What’s fair to expect from Moss?


Amid all the quarterback-and-receiver talk, I noticed this piece from the Scout.com people over at the Fox Sports site.

Scroll down to Point No. 6, and you’ll see that the guys penning this one believe that Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson could see their numbers jump in 2010, because of what they were up against in 2009:

The Patriots’ pass-catcher had 138 balls thrown to him, which he converted into 83 catches (60.1percent) for 1,264 yards. Meanwhile, during Johnson’s first season of work with rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, he saw 136 balls sail in his direction. He nabbed 67 of them (49.3) for 984 yards.

But when compared to the NFL’s other eight most targeted wide receivers, Moss and Johnson had the highest percentage of bad throws tossed their way. Johnson had no chance of catching 35 errant balls — 25.7 percent of the passes thrown to him by Stafford. And Moss suffered a similar fate on 29 throws — 21.0 percent of the passes thrown to him by Tom Brady.

The rest of the top ten only averaged 14.3 percent bad throws in their direction, giving them a chance to make more catches and roll up more yards.

So that’s interesting, right? Well, I think it’s tough to hang this on Brady, considering a couple things.

First, history can provide some perspective. Moss, being the kind of deep threat he is, will naturally have more lower-percentage throws coming his way.

The fact that he caught 83 of the 138 balls coming his way (60.1 percent) may seem low. But if you go to the Stats Inc. numbers, you’ll see that he caught 69 of the 125 balls (55.2 percent) coming his way in 2008, and 98 of 159 throws to him (61.6 percent) in 2009. For his career, he has 926 catches and has been targeted 1,629 times (56.8 percent), meaning 2009 was above average in that regard.

Now, if you look at Wes Welker — who’s going to catch a higher percentage because he sees more higher-percentage throws — a similar pattern comes up.

He caught 112 of the 145 balls coming his way in 2007 (77.2 percent), 111 of 149 in 2008 (74.5 percent) and 123 of 162 in 2009 (75.9 percent). See? Great in 2007, not quite as good in 2008, and in between in 2009.

That pattern, of course, follows like this: Record-breaking offense in 2007; franchise quarterback out in 2008; quarterback returns in 2009, but offense is less consistent.

One thing I would say is interesting in the scout.com findings, though, is that the rest of the Top 10 in targets (in order: Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Welker, Steve Smith, Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Santonio Holmes are the top eight, with Holmes tied with Moss for eighth) had fewer than 14.3 percent of the throws to them deemed uncatchable. With some it’s more surprising (White, Smith) than others (Welker, Marshall, Wayne). But again, that could speak to the roles that those players are employed in.

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