This last weekend some OTAs (Organized Team Activities) kicked off in Kansas City. In one press conference, Andy Reid seemed to be a little unsure if the workouts were mandatory or voluntary. Check out the first 1:15 or so. Well let me clear that up, they were voluntary, so the whole team wasn’t there. These tend to be rookies, players looking for some extra reps to secure a roster spot, and often the starting quarterback.
The Reissue Issue
As I was reading through some articles on the OTAs, I came across one on the KC Chiefs website that mentioned second year player Demarcus Robinson and starting QB Alex Smith. The article mentions Smith throwing a pass that traveled 40 yards in the air and hit Robinson in stride.
What struck me in this article was the sense of deja vu I had. I felt like I had heard/read that same thing for the past couple of seasons. In training camp the QB to WR connection was on fire, picking up 30-40 yard chunks of yardage. I believe one former KC receiver said it was going to be bombs over Baghdad.
With this history in mind, I began to wonder if it was going to be the same thing all over again. Big yard gains from down the field passes in the OTAs and Training Camp, then dink and dunk passes from behind the line of scrimmage to 5 yards beyond it. Let’s take a look at the last few seasons with AS11.
By The Numbers
I pulled up the Top 30 Quarterbacks based on total yards passing, then took a look at Air Yards / Attempt, Air Yards, and Percentage of Air Yards. The resulting table is below.
As you can see, Alex isn’t really tearing it up with the different ratings concerning air yards. He took a step back going from year 1 to 2, but has been steadily climbing on the Air Yards, Air Yards / Attempt, and Total Yards categories. There isn’t really a season in here where it seems he was pushing the ball down field. Most of the work (greater than 50%) was being done by the receiver.
These stats really don’t look that great, but where is the bar? I went ahead and compiled a listing of the league leaders each of these years in the Air Yards / Attempt, Air Yards, and % Air Yards categories. That table is below.
Honestly, I was a little surprised the Air Yards / Attempt weren’t larger than this, but I guess it is due to the number of attempts. Each year, the league leader was 1.5 to 2.2 more Air Yards per Attempt than AS11.
Air Yards matched my expectation better. If you compare the league leader to Smith, you can see about 1,000 more yards per season through the air. Lastly, the Percentage of Air Yards is also drastically different when comparing the Smith to the league leader. In these years, it is about 20% more (or technically, 50% MORE) than Smith’s.
The Smith Effect
No matter how we look at it, Smith isn’t an Air Yards QB. Based on the number of years he has demonstrated these low rankings, I don’t think we can chalk it up to poor offensive line play, receivers not getting open, or even play calling. I am sure there are plenty of plays (I think we can all name bunches of times we have watched receivers streaking downfield basically open) where receivers were open or coming open.
Alex Smith is just that risk averse that he doesn’t wait for the play to develop or just heave it up. He may extend the play with his legs, but he really doesn’t look downfield when he is on the move. Smith will either take what he can get with his legs or look for a short yardage option.
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The Smith Impact
No matter what we see in highlights and articles on plays made during the training camp. No matter how many Tweets ding in our notifications. No matter how many times we run the numbers. We will end up with a risk averse quarterback that averages a little over 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage on a pass attempt.
If we treat that as a given, what does it mean for the 2017 season? Well, I would say we should evaluate the members of the team that will be on the receiving end of those passes The ability to move the ball through the air will depend on what those players can do after the catch.
The Ability at YAC
If you take a look at the table above, you can see a couple of areas I highlighted in yellow. I thought we should look at receiving percentage, yards after catch per reception, and air yards per reception.
First, the receivers need to be able to catch what is thrown their way. Under the Recpt % column, I highlighted the receivers that haul in better than 70% of what is thrown their way. The names here match what I would have thought. These are they guys that tend to get the short yardage routes. Spencer Ware, Travis Kelce, Charcandrick West, and Tyreek Hill.
The next area I considers was the Yards After Catch per Reception. What I found interesting here is that the same 4 guys had the top YAC/Reception. I would have thought the guys running the longer routes would have had higher numbers based on there being fewer players being them. Instead we see the players getting the short yardage passes taking it further.
The last area, Air Yards per Reception, mostly confirmed what I thought about the players getting the short yardage passes having a higher completion percentage. The exceptions being the butter finger brothers, Albert Wilson and Demetrius Harris. The four players named earlier were catching the balls about 5 yards or less down field and Chris Conley and Jeremy Maclin were averaging 8.6 and 9.3 Air Yards per Reception.
Setting Up 2017
It looks like we have most of the personnel we need to play in an AS11 led offense. If Kelce, Maclin, Hill, Ware, West, and Conley can keep on track, then we just need to shore up a couple of spots. We need another wide receiver and tight end to step up and generate YAC.
Will Gavin Escobar, De’Anthony Thomas, and Robinson be the ones to fill those roles? I can see Thomas and Robinson having the potential, but not Escobar based on his past. I hope John Dorsey and Andy Reid see something different, we need another receiving tight end.
All in all, I think we are in fairly good shape but can always look to improve. What do you guys think? Given that AS11 is QB1, do you think we have the receivers to have an effective offense?
Until next week, there’s The Rub!
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