Titans Bye Week Report: Targets

Back in early May, not too long after the Titans drafted Kendall Wright, I wrote a post on how the Titans might target their receivers in 2012. As a reminder, here's what my projection looked like:

 

 

Player Targets Pct
J.Cook 75 12.9%
C.Stevens 20 3.4%
T.Thompson 5 0.9%
All Tight Ends 100 17.2%
C.Johnson 80 13.6%
J.Ringer 35 6.1%
J.Harper 5 0.9%
Fullbacks 15 2.6%
All Backs 135 23.3%
N.Washington 80 13.8%
D.Williams 5 0.9%
L.Hawkins 50 8.6%
K.Britt 135 23.3%
M.Mariani 5 0.9%
K.Wright 70 12.1%
All WR 345 59.5%

With that in mind, here's what the Titans' targets have looked like thus far in 2012

 

Player Targets Pct
J.Cook 49 13.8%
C.Stevens 27 7.6%
T.Thompson 7 2.0%
All Tight Ends 83 23.4%
C.Johnson 33 9.3%
J.Ringer 5 1.4%
J.Harper/D.Reynaud 9 2.5%
Fullbacks 7 2.0%
All Backs 54 15.3%
N.Washington 53 15.0%
D.Williams 38 10.7%
L.Hawkins 6 1.7%
K.Britt 58 16.4%
K.Wright 62 17.5%
All WR 217 61.3%

So, where I go wrong?

1. I assumed the Titans re-signing Lavelle Hawkins meant they liked Lavelle Hawkins. As I wrote after the 2011 season, both Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins put up terrible efficiency numbers. There were, I thiought and still think, good reasons to think Lavelle Hawkins' numbers were more of a production of his role in the offense while Damian Williams had more qualitative issues. As it happens, though, Hawkins has quickly fallen out of favor at the one rule he could fill somewhat reasonably, while Williams' more utility-infielder-type role on the team and ability to play different positions had made him more valuable to the Titans.

2. The Titans stopped throwing to running backs as much and started throwing more to tight ends. This is actually part of a leaguewide trend (which I didn't really notice in May but did later in the offseason). More teams are like the Patriots, throwing heavily to multiple tight ends and less to the running backs. The Titans threw an awful lot of passes to running backs last year, up there with the bigger running back-targeting teams in the league. This year, that's changed. This is one thing I'll have to revisit later in the season, once we have all the Football Outsiders game charting data, and specifically how the dumpoff percentage has changed. I was about as down as anybody else on Jared Cook's targets this year, and they're pretty much in line with what they were last year. The difference in the tight end numbers stems more from Craig Stevens getting thrown the ball.

3. Kenny Britt's been getting thrown the ball less than I expected, but not that much less. The single most difficult part of the projection was where to put Kenny Britt. When in the lineup and healthy, he'd been thrown the ball an absolute ton. When in the lineup in 2010 and 2011, he was the target on roughly 30% of all pass attempts, up there with the most-targeted receivers in the league. Coming off ACL surgery (remember, in early May we didn't know of the suspension), I wasn't prepared to be quite that aggressive. Keep in mind, though, that the above table is totals against totals. Britt has missed two games and been limited in two others (San Diego and Minnesota). In the other six games (Detroit and from Pittsburgh on), he's been targeted … 24% of the time. Keeping that up through the rest of the year would put him around 19% for the season. Still less than I expected, but in the six weeks he's practiced and played, he's been the Titans' most-targeted receiver five times. Kendall Wright and Damian Williams were the main beneficiaries of Britt's absence, and my guess for the final six games is that their target percentages will go down a little bit as Britt's goes up.

I'll go into more detail on targets and individual players after the season.

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