Target practice

Posted Mar 26, 2012

Having the ball come your way more often obviously gives a receiver more chances to add to his reception total. The proof is in the production, not to mention the percentage of catches to targets. 

Kippy Brown was asked which statistic best defines the significance of a wide receiver’s contributions: Number of receptions? Or the number of times that player is targeted?

The Seahawks’ third-year wide receivers coach opted for a third.

“To me, it’s just about production,” Brown said. “It’s when you have an opportunity; do you take advantage of it and make the play?”

Fair enough. Because that catch-all assessment also encompasses the original question. If a player is not thrown the ball – or targeted – he obviously can’t catch it.

“You have to have opportunities,” Brown said. “But what you do with those opportunities is the big thing.”

It was last season for Doug Baldwin, the rookie free agent who led the team in receptions (51), receiving yards (788) and touchdown catches (four) – as well as per-catch average (15.5 yards) for those with more than 10 receptions.


A look at the Seahawks’ leading receivers in 2011, as well as those who were targeted the most in the passing game:

Doug Baldwin 85 51 .600
Ben Obomanu 61 37 .602
Golden Tate 58 35 .603
Sidney Rice 57 32 .561
Zach Miller 44 25 .568
Marshawn Lynch 41 28 .682
Mike Williams 38 18 .473
Justin Forsett 34 23 .676

Baldwin also was targeted a team-high 85 times, so he produced the reception on 60 percent of the ball that came his way. Four others had a higher percentage in the target-to-catch category. Marshawn Lynch (28 receptions on 41 targets) and Justin Forsett (23 on 34) led the team with percentages of .682 and .676, but because they are running backs their receptions came on shorter passes – with Lynch averaging 7.6 yards and Forsett 5.6.

The others were veteran wide receiver Ben Obomanu (.602, 37 on 61), who averaged 11.8 yards on a reception total that ranked second on the team to Baldwin; and second-year wide receiver Golden Tate (.603, 35 on 58), who had a 15.1-yard average per reception.

Two others were “better than average” – tight end Zach Miller (.568, 25 of 44) and wide receiver Sidney Rice (.561, 32 of 57). Each was signed in free agency last year and more is expected from each in 2012. Rice, who came to the Seahawks from the Minnesota Vikings, missed seven games because of injuries and never was at full strength after damaging a shoulder in training camp that eventually needed surgery. Miller, who had 126 receptions the previous two seasons while playing for the Oakland Raiders, did more blocking than receiving in his first season with the Seahawks.

Then there was Mike Williams, the team’s leading receiver in 2010 after being signed following a tryout at a spring minicamp. Williams’ receptions were way down last season (18, after catching 71 passes in his first season with the Seahawks) and the discrepancy was even greater when it came to targets (38 last season, compared to 110 in 2010).

Thirty-eight targets? Williams had games in 2010 where the ball went his way 17, 16 and 15 times. Rice had a 14-target game last season; while he, Baldwin and Obomanu each had a 10-target outing.

Part of Williams’ drop off was the switch from Matt Hasselbeck to Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, but also factor in that Williams played all season with a foot injury that ultimately needed surgery and the infusion of new hands – or targets – into the passing game. Jackson already had a rapport with Rice because they played together in Minnesota and Baldwin emerged during the preseason as a go-to option from the slot in the three- and four-receiver sets.

Be it Jackson or the just-signed Matt Flynn at quarterback in 2012, Williams and the rest of the receivers will be looking to improve on their numbers from 2011 – targets, as well as receptions.

“You can tell a lot about a guy by looking at how many times he’s been targeted and how many plays he’s made,” Brown said.