Tweetback: ‘First Look’ from ESPN Stats and Info to add depth to analyzing NFL games; Brent and Slim; Sunday Night Baseball brings Larkin back to Cincy

An element in this week’s “First Look": “Ponder fails to take advantage of defenses keying in on the run” (ESPN)
An element in this week’s “First Look”: “Ponder fails to take advantage of defenses keying in on the run” (ESPN)

Everyone wants to cozy up with someone who’s smart – and good looking – too.

ESPN’s Stats & Information Group (SIG) wants to be that “someone.”

Already known for providing “smart stats” that prompt on-air commentators to often say of their researchers “They’re the ones who make us look good,” the SIGers are now looking to dress up their data.

“Our Stats & Information Group does terrific work, and now we want to do more than just being known as stats experts,” says Allison Loucks, manager, statistics, overseeing NFL coverage. “We want to marry our stats with video suggestions to make our packages stand out. We want to make the fans smarter, and by adding context to our research and presenting it better, it will help fans understand.”

Instead of a factoid for each game, the focus will be on several angles for the coming week’s biggest games.

“We’ll look for stats supporting hot button topics, and sometimes ones that aren’t so obvious,” says Loucks, a Green Bay Packers fan from Wisconsin. “Then we’ll use a tool from our tool box to add a visual element, because we love our tools.”

An example is that resources will now allow Loucks’ team to complement passing stats with a passing-zone graphic showing the entire field rather than just a 15-20 yard visual.

“Researching and presenting the numbers to support a storyline has always been at the core of what we do, but this year our Monday packet [of information] will emphasize the supporting video clips that will make it easier for us to sell our point to consumers of our information,” said stat analyst John Parolin. “This is accomplished thanks to our NFL TruMedia tool, which links our video-analysis data to corresponding play-by-play clips from NFL games in Research.

“Monday’s packet will also feature data visualizations like the NFL Zone-Chart graphics, which are also fueled by video-analysis data,” Parolin said. “The zone charts make large sample sizes easily digestible to consumers, and are expected to be utilized across platforms to give ESPN an effective and recognizable visual storytelling tool for the NFL. These are the result of a collaboration between Stats and Information, Emerging Technology and Creative Services, with feedback from Digital Media and Production.”

Parolin’s “First Look” teammate and NFL Research Specialist Jason Vida said, “We’ve come to realize that so much of the NFL analysis and information that is out there is very similar, so we’ve been working for years on different ways to tell NFL stories, ways to cover the NFL that are unique to ESPN. ‘First Look’ is the fruition of those efforts. There will be elements that can’t be found anywhere else.”

Above is a screengrab from this week’s “First Look.” A description of what it means:

“Ponder fails to take advantage of defenses keying in on the run”

Adrian Peterson faced eight or more men in the box on 12 of his 18 rushes in Week 1 (67 percent), his second-highest rate against such defenses in the last two seasons. Although Peterson scored his 78-yard touchdown run against an eight-man box, he gained only 17 yards on his next 11 rushes. Christian Ponder has failed to take advantage of defenses piling extra defenders into the box though. In Week 1 this season, Ponder was 3-of-6 with 2 interceptions when facing eight or more box defenders, and since last season, has been nearly three times more as likely to throw a pick against those defenses.

– By Dan Quinn

And now, the Tweetback. . .

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