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September 26, 2014 at 12:49 PM

How to judge the Seahawks’ receivers

By now, the nature of Seattle’s offense is well known: The Seahawks want to run the ball, limit mistakes, play to their defense and take some chances deep down the field, especially on play action.

They rode that setup to a Super Bowl title, and coach Pete Carroll doesn’t seem or sound intent on changing right now. But there is one fallout from it: Seattle’s receiving corps doesn’t get many chances to make plays, never more so than this year.

The Seahawks’ leading receiver, Percy Harvin, has 106 receiving yards this season. That ranks him 82nd in the NFL, behind players like Indianapolis tight end Dwayne Allen, Kansas City receiver Donnie Avery and Buffalo running back Fred Jackson. Doug Baldwin, Seattle’s next leading receiver with 105 yards, ranks 84th in the league.

So what to make of Seattle’s receiving corps, which faced so much criticism a year ago for being a weak link? When asked about the nature of Seattle’s offense and the fact that he hadn’t had many opportunities, Baldwin also offered an answer to the question:

“If you go out and have three catches for 50 yards, that’s a good game for a receiver in this offense. To the fantasy owners and the analysts out there who see Calvin Johnson getting 13 or 14 targets a game, it’s not good enough for them. It’s a constant battle, not only externally dealing with the battle from the fans and the media, but also internally and contemplating, ‘Am I doing well enough? Am I doing good?'”

Baldwin also added that Seattle’s receivers don’t necessarily look at their total number of catches but are more concerned with looking at the number of catches they made in relation to the number of times they were targeted.

According to ESPN, Harvin has been targeted 17 times and has 15 catches; seven of those catches have been for first downs. Baldwin has been targeted 16 times and has 10 catches, five of which have been for first downs. Jermaine Kearse has been targeted 10 times and has seven catches, four of which went for first downs. (See the update at the bottom of the page for more info).

In other words, the Seahawks are far more worried about efficiency than big numbers because they know the big numbers are going to be hard to come by. It’s just the nature of their offense.

Looking at it from another perspective, Golden Tate led the Seahawks last season with 64 catches for 898 yards.That ranked Tate 31st in the league in receiving yards.

This season, with the Detroit Lions, Tate is 26th in the league with 201 receiving yards — and he is clearly the second option on his team behind Calvin Johnson. When he left Seattle, Tate said he was enticed by more opportunities to catch the ball (and of course more money).

The point being, though, that the best way to judge the Seahawks’s receivers is their efficiency — the number of catches they make in relation to the times the ball was thrown to them and the number of catches they made that led to first downs.

 UPDATE: A reader asked on Twitter if I could show how the Seahawks’ receivers rate, efficiency-wise, compared to other receivers in the league. Harvin has caught 88 percent of the passes thrown his way, according to ProFootballFocus.com, which ranks him fourth in the league. Kearse has caught 78 percent of the passes thrown his way, which is 14th in the league. And Baldwin has caught 63 percent of the passes thrown his way, which ranks him 49th.

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