by Ray Kuhn
Here are 10 players from Week 11 who I felt it was important to analyze based on their targets:
- Dallas Clark (11 targets, 7 catches, 58 yards, 1 touchdown). As the season has progressed Josh Freeman is realizing what Peyton Manning knew all these years… Clark is a nice weapon to have. Earlier in the season Clark would see the majority of his targets late in the game during critical situations when Freeman needed to move the chains, but this past week Clark received a greater focus from Freeman. Clark will most likely never repeat his seasons from a few years ago, but he is still a useful weapon as a short to intermediate pass catcher in the middle of the field. As Freeman continues to grow and the offense gets opened up more, Clark’s targets will increase as well.
- Vernon Davis (8 targets, 6 catches, 83 yards, 1 touchdown). Now this is the Davis everybody was waiting for. All it took was Colin Kaepernick to take the starting reigns. In a game that the 49ers secured early and adjusting their offense accordingly, the offense was still a lot more open downfield than in past weeks. That led to Davis actually being targeted and used as a downfield threat. Since we know the talent is there, I would expect to see Davis continue this level of performance because it sounds like the targets will not be going away, and depending on the game plan, could actually increase with Kaepernick at the helm.
- Riley Cooper (8 targets, 5 catches, 61 yards). Cooper has been an unsung member of the Eagles receiving corps, and with Nick Foles now starting at quarterback it seems like his targets will increase. In the past Cooper did show flashes where he could be considered valuable, but if he is now receiving consistent targets his value stands to increase. Desean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin has not stood out this season and, believe it or not, the Eagles are in the midst of a rebuilding season (especially if Foles continues to be the starting quarterback).
- Miles Austin (12 targets, 6 catches, 58 yards). Just because the stats don’t fully illustrate it this week, Austin is still a valuable part of the Cowboys offense. It is clear that Dez Bryant is the go to down field threat and that Tony Romo will always have a special chemistry with Jason Witten, but Austin will continue to see his share of passes. Yes, if there is someone of the trio of receivers to have a down day it would likely be Austin, but at the same time the Cowboys cannot win without Austin being targeted and it should not be forgotten that he is still a key part of the Dallas offense.
- Torrey Smith (7 targets, 1 catch, 7 yards). Smith is a talented receiver and a downfield weapon, but his stat line from last week would not seem to indicate that. The problem has not been the number of targets, just the quality of the targets and the connection between Smith and quarterback Joe Flacco. Prior to this recent stretch there was a disparity in Smith’s catches and targets which should be expected for a deep threat, but this is a little extreme. Owners must remain aware that Smith’s lackluster performance has not been a result of the game plan, and a correction should be expected.
- Josh Gordon (7 targets, 5 catches, 53 yards). Gordon is a deep threat. That we know, but now the Browns have started to include Gordon a little more in their standard game plan. This does not change his big play ability, but it helps to mitigate some of the inconsistency. The big play potential is still there and can strike at any time, but at least in a week like this where he was unable to break a big play or find the end zone, Gordon still retained some value as he was targeted 7 times.
- Jordy Nelson (5 targets, 3 catches, 45 yards). Nelson does appear to be healthy, but he has still not regained his starring role in the Packers offense. With Greg Jennings out, you would expect to see Nelson targeted more than five times. Yes this was a disappointing day for Nelson owners, but I would not expect to see this become an every week occurrence. Sure, Randall Cobb is a huge part of the Packers offense, especially due to their lack of running game, but in order for the Packers to win going forward Nelson will have to receive more than 5 targets a game.
- Reggie Bush (3 targets, 2 catches, 15 yards). What has happened to Bush? Perhaps losing some carries to Daniel Thomas would be understandable, but Bush has always been valuable as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Especially in PPR formats, that is all Bush needs to be as then owners can live with him losing some carries. With any luck for Bush owners his targets will increase, but until then some caution must be exercised here.
- Pierre Garcon (3 targets, 3 catches, 5 yards). Despite the fact that Garcon is back, he is still not 100% as illustrated by his stat line. You must keep in mind that although he might not be fully healthy, there is still some level of rust that he must shake off. Despite only receiving 3 targets, the good thing is that Robert Griffin III at least looked his way and attempted to get him involved in the offense. Garcon is a player that bears watching to see if his targets increase and also to see if any rust starts to shake off.
- Ryan Broyles (2 targets, 2 catches, 35 yards). Here is the ultimate buy low candidate. He is coming off of a down week and with the Lions suspended and clearly becoming disenchanted with Titus Young, an opportunity seems to be emerging for Broyles. Due to his return from injury he was late to the party this season, but now that he seems to be healthy and acclimated to the Lions offense, his stats should increase in correlation with his targets.