Week 1 Target Watch: NFC

Chet Gresham
September 11, 2013
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Welcome to the NFC portion of Targets and Touches. The AFC portion is right here!

There were plenty of targets Week one with 1173 passing attempts compared to 813 rushing attempts. Close to 60% of the time a team in this league will throw the ball. So yes, it is a passing league unless you are the Philadelphia Eagles of course.

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Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald: (14), Andre Roberts: (9), Michael Floyd: (6), Andre Ellington: (3), Jaron Brown: (2), Jim Dray: (2), Kory Sperry: (1), Alfonso Smith: (1), Rashard Mendenhall: (1)

Last season Larry Fitzgerald saw plenty of targets, but very few of them were accurate.  So far this year Carson Palmer has been a breath of fresh air. In 2012 Fitzgerald had two catchable passes over 20 yards according to Pro Football Focus. Palmer gave him one on Sunday, which he caught for a touchdown.  And we also saw a nice distribution of targets for Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd. Roberts was the underneath, possession guy while Floyd had two targets over 20 yards.

Another interesting fact is that Fitzgerald ran 18 slot routes for 41% of all his routes, while last season he averaged 8 routes in the slot for 19% of his routes. This diversity will help him create mismatches this season.

The running back production was led by Rashard Mendenhall, but there was a definite even split in snaps, with Alfonso Smith getting 27 snaps to Mendenhall’s 35. Smith was trusted a bit more in pass blocking with 13 to 8 pass pro plays.

Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones: (9), Steven Jackson: (8), Tony Gonzalez: (6), Harry Douglas: (6), Jason Snelling: (3), Roddy White: (2), Bradie Ewing: (1), Jacquizz Rodgers: (1)

Roddy White was used as a decoy for most of the game, which helped Harry Douglas see more time and targets. Julio Jones was of course the target leader with White not fully healthy.

Steven Jackson’s eight targets were a great sign for his production. Last season he had more than eight targets only one time and finished the year with just 53. Rodgers wasn't a factor and shouldn't cut into Jackson's time.

Carolina Panthers

Greg Olsen: (10), Steve Smith: (8), DeAngelo Williams: (3), Mike Tolbert: (1), Ted Ginn: (1)

Cam Newton only threw the ball 23 times and according to Pro Football Focus, “attempted just two passes over 20 yards in the air and just four more over 10 yards in the air, with 14 of his aimed passes thrown less than 10 yards.”  And to add to that silly stat is another, all six of those passes over 10 yards were catchable, with five receptions and one drop. Ron Rivera has already admitted that they were too conservative in the passing game, so maybe we’ll see them air it out more in the future.

Greg Olsen didn’t put up big numbers, but he was the leading target. The only other non-Olsen/Smith receiver to see a target was Ted Ginn. Brandon LaFell is falling off the map even though he was on the field for one more snap than Smith.

DeAngelo Williams was on the field for 32 snaps and Mike Tolbert was there for 33, but Williams saw 20 touches to Tolbert’s 5 and Tolbert accumulated 4 yards to Williams’ 100.

Chicago Bears

Brandon Marshall: (10), Alshon Jeffery: (8), Matt Forte: (6), Martellus Bennett: (6), Michael Bush: (1), Earl Bennett: (1),

Alshon Jeffery’s eight targets are a bit of a revelation in comparison to last season’s target distribution for the Bears.  Last year only three times did a receiver not named Brandon Marshall have over 7 targets and two of those happened in Week 14 when Cutler gave Marshall 19 targets and threw the ball 44 times. And guess what, even with just ten targets Marshall still had a big game! This better distribution should help everyone on the team.

These target numbers feel like a good base for distribution in Trestman’s offense and even though Matt Forte didn’t catch 100 passes, his 6 targets puts him on pace for 96 targets, 36 more than last season.


Dallas Cowboys

Miles Austin: (12), DeMarco Murray: (10), Jason Witten: (9), Dez Bryant: (8), Terrance Williams: (4), Dwayne Harris: (3), Gavin Escobar: (2), Phillip Tanner: (1)

Dez Bryant was double teamed most of this game so Miles Austin and Jason Witten were the main beneficiaries. The 10 targets for Demarco Murray is something to keep an eye on.  He didn’t do a ton with them, but eight receptions in a PPR league are big especially when he doesn’t get in the end zone. He also was by far the leader in snaps for running backs with 70 compared to Phillip Tanner’s six. If he can somehow stay healthy, his usage will make him extremely valuable.

Dez Bryant hurt his foot so it’s good to take a look at who the third wide receiver was for Dallas. With 36 snaps and 28 routes Terrance Williams was the clear #3 while Dwayne Harris came in for just four snaps.

Detroit Lions

Calvin Johnson: (9), Reggie Bush: (8), Joique Bell: (6), Nate Burleson: (6), Brandon Pettigrew: (4), Patrick Edwards: (3), Joseph Fauria: (3), Kris Durham: (2), Tony Scheffler: (1)

Much like Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson had plenty of extra attention, which led to receptions for Bush, Burleson and Bell, the three B’s, as I will call them from now on and nobody will have a clue what I'm talking about. It seems that Stafford is more comfortable not forcing the ball into triple coverage now that he has Bush on the field. You can’t keep Megatron down of course, so I don’t see this as a big problem. Teams won’t want the three B’s getting 246 yards receiving every game.

The tight ends for Detroit aren’t very good. Brandon Pettigrew led the way with 79 snaps, 36 routes and four targets, but caught two passes for six yards. Tony Scheffler was next with 18 snaps, 10 routes and one target for no receptions and then Joseph Fauria was last in snaps and routes with 11 and seven, but he had three targets which he caught all of for 27 yards and a touchdown. Just think about how many fantasy points are sitting there for a tight end to take in this offense. I think we’ll see more Fauria in the weeks to come.

Green Bay Packers

Randall Cobb: (12), Jordy Nelson: (10), Jermichael Finley: (8), Eddie Lacy: (2), James Jones: (2), John Kuhn: (1), James Starks: (1)

The four main pass catchers for the Packers all had roughly the same number of routes run between 38 and 41.  Cobb, Nelson and Finley all had a good amount of targets (including four for Cobb in the red zone), but James Jones who was on the field the same number of snaps or more than the rest of the receivers, had just two targets and no receptions. This is Aaron Rodgers at his best and worst, at least for Jones owners. He takes what is given and Jones wasn’t there. Jones will see more work going forward and he’ll catch touchdowns when you have him on the bench. But I would have to knock him down a space in the pecking order.

Eddie Lacy was the every down back except when he was briefly benched for fumbling and James Starks came in for eight snaps. John Kuhn did come in to pass block six times, but Lacy held his own and pass blocked nine times and got a positive grade from Pro Football Focus. He played 41 snaps; Kuhn played 15 and Starks eight. I have a feeling we’ll see less of Kuhn next week as long as Lacy can keep pass blocking well.

Minnesota Vikings

Jerome Simpson: (8), Greg Jennings: (7), Adrian Peterson: (4), Kyle Rudolph: (4), Jarius Wright: (2), Cordarrelle Patterson: (1), Zach Line: (1), John Carlson: (1)

Jerome Simpson was the receiving stud for the Vikings in Week one. Go figure. He and Greg Jennings were about even in time on the field and targets. Jennings lined up in the slot on 54% of his routes, more than Jarius Wright. I think this will prove beneficial as we go forward since Christian Ponder’s lack of arm strength and deep accuracy is made for targeting the slot receiver.

Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson only saw five snaps and two pass routes. That will rise as we go along in the season, but the fact it started so low is concerning for his fantasy chances early on.

New Orleans Saints

Jimmy Graham: (7), Darren Sproles: (6), Marques Colston: (6), Kenny Stills: (5), Lance Moore: (4), Pierre Thomas: (4), Ben Watson: (3)

The Saints receivers all played a predictable number of snaps, but rookie Kenny Stills’ five targets were more than expected. Brees spread the ball out as he often does, but maybe thinner than even his usual giving self. But it is what it is and Graham, Colston and Moore were on the field the most with 31 to 35 routes run while Stills had 23. If Stills continues to get targets, he will cut into Lance Moore’s production the most it seems.

The running back usage is always interesting in New Orleans. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram split the running plays evenly, but Thomas saw three more snaps and four more targets and outplayed Ingram by a substantial margin. If we don’t see Thomas take a bigger step in front of Ingram in usage next week I’ll be surprised.

New York Giants

Brandon Myers: (9), Hakeem Nicks: (8), Victor Cruz: (8), Da'Rel Scott: (8), Rueben Randle: (6), Henry Hynoski: (1), David Wilson: (1)

The receiving core for the Giants came up big in this one with all three wide receivers topping 100 yards and catching 15 of 22 targets. There’s not much to say about the group except that they were all on the field a similar amount of time due to many three-receiver sets. And if they can’t get the running back position shored up that may continue to be a theme.

Oh, and Brandon Myers had nine targets and a touchdown. It's going to be impossible to keep this many mouths fed all season. Myers will need touchdowns to stay relevant I'd suspect.

We all know what happened with David Wilson fumbling twice and his subsequent benching. Da’Rel Scott came in afterward and did most of his damage in the receiving game, catching five of eight targets for 51 yards. If Wilson can’t get over his fumbling woes, the passing game would be Scott’s only real upside.


Philadelphia Eagles

DeSean Jackson: (9), Riley Cooper: (6), Jason Avant: (3), Zach Ertz: (3), Brent Celek: (3), LeSean McCoy: (1)

There weren’t many targets to go around for the Eagles after getting to an early lead and then running the clock out, but they made each target count. With the speed in which the Eagles run plays, teams have little time to rush the passer and Michael Vick can also create extra time by scrambling which helps someone like DeSean Jackson easily get open, which he did often.

Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper ran 30 to 34 routes while Brent Celek ran 16 and Zach Ertz ran eight.  There aren’t going to be a ton of opportunities for the Eagles pass catchers when they aren’t behind and the run game is working, but the opportunities they do get are going to be productive as long as they execute.  Jackson is easily the best receiver on the team so he has a great advantage for getting targets, but after him it may be tough to decipher who will produce.

We just saw what could be the future of the running game in the NFL. Actually we could call it a track meet instead of a running game. LeSean McCoy ran the ball a whopping 31 times while Bryce Brown spelled him with nine attempts. McCoy was on the field for 67 plays and Brown for 16 and coach Chip Kelly thought they weren’t playing fast enough! That could easily set Bryce Brown up for more like 10-15 carries if things go as planned. Of course they won’t always go as planned, but they sure did Week one.

San Francisco 49ers

Anquan Boldin: (17), Vernon Davis: (9), Kyle Williams: (6), Frank Gore: (2), Vance McDonald: (2), Bruce Miller: (2), Marlon Moore: (1)

Well, how about 17 targets for old man Boldin? That’s not too shabby, oh and 200+ yards and a touchdown will work as well.  His 13 receptions, even without all the yards and touchdown would put his owners in PPR heaven. It seems a fairly safe assumption that he’ll be the top target getter most weeks and a PPR asset. 

Vernon Davis on the other hand is more of a playmaker and showed it with two touchdowns from his nine targets. His nine targets are more than he saw in any game last season, which is great news going forward because we know he can produce, he’s just needed those darn targets!

Frank Gore didn’t have the best of games, but he was the lead back without a doubt and the Packers were committed to stopping the run. He saw 67 snaps to Kendall Hunter’s 16. Hunter did look like he had more burst than Gore, but for now I wouldn't project many more touches for Hunter.

Seattle Seahawks

Doug Baldwin: (8), Golden Tate: (7), Zach Miller: (4), Marshawn Lynch: (3), Derrick Coleman: (3), Sidney Rice: (3), Jermaine Kearse: (2), Robert Turbin: (2), Stephen Williams: (1)

The Seahawks seem to be still feeling out their passing identity, but Doug Baldwin took a step forward as a go to guy while Golden Tate at least has the eye of Russell Wilson. Sidney Rice will need to really show he is healthy to start getting targets and hold off Jermaine Kearse and Stephen Williams.

Baldwin is working almost exclusively from the slot and it suits Wilson’s comfort zone.

St. Louis Rams

Jared Cook: (10), Tavon Austin: (7), Austin Pettis: (6), Daryl Richardson: (6), Lance Kendricks: (4), Chris Givens: (3), Brian Quick: (2)

Jared Cook has found a home. Much like Vernon Davis in San Francisco, Cook is the biggest playmaker on his team at the moment and he’s going to continue getting looks. Tavon Austin was used strictly in the slot and looks to be a chain mover at best right now. He should have value in PPR leagues, but he just doesn’t look explosive and will need to be able to stretch the field to give him more room after the catch.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vincent Jackson: (13), Mike Williams: (8), Doug Martin: (6), Kevin Ogletree: (2), Nate Byham: (1), Brian Leonard: (1)

Vincent Jackson ran 50% of his routes from the slot in Week 1 compared to 36% all of last year. He had eight of his 13 targets from the slot and caught 4 of them for 104 of his 154 yards. Josh Freeman had a pretty horrible game, but was bailed out by Jackson and his 98 yards after the catch. According to Pro Football Focus Freeman only completed 3 of his 12 passes that went over 10 yards in the air.

Doug Martin was bottled up all day by the Jets tough defensive line, but he has no worries of losing touches to anyone. Not one running back other than him received a carry and Brian Leonard was on the field for only nine snaps.

Washington Redskins

Pierre Garcon: (11), Santana Moss: (9), Leonard Hankerson: (7), Jordan Reed: (6), Josh Morgan: (5), Fred Davis: (4), Aldrick Robinson: (2), Roy Helu: (2), Darrel Young: (1), Alfred Morris: (1),

Leonard Hankerson sure made his seven targets count, catching five of them for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Pierre Garcon led the way with 11 targets, but wasn’t as touchdown lucky as Hank. He did catch all seven of his catchable targets though, which is good and the fact that he saw the bulk still puts him squarely as the go to guy.

The one big downside to Alfred Morris is that if the Redskins get down big and must go into pass first hurry up, in comes Roy Helu. Helu didn’t see much work, but he was in there instead of Morris for 41 snaps while Morris only saw 37.  As a Morris owner you have to hope for closer games.

Snap count, formation and pass depth data comes from our friends at Pro Football Focus.