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Just The Sports: Titans' Wide Receiver Woes

Just The Sports

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Titans' Wide Receiver Woes

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The revelation by the Tennessee Titans coaching staff that they plan to use Ben Troupe in myriad ways this upcoming season underlies what is no doubt concern over the inadequacy of their wide receivers. Their concern is warranted considering in Drew Bennett and David Givens they have two No. 2 receivers with no other receivers who look as if they are ready to make a significant impact on the season.

Last year, the tight ends were the most productive part of the Titans passing game. Two of the Titans tight ends, Erron Kinney and Ben Troupe, were in the two twenty at their position in defense-adjusted points above replacement (DPAR). A large reason for this was the sheer number of passes they saw thrown their way. Titans quarterbacks threw 152 passes to Kinney and Troupe (72 to Kinney and 80 to Troupe) and it is a testament to their hands that they were able to catch such a high percentage of the balls thrown to them (76% for Kinney and 69% for Troupe). Troupe, despite his contributing a good deal overall had a -4.0 defense-adjusted value over average so per play Troupe performed worse than the average tight end.

On the other hand, the Titans receivers with the exception of Drew Bennett contributed little to the passing game. The top two throw-to wide receivers were passed the ball 151 times, with 109 potential receptions going to Bennett. Tyrone Calico was the intended target for the other 42 passes. They also were above replacement level in points contributed, but they were not as high up on the wide receiver list. Actually, they were pretty low. Bennett was 66th out of 89 wide receivers who were given at least fifty passes to catch and like his teammate Troupe was below-average per play. Calico's rank is immmaterial, but his horrific play last year is not. He had a -7.5 DPAR, meaning the Titans could have plucked someone off the street and gotten a better contribution to the team. Needless to say, Calico was also below the average wide receiver per play.

Another receiver who will be in the mix for the chance to get time on the field is Bobby Wade. Wade spent the first two years of his career languishing in passing-inept Chicago before moving to the Titans where he had an unspectacular season to say the least. In fact, he was the only receiver last year who was less productive than Calico. Some of that has to do with the limited number of catches he was given a chance to catch, but there is no history to suspect he will be greatly productive as a leading wide receiver. He will probably have the most value as a return man (if he can fumble less) or as a possession receiver whose sole job is to keep the chains moving. Last year provided a hint as to how the Titans will use him. Of his fourteen receptions last year, half came on third down and three of those were for a first down. There probably is no other spot for him and he will need to work on maximizing that role even more, sort of as a Wayne Chrebet type.

Being below average per passing play for their individual players also translated to their more traditional passing statistics. The Titans, as a team, finished ninth in the NFL in total passing yards, not too shabby a finish. However, the yards they gained per passing attempt (6.1 yards per attempt) left them tied for seventeenth out of thirty-two teams. Yards per completion, or yards per catch, was no more kind to the Titans. In that category, the Titans ranked twentieth, again below the league average.

Even the addition of David Givens is no guarantee the receiving corps has been completely fixed. He is a good, sure-handed receiver, but his statistics may be skewed by the fact he played with Tom Brady, who would make most receivers look good.

Hopefully for the offense's sake, the moving around of Troupe will create mismatches the Titans can exploit on a consistent basis. One thing remains certain though and that is the Titans must find a way this season to get more value out of their receivers per play. Otherwise, any high cumulative passing totals will be for naught.


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