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More Productive Duo: Cowboys' Romo And Austin Or Eagles' Vick And Maclin?

More often than not, these two are on the same page.
More often than not, these two are on the same page.

In the true spirit of Eagles week, a few of us have engaged in banter with fans of this Sunday's opposition, with delightful results. Obviously trash talking amongst fans means nothing in the end, but it can be a fun way to exercise your vocal chords and stretch your typing fingers. One of the more heated exchanges I got into with a fan of Philadelphia, was that he would take Jeremy Maclin as a receiver ahead of Miles Austin. Now, of course, as an Eagles fan he is supposed to feel this way. I have no problem with the belief of rolling with what you got; and Maclin is a very good receiver indeed. He's just no Miles Austin.

One might say I just needed an excuse to look at the proficiency of Romo and Austin going into their stiffest test of the season. One might not be too far off; but when you can shoot down that crazy Eagles fan talk in the process, why not.

Since 2009, Austin averages 16 yards a reception and has scored 22 touchdowns over the last 2+ seasons. Maclin averages 13.5 yards a reception and has 17 touchdowns over the same span.

Austin and Maclin entered the league three years apart, but entered prominence during the same season. Everyone is familiar with the Miles Austin story; undrafted small school free agent that spent his first three years on special teams. He finally cracked the rotation Week 5 of 2009, when he logged 30+ snaps for the first time in his career against Kansas City. Maclin was a first round pick from a Big 12 school, Missouri. He began receiving starters snaps his second week as a pro and has never looked back.

Follow the jump for much more, including detailed statistical breakdown...

When it was pointed out to said Eagles fan that since 2009, the time frame that both have received starter snaps (Austin-861, Maclin-802), Austin was clearly superior, of course the myopic qualifiers began raining down.

Maclin was just a rookie in 2009, learning the ropes, and Austin had three years in the league to learn. Fair points, but nowhere near deal breakers. I decided to normalize the comparisons a bit. To eliminate Maclin's rookie year, and for Austin's side to eliminate games with Jon "checkdown" Kitna, a more equal comparison would be to look at each player's performance with their main man throwing them the rock. For Austin, we'll look at games with Tony Romo (22 in total) and compare them to Maclin with Vick at the helm (19).

First, let's look at the totals accrued for each of the candidates.

GAME Catches Yards TDs Drops PFF Grade
MACLIN TOTAL 92 1,230 10 10 -6.4
 19 games
Avg. / game 4.8 64.7 0.53 0.53 -0.34
AUSTIN TOTAL 143 2,164 17 9 +12.5
 22 games
Avg. / game 6.5 98.4 0.77 0.41 +0.57

In games played with their current quarterbacks, it's a clean sweep for Austin in both the totals and average per game. Austin catches 1.7 more passes and gains 34 more yards per contest than Maclin. He's scored seven more touchdowns in three more games, and dropped one less pass. His Pro Football Focus cumulative grade dwarfs Maclin's as well.

Here's where the Maclin supporters would say that those stats don't tell the whole story. What about advanced statistics? Austin is targeted way more than Maclin is, that pads his stats. OK, let's look a little deeper.

Targets Catch Rate Drop Rate Yards Per Catch Yards Per Target TDs per target
MACLIN 136 67.6% 7.4% 13.4 9.0 0.074
AUSTIN 210 68.1% 4.3% 15.1 10.3 0.081

Another clean sweep by Austin. Despite being targeted more by a large margin (something some would say is further indication of his higher value), Austin has a better catch percentage, lower drop rate, and higher yards per catch.

He also averages more yards and touchdowns per target. Even when comparing their best seasons against each other, Austin wins hands down.

Best Year Comparisons DVOA Catches Yards TDs YPC DYAR PFF AV
Austin 2009 28.3% 81 1320 11 16.3 396 13.2 11
Maclin 2010 15.5% 70 964 10 13.8 251 -1.2 9

DVOA is a metric devised by Football Outsiders. In essence it looks at a player's performance, taking into account the defense the stats were compiled against and compares it to the average player.  Miles Austin performed 28% better than other players would in the same game situations. Catches, yards, touchdowns and yards per catch are all self-explanatory.

DYAR is another FO metric, that stands for Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This advanced yardage stat says how many more yards said player gained above an average player replacing him.

PFF, Pro Football Focus, grades each player on every snap and assigns a value on a scale of -2.0 to +2.0. This looks at a players total contributions, including blocking.

AV is a metric that we used frequently over the summer. It is from Pro Football Reference and is their metric that assigns a numerical value to a player's season so that different positions and different eras can be looked at equally.

This probably would have been a better comparison if it was done with Hakeem Nicks with Eli Manning, I'll save that for later on in the season.

Any way you slice it, Austin is the superior producer when QB1 is on the field. The one solace they can have is that in games against each other; Maclin averages 62 yards a game to Austin's 61. There you go Eagles fans, something to hang your hat on.

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