Geno Smith and His Receivers - Who is Helping?

Bad But Dynamic?

There is an odd thing going on in the Jets passing game. Clearly Geno has struggled with turnovers, and the Jets are near league bottom in some important statistical measures like DVOA (30th in the league behind JAC and OAK) which weights opponents, or in PFF QR rating which excludes drops (Geno is 28th). Yet the passing game still feels dynamic in a way that he never really did in the Sanchez era. So with all the shuffling with Geno's receivers I wanted to look at just where the production is or has been coming from, who is helping, and what has been hurting.

The prodding for this post really came out of some comments on a discussion of Stephen Hill, who notably has been the receiver who has been on the field more than any other. Below are the snap count numbers for WRs and TEs.



Hill apologists cite his excellent run blocking, or that he has had the misfortune of not being skilled enough as a number 1 WR, and not playing with one either, but neither fact seems to really allay the difficulty of realizing that the passing game has been very weak overall, and Hill has been present on offense more than any other receiver. While receiver options have been dropping like flies Hill has actually been targeted less and less, far from the 2 year impact we hoped he would have. So I took a look at everyone and tried to pick out just who was helping Geno statistically. Below you can see Geno's overall numbers, and the numbers when he throws to any particular target. In the case of WRs PFF provides thrown-to QB ratings, so I included those where I could.


a caveat, "all other" position totals are quite small in sample size

As can be seen Geno has been less productive when throwing to Hill than he has been overall, in terms of QB rating, and also a bit by completion percentage, though his yards per target numbers are better than average (though the least of the 3 main receivers). We have gotten from him basically the same production as we have of the nice surprise pick up of David Nelson, who has been released by two teams.

The WRs data is shown in this graphic where Kerley's thrown to QB rating stands out:


Aside from the Kerley QB rating what is immediately evident is how much of a drag Clyde Gates was. The two INTs to him really produced a low QB rating, but also the yards per target were starkly poor (y/t numbers are shown below).

From the statistical view there are 3 plus players in terms of production: Kerley, Holmes and Cumberland. Holmes and Cumberland have yielded the highest yards per target (below), and Kerley has the best QB rating by far (above). Kerley, Cumberland and Winslow all hold completion percentages in the 70s.

The overall yards per target comparisons can be seen in this graphic:


One can also see how little the RBs are helping. It is well known that Mornhinweg loves throwing it his RBs. This is a dimension of the offense that simply isn't there for the Jets this year. Not only is Powell a below average receiver, the recent jolt to the Jet offense - Ivory - in early showing doesn't seem like an option either (5 targets, 1 catch, 2 drops, -2 yards). Here is an area, with a change in personnel, that one could perhaps hope for some future relief for Geno.

Who is Most Targeted?

So with a look at who has been most productive for the team, who was the most targeted? Or, to frame the question more precisely, when you are put in a pass route what are the chances that the ball would be thrown to "favorite" of a receiver are you?

Below is a graphic of the percentage of pass routes run that resulted in a throw, it can give a sense of where the offense has been flowing to:


In dark green is the percentage of routes run that resulted in throws, the shaded bars are yards per target giving a hint at how productive those throws have been, per attempt. There are a few factors here, for instance if you are a hot read, and the young QB is quick to throw to the hot you might get a high percentage. This no doubt is what happened in the case of Gates, and probably with Powell. But the Clyde Gates number is off the charts. Not only was he thrown at basically 1 out of 4 routes run, he also was the least productive receiver on the team in yds/tar. We were feeding the ball into a hole. Nelson now seems to have taken his place, but his productivity is significantly higher, +3 yards better per attempt. Notably, despite having more total targets than any receiver on the Jets, and a hot start in terms of attention, Stephen Hill is now the least pass targeted skill player on the team at 15.6% of routes run. While the production between Hill and Nelson is generally similar, the difference in frequency of targets seems to be the role each is playing in the offense - whether this is due to skill set or skill level is something to think about of course. He is running deeper patterns, and lately the offense has moved away from him, but we also have to admit that if the Jets believed in him more they would find ways to involve him in more throws, especially with the diminished receiver options lately. He remains a secondary or tertiary influence.

Some Concluding Thoughts

We are watching a Mornhinweg offense that is somewhat amputated without the aid of RBs that can catch and run with the ball, or playmakers that simply can create their own separation. In a way it is remarkable what has been achieved so far. The Jets have survived the play of Clyde Gates and rookie tribulations. The passing game has also been augmented with very aggressive play calling at times to punish defenses, which is where we get the sense that despite being underwhelming this year, the Jet attack is still dynamic. Geno has fared very well in deep passing, despite a serious attrition at both the WR and TE position. He is 5th in accuracy % on passing over 20 yards in the air, and 4th in total yards on such plays. In frequency of such calls he is also 5th in the league, even though they reeled the long pass in in the last game. He is 4th in the league in yards averaged per attempt on such plays.

It will be interesting to see what develops after the bye with many of the receiver weapons on the mend. Gates has long been replaced by Nelson. Winslow will return to his 3rd down specialty, and hopefully Holmes will bring back the big play potential that he already showed himself capable of. This should take more pressure off of Hill, and leave him to make deep pass plays when appropriate, though it does appear like he is never going to be "the" guy on offense that the Jets hoped for. My own hope is that Cumberland will be fed the ball a little more, and that it will be him that the offense turns to punish defenses.

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