Houston Texans Advanced Stat of the Week: Key Stat to Watch in 2012

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistJuly 24, 2012

When we talk about the "vertical" passing game, this isn't usually what we mean.
When we talk about the "vertical" passing game, this isn't usually what we mean.Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

With training camp opening in a few days, it's time to revisit Advanced Stat of the Week.

All this week, I'll be looking for a key number to monitor in order to assess how each team in the AFC South is progressing.

For the Houston Texans, keep a close eye on Yards Per Target for each of their primary receivers.

Yards Per Target (YPT) is a player-specific derivative of the single most important stat in football: Yards Per Attempt (YPA). There is no number more important for evaluating an offense or a defense than measuring yards per attempt.

YPT is just YPA isolated to a particular wide receiver. To calculate it, simply divide a player's receiving yards by his total number of "targets." As I discussed when looking at catch rate, knowing how often a player was thrown to matters when evaluating his overall play.

It's not always possible to get a perfect look at YPT, as we can't always tell for sure who a quarterback was targeting on a play. While we know if a pass is attempted, we can only guess at who it is intended for. Obviously, batted passes often have no intended target associated with them.

Still, looking at how many yards are gained every time a wideout is targeted by the quarterback, we can get a snapshot of his effectiveness in getting open downfield.

Regardless of whether you think the Texans have a wideout problem or not, the answer will show up in YPT.

Last season, the Texans had three wideouts with a YPT at 8.0. Jacoby Jones, who has been cut, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels all were good for eight yards a target. Considering that Arian Foster surpassed that number as a running back, that's not strong.

Daniels and Foster had almost identical yards-per-reception totals, with Daniels edging him out. However, on a per-throw basis, Foster was better.

There are many reasons that may be the case. Often, tight ends are a security blanket option, and quarterbacks will target them when they are already under duress. It mostly speaks to Foster's ability to take simple screens and get big yards.

This year, pay close attention to the YPT number for both Kevin Walter and whoever the third wideout is. Be it DeVier Posey, Lestar Jean or anyone else on the roster, if the Texans' second and third wideout can manage 8.0 yards a target, it means the team won't have gone backwards from where it was last year with Jones.

Houston doesn't need amazing play from anyone but Andre Johnson in the passing game.

With all the other weapons at Gary Kubiak's disposal, good enough is good enough.