In the Regular Season of 2016 the Seahawks used 5 main Wide Receivers: Baldwin, Lockett, Kearse, Richardson and I am including McEvoy because, even though he didn’t see so many snaps, he was used on some trick and big plays. I’m going to have a look at how the position group compared to last year, what particularly stood out to me this year as well as giving a bit of an overview of each player. This post will then finish with an outlook of what needs to be done differently in 2017.
Section 1: 2016 vs 2015
So, to start, if you’re comparing the numbers of the 5 WRs used 2016 to those the year before the combined total of yards is not so different: 2527 yds in 2015 and 2663 yds in 2016. However, in 2015 they achieved this with 183 receptions from 248 targets; in 2016 they needed 206 receptions from 330(!) targets. So while there is not a massive difference in yds gained per reception (2015: 13.81; 2016: 12.93), it is still roughly a yd per reception which adds up. What is more worrying is target to reception percentage: down to 62.42% completions in 2016 from 73.79% the year before. Some of this might be attributed to Wilson’s play, which together with the weak OL and weak run game made the Seahawks a bit more predictable and allowed opposing teams to focus on the WRs. The fact remains that with the run game at a low you would have liked to see the WR corps step up more.
While they maintained there level on yardage (if not completion ratios), when you look at the TD numbers you see a different picture: 26 TDs in 2015 and 12(!!?) TDs in 2016. In 2015 Doug Baldwin alone had more receiving touchdowns (14) than the whole receiving corps of this season, including himself. Now part of that is because the TEs picked up more TDs in 2016 (8) compared to 2015 (4). But even if you add those back to the WR totals you’re still 10 TDs short. If you’re talking total offence the team were 8 TDs behind the 44 TDs of 2015, which was not compensated for in excessive field goals: there were only 4 more. Even worse, if you take into consideration the poorer performance this season by the Defence, you get a really scary picture: 2015 the Seahawks had +20 TDs across their Offence compared to the opponents they faced that season, this season they only had +4. In short, it was perhaps very surprising they got as far as they did.
Section 2: Comparison to the rest of the NFL
So let’s compare the facts and figures to the rest of the league’s WR sets:
*note these figures are not complete but based on the top receivers in each team
So if you’re comparing these figures you see the following things (I will be focussing on fellow playoff teams as well as outstanding numbers):
TDs (average 14; Seahawks 12):
- being below average means that more than half of the league scored more WR TDs than the Seahawks, so I wont go into all of those that did better. To reiterate my previous point, these numbers were not a result of significantly more emphasis on TEs or the Run Game.
- Of the playoff teams only two had less WR TDs: the Texans (still made it because of strong D and weak league) and Chiefs (TE Travis Kelce made almost as many receiving yds as the best two WRs together).
- On WR TDs the Seahawks were on par with the Ravens and Jaguars, and one above the Rams(!) and Bengals (who were missing AJ Green for a large chunk of this season and traded away Sanu at the end of last).
Yardage (average 2304; Seahawks 2663):
- only 7 teams made more (in this order) – Saints, Falcons, Redskins, Patriots, Packers, Raiders (just by 16 yds) – including the eventual Superbowl contenders, a Championship Round team and a Wildcard Round team.
- 4 teams had within 100 yds less than the Seahawks (in this order): Giants Chargers, Dolphins, Lions – three of these were Wildcard Round teams.
- The other playoff teams were Steelers (lots of carries and receiving yds for RB Le’veon Bell), Cowboys (ran the ball a lot with RB Zeke Elliot), Chiefs (TE Travis Kelce, see above), Texans (weak QB – got through on the joint least games won).
So do develop what I said in Section 1: what it comes down to is not the yardage (with the lack of decent Run Game that actually went up this year), but the conversion in the RED ZONE that really let the Seahawks down this season. A big part of that will have been that it was easy for the opposing D to focus on the WRs because the Run wasn’t so dominant. The amount of times they tried and failed to run it in this season was not like the Seahawks. There were not enough inventive trick plays to the WRs in the Endzone either.
Section 3: The Squad 2016
|The top WRs and their Stats|
|Name||Games||Avg Yds/G||Rec Yds||Rec TDs||Rush Yds||Rush TDs|
WR1 Doug Baldwin – 94 receptions on 126 targets, an average of 74.60% caught – with 12 yds per reception. Doug Baldwin is not just one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL (as has been said many times) but also one of the most reliable. That might come surprising for a player who only scored half as many TDs as last season, but you also have to put it into perspective. Last year was a freak season where he scored one less TD than in his first 4 seasons combined. To have expected the same production this year would have been unrealistic. I would have liked to see him get 2-3 more, but in all fairness he was a real strength compared to a relatively weak season performance from other colleagues. He cracked the 1000 yd mark again for the 2nd season running, and when you consider that the opp. D were allowed to focus more on the WRs, the fact that it took him 16 more receptions is understandable. Great leader on and off the pitch, a smart player as well and doesnt have the ego of a typical WR1. He also turns out to be a pretty good QB…
WR2 Tyler Lockett – 41 receptions on 67 targets, an average of 61.19% caught – with 14.6 yds per reception. So why haven’t I put Kearse at WR2, I will get to that, but first let’s talk about Lockett’s great performance 2016. Absolute utility player with his speed and hands. Even though he dropped a couple of sitters in the season he still had the second best completion percentage of all receivers in the team with more than 30 targets. He seemed to have a really positive vibe about him, Russell seemed to be looking for him a lot and he could be found all over the pitch: speeding deep, coming underneath, running around the corner from behind and lets not forget his great return play (over 800 yds). He made more receiving yds on less plays than Kearse and is a multi-utility weapon, which is why he is my WR2. The big thing to improve 2017 is getting the TD stats back up, but first of all to get fit in time.
WR3 Paul Richardson – 21 receptions on 36 targets, an average of 58.33% caught – with 13.7 yds per reception. So when Lockett got injured, who did the Seahawks go to in week 17 and the playoffs? While Kearse’s targets stayed roughly the same over those 4 games (22 targets), those of Richardson shot up (21 targets). On top of that, the big difference was that Richardson made 15 of those catches for 213 yds, while Kearse made only 9 for 104 yds – that’s double the yardage. I think that this strong finish will put him in a good stead for the 2017 season, coming off the injuries last year. When you see him play he is fast, lanky and seems generally more athletic than Kearse. He is also prone to making big plays when it matters. The question for next season would be: can he stay fit and can he maintain that level of play over a full season, scoring some more TDs? If yes then next year may be pretty hard for Kearse. As a side note: 17/21 regular season receptions were 1st downs…he gets it done.
WR4 Jermaine Kearse – 41 receptions on 90 targets, an average of 45.56% caught – with 12.5 yds per reception. Let me start this by saying that I have always liked Kearse. He is no star but plays tough and he always seemed like a pretty reliable guy opposite Baldwin. But when there is less than a 50/50 chance of Kearse catching a pass, he’s not going to be a go to guy. That was the case this season. You could also see that Kearse was frustrated with his own performance throughout the season after several missed catches. Altogether I would say that it was season to forget, but the fact that Wilson was targeting him second most out of his receivers showed that there is still some belief there. The conundrum is that you have the two, more or less established, young guns who are more athletic and making the plays. Kearse isn’t getting younger and really let off this season. Next season is going to be difficult for him to get his time. Especially because there is another guy in the mix…
WR5 Tanner McEvoy – 9 receptions on 11 targets, an average of 81.82% caught – with 15.6 yds per reception. I have to say that out of that the Seahawks continue to find great Undrafted Free Agents. McEvoy spent his College time switching between WR, QB and Safety and while he probably won’t be needed to sure up the secondary I think this guy will be a BIG factor in the coming years on Offence. That he has nerves of steel and sure hands was seen on his first NFL target (a TD, he caught the second most TDs of Seattle WRs) and that he has trick play upside from his QB background is also something he has been able to show (even though it could have been a little more in front of Procise…), he’s not bad on Special Teams either. With his 6’6″ he is also a good bit taller than the other WRs. I don’t want to say too much because it has to be factored in that opposing Ds won’t have given him as tight coverage because he was so sparingly used and not a known factor, but I have a feeling that he will be able to make big contributions in the future. The question is: whose snaps will he eat into?
Kasen Williams – going into 3rd NFL season. He is a big powerful guy with a good amount of weight behind him who isn’t scared to put his shoulder down and go through people. He can also make big catches and came off PS to replace Tyler Lockett when he got injured. In addition to this he went College locally at the University of Washington.
Kenny Lawler – reserve/future contract from Seahawks – going into 2nd NFL season. He must have done something right because the Seahawks kept him on the Practice Squad for the whole season and are still holding onto him. He has a great highlight reel from his College times at Cal making some outstanding catches. My only worry when seeing him preseason was that he is a bit slight and the question is whether he can hold his own against NFL Ds. He needs to put on some pounds.
Jamel Johnson – reserve/future contract coming over from Green Bay – going into 3rd NFL season. A bit of an unknown if I’m honest. He spent some time on the Packers PS in 2015 after going unsigned out of the 2014 draft and the whole year after. Released August 2016 and signed by the Hawks Jan 2017. One thing I do like from some of his College tape that I watched is his blocking as a receiver.
Rodney Smith – reserve/future contract from Seahawks – going into 5th NFL season. Went into College as a 4* prospect. I watched some of his senior season tape, he has an athletic and tall frame that he moves well (twisting and turning) as well as good hands, but he is really slow to get going after the catch and doesn’t push through contact. I may be wrong, but he seems like someone who takes it a bit easy because of his superior height, which is why he might not have been able to translate it to the NFL. He is now in the practice squad of the third team (Vikings, Browns and now the Hawks). I think he is the type of guy who everybody gives a shot because they hope he will finally have the breakthrough with them.
Last Year Noteables
Devin Hester – was released, is now a free agent. Brought in as a returner when Lockett got injured until the end of the season. Played two massive games, could have been great to keep on. Announced his intentions to retire after the season was over. Holds the all time record for NFL return touchdowns. Was a real impact player on special teams and worth holding on to until it was sure how serious Lockett’s injury is.
Section 4: Summary
The WR group is solid, the conversion ratio wasn’t. While they made a good amount of yds they made nowhere near the appropriate amount of TDs. They lacked the finishing ability because they were a bit one dimensional in the Red Zone. I think this will improve with a better run game next season as they will have more space in the Endzone.
What needs to change:
- more TDs
- more snaps to Richardson and McEvoy, less to Kearse
- improved target to reception percentage
What should stay the same:
- keep the WR group together
- strong return game (whether it’s Lockett, they bring Hester back or it is someone else who can fill that void)
- same amount of yardage next season while increasing the run game
Draft and Free Agency need: None (/Return Game)