Seattle Seahawks: Predicting Stat Leaders in Every Receiving Category for 2012
The Seattle Seahawks receiving corps is an enigma. Seattle's roster harbors incredible talent, but so far these receivers have been lots of talk and little walk (or run).
Optimistically, we sports enthusiasts can avoid the injury concerns and work ethic issues that have dogged the receivers thus far. Realistically, we must realize that there is no way that all of these pass catchers will be healthy for the whole season. My approach in this piece will be one of dampened optimism; I predict decent health for most (including Rice!) but down to earth statistics.
In this article, we'll take a stab at predicting who will lead the team in each measurable category (Yards, Receptions, Touchdowns, Yards after catch, etc). These predictions will be predicated upon three things. One, that Matt Flynn is the starting quarterback come game one of the season; two, that health isn't a concern for Sidney Rice; and three, that the receiver depth chart is organized in the following way:
1. Sidney Rice (Z Receiver)
2. Golden Tate (X Receiver)
3. Doug Baldwin (Slot Receiver)
4. Ricardo Lockette
5. Kris Durham
Got all that? Good. Let's do some prophecy.
Receptions: Sidney Rice
Sidney Rice is a true No. 1 Receiver. When healthy, Rice's unbelievable athleticism can stretch defenses into oblivion. Essentially, if Matt Flynn throws it anywhere near Rice, Rice will come down with it.
By having much needed reparation surgery this offseason and adding 11 pounds of muscle, Rice has worked hard on improving his durability (he's currently on pace to add 7 more pounds by the time the season starts).
Rice's actions are reassuring to understandably skeptical Seahawks fans. Based on those actions, I predict that Rice will finally regain his 2009 form and lead the team in receptions.
Matt Flynn is a quarterback who puts a lot of faith in his No. 1 receiver. He also doesn't hesitate to throw the deep pass, despite an apparent lack of arm strength. This all bodes well for Rice, who, through years of being on the receiving end of Brett Farve and Tarvaris Jackson, is quite accustomed to adjusting to underthrown passes.
Ultimately, barring injury, it seems quite probable that Rice leads the Seahawks in receptions.
Since Pete Carroll intends to keep the ground game a priority, and since Matt Flynn has shown an ability to distribute the ball, I find it reasonable to predict Rice to have a respectable 76 receptions this year. He will be the primary target, but he certainly won't be the only target.
Receving Yards: Sidney Rice
I fear I might've given some of you a heart attack with this surprise. I know what you're thinking: since when does the team leader in receptions also lead the team in yards?
In all seriousness, this is an easy call given the previous slide's prediction. In addition, I guesstimate that Rice will have 1,063 yards in 2012, being the first Seahawks receiver to surpass the 1,000-yard mark since Bobby Engram in 2007.
As a corollary, Rice will also lead the team in average yards per game—this is a by-product of leading the team in yardage.
If you're skeptical of this choice, or perhaps think that Golden Tate or Doug Baldwin will have the yardage title this year, I'll see you in the comments section.
Touchdowns: Sidney Rice
Last Sidney Rice slide, I promise!
This actually wasn't an easy call to make. Whilst examining all candidates who could potentially lead the team in receiving touchdowns, my initial thoughts concerned Golden Tate and his incredible playmaking ability. But once I considered the nature of West Coast offenses, Darrell Bevel's playcalling, and Matt Flynn's tendencies, Rice became the obvious choice.
Let me explain. First off, the West Coast Offense, as most of you probably know, is based off of short-intermediate range plays that have a high percentage success rate. On the goal line, a West Coast Offensive Coordinator (like Darrell Bevel) will run three plays above all else: the power run up the middle, the goal line slant, and the goal line fade.
Since this article has nothing to do with rushing, we'll disregard the run up the middle (sorry, Marshawn). That means we're left with the slant and the fade. The slant calls for a big bodied, sure-handed receiver who can shield the ball from the defensive back. The fade, conversely, demands a tall receiver with fantastic jumping ability who can go over a smaller defensive back and come down with the ball in his fingertips.
Is there a receiver on Seattle's roster who matches those descriptions? That's right, Sidney Rice is the perfect red zone target for the West Coast Offense.
Furthermore, Matt Flynn comes from a system where goal line slants are prevalent. Flynn not only watched Aaron Rodgers have great success with that play, but he even threw a slant touchdown in each of his two regular season starts.
From a pure percentage standpoint, it looks as if Sidney Rice will have a lot of success on the goal line this year.
My personal prediction for Rice: 8 touchdowns.
Yards After Catch (YAC) : Golden Tate
There are two things Golden Tate can do very well:
1) Make spectacular catches.
2) Get yards after his catches.
In essence, Tate is a playmaker. Granted, Tate hasn't quite hit his stride as a receiver, which is due in large part to the poor quarterback play of Matt Hasselbeck and Tarvaris Jackson. In late 2011, however, Tate reminded us of the tackle breaking juke machine that we saw at Notre Dame. Given a full offseason to mature, and a starting opportunity (I have him filling in for Mike Williams at the X Receiver), Tate could easily establish himself as a playmaking receiver in the league.
The West Coast system will cater well to his abilities, allowing him to turn short passes into long gains. Also, if and when Rice is dangerous enough to attract double coverage, Tate will be able to work his magic against softer man coverage. An argument could be made that Doug Baldwin will take this categorical title, but if Tate sees starting time in 2012, it will be his crown to lose.
Average Yards Per Reception: Ricardo Lockette
Ricardo Lockette will see more playing time this year. With just about the smallest window of opportunity one could ever ask for—just two catches—Lockette produced a 44-yard gain in double coverage and a 61-yard touchdown.
The speedster is a track superstar turned football player, but from the looks of things, he has good hands as well. He won't beat out Baldwin, Tate, or Rice for the top three spots, but in four-wide sets, he has explosive potential. When Lockette makes a reception, it'll be a big one.
Almost without exception, Lockette will be asked to run a nine route, also known as a "go" or "streak." Expect Lockette to channel his inner gazelle and pull down huge receptions, averaging at least 19.9 yards per catch.
Longest Reception: Ricardo Lockette
"Lockette the Rocket" makes a return!
But in all sensibility, if a receiver is going to lead the team in average yards per reception, he might as well have the longest reception of the season as well.
Lockette had the team's longest reception last year (61 yards). If Lockette can pull that off as an undrafted rookie, just think of what an offseason of work could accomplish.
I can easily imagine Pete Carroll thinking that he'll catch a defense off guard by taking a deep shot on his own one-yard line. Carroll tells Flynn to run the "Run, Lockette, Run" play, Flynn rainbows it to Lockette, Lockette bobbles the reception before securing the ball and taking it in for the score.
Training camp opens this weekend, so I guess that's the last completely unsubstantiated, football starved offseason fantasy I can have. Sigh...
1st Down Receptions: Doug Baldwin
You didn't think I was going to make a receiving list without including Doug Baldwin, did you?
Fear not, faithful readers! Doug Baldwin will lead the team in receptions that end up in a first down, which is exactly what he did last year.
I know that many of you will question the math behind this assertion, citing my own predictions about Sidney Rice against me (for reference, I have predicted in this slideshow that Rice will average about 13 yards per reception, which spread amongst 76 receptions ought to produce a myriad of first downs).
Hhowever, while Rice will be good for a few 20+ yard gains per game, increasing his average, Baldwin will be a desperate quarterback's best friend on third down. Tarvaris Jackson learned that lesson well last year, as Doug Baldwin bailed him out of pressure situations on numerous occasions. As any good slot receiver should do, Baldwin will find holes in zones or make precise route adjustments to beat the defense's coverage, allowing the quarterback to find him in open space.
Because Baldwin has demonstrated his ability to get open whilst playing slot receiver, there is no reason not to expect him to continue his bail-out techniques.
So, there you have it. Predictions for every receiving category and it's leader.
If you agree and want to add more evidence to support an argument, please do so in the comments!
If you think I'm some ignorant dude who doesn't know the first thing about football and stats, I'll see you below.