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Monday, September 26, 2011
Bye week grades: wide receivers

By Kevin Gemmell

Part seven of the ongoing report card for the Stanford Cardinal during the bye week (and spilling over a little into this week).

WIDE RECEIVERS

Grade: B-

Summary: There is nothing "wrong" with the wide receivers. Chris Owusu is an outstanding athlete and by all testimony of his teammates, the fastest player on the team. Makes sense that he can stretch the field. But there has been more than one occasion where coach David Shaw has said "he should have caught that."

As reported earlier in an analysis of how quarterback Andrew Luck is distributing the football, the wide receivers have been targeted 40 times, but have 24 catches. Part of this makes sense, because wide receivers will traditionally run longer routes. But the tight ends are also running long routes and have been the more efficient receiving group.

If Luck were targeting the tight ends more than the wide receivers, you could make a case for the low production. But as Shaw noted, there have been some drops that have contributed to that. It isn't all on them. Luck has thrown a few balls that, as he likes to say, "I'd like to have back."

Owusu leads the team with 16 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown. And 14.2 yards per reception is a very solid total. Opposite Owusu, Griff Whalen has six catches for 72 yards. He's been targeted 12 times, but has just six catches.

The Cardinal are doing a good job moving the ball through the air. Luck averages 262 yards per game and is completing 67.1 percent of his passes. The Cardinal have more rushing attempts than passing attempts, and with the lopsided scores in the first three games, there hasn't been a big need to throw the ball a ton. However, he's only completing 60 percent of his balls to wide receivers, yet 66.6 percent to his tight ends. The production doesn't match the effort Luck is putting in to get his receivers the ball.

Shaw was recently asked if it's important for Luck to have a No. 1 guy to throw to. It's clear Owusu is the No. 1 guy -- at least that's what the targets say. But Shaw noted that having balance in the passing game -- i.e. not being predictable -- is just as important as being balanced in the running game.

It should be noted also that Owusu and Whalen have done a good job as blockers -- something that often gets overlooked from wide receivers.

So in summary, the wide receivers haven't played "poorly" by any means. They just aren't as efficient as the tight ends. For the amount of looks they are getting from Luck, their number of catches should be higher.

Backups: Not a lot of action from the guys behind Owusu and Whalen. Jamal Rashad-Patterson has two catches for 16 yards, Ty Montgomery has one catch for nine yards, and Drew Terrell has one catch for four yards. Montgomery also has one rush for eight yards.

Previous report cards:

Quarterbacks

Defensive line

Offensive line

Linebackers

Running backs/Fullbacks

Tight ends