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Splitsville: Long wait for Luck

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Let’s mine the numbers for some meaning as we head into Week 2.

Colin Kaepernick's average pass length of 13.64 yards from scrimmage is off the charts. The Week 1 average was 7.96 air yards from scrimmage.

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Andrew Luck had a hard time letting go (of the football) in Week 1. (USAT)

Alex Smith’s average pass length was a NFL-low 4.72 yards. He’s Mr. Checkdown, bad news for Dwayne Bowe owners.

Andrew Luck was third in average pass length (11.00), so much for the emphasis on shorter throws this year. That would have been stupid anyway because Luck is not an accurate passer even on shorter throws. The Colts also allowed a league-worst sack rate of 17.4% last week to a Raiders defense no one was worried about. I don’t know how bad the Colts line is -- and it’s clearly not good -- but some of the blame for these sacks has to be on Luck. What I’m trying to say is: Play the Dolphins defense this week.

The Colts' sophomore starter holds the ball 3.12 seconds on average, in line with the running QBs. But Luck is supposed to be a pocket passer, primarily. I don’t think Indy’s plan is to have him run as much as he does. He’s a big guy, but running often ends badly for QBs.

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Geno Smith hung on to the ball 3.32 seconds on average, less than only Michael Vick’s 3.33. Andy Dalton was a league-best 2.04 seconds.

To get a gauge for how much a QB is to blame for pressure, follow Carson Palmer this year. He got rid of the ball in a sterling 2.23 seconds on average, yet was still dumped four times. The Rams, however, have one of the top defensive lines in football. I continue to love Palmer but it’s sad that teams in Fantasy Football really only have to worry about 12 QBs.

You want your tight ends in the slot, not with a hand on the ground. Here are the highest slot percentages, courtesy of the indispensable ProFootballFocus.com:

Dallas Clark: 90%
Brandon Myers: 75%
Tony Gonzalez: 68.8%
Martellus Bennett: 56.7%
Kellen Winslow: 54.2%
Michael Hoomanawanui (Patriots): 54.2%
Jordan Cameron: 51.1%

No one else was over 50%.

One thing concerning for Jared Cook owners is that his slot percentage had been elite in prior years, but he was in the slot just 30.3% of snaps in Week 1. It worked. But things could be even more downhill for him, I believe, with a more slot-friendly scheme. I remain worried about Brian Schottenheimer getting the most out of him, long term.

On the other hand, Vernon Davis was in the slot nearly 50% of the time (46.7%) -- a big improvement. Last year, the Niners put Davis in the slot on just 30.5% of snaps.

Kenny Still was targeted deep (20-plus yards downfield) four times in five targets on Sunday. He will be a bye-week wildcard, at least.

Randall Cobb was targeted only seven times but converted all seven. Can he maintain the hyper-efficiency he showed in 2012? It seems so.

DeSean Jackson has WR2 in the bag and may push for WR1 status. He converted seven of nine targets and looks faster than everyone on the field.

Here are receivers who converted all their targets (minimum five targets): Cobb, Reggie Wayne, Stephen Hill and Nate Burleson. I continue to like Hill, given that Geno Smith performed far better than most rookie QBs in a Week 1 start. As the season goes on, Smith’s ability to extend plays will make the freakishly-athletic Hill a better downfield threat.

[Watch: Stevan Ridley stock rises after Shane Vereen injury]

Here’s an article I wrote for the Wall Street Journal on David Wilson fumbling problems, which are badly overstated. He fumbled once in 132 touches prior to Sunday night and has only fumbled against the Cowboys (which means nothing but clarifies the limits of the problem to date). Note that Wilson’s rate even in the small sample and including Sunday is in line with current starters Daryl Richardson, C.J. Spiller and Reggie Bush.

It’s way too early to discuss matchups, but I think Week 1 can give us some sense at least of the nature of this upcoming season. This is now a finesse game, even when it comes to running. What LeSean McCoy and Terrelle Pryor did hardly qualifies as ground-and-pound football. We also had 19 100-yard receivers and just three 100-yard runners, including Pryor. Here’s some historical context on that from me again in the Journal. Note that the average of 283.3 yards passing in Week 1 by NFC teams was only topped just one week in the entire history of the wide open and wild AFL (Week 8 of the 1964 season).

Is sports' most unbreakable record now combined passing yardage by brothers in one NFL weekend? Peyton and Eli Manning threw for 912 yards last week. Maybe they break it against each other on Sunday.

But here’s why we should remain skeptical about Peyton’s likelihood of breaking Tom Brady’s record for 50 TD passes in a season. I’m putting the over/under at a measly 45.
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