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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer


Red Zone Report
Preseason Matchup Analysis
7/1/14

A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Touchdowns are the lifeblood of fantasy football. In most cases, they are highly volatile despite the fact that most teams endlessly scheme to make sure 2-3 players are the primary options in the red zone. There are many reasons for this, but it doesn’t change the fact that during a given NFL game, the unplanned happens with regularity. For example, a fullback may vulture the short score that was originally earmarked for the team’s goal-line specialist or a team’s fourth receiver gets a bit lucky on a tipped pass meant for another receiver and comes down with the ball in the end zone.

For the most part, one of the jobs of a successful fantasy football owner is to be able to discern what exactly can be considered lucky and what is repeatable. In other words, it is beneficial to place your chips on the event that is most likely to happen while also reducing the number of resources (i.e. players in your fantasy lineup) that essentially need to count on a breakdown or mistake from the defense to get their points. So how exactly do we measure this?

One of the older fantasy football adages is that more opportunities tend to lead to more success. This week, my goal is simply to break down what each of the 32 teams did in the red zone last season – individually as well as a team – in an effort to give you some idea of what happened over the course of 2013 when offenses got down inside the 20. What players were their team’s “bellcow”? Was Joique Bell really that much of a revelation? How many times did Josh Gordon or Jimmy Graham get targeted in scoring territory? Which teams were balanced and which ones were unbalanced with their red-zone play-calling?

Information is typically what you make of it. As I spend the next month-plus hammering out my game-by-game projections, I will refer to this kind of information on a regular basis. While I focus mostly on what players may/should exploit their individual matchups in my projections, there is also something to be said about how stubborn a team is about running the ball in the red zone or fixated on 1-2 primary receivers near the goal line. Sustained success in fantasy football is all in the details and it has been my focus for years that no owner will consider more factors in their analysis than I will.

Obviously, I just touched on a few of the applications for the data I’m about to present as I attempted to give both player and team equal time in my analysis. You will notice below that I have provided all the red-zone information from the team’s last three seasons so that each of you can observe your trends. I believe as the years pass, this information will be useful for the teams that retain their head coaches and/or offensive coordinators season after season. While I left some brief thoughts for each team, don’t hesitate to take a few minutes to review each category I have provided and try to understand why that team opted to do what it did and the possible resulting carryover for 2014.

With that out of the way, allow me to explain what each of the headers mean before we get started with my overview on each team’s red-zone attack philosophy last season:

Att – Pass Attempts
Cmp – Completions
PaTD – Pass TD
PaTD % - The rate at which a red-zone pass attempt resulted in a red-zone touchdown pass
RuAtt – Rush Attempt
RuAtt % - The percentage of red-zone carries a player had for his team (For example, Andre Ellington secured 14 of Arizona’s 52 red-zone carries, meaning he had 14.3% of his team’s red-zone rushing attempts.)
RuTD – Rush TD
RuTD % - The rate at which a red-zone rush attempt resulted in a red-zone touchdown run
Tar – Red-zone targets
Tar % - The percentage of red-zone targets a player had for his team (For example, Larry Fitzgerald secured 24 of Arizona’s 68 red-zone passing attempts, meaning he had 34.3% of his team’s red-zone targets.)
Rec – Red-zone receptions
ReTD – Receiving TD
ReTD% - The rate at which a red-zone reception resulted in a red-zone touchdown reception
RZ Pass % - The percentage that an offense attempted a pass in the red zone
Pass % - The percentage that an offense attempted a pass, regardless of field position
RZ Run % - The percentage that an offense attempted a run in the red zone
Run % - The percentage that an offense attempted a run, regardless of field position


Note: the very detailed-oriented readers will notice that the targets do not always equal the number of pass attempts in the “totals” row. This discrepancy comes as a result of occurrences such as clock-killing “spikes” in the red zone that do not have an intended receiver.

ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN | CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC
MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SD | SEA | SF | STL | TB | TEN | WAS

 Arizona Cardinals
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Carson Palmer 70 38 15 21.4 1 1.9 0 0
RB Rashard Mendenhall 28 52.8 8 28.6
RB Andre Ellington 14 26.4 2 14.3 5 7.1 3 0 0
RB Alfonso Smith 1 1.9 1 100 1 1.4 0 0 0
RB Stepfan Taylor 8 15.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
WR Larry Fitzgerald 24 34.3 15 6 40
WR Michael Floyd 14 20 6 2 33.3
WR Andre Roberts 6 8.6 2 1 50
WR Jaron Brown 1 1.4 1 1 100
TE Jim Dray 8 11.4 6 2 33.3
TE Jake Ballard 2 2.9 2 2 100
TE Rob Housler 7 10 3 1 33.3
2013 Totals 70 38 15 21.43% 52 98.1 11 21.15% 68 97.1 38 15 39.47% 57.38% 57.63% 42.62% 42.37%
2012 Totals 57 25 7 12.28% 45 97.9 9 20.00% 57 100.1 25 7 28.00% 55.88% 63.34% 44.12% 36.66%
2011 Totals 51 27 11 21.57% 52 99.9 12 23.08% 49 96.1 27 11 40.74% 49.51% 60.83% 50.49% 39.17%

Overview: It should go without saying that Palmer’s arrival played a key role in the improvement Arizona’s passing game made inside the 20 from 2012 to 2013. The 2013 Cardinals, as a whole, were not appreciably different than their last two predecessors, with the key difference being that HC Bruce Arians’ squad got off just over a play per game more in the red zone than Ken Whisenhunt’s last two teams did.

How it affects 2014: Fitzgerald actually received more red-zone targets last year (24) than he did in either of the first two years I have run this analysis (20 in 2012, 17 in 2011). Look for that number to come back down to pre-Arians levels as Floyd continues to work his way into a dual No. 1 role with the eight-time Pro Bowler all over the field. Staying healthy throughout an entire season has become increasingly more difficult for Fitzgerald, who should still remain the favorite target of Palmer since he will spend a lot of time in the slot. Still, Floyd possesses the size and ball skills necessary to double his red-zone scores (two in 2013) and make a run at 8-10 touchdowns overall. Ellington is a near-lock to receive more than 17 touches inside the 20 this season, but it would not come as a shock if Taylor or Jonathan Dwyer assumed the Mendenhall role in this offense.

 Atlanta Falcons
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Matt Ryan 93 51 19 20.4 1 2 0 0
RB Steven Jackson 23 45.1 5 21.7 8 8.6 4 1 25
RB Jacquizz Rodgers 15 29.4 2 13.3 8 8.6 6 2 33.3
RB Antone Smith 1 2 0 0
RB Jason Snelling 11 21.6 1 9.1 5 5.4 5 3 60
WR Darius Johnson 6 6.5 3 1 33.3
WR Roddy White 10 10.8 4 1 25
WR Julio Jones 9 9.7 5 1 20
WR Drew Davis 1 1.1 1 1 100
WR Harry Douglas 14 15.1 5 0 0
WR Brian Robiskie 1 1.1 0 0 0
TE Tony Gonzalez 23 24.7 15 7 46.7
TE Levine Toilolo 6 6.5 3 2 66.7
2013 Totals 93 51 19 20.43% 51 100.1 8 15.69% 91 98.1 51 19 37.25% 64.58% 67.24% 35.42% 32.76%
2012 Totals 82 54 24 29.27% 78 100 11 14.10% 80 97.4 53 23 43.40% 51.25% 61.93% 48.75% 38.07%
2011 Totals 79 38 18 22.78% 83 100 12 14.46% 77 97.6 38 18 47.37% 48.77% 57.78% 51.23% 42.22%

Overview: Given the injury situation in Atlanta, it is difficult to put much stock into the numbers above. Not surprisingly, Ryan became merely average when he was forced to play with Jones and White for significant parts of last season. It’s not fair to say that Jackson was better or worse than Michael Turner since he ran behind one of the worst lines in the NFL, missed four games and wasn’t actually completely healthy until December. Still, the red-zone efficiency of the run game was slightly better than it was in 2011 and 2012. One notable stat (besides Gonzalez’s 23 red-zone targets): Douglas caught only five of his 14 targets inside the 20 and did not score on any of them.

How it affects 2014: The Falcons hope the addition of players like first-round LT Jake Matthews will boost the ground game and help fill the red-zone void left behind by the retired Gonzalez. Jones is something of a question mark, so Atlanta may have no other choice but to hope than Jackson still has enough left in the tank since White isn’t going to do it by himself and Douglas might as well be allergic to the goal line. A healthy Jones turned 20 red-zone targets into seven scores in 2012, so his health will obviously play a big role as to whether or not Ryan can return to his 2012 numbers inside the 20. Toilolo will see a nice bump in action in the red zone as well, but most of Gonzalez’s other targets figure to go to Jackson, rookie RB Devonta Freeman or maybe Rodgers.


 Baltimore Ravens
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Joe Flacco 75 36 17 22.7 5 8.1 1 20
RB Ray Rice 36 58.1 4 11.1 13 17.3 7 0 0
RB Bernard Pierce 16 25.8 2 12.5 2 2.7 1 0 0
RB Bernard Scott 1 1.6 0 0
RB Vonta Leach 4 6.5 0 0 4 5.3 2 1 50
WR Marlon Brown 13 17.3 9 7 77.8
WR Torrey Smith 16 21.3 6 3 50
WR Jacoby Jones 4 5.3 1 1 100
WR Deonte Thompson 2 2.7 2 0 0
WR Tandon Doss 3 4 0 0 0
WR Brandon Stokley 1 1.3 0 0 0
TE Dallas Clark 10 13.3 4 3 75
TE Dennis Pitta 4 5.3 2 1 50
TE Ed Dickson 2 2.7 2 1 50
2013 Totals 75 36 17 22.67% 62 100.1 7 11.29% 74 98.5 36 17 47.22% 54.74% 59.40% 45.26% 40.60%
2012 Totals 50 22 11 22.00% 61 98.3 15 24.59% 49 98 22 11 50.00% 45.05% 55.78% 54.95% 44.22%
2011 Totals 55 23 12 21.82% 67 99.9 13 19.40% 54 98.1 23 12 52.17% 45.08% 55.69% 54.92% 44.31%

Overview: There are two numbers that immediately jump off the page: 1) the Ravens’ inability to run the ball was really apparent in the red zone (11.29 RuTD%, less than half of the 24.59% in 2012) and Brown’s high success rate (77.8 ReTD%, even better than Dez Bryant’s 76.9). Baltimore ran significantly more plays inside the 20 last year (137) than it did the season before (111). Smith saw his red-zone targets increase from 10 in 2012 to 16 in 2013, yet he caught one less pass (7-6) and two fewer touchdowns (5-3) inside the 20.

How it affects 2014: It seems unlikely the Ravens have done enough in the offseason to solve the offensive line issues, although the hire of OC Gary Kubiak can’t hurt in terms of getting the running game going. It seems pretty clear that Brown should be expected to be a red-zone force going forward, although it is very likely that Pitta and Owen Daniels will be Flacco’s two favorite targets inside the 20 in Kubiak’s offense. In fact, it would come as a mild shock Pitta and Daniels don’t see about 10 more red-zone targets this year than the 16 the tight end position recorded as a whole in Baltimore last year. The addition of fourth-round rookie RB Lorenzo Taliaferro will probably trim 30-40% of Rice’s 36 red-zone rushes over each of the last two seasons (and that assumes Rice doesn’t serve a suspension, which he almost certainly will).


 Buffalo Bills
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB E.J. Manuel 21 10 6 28.6 11 12 2 18.2
QB Thad Lewis 11 6 2 18.2 4 4.3 1 25
QB Jeff Tuel 7 1 0 0 1 1.1 0 0
RB Fred Jackson 43 46.4 9 20.9 2 5.1 2 0 0
RB C.J. Spiller 17 18.4 0 0 1 2.6 0 0 0
RB Tashard Choice 11 11.9 0 0 2 2.7 1 0 0
RB Frank Summers 4 4.3 1 25 1 2.6 1 1 100
WR Steve Johnson 1 1.1 0 0 12 30.8 6 3 50
WR Robert Woods 6 15.4 2 2 100
WR T.J. Graham 3 7.7 1 1 100
WR Marquise Goodwin 1 2.6 1 0 0
WR Marcus Easley 1 2.6 1 0 0
TE Chris Gragg 1 2.6 1 1 100
TE Scott Chandler 5 12.8 1 0 0
TE Lee Smith 1 2.6 0 0 0
2013 Totals 39 17 8 20.51% 92 99.5 13 14.13% 36 90.1 17 8 47.06% 29.77% 48.88% 70.23% 51.12%
2012 Totals 53 30 14 26.42% 46 100 10 21.74% 52 98.2 30 14 46.67% 53.54% 53.62% 46.46% 46.38%
2011 Totals 79 42 20 25.32% 57 100 8 14.04% 76 96.3 42 20 47.62% 58.09% 60.58% 41.91% 39.42%

Overview: The difference in philosophy between former HC Chan Gailey to current HC Doug Marrone, especially inside the 20, is obvious. Marrone and OC Nathaniel Hackett oversaw one of the more balanced offenses until they got in the red zone, where they ran the ball over 70 percent of the time and gave Jackson one of the heaviest workloads in the NFL (43 carries). As a result of throwing inside the 20 only 39 times, it should come as no surprise that only Johnson (12) registered more than six red-zone targets.

How it affects 2014: Marrone and Hackett will probably remain a decidedly run-heavy pairing, although they will likely attempt at least 15-20 more passes inside the 20 (if Manuel can stay healthy) since they’ll have Sammy Watkins, Woods and Mike Williams around this year. Look for Watkins in particular to be used all over the field, but especially near the goal line. Williams may end up being little more than a red-zone/jump-ball specialist with the team high on Watkins and Woods, but he could easily steal whatever scoring appeal Chandler has enjoyed in recent years. A healthy Manuel might also help the efficiency of the run game, although much of the success on the ground will be determined by how long Spiller can stay on the field. The Bills wisely traded for Bryce Brown, who is a nice blend of Jackson (size) and Spiller (speed and explosion), and can probably help the ground game move along without much of a hiccup should either one of the top two backs get hurt.


 Carolina Panthers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Cam Newton 54 28 17 31.5 20 22.7 6 30
QB Derek Anderson 1 1.1 0 0
RB DeAngelo Williams 36 40.9 1 2.8 1 1.9 0 0 0
RB Jonathan Stewart 5 5.7 0 0
RB Kenjon Barner 3 3.4 0 0 1 1.9 1 0 0
RB Mike Tolbert 21 23.9 5 23.8 4 7.4 3 2 66.7
WR Steve Smith 14 25.9 7 4 57.1
WR Brandon LaFell 2 2.3 0 0 8 14.8 4 3 75
WR Domenik Hixon 1 1.9 1 1 100
WR Ted Ginn 5 9.3 2 1 50
TE Greg Olsen 18 33.3 9 6 66.7
TE Richie Brockel 1 1.9 1 0 0
2013 Totals 54 28 17 31.48% 88 100 12 13.64% 53 98.3 28 17 60.71% 38.03% 49.48% 61.97% 50.52%
2012 Totals 57 20 8 14.04% 75 100 18 24.00% 57 100.2 20 8 40.00% 43.18% 51.47% 56.82% 48.53%
2011 Totals 59 26 13 22.03% 68 98.5 18 26.47% 57 96.6 26 13 50.00% 46.46% 57.98% 53.54% 42.02%

Overview: The Panthers’ passing attack may not have enjoyed great end-of-season totals, but there is something to be said about the efficiency in which it did its work inside the red zone last year – especially considering how replaceable GM Dave Gettleman believed his receivers were (although that is not to say he was wrong). Every key component of the passing game (starting with Tolbert on the chart and moving down through Olsen) converted at least half of their red-zone catches into touchdowns, which is a stunning – and probably unsustainable – rate of efficiency. The numbers also show that Newton came into his own as a passer; he also ran the ball 10 fewer times inside the 20 than he did in 2012 and scored only one less touchdown, which is another great sign. Carolina’s biggest failure was Williams, who turned only one of his 36 red-zone carries into a touchdown.

How it affects 2014: It’s hard to blame Williams for his “shortcomings” as a red-zone runner when he is arguably the fourth-best short-yardage runner on his own team. In retrospect, OC Mike Shula probably wishes he would have utilized Tolbert more often, but it will help everyone in the backfield if Stewart is as healthy as has been reported. As for Newton, his 20 red-zone rushes should probably be the expectation going forward; as the years pass, look for the Panthers to continue to limit how much they expose their quarterback to punishment. Although Carolina can’t expect to turn 60.71 percent of its red-zone catches into touchdowns again anytime soon, it seems like a good bet that first-round rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin will absorb Smith’s targets. However, it should be noted that free-agent signee WR Jerricho Cotchery was one of the league’s most efficient red-zone receivers last year.



 Chicago Bears
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Jay Cutler 53 29 16 30.2 1 1.4 0 0
QB Josh McCown 31 15 9 29 3 4.3 1 33.3
RB Matt Forte 50 72.5 7 14 12 14.3 10 3 30
RB Michael Bush 15 21.7 2 13.3 3 3.6 2 1 50
RB Tony Fiammetta 1 1.2 0 0 0
WR Brandon Marshall 22 26.2 12 9 75
WR Earl Bennett 7 8.3 6 4 66.7
WR Alshon Jeffery 19 22.6 5 3 60
TE Martellus Bennett 16 19 8 5 62.5
TE Dante Rosario 2 2.4 1 0 0
TE Steve Maneri 1 1.2 0 0 0
2013 Totals 84 44 25 29.76% 69 99.9 10 14.49% 83 98.8 44 25 56.82% 54.90% 58.90% 45.10% 41.10%
2012 Totals 52 27 13 25.00% 60 100 10 16.67% 51 97.9 26 13 26.56% 46.43% 50.79% 53.57% 49.21%
2011 Totals 44 21 10 22.73% 52 99.9 9 17.31% 41 93.3 20 10 50.00% 45.83% 53.37% 54.17% 46.63%

Overview: There are probably many ways to quantify the effect that HC Marc Trestman had on the Bears’ offense last season, although we don’t have to look much further than the number of red-zone passing attempts (84, compared to 52 in 2012) and the overall number of plays attempted inside the 20 (153, up from 112). After years of getting pulled at the goal line, Forte turned 10 of his league-high 60 red-zone touches into touchdowns. Cutler’s connection with Marshall also remained strong, but it is notable that Jeffery only caught five of his 19 targets inside the 20 (converting three into scores). It is probably safe to assume the relative lack of red-zone success will turn out to be an outlier as Jeffery moves along in his career, although it is something to keep an eye on for the upcoming season.

How it affects 2014: The single-biggest difference for the upcoming season should be the increased playing time of WR Marquess Wilson. Earl Bennett proved to be a reliable No. 3 receiver, but didn’t really possess the athleticism to make many plays anywhere on the field. With Wilson likely assuming his spot, Chicago will now possess three athletic receivers that stand at least 6-3 (not to mention 6-6 TE Martellus Bennett) and force defenses to pick their poison. It is quite possible that Forte won’t lead the NFL in red-zone touches again as a result, but he also isn’t going to get pulled at the goal line on a regular basis again anytime soon. Marshall has accumulated at least 22 red-zone targets in each of his first two years with the Bears, so don’t look for that number to change significantly this year either.


 Cincinnati Bengals
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Andy Dalton 65 40 21 32.3 6 10.5 2 33.3
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis 30 52.6 7 23.3
RB Giovani Bernard 21 36.8 4 19 6 9.2 5 1 20
WR Marvin Jones 14 21.5 12 9 75
WR A.J. Green 21 32.3 9 4 44.4
WR Mohamed Sanu 11 16.9 6 2 33.3
TE Jermaine Gresham 4 6.2 4 3 75
TE Alex Smith 1 1.5 1 1 100
TE Tyler Eifert 7 10.8 3 1 33.3
2013 Totals 65 40 21 32.31% 57 99.9 13 22.81% 64 98.4 40 21 52.50% 53.28% 54.96% 46.72% 45.04%
2012 Totals 72 38 20 27.78% 70 98.6 11 15.71% 70 100.7 38 20 52.63% 50.70% 55.67% 49.30% 44.33%
2011 Totals 65 34 15 23.08% 70 100 8 11.43% 62 95.3 34 15 44.12% 48.15% 55.17% 51.85% 44.83%

Overview: Although former OC Jay Gruden did not get a lot of credit for what the Bengals did offensively last season, it is hard to diminish how efficient his troops were in the red zone. Dalton was only slight less efficient (32.3%) than Peyton Manning (33.6) in terms of how often his attempts inside the 20 resulted in touchdown throws. Similarly, Cincinnati enjoyed a 22.81-percent success rate on red-zone carries, which was tied for the fourth-highest mark of any team. It bears mentioning that one of the reasons why Dalton may not be considered an upper-tier starter yet is his relative lack of success of connecting with Green when it matters (9-of-21 last season, 11-of-22 in 2012). Either way, Jones was wildly efficient – catching 12 of his 14 red-zone targets and scoring nine times.

How it affects 2014: New OC Hue Jackson has made it clear that his charges will run the ball early and often this season. Dalton is very unlikely to approach 65 red-zone throws in 2014, while the running game can expect to see in upwards of the 70 rushing attempts (and quite possibly more) inside the 20 it posted in 2011 and 2012. Expect Green Ellis – assuming the team doesn’t release him – to lose most of his 30 carries to rookie RB Jeremy Hill. Bernard could possibly match that workload, although it would seem a better bet that he will receive twice as many red-zone targets as opposed to a huge bump in carries. Green’s status as a 20-plus target receiver in the red zone should not change, but it should come as no surprise if Eifert absorbs most of Jones’ numbers from a season ago. This run-heavy offense figures to only possess enough volume to keep two players fantasy-relevant, so it would figure those players would be the ones most likely to cause mismatches.


 Cleveland Browns
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Brandon Weeden 28 13 6 21.4 1 1.9 0 0
QB Jason Campbell 32 11 4 12.5 1 1.9 0 0
QB Brian Hoyer 13 7 4 30.8
P Spencer Lanning 1 1 1 100
RB Trent Richardson 2 3.8 0 0
RB Willis McGahee 26 50 2 7.7
RB Chris Ogbonnaya 6 11.5 0 0 6 8.1 5 2 40
RB Bobby Rainey 4 7.6 0 0
RB Edwin Baker 10 19.2 2 20 3 4.1 2 0 0
RB Fozzy Whittaker 1 1.9 0 0 3 4.1 1 1 100
WR Greg Little 12 16.2 4 2 50
WR Josh Gordon 18 24.3 5 1 20
WR Davone Bess 6 8.1 2 1 50
WR Tori Gurley 1 1.4 0 0 0
TE Jordan Cameron 19 25.7 11 7 63.6
TE Gary Barnidge 4 5.4 2 1 50
TE MarQueis Gray 1 1.9 0 0
2013 Totals 74 32 15 20.27% 52 99.7 4 7.69% 72 97.4 32 15 46.88% 58.73% 66.18% 41.27% 33.82%
2012 Totals 48 21 7 14.58% 50 100 10 20.00% 48 100.3 21 7 33.33% 48.98% 58.84% 51.02% 41.16%
2011 Totals 47 25 10 21.28% 52 99.9 3 5.77% 45 95.8 24 10 41.67% 47.47% 59.47% 52.53% 40.53%

Overview: Perhaps the most surprising stat I’ll reveal this week is this bombshell: Greg Little and Chris Ogbonnaya each scored more red-zone receiving touchdowns than Josh Gordon. Although it seems unconscionable that the league’s leading receiver could find a way to score only one red-zone touchdown on 18 attempts, it actually makes sense. The small windows quarterbacks have to throw through outside the 20 get much smaller inside the red zone, so when three journeyman (or journeyman-caliber) quarterbacks are asked to do so, they will probably fail much more often than they succeed. The margin of error obviously turned out to be much greater for Cameron. There is frankly little we can take away from the running game, only that it wasn’t quite as bad in the red zone as it was in 2011.

How it affects 2014: The Browns are going to run the ball a lot this season for two major reasons: 1) new OC Kyle Shanahan favors it and 2) the personnel that will likely be available to him dictates it. With Gordon likely to be suspended for the season, the natural assumption is that Cameron will become that much more fantasy-friendly. I don’t see it that way (once QB Johnny Manziel takes over for Hoyer) because it isn’t as if the rookie is capable of picking apart a defense right now when the field is condensed. A much better bet is some combination of Ben Tate, rookie Terrance West and Manziel combining for 70-80 rushing attempts inside the 20 while the passing game falls back to its anemic pre-2013 totals (48 in 2012, 47 in 2011). Every Cleveland receiver and tight end is a dicey bet this season, especially once Manziel is named the starter.


 Dallas Cowboys
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Tony Romo 63 37 21 33.3 4 7.5 0 0
QB Kyle Orton 3 3 1 33.3
RB DeMarco Murray 39 73.6 9 23.1 7 10.6 5 1 20
RB Joseph Randle 6 11.3 2 33.3
RB Phillip Tanner 1 1.9 1 100
RB Lance Dunbar 2 3.8 0 0
WR Dez Bryant 20 30.3 13 10 76.9
WR Cole Beasley 7 10.6 6 2 33.3
WR Terrance Williams 1 1.9 0 0 9 13.6 4 2 50
WR Dwayne Harris 2 3 2 1 50
WR Miles Austin 1 1.5 1 0 0
TE Jason Witten 14 21.2 8 5 62.5
TE Gavin Escobar 4 6.1 1 1 100
TE James Hanna 1 1.5 0 0 0
2013 Totals 66 40 22 33.33% 53 100 12 22.64% 65 98.4 40 22 55.00% 55.46% 63.56% 44.54% 36.44%
2012 Totals 75 36 15 20.00% 40 100 7 17.50% 73 97.3 36 15 41.67% 65.22% 64.96% 34.78% 35.04%
2011 Totals 74 43 20 27.03% 60 99.9 4 6.67% 70 94.8 40 20 50.00% 55.22% 59.88% 44.78% 40.12%

Overview: Romo will probably never be mentioned among the top quarterbacks in the league for various reasons, but he was just a hair less efficient than Peyton Manning was in the red zone last year with fewer weapons. The one player who benefited the most from that was Bryant, who not only caught 65 percent of his red-zone targets but turned 76.5 percent of those receptions into touchdowns. (Among fantasy-relevant receivers, only Keenan Allen’s otherworldly 85.7 percent rate was better.) Witten has held pretty steady in the mid-teens in targets for all three years I had done this study, so the biggest change was the running game absorbing most of the targets Austin used to get. The most drastic improvement the Cowboys have in recent years is to the running game; last year’s 22.64-percent scoring mark is almost four times the rate at which they scored just two seasons ago.

How it affects 2014: Dallas has made a lot of strides in its ability to convert inside the 20 in recent years and much of it has to do with the emergence of Bryant as a consistent force. Witten continues to be underutilized in the red zone for reasons I cannot comprehend, but it is unlikely his targets are going to pick up with the increase of playing time the Cowboys expect to get out of Dunbar and Escobar. Given new OC Scott Linehan’s recent willingness to let it fly, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Dallas returned to being as unbalanced in the red zone as it was in 2012 (65.22% pass, 34.78% run), especially if Murray has trouble staying healthy once again.


 Denver Broncos
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Peyton Manning 110 79 37 33.6 5 7 1 20
RB Knowshon Moreno 33 46.5 8 24.2 10 9.1 9 2 22.2
RB Montee Ball 23 32.4 4 17.4 4 3.6 4 0 0
RB Ronnie Hillman 10 14.1 1 10 3 2.7 2 0 0
WR Wes Welker 23 20.9 18 9 50
WR Demaryius Thomas 19 17.3 13 7 53.8
WR Eric Decker 23 20.9 13 7 53.8
WR Andre Caldwell 4 3.6 2 2 100
TE Julius Thomas 17 15.5 14 8 57.1
TE Jacob Tamme 2 1.8 2 1 50
TE Joel Dreessen 3 2.7 1 1 100
TE Virgil Green 2 1.8 1 0 0
2013 Totals 110 79 37 33.64% 71 100 14 19.72% 110 99.9 79 37 46.84% 60.77% 59.42% 39.23% 40.58%
2012 Totals 82 47 27 32.93% 76 100 12 15.79% 80 97.5 46 26 56.52% 51.90% 55.01% 48.10% 44.99%
2011 Totals 45 23 11 24.44% 40 100 6 15.00% 45 100.1 23 11 47.83% 52.94% 53.69% 47.06% 46.31%

Overview: The Broncos scored more points than any other team in NFL history, so it should come as no surprise that just over one of every three passes Manning threw inside the 20 resulted in a score. Despite Manning’s history-making year, Decker and Demaryius Thomas were considerably less efficient than they were in 2012. However, the big takeaway from the numbers above was the success rate of the “Big Four” at catching red-zone passes (70.7 percent). Remove Decker and the percentage increases to 76.3 percent. While it is notable that Moreno was slightly more successful at scoring than Ball, it became clear around midseason that the 2013 second-round pick was starting to catch on to all the nuances of a Manning-led offense and was playing like it.

How it affects 2014: Since the offense was so good, it is probably not wise to expect any Denver player to be nearly as efficient as they were last season, if for no other reason than the Broncos will play four games against the NFC West. That nugget alone suggests the Broncos will probably not be in as many shootouts and will rely on their running game and improved defense to protect one-score leads as opposed to throwing a bone to the reserves in garbage time. Free-agent addition WR Emmanuel Sanders shouldn’t be expected to approach Decker’s 23 targets inside the 20 anytime soon, so it is quite possible that Demaryius and Julius Thomas each push 10 red-zone scores in 2014. Ball should be expected to be the workhorse and at least match Moreno’s 42 touches from last season, but look for C.J. Anderson to grow into the Ball of 2013 role – albeit with far less red-zone work.


 Detroit Lions
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Matthew Stafford 78 39 21 26.9 5 8.6 2 40
RB Joique Bell 22 37.9 8 36.4 4 5.1 3 0 0
RB Reggie Bush 28 48.3 3 10.7 7 9 4 2 50
RB Theo Riddick 1 1.7 1 100 1 1.3 0 0 0
WR Calvin Johnson 23 29.5 10 7 70
WR Nate Burleson 4 5.1 4 1 25
WR Kris Durham 11 14.1 5 2 40
WR Kevin Ogletree 3 3.8 2 1 50
WR Jeremy Ross 3 3.8 1 1 100
WR Ryan Broyles 1 1.3 0 0 0
TE Joseph Fauria 14 17.9 7 6 85.7
TE Brandon Pettigrew 7 9 4 2 50
2013 Totals 78 39 21 26.92% 56 96.5 14 25.00% 78 99.9 40 22 55.00% 58.21% 58.76% 41.79% 41.24%
2012 Totals 88 42 16 18.18% 56 98.3 16 28.57% 86 97.7 42 16 38.10% 61.11% 65.43% 38.89% 34.57%
2011 Totals 100 50 29 29.00% 50 100 8 16.00% 98 98 50 29 58.00% 66.67% 66.35% 33.33% 33.65%

Overview: In case it isn’t clear why Stafford hasn’t taken the next step into stardom, allow his red-zone numbers over the last three years to talk. Remove Shaun Hill’s 3-for-5 effort in 2012 from the totals and Stafford is a 49-percent passer inside the 20 since 2011. His critics will claim that is a poor reflection on him, especially since he has the game’s best receiver. His supporters might argue that Johnson is about the only constant he has enjoyed, with the likes of Jahvid Best, Ryan Broyles and Titus Young all being replaced for one reason or another. Last year was really the first time the Lions have enjoyed a somewhat reliable ground game in some time and/or had some degree of balance in their offense. And if it wasn’t clear why Bell emerged as the go-to guy down close, he turned 36.4 percent of his red-zone carries into touchdowns – one of only a handful of backs with significant carries last year to score at least a third of the time.

How it affects 2014: Stafford’s supporters won’t be able to blame his surrounding talent this season. Johnson won’t draw the same amount of attention as he has in past years simply because WR Golden Tate is a very good run-after-catch player. Rookie TE Eric Ebron may initially have more impact outside the 20, but defenses will be drawn to him in the red zone as well. And let’s not forget Fauria, who was wildly efficient in hauling scoring passes a season ago. The Lions will probably try to maintain run-pass balance as long as possible, but the matchups Stafford now has in his favor will probably force new OC Joe Lombardi to maintain about the same 58:42 ratio (and likely more lopsided than that) they did in 2013.


 Green Bay Packers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Aaron Rodgers 46 29 11 23.9 7 8.1 0 0
QB Scott Tolzien 13 5 0 0 1 1.2 1 100
QB Seneca Wallace 2 0 0 0
QB Matt Flynn 24 14 7 27.6 2 2.3 0 0
RB Eddie Lacy 49 57 11 22.4 4 4.6 4 0 0
RB James Starks 19 22.1 0 0 1 1.1 1 1 100
RB Johnathan Franklin 5 5.8 1 20 1 1.1 1 0 0
RB John Kuhn 3 3.5 1 33.3 4 4.6 3 0 0
WR Jordy Nelson 22 25.3 13 6 46.2
WR Jarrett Boykin 14 16.1 7 2 28.6
WR Randall Cobb 9 10.3 4 2 50
WR James Jones 13 14.9 8 2 25
WR Myles White 2 2.3 0 0 0
TE Jermichael Finley 4 4.6 4 3 75
TE Andrew Quarless 7 8 3 2 66.7
TE Ryan Taylor 1 1.1 1 0 0
TE Brandon Bostick 3 3.4 0 0 0
2013 Totals 85 48 18 21.18% 86 100 14 16.28% 85 97.4 49 18 36.73% 49.71% 55.39% 50.29% 44.61%
2012 Totals 66 41 24 36.36% 41 102.5 7 17.07% 65 98.4 41 24 58.54% 61.68% 56.31% 38.32% 43.69%
2011 Totals 90 57 31 34.44% 59 98.4 10 16.95% 87 96.5 57 31 54.39% 60.40% 60.02% 39.60% 39.98%

Overview: Much like the Lions’ breakdown above was an example of why Matthew Stafford’s erratic quarterback play, the 2013 Packers serve as solid proof as to why Rodgers is annually one of the best signal-callers in the NFL. Look at the completion and attempt totals for 2011, 2012 and Rodgers’ numbers in 2013; in each instance, his completion percentage is at least 62 percent. I find it noteworthy that despite playing in only six games, Cobb finished only four red-zone targets behind Jones and five shy of Boykin. For being the primary slot receiver, it is a bit odd that he managed to catch only four of nine passes inside the 20, but it much too small of a sample size with which to be overly concerned. Green Bay sought balance to its offensive and that is exactly what Lacy helped provide.

How it affects 2014: Last year was a bit of an aberration on multiple levels, but it seems pretty clear that Green Bay will be content to give Lacy plenty of red-zone work going forward. With that said, it is highly unlikely the Packers will ask him to log another 49 carries inside the 20 with a healthy Rodgers available. Nelson is a solid bet to remain in the low-20s in terms of red-zone targets while rookie WR Davante Adams could easily absorb many of Jones’ looks near the goal line. Early on, though, expect Cobb to see the biggest boost in red-zone targets and production.


 Houston Texans
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Matt Schaub 46 22 9 19.6 0 0 0
QB Case Keenum 14 6 5 35.7 3 5.8 1 33.3
QB T.J. Yates 4 1 0 0 0 0 0
RB Ben Tate 26 50 3 11.5 4 6.3 3 0 0
RB Arian Foster 14 26.9 1 7.1 3 4.7 1 1 100
RB Jonathan Grimes 2 3.8 1 50
RB Deji Karim 1 1.9 0 0
RB Greg Jones 1 1.9 0 0 2 3.1 0 0 0
RB Dennis Johnson 5 9.6 0 0 1 1.6 1 0 0
WR Andre Johnson 18 28.1 7 3 42.9
WR Keshawn Martin 5 7.8 3 2 66.7
WR DeAndre Hopkins 11 17.2 3 1 33.3
WR DeVier Posey 2 3.1 1 0 0
TE Garrett Graham 12 18.8 6 3 50
TE Owen Daniels 5 7.8 3 3 100
TE Ryan Griffin 1 1.6 1 1 100
2013 Totals 64 29 14 21.88% 52 99.9 6 11.54% 64 100.1 29 14 48.28% 55.17% 60.46% 44.83% 39.54%
2012 Totals 50 28 14 28.00% 92 100 18 19.57% 49 98 28 14 50.00% 35.21% 52.17% 64.79% 47.83%
2011 Totals 69 31 11 15.94% 101 97 16 15.84% 61 88.2 31 11 35.48% 40.59% 47.80% 59.41% 52.20%

Overview: There is really no getting around how awful it got for the Texans last season. The most noticeable difference came on the ground, where Houston ran nearly half as many times as it did just two years earlier (and wasn’t particularly effective at scoring when it did so). It seems almost unthinkable that Foster and Tate scored three rushing touchdowns on 40 red-zone rushes! Hopkins wasn’t used nearly enough for a first-round pick that showed a strong knack for making impressive catches in tight coverage. And while his lack of use was far from the only thing that went wrong for the Texans in 2013, it was only of the more noticeable shortcomings.

How it affects 2014: There seems to be a bit of mystery about the way the Texans are going about their business in that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was signed in part due to his experience in former Bills HC Chan Gailey’s spread attack, but most of the offseason moves suggest that Houston will try to win with the run and strong defense. The Texans should be much more effective running the ball at the very least, assuming that Andre Johnson eventually reports to camp and is around to keep the defense honest. Much will depend on the health of Foster, however. If the time Foster had off last season gave him sufficient time to recover from his workload over the previous three seasons, then the running game could reach pre-2013 levels in terms of effectiveness. If not, Houston will probably lose a lot of frustrating 17-14 type of ballgames.


 Indianapolis Colts
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Andrew Luck 70 33 14 20 10 20 4 40
QB Matt Hasselbeck 4 0 0 0
RB Trent Richardson 15 30 3 20 2 2.7 1 1 100
RB Donald Brown 13 26 5 38.5 5 6.8 4 1 25
RB Ahmad Bradshaw 9 18 2 22.2
RB Dan Herron 1 2 0 0
RB Stanley Havili 2 4 0 0
RB Chris Rainey 1 1.4 0 0 0
WR T.Y. Hilton 14 18.9 7 2 28.6
WR Griff Whalen 8 10.8 2 2 100
WR Reggie Wayne 7 9.5 3 2 66.7
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 9 12.2 2 1 50
WR LaVon Brazill 5 6.8 1 1 100
WR Da’Rick Rogers 3 4.1 2 1 50
WR David Reed 1 1.4 1 0 0
TE Coby Fleener 14 18.9 9 3 33.3
TE Weslye Saunders 1 1.4 0 0 0
TE Jack Doyle 2 2.7 1 0 0
2013 Totals 74 33 14 18.92% 50 100 14 28.00% 72 97.6 33 14 42.42% 59.68% 58.73% 40.32% 41.27%
2012 Totals 70 35 15 21.43% 61 100.1 11 18.03% 68 97 35 15 42.86% 53.44% 58.80% 46.56% 41.20%
2011 Totals 61 25 9 14.75% 47 100 7 14.89% 59 96.8 25 9 36.00% 56.48% 59.83% 43.52% 40.17%

Overview: As it turned out, first-year OC Pep Hamilton didn’t stray too far from former play-caller Bruce Arians in terms of offensive balance. Brown managed to save the rushing attack that Richardson’s addition was supposed to address, but with the University of Connecticut alum now in San Diego, the Colts must hope that all Richardson needed was a little more time acclimating himself to Indianapolis’ playbook and a couple of additions to the offensive line. Outside of that, it is hard to arrive at many other significant conclusions since Wayne was injured around midseason and Heyward-Bey was nearly useless. It is probably safe to say the Colts would prefer that Hilton doesn’t lead the team in red-zone targets again this year.

How it affects 2014: The addition of special assistant Rob Chudzinski should help Hamilton, the healthy return of TE Dwayne Allen should boost the rushing attack just like Wayne and free-agent signee WR Hakeem Nicks should be able to give the offense a bit more efficiency in the passing game. Of course, it will help if Hamilton learns from his rookie play-calling mistakes and allows Luck & Co. to start off fast and build a lead as opposed to putting his offense in a hole early by stubbornly sticking with a ground game when it isn’t working. Whether or not this offense is balanced in 2014 will depend almost entirely on Richardson. If he has an opportunity to get going, look for a run-pass ratios similar to the ones the Colts had in Arians’ final season – inside as well as outside the 20.


 Jacksonville Jaguars
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Chad Henne 68 29 10 14.7 4 10 0 0
QB Blaine Gabbert 7 0 0 0 1 2.5 0 0
RB Maurice Jones-Drew 1 1 1 100 26 65 5 19.2 6 7.9 4 0 0
RB Jordan Todman 8 20 2 25 2 2.6 0 0 0
RB Will Ta’ufo’ou 2 2.6 1 0 0
WR Cecil Shorts 14 18.4 3 2 66.7
WR Ace Sanders 9 11.8 5 1 20
WR Mike Brown 8 10.5 3 1 33.3
WR Kerry Taylor 2 2.6 1 1 100
WR Justin Blackmon 1 2.5 0 0 9 11.8 2 0 0
WR Stephen Burton 2 2.6 1 0 0
WR Jeremy Ebert 2 2.6 0 0 0
TE Marcedes Lewis 10 13.2 5 4 80
TE Clay Harbor 6 7.9 3 2 66.7
TE Allen Reisner 2 2.6 1 0 0
2013 Totals 76 30 11 14.47% 40 100 7 17.50% 74 97.1 29 11 37.93% 65.52% 61.03% 34.48% 38.97%
2012 Totals 69 34 13 18.84% 35 100 3 8.57% 65 99.8 33 12 36.36% 66.35% 62.08% 33.65% 37.62%
2011 Totals 50 22 9 18.00% 55 99.9 8 14.55% 50 100 22 9 40.91% 47.62% 51.20% 52.38% 48.80%

Overview: The Jaguars were held to 17 points or fewer 10 times last year, which should pretty much serve as an indication as to how unproductive they were inside the 20. Perhaps the most telling stat is the fact the running game (17.5 percent) was more efficient in scoring touchdowns than the passing game (14.47), which is sad on a number of levels. However, much of the blame for the passing game’s woes falls on the absence of Blackmon, who is just the type of big-bodied receiver that Jacksonville needs. On the bright side, the running game was more than twice as efficient as it was the previous season (8.57 percent in 2012).

How it affects 2014: When a team is as offensively-challenged as the Jaguars were last year, wholesale changes are generally made. In just one offseason, Jacksonville has acquired enough new parts that it could field different starters at most of the key skill positions (assuming first-round QB Blake Bortles overtakes Henne at some point), with Shorts and Lewis being the exceptions. The Jaguars should be noticeably better offensively all over the field, especially considering that rookie second-round WRs Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson will absorb most of the work that went to Ace Sanders, Mike Brown and Blackmon last year. It is probably a fair expectation that Shorts and Lewis will remain the two most prominent targets in the red zone in 2014, with Robinson likely finishing a close third.


 Kansas City Chiefs
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Alex Smith 74 45 16 21.6 13 18.1 1 7.7
QB Chase Daniel 2 2 1 50 1 1.4 0 0
RB Jamaal Charles 42 58.3 11 26.2 17 22.4 8 4 50
RB Knile Davis 9 12.5 4 44.4 3 3.9 2 0 0
RB Dexter McCluster 3 4.2 0 0 9 11.8 9 1 11.1
RB Cyrus Gray 2 2.8 0 0
RB Anthony Sherman 1 1.4 0 0 7 9.2 5 1 20
WR Dwayne Bowe 15 19.7 7 3 42.9
WR Junior Hemingway 2 2.6 2 2 100
WR Donnie Avery 4 5.3 3 1 33.3
WR Chad Hall 2 2.6 1 0 0
WR A.J. Jenkins 1 1.4 0 0 2 2.6 1 0 0
TE Anthony Fasano 11 14.5 7 3 42.9
TE Sean McGrath 3 3.9 2 2 100
2013 Totals 76 47 17 22.37% 72 100.1 16 22.22% 75 98.5 47 17 36.17% 51.35% 55.26% 48.65% 44.74%
2012 Totals 33 13 5 15.15% 50 100 5 10.00% 32 96.9 13 5 38.46% 39.76% 48.72% 60.24% 51.28%
2011 Totals 46 21 8 17.39% 50 98.2 3 6.00% 45 97.9 20 8 40.00% 47.92% 52.30% 52.08% 47.70%

Overview: HC Andy Reid has rarely ever received enough credit for the success his offenses have enjoyed, especially considering how often he has lacked high-quality receivers. Just about every category above saw a dramatic improvement from 2012 to 2013, so I’ll point out some of the more notable observations I made. The Chiefs ran 65 more red-zone plays (up from 83 in 2012), threw three fewer red-zone passes (76) than they had over the previous two seasons combined (79) and completed four more touchdowns passes inside the 20 (17) than they accumulated in 2011 and 2012 combined. However, the biggest change was in the running game, where Reid ditched the notion that Charles needed a goal-line back. Considering he scored 15 times on 50 red-zone touches, it is fair to say it was a success.

How it affects 2014: There is plenty of reason to believe this year may be more of a transition season than the smashing success that 2013 was. The offensive line underwent a number of significant changes and the Chiefs didn’t do much to improve their situation at receiver, which wasn’t exactly a strength last year. Thus, improvement will have to come from within, as in Smith becoming more efficient, Bowe using his changed offseason approach to return to his dominant ways or second-year TE Travis Kelce delivering on the promise that Reid believes he has. Charles will remain the centerpiece, of course, but asking him to repeat his 2013 success with less help up front and no improvements at the skill positions is a tall order.


 Miami Dolphins
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Ryan Tannehill 64 39 18 28.1 5 9.8 1 20
RB Daniel Thomas 24 47.1 4 16.7 6 9.4 5 2 40
RB Lamar Miller 18 35.3 2 11.1 5 7.8 4 0 0
RB Marcus Thigpen 3 4.7 3 1 33.3
RB Mike Gillislee 1 2 0 0
WR Brandon Gibson 7 10.9 5 3 60
WR Rishard Matthews 5 7.8 3 2 66.7
WR Mike Wallace 11 17.2 4 2 50
WR Brian Hartline 9 14.1 3 2 66.7
WR Ryan Spadola
TE Charles Clay 3 5.9 1 33.3 15 23.4 10 5 50
TE Dion Sims 1 1.6 1 1 100
TE Michael Egnew 1 1.6 1 0 0
2013 Totals 64 39 18 28.13% 51 100.1 8 15.69% 63 98.5 39 18 46.15% 55.65% 62.99% 44.35% 37.01%
2012 Totals 48 24 9 18.75% 54 100.1 12 22.22% 48 97.2 24 9 37.50% 47.06% 53.39% 52.94% 46.61%
2011 Totals 66 31 16 24.24% 65 99.8 9 13.85% 66 99.9 31 16 51.61% 50.38% 52.63% 49.62% 47.37%

Overview: The Dolphins’ offensive line was a nightmare, on and off the field. Miami performed well in light of that fact, but a potentially very good offensive unit was hijacked by the play-calling of former OC Mike Sherman. The most glaring mistake was the misuse of Wallace and the second most-obvious error was the degree to which Thomas and Miller shared touches. A case could have easily been made – and actually still could – that Thomas should have been a pure backup while Clay assumed short-yardage duties (if Sherman was firm in his belief that Miller was not physical enough). Tannehill was efficient enough in the red zone (61-percent passer, 28.1 percent of his attempts inside the 20 resulted in scores), although it would make a lot of sense to use his athletic ability a bit more when Miami finds itself inside the 10.

How it affects 2014: In all likelihood, ex-Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno will end up muddying the waters in the backfield in the same kind of way Thomas did last season. The one saving grace figures to be new OC Bill Lazor’s plan to install an up-tempo offense in the same image of the Philadelphia Eagles, whom he just left. It is anybody’s guess as to whether or not Miller will run with more physicality – at least to the point where the Dolphins are satisfied – but it seems to be a pretty good bet at the moment that Moreno (or maybe even Thomas) will get that the short-yardage and goal-line work. Lazor will probably opt to triple or quadruple Tannehill’s five red-zone rushing attempts from a season ago, meaning he should enjoy a considerable bump in fantasy value based on his running ability. Expect Clay to lead the team in red-zone targets again, with Wallace not far behind and rookie WR Jarvis Landry pushing Hartline for third place.


 Minnesota Vikings
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Christian Ponder 27 14 3 11.1 8 13.3 4 50
QB Matt Cassel 32 13 5 15.6 4 6.7 1 25
QB Josh Freeman 4 0 0 0
QB Joe Webb 2 3.2 0 0
RB Adrian Peterson 36 60 8 22.2 6 9.5 4 1 25
RB Matt Asiata 7 11.7 3 42.9 4 6.3 3 0 0
RB Toby Gerhart 5 8.3 1 20 3 4.8 2 0 0
WR Cordarrelle Patterson 12 19 6 3 50
WR Greg Jennings 11 17.5 7 2 28.6
WR Jerome Simpson 10 15.9 1 1 100
WR Jarius Wright 2 3.2 0 0 0
TE Rhett Ellison 3 4.8 2 1 50
TE Chase Ford 1 1.6 1 0 0
TE John Carlson 3 4.8 0 0 0
TE Kyle Rudolph 4 6.3 1 0 0
2013 Totals 63 27 8 12.70% 60 100 17 28.33% 61 96.9 27 8 29.63% 51.22% 56.35% 48.78% 43.65%
2012 Totals 69 41 17 24.64% 74 100 11 14.86% 68 98.2 41 17 41.75% 48.25% 49.85% 51.75% 50.15%
2011 Totals 59 38 14 23.73% 68 100 16 23.53% 58 98.5 38 14 36.84% 46.46% 55.51% 53.54% 44.49%

Overview: As embarrassing as the Jaguars’ 14.47-percent conversion rate was in the passing game last year, the Vikings’ mark (12.70) was even worse. Offensive balance is preferred in football, but it only makes a difference if the running and passing games can both hold their weight and it was one of the many missteps of ex-OC Bill Musgrave’s time as the play-caller. Another Musgrave “oversight” was the mindboggling decision to keep Patterson under wraps as long as he did. Despite that mistake, the rookie still led the team in red-zone targets.

How it affects 2014: As I have stated a time or two already this spring and summer, Minnesota improved its play-calling prowess exponentially when it landed Norv Turner to replace Musgrave. With Peterson at his disposal, Turner could very give his new stud back at least 50 red-zone carries – like Musgrave did during Peterson’s 2000-yard rushing season in 2012. Rudolph is the favorite to lead the Vikings in red-zone targets if he stays healthy, if only because the fourth-year tight end has proven to be such a strong threat in the end zone. Patterson will run a close second in all likelihood and it is fair to say that rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater – along with Turner’s play-calling – will greatly increase the Vikings’ efficiency inside the 20.


 New England Patriots
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Tom Brady 83 42 20 24.1 7 8.1 0 0
RB Stevan Ridley 31 36 7 22.6 1 1.2 1 0 0
RB LeGarrette Blount 24 27.9 4 16.7
RB Shane Vereen 7 8.1 1 14.3 12 14.5 7 3 42.9
RB Brandon Bolden 16 18.6 3 18.8
RB James Develin 1 1.2 1 100
WR Julian Edelman 23 27.7 15 5 33.3
WR Kenbrell Thompkins 10 12 5 4 80
WR Aaron Dobson 10 12 4 2 50
WR Danny Amendola 6 7.2 3 1 33.3
WR Josh Boyce 2 2.4 0 0 0
WR Austin Collie 1 1.2 0 0 0
TE Rob Gronkowski 8 9.6 5 3 60
TE M. Hoomanawanui 4 4.8 1 1 100
TE Matthew Mulligan 1 1.2 1 1 100
TE D.J. Williams 2 2.4 0 0 0
2013 Totals 83 42 20 24.10% 86 99.9 16 18.60% 80 96.2 42 20 47.62% 49.11% 57.19% 50.89% 42.81%
2012 Totals 81 49 24 29.63% 115 100 25 21.74% 80 98.7 49 24 48.98% 41.33% 55.07% 58.67% 44.93%
2011 Totals 99 57 29 29.29% 94 99 16 17.02% 98 99 57 29 50.88% 51.30% 59.52% 48.70% 40.48%

Overview: There is little doubt the Patriots have experienced a bit of a philosophical change in recent years and it is reflected in their play-calling inside the 20. While they didn’t come close to matching the number of plays they called over the past two seasons (169 in 2013 as opposed to 196 and 193 in 2012 and 2011, respectively), it had to be somewhat expected since Wes Welker departed while Amendola and Gronkowski weren’t able to stay healthy. Brady simply had way too many new faces to throw to last year. (There is no way Edelman should ever be targeted 23 times in the red zone…and I like the guy.)

How it affects 2014: Much will depend on how many games New England can get out of Gronkowski this season. If he plays at least 10 games, he’ll probably lead the team in red-zone targets. Similarly, if Ridley can ever go through a season without getting benched for fumbling, then he stands a really good chance at matching his 58 red-zone carries from 2012. Regardless of whether or not Gronkowski and Ridley spend significant time on the field or not, the safest bet – besides Edelman not going over 20 targets – is that Dobson will become a much more trusted option for Brady. It should come as no surprise if he nearly doubles his red-zone target total (with or without a healthy Gronkowski).


 New Orleans Saints
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Drew Brees 85 52 22 25.9 5 8.5 3 60
RB Pierre Thomas 23 39 2 8.7 10 11.8 10 2 20
RB Darren Sproles 10 16.9 2 20 8 9.4 5 1 20
RB Mark Ingram 13 22 1 7.7
RB Khiry Robinson 5 8.5 1 20
RB Travaris Cadet 1 1.2 1 1 100
RB Jed Collins 3 5.1 1 33.3 5 5.9 3 0 0
WR Marques Colston 15 17.6 8 3 37.5
WR Lance Moore 6 7.1 4 1 25
WR Nick Toon 2 2.4 0 0 0
WR Kenny Stills 2 2.4 1 0 0
TE Jimmy Graham 25 29.4 16 11 68.8
TE Benjamin Watson 4 4.7 2 2 100
TE Josh Hill 2 2.4 2 1 50
2013 Totals 85 52 22 25.88% 59 100 10 16.95% 80 94.3 52 22 42.31% 59.03% 62.48% 40.97% 37.52%
2012 Totals 96 60 31 32.29% 44 100 7 15.91% 94 97.9 60 31 51.67% 68.57% 64.46% 31.43% 35.54%
2011 Totals 96 62 30 31.25% 70 100 13 18.57% 94 97.9 62 30 48.39% 57.83% 61.41% 42.17% 38.59%

Overview: In case anyone needed more proof as to why Graham is a complete matchup nightmare, look no further than the fact that he caught 64 percent of the league-high 25 targets he received in the red zone last season (Tony Gonzalez was the only other tight end to receive as many as 20 targets) and converted them into touchdowns at a 68.8-percent clip. His efficiency – both at catching passes inside the 20 and turning them into scores – dwarfs that of Colston, who spends a significant amount of time in the slot and generally draws undersized nickel corners as a result. As a result, little figures to change from the passing game’s perspective. It is notable that Ingram (13 red-zone touches), who was drafted in part to be the short-yardage/goal-line hammer, finished significantly behind Thomas (33) and even behind Sproles (15). Additionally, he converted only one of those 13 carries into a touchdown – down significantly from his first two NFL seasons.

How it affects 2014: Although rookie WR Brandin Cooks is fully expected to assume the Sproles role in the Saints’ offense, it seems rather unlikely he’ll be used inside the 20 nearly as often as his predecessor. Thus, look for Thomas’ touches to stay about the same while Robinson absorbs some of his 23 red-zone carries as well as Sproles’ attempts. It should come as no surprise if Robinson emerges as the man in the red zone by the end of the season; his emergence will probably enable New Orleans to achieve the balance it has sought in recent years.


 New York Giants
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Eli Manning 54 25 7 13
QB Curtis Painter 2 0 0 0
RB Brandon Jacobs 10 22.7 4 40 1 1.8 0 0
RB Andre Brown 18 40.9 2 11.1 4 7.1 3 0 0
RB Peyton Hillis 10 22.7 2 20 4 7.1 1 0 0
RB David Wilson 4 9.1 1 25
RB Da’Rel Scott 2 4.5 0 0 2 3.6 2 0 0
RB John Conner 1 1.8 0 0
WR Victor Cruz 11 19.6 5 2 40
WR Rueben Randle 4 7.1 3 2 66.7
WR Louis Murphy 2 3.6 1 1 100
WR Jerrel Jernigan 2 3.6 2 0 0
WR Julian Talley 1 1.8 0 0 0
WR Hakeem Nicks 11 19.6 1 0 0
TE Brandon Myers 11 19.6 7 2 28.6
TE Larry Donnell 1 1.8 0 0 0
2013 Totals 56 25 7 12.50% 44 99.9 9 20.45% 55 98.1 25 7 28.00% 56.00% 59.81% 44.00% 40.19%
2012 Totals 83 37 18 21.69% 95 100.1 16 16.84% 82 98.8 37 18 48.65% 46.63% 56.86% 53.37% 43.14%
2011 Totals 71 36 15 21.13% 61 99.9 17 27.87% 71 100 36 15 41.67% 53.79% 60.02% 46.21% 39.98%

Overview: In the three years I have conducted this study, I have seen a few teams unable to crack 100 red-zone plays in a season. However, I’m not sure I ever recall a team running 78 fewer plays than it did the prior year (178 in 2012, 100 in 2013). The running game somehow was actually efficient at turning opportunities inside the 20 into touchdowns, but the passing game was absolutely horrid (12.5 percent, worst in the league). The offensive line deserves its fair share of blame because Manning consistently found himself throwing off his back foot, but it seems rather odd that (take a pick between Manning and former OC Kevin Gilbride) would allow a player like Myers to receive almost three times the number of red-zone targets as Randle.

How it affects 2014: HC Tom Coughlin has always believed in a strong running game, so look for the scoring output to get back to the level it reached in 2011 and 2012. Between the additions the team made in the offseason to the front five and backfield (particularly RBs Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams), New York could be primed for a comeback. If the running game delivers and players like LG Geoff Schwartz and/or rookie G/C Weston Richburg fit in well, it is possible that Manning could bounce back too, although he hasn’t exactly been the most accurate passer in the red zone (as the numbers in the first three columns at the bottom of the chart will attest). With no one emerging as a quality threat at tight end, the stage is set for Randle to see a huge increase in red-zone production. Cruz should see a slight bump as well and while rookie WR Odell Beckham Jr. will figure into the mix, Randle could easily push 18-20 red-zone targets if the offense gets back on track.


 New York Jets
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Geno Smith 44 19 7 15.9 11 20.4 6 54.5
QB Matt Simms 5 2 1 20
RB Chris Ivory 18 33.3 3 16.7 1 2 0 0
RB Bilal Powell 18 33.3 1 5.6 3 6.1 2 0 0
RB Tommy Bohanon 2 3.7 0 0 1 2 0 0
WR David Nelson 10 20.4 6 2 33.3
WR Jeremy Kerley 8 16.3 5 2 40
WR Santonio Holmes 4 8.2 1 0 0
WR Clyde Gates 1 2 0 0 0
WR Stephen Hill 5 10.2 0 0 0
WR Greg Salas 1 2 0 0 0
WR Josh Cribbs 1 1.9 0 0
TE Kellen Winslow 7 14.3 4 2 50
TE Jeff Cumberland 7 14.3 3 2 66.7
TE Zach Sudfeld 1 2 0 0 0
2013 Totals 49 21 8 16.33% 50 92.6 10 20.00% 49 99.8 21 8 38.10% 49.49% 49.33% 50.51% 50.67%
2012 Totals 48 20 11 22.92% 89 99.9 12 13.48% 49 102.2 20 12 19.57% 35.04% 49.95% 64.96% 50.05%
2011 Totals 79 42 21 26.58% 67 100 13 19.40% 79 101.4 42 21 50.00% 54.11% 56.99% 45.89% 43.01%

Overview: Taking the Bills, Giants and Jets into account, no one in the state of New York could brag about a great passing attack in 2013. At least as far as the Jets were concerned, however, it was to be expected. Smith caught a lot of heat for struggling in his rookie season, but when is the last time that any quarterback – much less a rookie from a college spread offense – performed well with such a dearth of talent at receiver? Kerley would make for a good slot receiver on a lot of teams and Nelson is a solid fourth receiver, but with all the quality young talent available at receiver nowadays, there is no way either player should be pressed into leading any NFL team in red-zone targets.

How it affects 2014: New WR Eric Decker has taken a fair number of jabs about not being a true No. 1 receiver, but he has proven himself to be a fine red-zone option. His addition to the receiving corps at least pushes Kerley and Nelson back into complementary roles while second-rounder TE Jace Amaro gives Smith a big target in the middle of the field with very good hands. Both Decker and Amaro should get the red-zone scoring rate back (which was 16.33 last year) up over 20 percent, making life dramatically easier for the running game. Free-agent signee RB Chris Johnson probably isn’t going to have a great deal of impact on the Jets’ conversion rates inside the 20, but it is possible that he will be able to get them into the red zone more often. That would be great news for Powell and particularly Ivory, who could thrive in a role where he is allowed to be as physical as he wants to be without regard for his own well-being.


 Oakland Raiders
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Matt McGloin 27 12 5 18.5 1 1.8 0 0
QB Terrelle Pryor 23 12 4 17.4 6 10.5 1 16.7
QB Matt Flynn 5 2 1 20 1 1.8 0 0
RB Darren McFadden 1 1 1 100 15 26.3 5 33.3 3 5.6 1 0 0
RB Rashad Jennings 26 45.6 5 19.2 1 1.9 1 0 0
RB Marcel Reece 6 10.5 1 16.7 10 18.5 5 1 20
RB Jeremy Stewart 2 3.5 1 50
WR Denarius Moore 10 18.5 4 3 75
WR Rod Streater 10 18.5 5 2 40
WR Andre Holmes 6 11.1 3 1 33.3
WR Juron Criner 2 3.7 0 0 0
WR Jacoby Ford 3 5.6 1 0 0
TE Mychal Rivera 7 13 5 3 60
TE Nick Kasa 2 3.7 1 1 100
2013 Totals 56 27 11 19.64% 57 100 13 22.81% 54 100.1 26 11 42.31% 49.56% 54.29% 50.44% 45.71%
2012 Totals 72 38 15 20.83% 46 99.9 3 6.52% 71 98.8 38 15 39.47% 61.02% 62.59% 38.98% 37.41%
2011 Totals 44 23 10 22.73% 69 99.9 14 20.29% 43 97.8 23 10 43.48% 38.94% 54.09% 61.06% 45.91%

Overview: After a pathetic showing in 2012, the Raiders’ running game was much more respectable at converting red-zone opportunities last season. Then again, it almost had to be after the Carson Palmer trade. It also bear mentioning that Reece, who saw only 80 touches overall, was one of the more popular targets inside the 20 on a team that had two receivers more than capable of using their size to win jump balls (Streater and Holmes) and two running backs that have proved capable of converting short-yardage opportunities (McFadden and Jennings). Somewhat surprisingly, Pryor was a bit more accurate that one may have guessed, although there was no noticeable difference in the team’s overall scoring when he was replaced by McGloin as the regular starter.

How it affects 2014: The Raiders seem to be tiring of Moore’s inconsistency, so with the addition of ex-Packers WR James Jones and the continued development of Streater and Holmes, it is highly unlikely he will lead the team in red-zone touchdown catches. Jones built his reputation as being one of the better options inside the 20 over the last two seasons in Green Bay, so expect him to pace Oakland in both categories by a fairly wide margin in 2014. Former Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew is hardly a downgrade to the departed Jennings, so it is quite feasible that he commands a bigger share of the red-zone pie and makes McFadden an afterthought after he seemed to fall out of favor last season. Given the size the Raiders now have at receiver, they should be more of a pass-heavy team inside the 20 unless new QB Matt Schaub completely falls on his face (again) and/or QB Derek Carr proves unready to take over for him if/when that happens.


 Philadelphia Eagles
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Nick Foles 37 26 16 43.2 15 20.3 3 20
QB Michael Vick 19 5 1 5.3 6 8.1 2 33.3
QB Matt Barkley 3 2 0 0
RB LeSean McCoy 38 51.4 5 13.2 5 8.3 5 1 20
RB Chris Polk 3 4.1 2 66.7
RB Bryce Brown 10 13.5 1 10
WR Riley Cooper 11 18.3 7 4 57.1
WR DeSean Jackson 1 1.4 0 0 10 16.7 6 3 50
WR Jason Avant 10 16.7 4 1 25
WR Jeff Maehl 1 1.7 1 1 100
WR Damaris Johnson 1 1.7 1 0 0
WR Brad Smith 1 0 0 0 1 1.4 0 0
TE Brent Celek 9 15 5 4 80
TE Zach Ertz 6 10 4 3 75
TE James Casey 2 3.3 0 0 0
2013 Totals 60 33 17 28.33% 74 100.2 13 17.57% 55 91.7 33 17 51.52% 44.78% 50.40% 55.22% 49.60%
2012 Totals 71 31 13 18.31% 54 100.1 9 16.67% 64 90.1 31 13 41.94% 56.80% 59.90% 43.20% 40.10%
2011 Totals 72 37 17 23.61% 85 100 17 20.00% 68 94.6 37 17 45.95% 45.86% 56.56% 54.14% 43.44%

Overview: The fact the Eagles ran more than they passed in the red zone should not come as a shock to anyone; the most surprising nugget I could find was that Philadelphia generated only nine more plays inside the 20 than it did in 2012 (134-125) and 23 fewer than it did in 2011. Whether it was by design or not, it is noteworthy that the speed-deficient Foles had 15 red-zone carries in just over half a season and that four receivers had at least nine red-zone targets. It falls right in line with the way HC Chip Kelly has typically conducted business; run a lot of plays, spread the field out as wide as possible and make the defense respect everyone.

How it affects 2014: The Eagles are going to be an interesting unit, even if their red-zone plans don’t change all that much. There is every possibility that Kelly will use former Saints RB Darren Sproles in the same backfield as McCoy inside the 20 to drive opposing defensive coordinators crazy and/or make Ertz the primary red-zone option. It should come as no surprise is Sproles finds a way to match the number of touches inside the 20 that he enjoyed last season in New Orleans (15), simply by taking on the touches left behind by Brown. Jeremy Maclin will likely absorb 60-70 percent of the red-zone targets left behind by the departures of Jackson and Avant, but look for Philadelphia to dramatically increase the number of plays it runs in the red zone as well, which will give players like Ertz (and Cooper to a lesser extent) more chances to use their size advantage.


 Pittsburgh Steelers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Ben Roethlisberger 90 48 18 20 4 7.1 1 25
RB Le’Veon Bell 48 85.7 8 16.7 11 12.2 8 0 0
RB Felix Jones 2 3.6 0 0 1 1.1 0 0
RB Isaac Redman 1 1.8 0 0 3 3.3 2 0 0
RB Will Johnson 3 3.3 2 1 50
RB Jonathan Dwyer 1 1.8 0 0 1 1.1 1 0 0
WR Jerricho Cotchery 17 18.9 9 8 88.9
WR Emmanuel Sanders 16 17.8 9 5 55.6
WR Antonio Brown 21 23.3 11 1 9.1
WR Derek Moye 1 1.1 1 1 100
WR Markus Wheaton 2 2.2 0 0 0
TE Heath Miller 8 8.9 4 1 25
TE Matt Spaeth 2 2.2 1 1 100
TE David Paulson 1 1.1 0 0 0
2013 Totals 90 48 18 20.00% 56 100 9 16.07% 87 96.5 48 18 37.50% 61.64% 59.80% 38.36% 40.20%
2012 Totals 73 40 20 27.40% 53 98.3 7 13.21% 69 94.4 40 20 50.00% 57.94% 58.22% 42.06% 41.78%
2011 Totals 58 28 15 25.86% 67 100.1 12 17.91% 58 99.9 28 15 53.57% 46.40% 57.24% 53.60% 42.76%

Overview: Perhaps in part due to the increased usage of no-huddle packages (as well as the number of times they found themselves trailing in games), the Steelers reeled off an impressive 146 red-zone plays in 2013. Pittsburgh didn’t exactly have “big” personnel in the passing game last year (Miller missed time with a knee injury at the start of the season and rarely looked right), so it didn’t make a ton of sense to have Roethlisberger pepper undersized receivers Brown and Sanders with targets. Eventually, common sense prevailed and Cotchery became the red-zone standout. Brown may have enjoyed his breakout year in 2013, but he managed to keep his reputation as a player that is mostly allergic to the end zone when the Steelers get inside the 20 (1-for-21).

How it affects 2014: With a healthy Miller, 6-4 rookie WR Martavis Bryant, a better effort up front under new OL coach Mike Munchak and an improved defense, there is a very good chance Pittsburgh won’t come close to repeating last year’s offensive imbalance. As a result, there should be no way that Brown and likely Sanders replacement Wheaton come close to the 37 red-zone targets Brown and Sanders combined for in 2013. Furthermore, it would come as a mild surprise if more than two – much less four receivers – hit double-digit targets inside the 20 this season. Although he isn’t the inside pounder his size suggests he should be, there is a good chance free-agent addition RB LeGarrette Blount will end up stealing in upwards of 15-20 percent of the red-zone carries Bell handled a season ago.


 San Diego Chargers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Philip Rivers 87 57 22 25.3 6 9.4 0 0
RB Danny Woodhead 18 28.1 2 11.1 21 24.1 19 5 26.3
RB Ryan Mathews 30 46.9 5 16.7 2 2.3 2 1 50
RB Ronnie Brown 10 15.6 1 10 2 2.3 2 0 0
RB Le’Ron McClain 1 1.1 1 0 0
WR Eddie Royal 14 16.1 11 6 54.5
WR Keenan Allen 19 21.8 7 6 85.7
WR Vincent Brown 8 9.2 6 1 16.7
WR Malcom Floyd 1 1.1 0 0 0
TE Antonio Gates 13 14.9 6 3 50
TE John Phillips 1 1.1 1 0 0
TE Ladarius Green 4 4.6 2 0 0
2013 Totals 87 57 22 25.29% 64 100 8 12.50% 86 98.6 57 22 38.60% 57.62% 52.82% 42.38% 47.18%
2012 Totals 61 40 18 29.51% 54 100 4 7.41% 57 93.4 39 18 46.15% 53.04% 56.23% 46.96% 43.77%
2011 Totals 64 30 14 21.88% 68 99.9 15 22.06% 60 93.8 30 14 46.67% 48.48% 58.40% 51.52% 41.60%

Overview: If there was any doubt the Chargers still had offensive line issues – and perhaps overachieved a bit in 2013 – look no further than their dreadful 12.5 RuTD% rate. Then again, Rivers proved he didn’t need a lot of help. Thanks to Woodhead filling the void that had been in San Diego since the departure of Darren Sproles, Royal basically catching every red-zone pass thrown his way and Allen scoring on just about every reception he collected inside the 20, the Chargers managed to get by last season.

How it affects 2014: The same recipe that served San Diego last season will have to work again since the team didn’t do much to address its shortcomings up front. Defenses will scheme more often to take away Allen and Gates is another year older, so either Royal will have to repeat his unsustainable 78.6 percent (11-of-14) red-zone catch rate or new OC Frank Reich will have to lean more heavily on the insanely-talented Green, which would be the preferred option. The 6-5 Floyd cannot be forgotten either since he was such a productive receiver inside the 20 in 2012 (four touchdowns on five red-zone catches). As for the running game, it should not come as a surprise if ex-Colts RB Donald Brown eats into Woodhead’s 19 red-zone catches or Mathews’ 30 red-zone carries (and likely both) while also absorbing all 12 of the touches left behind by Ronnie Brown. With Mathews and Woodhead both in the final year of their contracts, the future of the running back position could be Donald Brown and rookie Marion Grice, so the Chargers may do what they can to sneak a peek at that duo as the season progresses.


 Seattle Seahawks
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Russell Wilson 53 27 18 34 16 19.3 1 6.3
QB Tarvaris Jackson 1 0 0 0 1 1.2 1 100
RB Marshawn Lynch 56 67.5 12 21.4 4 7.4 3 2 66.7
RB Spencer Ware 3 3.6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
RB Michael Robinson 1 1.9 0 0 0
RB Derrick Coleman 1 1.9 1 1 100
RB Christine Michael 1 1.2 0 0
RB Robert Turbin 4 4.8 0 0 1 1.9 1 0 0
WR Doug Baldwin 1 1.2 0 0 8 14.8 5 4 80
WR Golden Tate 7 13 4 3 75
WR Jermaine Kearse 10 18.5 5 1 20
WR Sidney Rice 5 9.3 1 1 100
TE Zach Miller 10 18.5 6 5 83.3
TE Kellen Davis 1 1.9 1 1 100
2013 Totals 54 27 18 33.33% 82 98.8 14 17.07% 48 89.1 27 18 66.67% 39.71% 45.21% 60.29% 54.79%
2012 Totals 62 35 18 29.03% 72 100 11 15.28% 56 90.5 35 17 48.57% 46.27% 43.04% 53.73% 56.96%
2011 Totals 50 25 9 18.00% 57 100.1 12 21.05% 50 100 25 9 36.00% 46.73% 49.85% 53.27% 50.15%

Overview: It is not always important that a team pass a lot in the red zone, but it sure helps when it is efficient with its opportunities. Exactly one-third of Wilson’s pass attempts inside the 20 ended up in scores while exactly two-thirds of his completions ended up the same way. For a team that played so much of its season without its top receiving threat (Percy Harvin) and lacks a Jimmy Graham-type of size mismatch at receiver or tight end, that is stunning efficiency and a testament to just how good Wilson is. A fair amount of credit belongs to Lynch and the level of respect he commands, but one has to believe the Seahawks has no intention for Kearse and Miller to lead the team again in red-zone targets.

How it affects 2014: The Seahawks have clearly established themselves as an offense that will win the physical battle more often than not, so there is no reason to think the return of Harvin or drafting of rookie WR Paul Richardson is going to change that dramatically. Seattle would probably prefer to keep its run-pass ratio about the same, so I suspect the biggest differences in this year’s red-zone numbers will come as a result of Michael stealing about 15 touches from Lynch and Baldwin becoming more of a consistent factor inside the 20 (particularly if Harvin continues to have trouble staying on the field). Seattle may also encourage Wilson to run less, but he’ll probably get more opportunities to pass in 2014 than he has enjoyed over his first two seasons.


 San Francisco 49ers
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Colin Kaepernick 51 29 15 29.4 9 9.8 3 33.3
QB Colt McCoy 3 3.3 0 0
RB Frank Gore 57 62 8 14 2 3.9 2 0 0
RB Kendall Hunter 11 12 2 18.2
RB Anthony Dixon 8 8.7 2 25
RB Bruce Miller 3 3.3 0 0 7 13.7 3 0 0
WR Anquan Boldin 1 1.1 0 0 13 25.5 10 6 60
WR Michael Crabtree 5 9.8 2 1 50
WR Jon Baldwin 2 3.9 0 0 0
WR Kyle Williams 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1.3 0 0 0
TE Vernon Davis 18 35.3 11 8 72.7
TE Vance McDonald 1 2 1 0 0
2013 Totals 51 29 15 29.41% 92 100.2 15 16.30% 49 95.4 29 15 51.72% 35.66% 45.23% 64.34% 54.77%
2012 Totals 46 26 13 28.26% 83 100 14 16.87% 46 100 26 13 50.00% 35.66% 46.98% 64.34% 53.02%
2011 Totals 61 25 9 14.75% 81 98.7 13 16.05% 61 99.9 25 9 36.00% 42.96% 55.73% 57.04% 44.27%

Overview: Gore may have been in clear decline last season, although one might not be able to tell from the fact that he received one less opportunity in the red zone (59 touches) than Kaepernick (60 combined throws and runs). Only the Buffalo Bills were more run-heavy in the red zone in 2013 as the Niners continued their three-year trend under HC Jim Harbaugh and OC Greg Roman of bludgeoning their opponents inside the 20. The other notable observation to make is how much more Davis was a part of the red-zone gameplan in 2013: he was targeted 18 times after combining for a mere 13 targets over the previous two years.

How it affects 2014: San Francisco is unlikely to change its smash-mouth philosophy much under Harbaugh and Roman, but it is clear the team is going to embrace the idea of putting more on Kaepernick’s plate going forward. The Niners not only protected themselves against injury at receiver by trading for ex-Bill Steve Johnson, signing Brandon Lloyd and drafting Bruce Ellington, but they also gave themselves the opportunity to spread defenses out to allow Kaepernick to use his incredible running ability more often. Gore is probably the most likely candidate of any running back in the league to see his touches – especially inside the 20 – cut in half as second-rounder Carlos Hyde and maybe even Marcus Lattimore attempt to show they are ready to be the man in the next year or two. Crabtree was the team’s favorite red-zone target in 2011 and 2012, so it is a pretty good bet that he’ll overtake Davis again, although it should come as no surprise if both players are running neck-and-neck for top honors this year.


 St. Louis Rams
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Sam Bradford 40 18 13 32.5 4 6 0 0
QB Kellen Clemens 34 16 5 14.7 4 6 0 0
RB Zac Stacy 39 58.2 6 15.4 4 5.4 3 1 33.3
RB Benny Cunningham 9 13.4 1 11.1
RB Daryl Richardson 8 11.9 0 0
RB Isaiah Pead 3 4.5 0 0 5 6.8 1 0 0
WR Austin Pettis 8 10.8 4 3 75
WR Brian Quick 11 14.9 5 2 40
WR Tavon Austin 10 13.5 4 2 50
WR Stedman Bailey 2 2.7 1 0 0
WR Chris Givens 12 16.2 1 0 0
TE Jared Cook 11 14.9 7 5 71.4
TE Lance Kendricks 9 12.2 6 4 66.7
TE Cory Harkey 2 2.7 2 1 50
2013 Totals 74 34 18 24.32% 67 100 7 10.45% 74 100.1 34 18 52.94% 52.48% 54.29% 47.52% 45.71%
2012 Totals 61 33 13 21.31% 39 100 5 12.82% 61 98.5 34 14 41.18% 61.00% 57.60% 39.00% 42.40%
2011 Totals 43 13 5 11.63% 29 99.8 6 20.69% 42 97.8 13 5 38.46% 59.72% 59.62% 40.28% 40.38%

Overview: Progress probably isn’t coming fast enough for Rams fans, although St. Louis only needs to turn back the page two seasons ago how bad the offense was before HC Jeff Fisher and OC Brian Schottenheimer got there. The 2013 Rams nearly doubled the number of red-zone plays (141) they ran only two years earlier (72). Of course, much work needs to be done as only the Cleveland Browns (7.69 percent) converted a lower percentage of their red-zone carries into touchdowns than St. Louis (10.45), but most of the blame for that falls upon a lack of talent and health along the offensive line, a potentially very good quarterback that has trouble staying in the lineup and a division where it is difficult to buy a break.

How it affects 2014: It might be fair to say the only players St. Louis wants coming anywhere close to their 2013 red-zone totals are Stacy, Pettis and Cook. Stacy remains the heavy favorite to carry the load in the backfield and figures to hold off rookie RB Tre Mason for red-zone duties while Pettis has emerged as Bradford’s most trusted option, so 10-12 targets is not unreasonable for him. Along with newcomer WR Kenny Britt, Cook gives the Rams their most obvious athletic mismatches in the passing game. With three pretty clear-cut passing-game options inside the 20, it seems unlikely Quick, Austin or Givens should be expected to reach double-figure red-zone targets again in 2014.


 Tampa Bay Bucs
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Mike Glennon 47 22 12 25.5
QB Josh Freeman 9 2 2
RB Doug Martin 6 18.2 1 16.7 2 3.5 0 0 0
RB Mike James 1 1 1 100 9 27.3 0 0
RB Bobby Rainey 15 45.5 3 20 3 5.3 3 1 33.3
RB Erik Lorig 1 1.8 1 0 0
RB Brian Leonard 3 9.1 0 0 4 7 1 0 0
WR Vincent Jackson 18 31.6 8 4 50
WR Mike Williams 7 12.3 4 2 50
WR Tiquan Underwood 4 7 1 1 100
WR Eric Page 2 3.5 0 0 0
TE Timothy Wright 9 15.8 4 4 100
TE Tom Crabtree 1 1.8 1 1 100
2013 Totals 57 25 15 26.32% 33 100.1 4 12.12% 51 89.6 23 13 56.52% 63.33% 55.03% 36.67% 44.97%
2012 Totals 71 39 20 28.17% 66 100 8 12.12% 70 98.6 39 20 51.28% 51.82% 57.64% 48.18% 42.36%
2011 Totals 65 39 13 20.00% 30 99.9 6 20.00% 65 100 39 13 33.33% 68.42% 64.18% 31.58% 35.82%

Overview: Tampa Bay ran fewer red-zone plays than any other team in 2013 (90) and 47 fewer than it did the previous season (137). Another noteworthy nugget is the identical RuTD% in each of the last two years, suggesting that while the 2012 Bucs possessed a more fearsome rushing attack, they weren’t any better when it came to converting red-zone opportunities into scores. It is probably one of the main reasons that a team that only had one true weapon in the passing game (Jackson) opted to throw the ball over 63 percent of the time inside the 20.

How it affects 2014: Given all the big new toys Tampa Bay added on offense this offseason, it might not be a bad idea to repeat last year’s pass-happy ways in the red zone. We can safely assume the Bucs will run more plays inside the 20 in 2014, so it is feasible that Jackson comes close to matching last year’s 18 targets since the Bucs didn’t do much to address their running game besides adding another running back in Charles Sims. Rookie WR Mike Evans should easily absorb the 11 targets left behind by Williams and Underwood (and then some) while TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Wright probably fight for the scraps. Martin is still the man in the backfield for Tampa Bay, but he’s a longshot to approach the 55 red-zone touches he managed as a rookie in 2013 anytime soon. Considering the pasts of new OC Jeff Tedford and HC Lovie Smith, it may actually be too much to ask Martin to approach 40.


 Tennessee Titans
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 41 25 8 19.5 8 12.1 3 37.5 1 1.8 1 0 0
QB Jake Locker 15 9 5 33.3 4 6.1 2 50
RB Chris Johnson 33 50 5 15.2 6 10.7 5 1 20
RB Shonn Greene 13 19.7 3 23.1 1 1.8 1 0 0
RB Jackie Battle 8 12.1 1 12.5 1 1.8 1 0 0
WR Kendall Wright 8 14.3 7 2 28.6
WR Michael Preston 3 5.4 2 2 100
WR Justin Hunter 4 7.1 2 1 50
WR Nate Washington 5 8.9 4 1 25
WR Kenny Britt 6 10.7 0 0 0
TE Delanie Walker 17 30.4 10 5 50
TE Taylor Thompson 1 1.8 1 1 100
TE Craig Stevens 1 1.8 0 0 0
2013 Totals 56 34 13 23.21% 66 100 14 21.21% 54 96.5 34 13 38.24% 45.90% 53.57% 54.10% 46.43%
2012 Totals 50 23 10 20.00% 34 99.9 7 20.59% 50 100 23 10 43.48% 59.52% 58.82% 40.48% 41.18%
2011 Totals 62 35 15 24.19% 35 100.1 7 20.00% 59 95.1 35 15 42.86% 63.92% 61.79% 36.08% 38.21%

Overview: There are two major takeaways from the red-zone information provided above for the 2013 Titans: 1) Walker clearly was the most trusted option and 2) even in a year in which Britt was benched for a large part of the season, he somehow managed to accumulate more red-zone targets than Hunter (and only two fewer than Wright). Tennessee created more opportunities inside the 20 last year (122 plays as opposed to 84 in 2012 and 97 in 2011), but wasn’t really much more successful at converting them into touchdowns. Surprisingly, the Titans’ quarterbacks did a fair job of completing passes inside the 20 (combined 60.7 percent).

How it affects 2014: Hunter figures to be a much bigger piece of Tennessee’s attack all over the field this season, but particularly in the red zone, so he is a candidate to push Walker in that category. While it is pure speculation that Wright is going to be new HC Ken Whisenhunt’s new Keenan Allen, there is no reason that a player able to catch 94 passes in his second season in the league isn’t capable of receiving more than eight targets inside the 20. Johnson’s RuTD% did not eclipse 16.7 percent in his final three years with the team, so the Titans can probably expect better results there going forward. Rookie RB Bishop Sankey may not have been the best inside runner available in May’s draft, but he’ll be an upgrade on Johnson in that regard. He’s unlikely to turn 23.1 percent of his red-zone carries into touchdowns like Greene did in 2013, however.


 Washington Redskins
Pos Player Att Comp PaTD PaTD % RuAtt RuAtt % RuTD RuTD % Tar Tar % Rec ReTD ReTD % RZ Pass % Pass % RZ Run % Run %
QB Robert Griffin III 55 27 12 21.8 10 17.2 0 0
QB Kirk Cousins 10 5 2 20 1 1.7 0 0
RB Alfred Morris 32 55.2 5 15.6 1 1.5 0 0 0
RB Roy Helu 8 13.8 4 50 1 1.5 1 0 0
RB Evan Royster 1 1.7 0 0
RB Darrel Young 5 8.6 3 60 2 3.1 1 0 0
WR Pierre Garcon 19 29.2 8 4 50
WR Leonard Hankerson 6 9.2 4 2 50
WR Santana Moss 7 10.8 3 2 66.7
WR Aldrick Robinson 2 3.1 1 0 0
WR Nick Williams
WR Josh Morgan 1 1.7 0 0 1 1.5 1 0 0
TE Jordan Reed 7 10.8 6 3 50
TE Logan Paulsen 11 16.9 4 3 75
TE Fred Davis 3 4.6 2 0 0
TE Niles Paul 3 4.6 1 0 0
2013 Totals 65 32 14 21.54% 58 99.9 12 20.69% 63 96.8 32 14 43.75% 52.85% 57.42% 47.15% 42.58%
2012 Totals 44 28 12 27.27% 85 100.1 19 22.35% 42 95.3 28 12 42.86% 34.11% 45.99% 65.89% 54.01%
2011 Totals 77 45 15 19.48% 57 100 5 8.77% 77 100.1 45 15 33.33% 57.46% 61.24% 42.54% 38.76%

Overview: It should come as no surprise that Griffin had significantly less red-zone rushing attempts in 2012 (21) than he did in 2013 (10) as a result of his knee holding him back, but one of the key differences was that he scored six times inside the 20 two years ago and zero times last year. The fact the Redskins were generally behind also sunk Morris, who converted only five of his 32 chances inside the red zone in 2013 after going 11-for-52 in his rookie season. Garcon’s 19 targets were to be expected, but there is no way Washington wants Paulsen to rank second in any kind of targets ever again.

How it affects 2014: There is a misconception that new HC (and play-caller) Jay Gruden is decidedly pass-heavy. That may or may not be true, although his personnel in Washington should favor that, so a run-pass ratio similar to the one the team had in 2011 (77:57) could be in order. In light of his talented passing-game contributors, it does seem likely that Gruden will be less patient with the run than predecessor Mike Shanahan ever was, so expect a sub-20 percent RuTD% and a PaTD% closer to the mark of the 2012 team (27.27). Garcon and Reed should be lead the team in red-zone targets, catches and touchdowns by a wide margin this season if they can stay healthy, which should in turn set Morris up for bounce-back season if the Redskins get any kind of help from their defense. However, a repeat of his 53-touch rookie season is probably out of the question in Gruden’s offense.

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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and has been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He has hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday over the past two seasons and appears as a guest analyst before and during the season on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive” as well as 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C). Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.