So I sat last night following the Saints’ 38-17 win over Miami — the second straight game in which they’ve won by at least three touchdowns — and said to myself “self, are we more impressed by the performance of Drew Brees, or that of his targets?”
The answer is both. It’s always both.
Brees was wizard-like again, of course, with his totals resting at 415 passing yards and four touchdown throws with no interceptions. It was his 10th career game with 400 or more yards, tied for the second most in league history. That was the beginning of Brees’ history revising on this night through consistently long and deep tossing, as he tied his own record with nine straight +300 yard games.
Drew Brees also tied Drew Brees’ record by completing 25 or more passes in the 10th straight game. Of his 39 pass attempts, only nine of them fell incomplete, for a pretty efficient completion rate of 76.9 percent. It was the second time in just four games this year that Brees’ success rate has risen above 70.0.
But what of those ball catchers? Much of Brees’ yardage came on the patented and never duplicated Saints screens and dumps into the flats, which for this offense is the equivalent of a handoff. And on the receiving end for most of the evening was Darren Sproles, who finished with 114 yards on seven catches with a touchdown. Over the Saints’ three games prior to last night, Sproles was averaging 54.3 yards weekly, meaning he won many a fantasy matchup Monday (sadly, there are still some tales of deep depression out there…stay safe).
We all know it’s coming, from us at home, to the defense, and the insects crawling in the Superdome concrete. Yet as it happens, Sproles’ speed is still startling, and it allows him to find holes and open space after the catch that others can only see. It’s what led to his 48-yard reception, and quite stupidly, on all but one of his receptions his yards after the catch were more than his yards before cradling the football (in total, that resulted in 95 yards after the catch, 83 percent of his yardage total).
Then there’s Jimmy Graham, who — like his quarterback — has to do something particularly astounding to make us take notice, because large digits have become the norm. We’ll slobber over him a little more below, but how ’bout these apples: he had just two +100 receiving games last year, and now he has three over just four games.
More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
No worries Dolphins, you’ll be just fine
Last night was pretty suck-filled, but the Dolphins have still won three games as we hit the quarter pole of the season, and they’ve done it under less than ideal circumstances. The instinctive reaction among Dolphins fans is likely to expect doom following a loss that wasn’t at all close, especially one in which your sophomore quarterback was wildly inaccurate at times and careless with his four turnovers.
Chill out, guys.
Dolphins are 3-1 having played 3 of 4 games on the road against teams with a combined .625 winning percentage & allowing just 17.5 PPG.
— Alessandro Miglio (@AlexMiglio) October 1, 2013
Correction: you’ll be fine as long as you stop giving Daniel Thomas the football
Because he’s large, and being large apparently means being good in certain situations, the Dolphins are still giving Daniel Thomas a smattering of touches each game. At least last night the workload gap between him and the far faster, and shiftier, and just simply much more talented Lamar Miller was much wider (11 touches for Miller, and five for Thomas) than last week (only nine to six in favor of Miller).
Looking at the numbers, if logic prevails that gap needs to consistently resemble a chasm, or some other vast space.
Daniel Thomas 2013 YPC: 2.80. Lamar Miller YPC: 4.56. Lamar Miller YPC last 3 gms: 5.85 & 2 TDs. Hope yall get this figured out, #Dolphins.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) October 1, 2013
But oh, it gets better/worse. Last night Ryan Tannehill ran for 48 yards on just four attempts, which brought him within five yards of a new single-game high. Much of that yardage came on a 26-yard carry in the first quarter, and on that run alone Tannehill had 21 more rushing yards than Thomas’ total (all of five yards on four carries).
Tom Benson only enjoys his drinks if they fight him
(Much appreciated, CJ Zero)
These guys are pretty good
Maybe on some level I’m undermining my own cause here as a guy who writes about fantasy football, and more generally enjoys discussing all football matters. But at some point we should just enjoy the fact that between Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees, we all get to live on this Earth and watch this quarterback play.
One quarterback doesn’t have to be better, or worse, or anything in between. They can all just be unimaginably excellent.
Tight ends, and quality versus quantity
Last night we watched Jimmy Graham have another very Jimmy Graham game, with 130 receiving yards and two touchdowns on four catches. That’s incredibly an average of 32.5 yards per reception, and it now gives him an equally nuts average of 114.5 yards per game, with six touchdowns.
On the other side Charles Clay did just fine too in a losing cause, with six catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Graham and Clay occupy two of the top five spots at their position by receiving yards so far this season, and already between the Saints tight end, Jordan Cameron, and Antonio Gates, there are three TEs with 350 or more yards.
But since those names and others are the centerpieces of their offenses (Graham and Cameron have been targeted a combined 85 times already), it’s fair to wonder if the modern day tight end growth is being pushed by talent, or target volume, a question that’s especially important for fantasy purposes.
J.J. Zacharison over at NumberFire wondered the same thing. Conveniently, he also wrote about it, and charted his findings. In short (you need to spare five minutes of your life and read it for yourself if this sort of geeking out interests you), although volume is increasing, quality still beats quantity:
Total tight end targets have increased each year since 2003. What’s interesting about these numbers, however, is that the percentage of tight end targets (on drop backs) has remained fairly constant since 2009. We saw 19.3 percent that season, 19.3 percent the following year, then 19.8 and 19.7. This season, we’re actually on pace for a drop in percentage of tight end targets, falling down to 18.3 percent. Those are 2008-like levels.
So while volume is increasing each season – we saw over 300 more tight end targets in 2012 than in 2009 – the percentage of targets hasn’t increased nearly as much.
Pep Hamilton doesn’t own Andrew Luck in any fantasy leagues
Last year Andrew Luck may have been rookie-like with his interceptions (18 of them), but his fantasy owners could tolerate that because of the yardage that came in chunks (4,372 overall, for a pace of 273.4 per game). That happened in a Bruce Arians offense, one that consists mostly of vertical lines, and had Luck heaving deep often to Reggie Wayne, T. Y. Hilton, and Donnie Avery.
Now with Pep Hamilton’s X’s and O’s drawings and his west coast leaning, the tight end is king, as is short passing in general. While Luck may be even more effective in this system, Yahoo’s Scott Pianowski reminded us of the cold fantasy reality (yes, that exists): if what we’ve seen through four weeks continues, the end game won’t be good. Luck is currently 19th in pass attempts after finishing fifth last year, 26th in passing yards per game, and 18th in passing touchdowns.