Chet Gresham

Targets and Touches

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Final Target Watch

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Running Back Targets

I took a stroll down receiving running back memory lane and found a couple facts that interested me. One is that there are only three running backs with over 1,000 yards receiving since the merger and secondly that two of those came in the same season, 1985. That year there were also only 11 players overall that had over 1,000 yards receiving! Anyway, Roger Craig and Lionel “Little Train” James were the two running backs that topped 1k that year. And not until The Greatest Show on Turf and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk came on the scene was the 1k barrier breeched again. This season we saw two running backs perform well in the passing game with both Darren Sproles and Ray Rice topping 700 yards. Let’s take a look at how they stacked up in the targets and yards per target department.

1. Darren Sproles – 107/6.6
2. Ray Rice – 104/6.8
3. Mike Tolbert – 79/5.5
4. Chris Johnson -- 79/5.3
5. Matt Forte – 75/6.5
6. Arian Foster – 72/8.6
7. LeSean McCoy – 69/4.6
8. Dexter McCluster – 65/5.1
9. Maurice Jones-Drew – 64/5.8
10. LaDainian Tomlinson – 60/7.5
11. Jonathan Stewart – 60/6.9
12. Roy Helu – 60/6.3
13. Ryan Mathews – 59/7.7
14. Pierre Thomas – 59/7.2
15. Steven Jackson – 58/5.7
16. C.J. Spiller – 54/5
17. Kregg Lumpkin – 53/5.5
18. Reggie Bush – 52/5.7
19. Fred Jackson – 49/9.0
20. Michael Bush – 47/8.9
21. Ahmad Bradshaw – 44/6.1
22. Felix Jones – 44/5

Fred Jackson, Arian Foster and Michael Bush made the most out of their targets but Darren Sproles was the clear aerial king with his 7 receiving touchdowns. Ryan Mathews and Chris Johnson combined for a healthy 138 targets, 107 receptions and zero receiving touchdowns. Dexter McCluster finished higher than I expected and with a lower yards per target than I expected. All in all it is hard to assign much meaning to running back receiving yards since the sample sizes are usually pretty low, but Sproles and Rice were the cream of the receiving-back crop this year and there’s no reason, other than the many obstacles that football throws at them, that they can’t repeat similar numbers next season.


Running Back Workload

There is always much debate on how an excessive workload will affect running backs in subsequent years. Personally I don’t believe there is any formula you can insert here to help you predict the future but getting hit over and over probably isn’t the best thing for the human body. Here are the running backs and how heavily they were relied upon by their team. The numbers are number of touches/percentage of the team’s plays the running back was targeted.

1. Maurice Jones-Drew -- 386/0.43
2. Ray Rice -- 367/0.39
3. Arian Foster -- 331/0.35
4. LeSean McCoy -- 321/0.34
5. Chris Johnson -- 319/0.36
6. Michael Turner -- 318/0.31
7. Marshawn Lynch -- 313/0.34
8. Steven Jackson -- 302/0.33
9. Frank Gore -- 299/0.33
10. Michael Bush -- 293/0.31
11. Cedric Benson -- 288/0.30
12. Shonn Greene -- 283/0.30
13. Ryan Mathews -- 272/0.28
14. Willis McGahee -- 261/0.33
15. Reggie Bush -- 259/0.28
16. Matt Forte -- 255/0.30
17. Beanie Wells -- 255/0.28
18. Rashard Mendenhall – 246/0.26
19. Adrian Peterson -- 227/0.24
20. Fred Jackson -- 209/0.22

As you can see the top guys miraculously are the guys that didn’t suffer injuries. Maurice Jones-Drew was easily the most used running back and also one of the biggest preseason risks due to his knee problems. With a rookie quarterback who played like a rookie and not much in the way of help from backup running backs, tight ends or receivers MJD had to carry the load game in and game out.

In 2010, the top 10 work horses were:

1. Arian Foster 393/.41
2. Steven Jackson 376/.38
3. Ray Rice 370/.4
4. Chris Johnson 360/.42
5. Cedric Benson 349/.35
6. Rashard Mendenhall 347/.38
7. Michael Turner 346/.33
8. Maurice Jones-Drew 333/.33
9. Peyton Hillis 331/.4
10. Ahmad Bradshaw 323/.33

You can see there is some major overlap here with 7 running backs repeating their top 10 workload numbers. Yes, it’s okay to look at workload and wear and tear on a running back when assessing their season outlook but don’t make it your sole criteria in downgrading a player.


Tight Ends

1. Jimmy Graham -- 148
2. Brandon Pettigrew -- 125
3. Rob Gronkowski -- 124
4. Kellen Winslow -- 119
5. Jason Witten -- 117
6. Tony Gonzalez -- 116
7. Dustin Keller -- 115
8. Aaron Hernandez -- 113
9. Brent Celek -- 98
10. Vernon Davis -- 95
11. Jermaine Gresham -- 92
12. Jermichael Finley -- 92
13. Greg Olsen -- 89
14. Ed Dickson -- 89
15. Antonio Gates -- 88
16. Fred Davis -- 87
17. Marcedes Lewis -- 85
18. Owen Daniels -- 84
19. Jared Cook -- 81
20. Heath Miller -- 73
21. Ben Watson -- 71

This was the year of the tight end with both Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski going all old-school Chargers tight ends on us but on the whole there wasn’t a huge jump in targets to tight ends. Graham and Gronk are both special players and showed why this season. On the whole though it is apparent the trend toward showcasing elite tight ends in the offensive game plan is becoming a more than viable option.



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Chet Gresham writes Target Watch and The Morning After for Rotoworld.com and is the founder of The Fake Football. Chet can be found on Twitter .
Email :Chet Gresham


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