Gregg Rosenthal

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New Favorite Targets

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Nothing changes the composition of an offense more than a change at the quarterback position. Popular plays are junked, routes are adjusted, and new favorite receivers emerge. When Tony Romo took over the starting job in Dallas, the conventional wisdom said that Romo's favorite receiver was Terrell Owens, not Terry Glenn.

But was conventional wisdom right? Using Rotoworld's Season Pass package, I decided to look at what effect quarterback changes have had on team trends in pass targets. In Dallas, conventional wisdom was on the right track.

Cowboys targets under Drew Bledsoe (5.5 games)

Terrell Owens – 48
Terry Glenn – 40
Jason Witten – 28
Patrick Crayton – 13

Cowboys targets under Tony Romo (2.5 games)

Terrell Owens – 33
Terry Glenn – 15
Jason Witten – 24
Patrick Crayton – 9

Tony Romo can deny he favors T.O., but the numbers say it all. When Romo drops back, Owens is more than twice as likely to get a pass thrown his way than Terry Glenn. While Owens led the team in targets under Bledsoe, it was closely bunched considering that Glenn generally runs longer routes.

Another big change that jumps out is how active Jason Witten has been with Romo at the helm. A young two-time Pro Bowler, Witten's receiving numbers suffered a sharp decline this year when Owens arrived. Now he's getting the ball consistently. Terry Glenn ultimately looks like Romo's third option and Witten may earn another trip to Hawaii.

Even Patrick Crayton is getting more involved under Romo. He's turned those nine targets into seven catches for 150 yards and a touchdown. That's wildly efficient and indicates that Crayton should become a bigger part of the passing game.

Most observers would expect Bill Parcells to scale back his offense with Romo at the helm, but the first-time starter is actually passing more often than Bledsoe was. The Big Tuna is so confident in the kid; we wonder why he waited so long to make the switch.

Dolphins targets under Daunte Culpepper (4 games)

Chris Chambers - 39
Wes Welker – 26
Randy McMichael - 17
Marty Booker – 21

Dolphins targets under Joey Harrington (4 games)

Chris Chambers - 38
Wes Welker – 34
Randy McMichael - 37
Marty Booker – 19 (3 games)

Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has not been afraid to air the ball out under Joey Harrington, a strategy that got Steve Mariucci a job at the NFL Network. Harrington has been smarter than Culpepper in his decision-making, though, relying less on low-percentage throws to Chris Chambers. Despite playing in the slot, Wes Welker is almost Chambers' equal in targets and has turned into a consistent offensive threat.

The biggest difference under Harrington has been the use of tight end Randy McMichael. While he doesn't have great hands, McMichael is a great blocker and creates matchup problems with his athleticism. With Harrington at the helm, McMike has been one of the top tight ends in football. McMichael was just another guy with Culpepper dropping back from center.

Jaguars targets under Byron Leftwich (six games)

Reggie Williams – 43
Ernest Wilford – 31
Matt Jones – 26 (3 games)

Jaguars targets under David Garrard (six starts)

Reggie Williams – 6
Ernest Wilford - 8
Matt Jones – 8

This is a very small sample size, and Matt Jones' injury skews the numbers. Garrard has barely had to pass in his two wins as a starter because of dominant efforts from his running game and defense. In his brief time, he's shown a willingness to spread the ball around equally to his three big receivers.

When Jones was healthy, Ernest Wilford was clearly taking a back seat to Jacksonville's two first-round pick starters. Garrard seems more willing to look for Wilford, a fellow fourth-round pick, especially in the red zone.

Cardinals targets under Kurt Warner (four games)

Larry Fitzgerald - 37
Anquan Boldin – 37
Bryant Johnson - 11

Cardinals targets under Matt Leinart (four games)

Larry Fitzgerald – 2 (one game)
Anquan Boldin – 49
Bryant Johnson - 28

Fitzgerald was hurt in Leinart's first start. But it's worth noting that Boldin was nearly the most targeted receiver in the league while Fitzgerald was out. With Fitz returning in Week 10, Boldin is likely to see his production go down.

Gregg Rosenthal has directed Rotoworld's football content since 2003. He co-hosts the NBC Fantasy Fix and covers the NFL for and Catch him on Twitter.
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