The chattering class might not like the Dolphins’ 2018 plan on offense, but the raw numbers suggest Adam Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier might be on to something.
Pro Football Focus, which has the best collection of detailed stats in the business, released a revealing series of top-5 lists a few days back that, at least on the surface, support Miami’s moves.
The Dolphins are going to try to replace Jarvis Landry’s 112 catches and nine touchdowns in the aggregate. Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, who joined the Dolphins on the first day of free agency, should be able to do that.
PFF charts every snap of every game, and broke their data down by route, listing the top 5 receivers by passer rating when they are targeted.
Here’s what’s interesting: Landry was not an elite receiver, at least by their metrics, in 2017. He ranked in the top 5 on just out-routes. Dolphins quarterbacks had a rating of 119.3 when targeting Landry on that route, which was fifth-best in the league.
And that was it.
Is that (and his 8.8 yards-per-catch average) enough to pay him $16 million in 2018? The Dolphins believed not, and traded Landry to Cleveland. Numbers suggest the Dolphins’ offense was not all that efficient when going through Landry.
And while neither Amendola nor Wilson can be considered elite either, the Dolphins acquired a couple of players who do certain things very well.
At age 32, Amendola still was a dangerous weapon in the middle of the field. He ranked fourth in passer rating when targeted on crossing routes last year (129.4). The Dolphins would be foolish not to utilize this strength.
“I think Danny fits into this system probably really well,” Gase said earlier this week. “When we started this thing, we had Wes [Welker]. He kind of originated that position up in New England. By getting [Amendola], we have the type of offense that really fits him. I think he creates a lot of separation. He’s one of those guys that makes the quarterback’s job really easy. He doesn’t just get a little bit open. There’s a big window there. The quarterback has margin for error. It’s something that we’re excited about and I think he brings that element that he’s a winner. He’s played in a lot of big games. He’s won Super Bowls. He’s made big plays in huge games — game-changing plays. I think he’s going to be a great example for the rest of our locker room.”
What about Wilson? He has rare traits, too, even if his pedestrian career stats do not suggest it. First off, he’s really, really fast.
“His speed is hard to ignore,” Gase said. “We saw first-hand how fast he is and what he can do, how he can stretch the field vertically. … When you put the ball in his hands, he’s a guy that can take a throw behind the line of scrimmage and he can create a 70-yard touchdown.”
The numbers back that up. As much as Dolphins fans might hate the bubble screen, they are not going anywhere. Wilson is really effective with that play. His passer rating when targeted (130.0) ranked second behind only DeAndre Hopkins on wide receiver screen last year.
Now, an important caveat: Passer rating is not a perfect stat because to have production, a receiver needs a quarterback to deliver the ball when and where it is supposed to be. It’s not a coincidence that the Patriots, Eagles, Chiefs and Saints are well represented on these lists. All four had really good quarterbacks in 2017.
Still, Landry, Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton and Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson all managed to overcome shaky quarterback play to crack a top-5.
Postscript: Kenny Stills is criminally underrated. He has been one of the league’s most efficient receivers for years now, and he does much more than simply run go-routes. Dolphins QBs had a passer rating of 141.4 when targeting Stills on corner routes last year, the third-best mark in football.