penalties came after the bye.
Akeem Ayers-6 penalties, 34 yards (1 defensive holding, 1 illegal use of hands, 1 neutral zone infraction, 1 pass interference, 1 roughing the passer, 1 unnecessary roughness)
Zach Brown-2 penalties, 10 yards (1 holding-runback, 1 roughing the passer)
Will Witherspoon-2 penalties, 20 yards (1 offside, 1 roughing the passer)
I really have to commend Akeem Ayers for his variety of infractions. I wouldn't have guessed a Titans player would have six penalties, all of them different, especially hitting only one of the encroachment, neutral zone infraction, offside trifecta. The players you don't see on this list are nearly as important as the ones you don't see, as core special teams players Tim Shaw and Patrick Bailey (granted, he missed some time) were not flagged once all year.
Al Afalava-3 penalties, 25 yards (1 false start-ST, 2 holding-ST)
Jordan Babineaux-4 penalties, 34 yards (1 defensive holding, 1 face mask, 1 holding-ST, 1 pass interference)
Tommie Campbell-6 penalties, 38 yards (1 12 men, 1 holding-ST, 2 illegal block-ST, 1 kick catch interference-ST, 1 offside-ST)
Michael Griffin-6 penalties, 80 yards (1 holding-runback, 1 horse collar, 1 illegal block-ST, 2 unnecessary roughness)
Jason McCourty-3 penalties, 20 yards (1 defensive holding, 1 holding-ST, 1 pass interference)
Ryan Mouton-2 penalties, 10 yards (1 defensive holding, 1 pass interference)
Coty Sensabaugh-4 penalties, 38 yards (3 pass interference, 1 unnecessary roughness)
Alterraun Verner-1 penalty, 9 yards (1 pass interference)
Tracy Wilson-3 penalties, 25 yards (1 holding-ST, 1 offside-ST, 1 unnecessary roughness-ST)
In case you're wondering where all the special teams penalties here, meet the secondary! Al Afalava, Tracy Wilson, and Tommie Campbell, Tommie Campbell, Tommie Campbell were your primary offenders. Campbell didn't have any real meltdown moments like the Week 15 game in Indianapolis in 2011 where the Titans had to bench him, but five special teams penalties is a few too many. Afalava and Wilson didn't cover themselves in glory either, and I'm still mildly surprised WIlson's, well, unnecessary unnecessary roughness penalty in his first game as a Titan didn't result in him being cut the next day pour encourager les autres. The offside penalty was a bad call, I think-he really looked like he'd crossed the line early, but I think he managed to stay behind it.
McCourty and Verner combined for two pass interference calls and one defensive hold all season. That's a pretty good of staying penalty-free in my book. The nickelbacks, especially Sensabaugh, were a different story.
Michael Griffin's frustration with the personal foul penalties he was tagged with at times was palpable. I'd be sympathetic if the Titans hadn't just signed him to a contract that paid him an average of $7 million a year to play good football. In other words, I was frustrated, too.
Rob Bironas-1 penalty, 5 yards (1 kickoff out of bounds)
Just for completionist's sake.
Had 86 accepted penalties for 717 yards. While objectively the Titans didn't commit many penalties, they had a good number more accepted penalties than their opponents did. Roughly one quarter of those totals came in just two games, the overtime thriller against the Lions (10-91) and the rematch at home against the Texans (11-97).