Pass Targets Revisited: Titans 2007 Targets v. Expected

About a week ago, I took a look at who the Titans actually threw the ball to in 2007. Today, I’ll examine how what we actually saw in 2007 compares to what we might have expected would happen based on 2006 results.*
The first thing to point out, though, is that 2006 to 2007 was inevitably going to be a year of change for who the Titans threw the ball to. The targets of 44% of Vince Young’s passes in 2006 didn’t return. Here’s the list of missing guys:
Bennett 19.5%
Givens 2.7%
Henry,T 5.8%
Roby 1.9%
Wade 13.4%
Wallace 0.3%
Bennett was Young’s primary target, while Wade was his 4th most popular receiver, behind Jones and Scaife. So, who’d all those passes go to?
Reasonably enough, the Titans brought in a bunch of people to throw the ball to to replace the guys they lost, and most of the passes went to those new guys. The new 2007 Titans collectively were the target of 37.3% of the Titans’ pass attempts. That’s 85.7% of the newly “available” targets. Here’s the list of newcomers and their target %:
Barclay 0.4%
Davis 3.2%
Ealy 1.3%
Gage 18.6%
Gaither 0.2%
Henry, C 1.4%
Williams 0.6%
Moulds 11.5%
That’s Mike Williams in that list. Paul Williams was also new, but he didn’t dress at all and thus wasn’t targeted for a pass in 2007; I excluded Jonathan Orr under the same criteria in 2006. I also recognize that Gaither was a Titan in 2006, but he wasn’t targeted for a pass that year, so he shows up as “new” for 2007 even though he really wasn’t. On that table, it looks like Gage stepped into Bennett’s role in the offense, and Moulds took over Wade’s spot.
But, that still leaves some passes to be distributed amount the returnees from 2006. Where did those passes go? Pretty much one place: Roydell Williams. Roydell jumped from being the target of 4.11% of passes to 19.03%, tops on the team. That jump is the 6% of 2006 passes not allocated to the new 2007 players, plus some more. And those additional passes came from Brandon Jones. I dubbed Jones 2007’s Most Disappointing Titan and these statistics bear that out. He was VY’s second-favorite target in 2006, 15.9% of passes. In 2007, he was injured, and that fell to 7.3%. Even when he was healthy, he’d been surpassed in the pecking order by Gage and Roydell.
The second-biggest faller among the returnees is a surprising name: Ahmard Hall. He was the target for 5.5% of VY’s passes in 2006, and only 3.0% of balls in 2007. It looks like the Titans were in a multi-back set on a pass a little more often in 2006 (27.7% v. 24.0%), but not enough to explain that big a drop. A couple possible explanations: (i) Hall was in single-back (mostly in shotgun) sets more frequently in 2006. It seemed like the Titans liked to run Brown (a good blocker), White (irrational love), and Henry (3rd down-type speedy back) out there in 2007. (ii) Opening up the offense. As VY got more experience as an NFL QB, running backs became less a part of the pass offense. Travis Henry was the target for 5.8% of passes in 06; those mostly didn’t go to another of the RBs after he left. (iii) Less QB motion as part of the pass offense. Less QB motion probably means more influence on blocking, the RB is more likely to be where the QB is, protecting him, than out as a pass target.
There was only one other faller, and that was Troupe, who fell from 4.4% to 2.4%. Those passes went to Scaife, who rose from 14.3% to 16.0%. As mentioned in the links to this post, Troupe stopped being a part of the offense after VY replaced Collins in the starting lineup. Scaife caught more balls this year because he was a little healthier. The only other noticeable riser was Brown, who jumped from 2.5% to 4.1%. Better health, some 3rd down action, and, as noted above, lots of pass targets that had been RB targets available.
*-Please note that for 2006 numbers, I’ve used % of targets for attempts by Vince Young only. Collins had some ridiculous concentration factors so totally out of whack with anything else the Titans did offensively the rest of 2006 (Bennett on 33.7% of attempts v 19.5% for VY and Troupe 15.22% v 4.38% for VY being the two most prominent examples) that he throws off even the aggregate numbers.

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