Distribution – Passing
Planning out the next star of 2016 may be as easy as looking at the way in which offenses distribute the football to the skill players.
Of course it goes without saying that not every NFL team makes the same amount of pass attempts. Nor do those individual passing games generate the same amount of production.
Yet even on a poor passing team, is there a trend that can point to a player or two as a reliable target? How are passes divvied up among the skill positions? Here are the best and worst teams in terms of distribution.
The top 5 teams to utilize the running back position the most in the passing game are the Lions, Ravens and Eagles (tie) who used the RB in 32% of their passing offense. Next was the Chargers who used the RB in 30% of the passing offense. Rounding out the top 5 teams was the Buccaneers at 29%.
It should be noted that Dirk Koetter was promoted to Tampa’s head coach, and Frank Reich moves from San Diego to take over as offensive coordinator in Philly so don’t expect much to change for either club. The wild card is Ken Whisenhunt taking over as OC for the Chargers. Whisenhunt impresses me as a flexible coach who gears his offense to its strengths. In the Chargers case, that may be the passing game.
The worst teams to utilize the running back in the passing game were Colts and Broncos who saw a meager 16% of their passes go the RB. Next worst was a 5-way tie at 17% for the 49ers, Steelers, Chiefs, Cardinals, and Panthers.
I expect the 49ers to increase dramatically with the addition of Chip Kelly. All other teams at the bottom may be status quo in 2016.
The top team to use the tight end in the passing game was the Titans at a whopping 40%. The second place team was the Panthers at 32%. Third was the Cowboys at 29%. Then tied for fourth were the Chiefs and Redskins at 28%.
The worst team to use the tight end in the passing game was the Jets at 2% — that’s not a misprint. In fact I double checked. Jets’ tight ends caught a total of 8 passes all season. Next worst was the Texans at 11%. Then the Lions at 15%.
Note that none of these ball clubs (the best and the worst) made significant changes which may bring about a change in distribution. The Chiefs did bring in Brad Childress, but this is still Andy Reid’s offense.
The Jets led everyone, distributing 72% of their passes to the wide receiver. The Cardinals were next at 71% followed by the Broncos at 68%, Texans at 65%, and rounding out the top 5 are the Steelers at 64%.
The worst team was the Titans, passing to the wide receiver only 38% of the time. Surprisingly, the fast-paced Eagles were next worst at 42%, which may not translate well to Chip Kelly’s next set of receivers in the Bay area. And both the Ravens and Chargers tied with 46%. To put this in perspective, keep in mind that in the passing game, these 4 teams (TEN, PHI, BAL, SD) passed to their wide receivers less than half of the time!
Distribution – Touchdowns
Gauging which skill position will be targeted for touchdowns may not be an exact science. Teams may hit peaks and valleys which can vary depending upon the defenses they face. Still, it couldn’t hurt to look at the high and low runners when it comes to each position in relation to touchdown distribution.
When the Falcons scored a TD, 58% of the time it went to a running back. Second was the Vikings at 53%. The Bears were third with half of their TD went to the running back positin position. Rounding out the top 5 are the Eagles at 47% and the Chiefs at 45%.
If you owned any Jaguars running back, chances are it was rare they scored a touchdown since they owned the lowest TD percentage at 10%. Next worst (tie) were the Redskins and 49ers at 18%. The fourth-worst teams (tie) were the Giants and Panthers at 24%.
It may not have happened often, but if the Browns were going to score, 36% of the time it went to the tight end. Second were the Redskins at 31% followed closely by the Patriots at 30%. Rounding out the top teams (tie) were the Titans, Chargers and Bengals at 29%.
The worst team for touchdowns to the tight end were the Jets. (No surprise here if you read the passing distribution above.) They scored a total of 1 TD for a lowly 2%. Second-worst team was the Falcons, utilizing the tight end in the end zone 6%. Next was a 4-way tie for the Rams, Seahawks, Bills and Steelers at 7%.
The team to lean on the wide receiver most when scoring was the Jaguars where the wide receiver position scored 70% of the time. Second was the Jets who threw 66% of their touchdowns to the wide receiver. Third was the Giants who tossed 63% of their touchdowns to the wide receiver. Rounding out the top five teams (tie) were the Texans and Seahawks who threw 60% of their touchdowns to the wide receiver.
The Vikings were the worst when it came to using the WR for a TD at 19%. Next worst (tie) were the Bears and Patriots at 24%. Maybe a healthy receiving corps turns that around for the Bears in 2016? Rounding out the bottom-five are the Bucs who passed a TD to the wide receiver 26% of the time.
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