Pass Targets: Who the Titans threw the ball to in 2007

There are a few football statistics of somewhat questionable value. Take, for instance, rush attempts. You might think teams that are good at running the football run the ball more, and teams that are bad at running don’t run the ball as much. But, if the good running team has a bad defense, they’ll have to pass a lot because they won’t have time to run as much as they want. Vice versa for good teams-they’ll run the ball more to kill the clock, even if they’re not very good at it. Bottom line: it’s all about context.
For today’s little foray into statistics of somewhat questionable value, I’m taking a look at pass targets. Pass receptions are easy to understand: you get a reception if you catch the ball, and you don’t if you don’t. Pass targets are “forget there’s any difference between Reggie Wayne and Troy Williamson,” to use receivers who can and cannot catch, respectively, just who got thrown the ball.
I’ve compiled the target data myself, using the official NFL gamebooks available from NFL.com. I’m not really sure what the best way to make use of this data is, so I’m presenting the 2007 data about the same way I did the 2006 results, with game-by-game leaders in targets, and then some overall comments. So, without further ado, who the Titans threw the ball to in 2007:
Game 1 @JAX: Gage, Scaife, Jones, Moulds 3
Game 2 vIND: Jones 8, Roydell 6
Game 3 @NO: Roydell 5, Brown, Scaife, Jones, Moulds 4
Game 4 vATL: Jones and Moulds 6
Game 5 @TB (VY): Moulds and Roydell 5
Game 5 @TB (Collins): White 6
Game 5 @TB (Total): Moulds 9, Roydell 8
Game 6 @HOU (Collins): Roydell 11, Scaife 9
Game 7 vOAK: Gage 4, White 3
Game 8 vCAR: Roydell 7, Scaife 6
Game 9 vJAX: Gage 9, Scaife 8
Game 10 @DEN: Gage 10, Scaife 7
Game 11 @CIN: Scaife 8, Gage 7
Game 12 vHOU: Gage and Roydell 8
Game 13 vSD: Roydell 6, Scaife 5
Game 14 @KC: Gage, Moulds, Roydell 6
Game 15 vNYJ: Gage and Roydell 6
Game 16 @IND (VY): Gage and Roydell 5
Game 16 @IND (Collins): Gage and Roydell 4
Game 17 @SD: Davis(!) 7, Gage 5
Note that, like last year, I did not control for how often a player was targeted when he was on the field on a passing play. The biggest surprise on the list is clearly Davis leading the team in targets in the playoff game. Even including the playoff game, he was only the target of 16 passes all year, and hadn’t been targeted for more than one pass in a game since Week 2 versus the Colts! I know Roydell and Jones were both out, but of the Gage/Davis/Ealy/Moulds foursome, I would have guessed Davis would see the fewest passes instead of the most. I wonder if the Titan offensive braintrust saw something in the Charger defense they tried to exploit, or if the Chargers were sufficiently non-scared they paid less attention to Davis than to the Titans’ other wideouts, making him look better.
Differences between the quarterbacks? VY threw the ball about equally to Gage and Roydell-78 v. 75, counting Gage’s 5 in the wild card game, about 18.5% of passes. Collins (small sample size alert) threw the ball to Roydell the most, 24.4% of the time, followed by Scaife, then Gage. Collins threw the ball more to Scaife than VY did, 19.5% to 15.4%, and, especially, to White, 14.6% to 4.6%. On the flip side, he threw the ball less to Moulds (7.3% v. 12.2%) and didn’t throw the ball at all to Jones (0 v. 8.7%).
General trends? As noted above, Davis disappeared from the offense after week 2 until suddenly showing up again in the playoffs. It took Gage a while to get involved in the offense-he was only targeted for 6 passes the first 3 games, then averaged 5+ targets a game for the rest of the year, with a low of 3. Collins seemed to concentrate more on getting the ball to particular receivers, while with VY you saw the ball spread around more. Without a full breakdown, one possible implication of this could be Collins appeared in more traditional conservative sets (I-Form 2-WR, 2-TE), while VY played more frequently in the spread formation. This seems plausible, and one I’ll should be able to test in a couple months. Scaife’s throws were concentrated toward the middle of the season-his games with 6+ targets came in Games 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.
What does all this target data mean? I’m really not sure. It’s not entirely worthless, but it’s not some sort of magic elixir either. For more, check out this post from Pro-Football-Reference. If people are interested, I’ll put together a Yards/Target look at Titans receivers in 2007, and probably 2006 as well.
Full target data for regular season and playoffs:
12-J.Gage: 92
17-C.Davis: 16
18-M.Williams: 3
25-L.White: 31
28-C.Barclay: 2
29-C.Brown: 21
35-Q.Ganther: 1
42-C.Henry: 7
45-A.Hall: 15
48-C.Cramer: 1
80-B.Scaife: 80
81-B.Jones: 36
82-B.Ealy: 6
83-E.Moulds: 57
84-B.Troupe: 12
86-R.Williams: 95
88-B.Hartsock: 22

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