Bengal Quick Takes: Receiving acrobatics

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
9:00
AM ET
If you've been following along on our Cincinnati Bengals blog all this summer, you've seen a lot of statistics.

You will continue seeing your share of advanced statistics here, and you'll get a chance to read some of the breakdowns that go along with them. Our "Bengals factoid" series will end next week when the veritable bow will be tied on 2013 and other past seasons. Starting July 24, when the Bengals open training camp, the only stats that will matter are those yet on the horizon. A new year is beginning.

As we keep looking back at last season, though, we ought to take a look at this really intriguing item from Football Outsiders' Scott Kacsmar. In this lengthy blog post from last week, Kacsmar breaks down catch radius (i.e., the area around a receiver that he uses to make a catch). He found through hours of game-film watching that the Bengals' top two receivers consistently had wider catch radii than most others. A.J. Green and Marvin Jones were among the league's most prolific at catching balls over their heads, diving for others and catching others still that weren't thrown to their chests or heads.

Green
Jones
It's possible to view Kacsmar's evaluation as a critique of quarterback Andy Dalton, using it to say he had trouble hitting his receivers in the bread basket every time. It's also possible to view the evaluation in a different light, using it to say Dalton knew what he was doing and was simply putting the ball in the only spot where he felt his receiver could catch it without a defender getting in the way.

As is the case with all statistics, it's important to keep game situations in mind. Perhaps some of the more acrobatic receptions were the result of Dalton finding his receivers the best way he knew how simply because the down, distance and quarter dictated he throw into the spots he did. Then again, the fairly high rate of those slightly wide throws indicates that maybe the situations didn't really matter. Perhaps Dalton's accuracy was simply something the likes of Green and Jones helped mask.

Again, not every throw is designed to hit a receiver in the chest, open or not. But it is interesting to note that Kacsmar's findings show that just 56.9 percent of the passes Jones caught last season were caught around his chest. Of Green's 98 catches last year, 44.9 percent were caught in his chest area, Kacsmar said.

Compare those numbers to the 2011 and 2012 versions of Mike Wallace who, when he was in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger, caught 76.0 and 79.6 percent of his passes in chest, respectively. Maybe Wallace ran routes that got him open more often? Maybe Dalton knows that athleticism and acrobatic play are such a part of Green's and Jones' game that he can put the ball in a spot where they have to stretch for it a little more than other receivers? Or maybe accuracy really was an issue for Dalton last year (he did have a career-high 20 interceptions and he's focused this summer on bettering his mechanics)?

Regardless of your take on Dalton's passing ability, it's worthwhile to check out Kacsmar's extensive research. It certainly shows the value Green and Jones have to the Bengals' passing game. Who knows? Maybe this will help them earn a few extra dollars when negotiations begin on their next deals. Green's fifth-year option was exercised this spring. After it ends in 2015, he could get franchise tagged for 2016 if a long-term deal hasn't been reached by then. Jones is signed through 2015. His single-season cap value maxes out at $700,700 on the final year of the contract. If he plays in 2014 the way he did in 2013, he may force the Bengals into giving him a seven-figure payday next offseason.

Let's take a brief look at a couple other Quick Takes:

More on Jones. My gut believes Jones will have another strong year as the Bengals' No. 2 receiver behind Green. My gut also thinks you ought to prepare for a resurgence from Mohamed Sanu, though. After having a mostly two-man tandem at wideout last season, I'm thinking we'll see more of a three-man group in 2014. That said, how good of a year can Jones have? Would he be worth the fantasy value? I'd defer first to ESPN's fantasy football guru, Matthew Berry, for an answer, but Numberfire.com happened to share a few thoughts on the matter Monday. Let's just say this: The site isn't expecting Giovani Bernard to be the only Bengal to have fantasy value this season.

Letting kids play. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner Jr. had his own solid read over the weekend with this item concerning the concussion issue and what parents should consider as they start debating letting their kids play this fall. He spoke with a few Bengals players who shared their thoughts on when will be the appropriate time to let their children play -- if they even let them play. I should note that ESPN.com asked a similar question to Hall of Famers at a gathering back in May in Cleveland. The results of that survey will be published later this summer.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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