Chronicles of Mariota-Winston Part 2 : The Receivers

Pass Catchers role in Quarterback Production

You’re only as good as the people around you, right? Think about it from a Quarterback’s perspective in the National Football League.

We’ve all seen great Quarterbacks on a team with not-so-great receivers. We’ve also witnessed high profile receivers with loads of talent struggle to perform to their potential due to having an average to below average arm slinging the pigskin.

There has to be somewhat of a balance in order for a player to produce and succeed. There is a level of interdependence – or correlation – as relates to a Quarterback and a Receiver overall success. Potential production at both positions mentioned are directly connected.

Supporting Cast – Receivers

Mariota and Winston headed to their respective teams – each having different levels of talent at different positions. Let’s examine the talent difference at the receiver position in their rookie year.

Titans Receiving Group – Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Dorial Green-Beckham (Rookie), Harry Douglas, Delanie Walker (TE), Anthony Fasano (TE), Craig Stevens (TE) Phillip Supernaw

Buccaneers Receiver Group – Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Donteea Dye (Rookie) Louis Murphy, Russell Sheppard, Adam Humphries (Rookie), Austin Sefaris-Jenkins (TE), Cameron Brate ( TE)

Below is a chart that outlines receiving stats for the top receivers for each team. It does not include each team’s Running Back(s) receiving numbers.

Chart 1 rec

Tennessee had more yards and touchdowns produced by their receiving group, but Winston threw for over 4,000 yards? How? The Running Back receiving contribution.

Let’s examine the production their top 3 Running Backs had in the passing game.

Titans Backs – Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews, Bishop Sankey

Buccaneers Backs – Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Bobby Rainey

Below is a chart that outlines receiving stats for the top receivers for each team. It does not include each team’s Running Back(s) receiving numbers.

Chart 2 rec

There was a difference in production. Mariota was the second leading rusher on the team – with 252 yards/2 TDs. Winston accounted for 213 yards/6 TDs. Both QB stats in reference to the above chart were omitted as they will be discussed in Part 3.

What the stats indicate

The Tight End production in Tennessee was superior – accounting for 1,498 of 3,112 yards of the top receiving targets designated as WR/TE.

The Buccaneers had an advantage over the Titans in terms of what their RBs produced in the passing game. Evans – the top WR for Tampa Bay – had 657 more yards than the top WR (designated at the position) in Tennessee.

The table below illustrates total production of each team in the passing game. The Bucs had more yards, but the Titans had more points with a 3 TD edge over Tampa.

Chart 3 rec

Year 2

Titans Receiving Group – Kendall Wright, Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe (Rookie), Harry Douglas, Andre Johnson, Delanie Walker (TE), Anthony Fasano (TE), Jace Amaro (TE) Phillip Supernaw

Buccaneers Receiver Group – Mike Evans,Vincent Jackson, Cecil Shorts, Russell Sheppard, Adam Humphries, Austin Sefaris-Jenkins (TE), Cameron Brate ( TE)

Chart 4 rec

Each team’s top pass catchers tied at 25 TDs a piece – again, excluding running back production. Evans produced another 1,200+ yard season, but only edged out the Titan’s top receiver Matthews – who was 55 yards shy of a thousand yard campaign.

The Buccaneers improved on their production from their Tight Ends and the Titans came close to having a receiver put up a G.

Let’s examine the production their top 3 Running Backs had in the passing game in Year 2.

Titans Backs – DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, Jalston Fowler

Buccaneers Backs – Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers

Below is a table illustration production from the running backs in the receiving game.

Chart 5 rec

Tennessee had a new stable of backs – and boy did it make a difference. The Titans running backs produced nearly the same amount of yards as the season prior, but scored one more touchdown.

The Buccaneers saw a big decline in their running backs production in terms of the receiving game. This trio generated 426 yards and only one score.

Below outlines stats in the passing game. The Titans were 11 spots behind the Bucs in total yards – yet each team scored 29 passing touchdowns on the year. Translation : More yards doesn’t always mean more points.

Chart 6 rec

Comparing Year 1 and Year 2

In back-to-back seasons, the Buccaneers’ number one WR Mike Evans produced over 1200 yards. Having a true number 1 option at receiver that demands attention is something Mariota has lacked. He does have Delanie Walker – arguably a top 5 TE  – who contributed a thousand yards in Mariota’s rookie season.

Who had more talent over the past two seasons at the receiver position?

winston huddle

Winston. And it’s not even that close.

In 2016, Evans had a Pro Bowl season, was an All Pro in 2015, and was the 7th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was drafted to produce and his production has increased due to having a solid franchise QB in Winston. The two will continue to build their chemistry and could be one of the top QB-WR tandems in the league over the next few years.

The Buccaneers had 3x Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson helping Evans evolve his game. A veteran presence that expedited the growth of Evans. With decent production from the TE position – excluding Walker – the Bucs have had the better unit collectively at either TE/WR.

What will Year 3 Yield?

This is where things become interesting. Mariota – as referenced in the previous post – is the better QB than Winston. He will not throw for more yards, but he won’t throw as much either due to the offensive system he’s in. But this year, Mariota will be surrounded by the best group of pass catchers he’s ever had.

He keeps his two favorite targets – his leading receiver from Year 1 and leading receiver from Year 2 – in Walker and Matthews. Add 5th overall pick Corey Davis, rookie third round studs Taywan Taylor and Jonnu Smith, habitual 1,000 receiver Eric Decker, and returning Tajae Sharpe to the discussion and this group could really be special. Defenses have to respect the running game, which will open up the passing game.

Finally, Mariota’s true potential may be rising to the surface.

Winston’s supporting cast also improved. They replaced one Pro Bowl Jackson with another by adding DeSean Jackson. They also drafted OJ Howard – the top TE in the draft, along with strong handed rookie Chris Godwin.

So the Titans hope to have found their true WR1 in top 10 selection of Davis. Evans was a top 10 pick, as mentioned above. The Bucs hope to have found a perennial Pro Bowler TE in Howard. Walker is a consistent Pro Bowl producing tight end. DJax and Decker can both provide a veteran presence while producing points.

The parallels between the two receiving groups are uncanny. Both groups will produce. How much production, however, is the question.

1 b

My feeling the group that will perform better and put up better numbers will be determined by which team runs the ball more effectively. The Bucs running back group will return to form – at least they hope – and the Titans hope they can dominate on the ground for a second straight year.

Part 3 will examine who has the edge in the running game and how it’s changed and influenced the QB production from year 1 to year 2.

***I do not claim credit for the photographs featured in the above post. All credit to the author(s) of the photographs. All stats referenced at nfl.com and team websites***

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