Stats & Info: Mike Tolbert

How Broncos muscled up to help Manning

March, 28, 2012
With the hoopla surrounding Peyton Manning's decision and the subsequent trade of Tim Tebow, it may have been easy to overlook some of the lower profile free-agent signings.

ESPN Stats and Information took notice, collecting the best tidbits on how some these low profile signings can make a big impact.

TE Joel Dreessen and TE Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos
Dreessen has made catches on 72 percent of the passes targeted for him the last three seasons. Among tight ends with 100 attempts, Dreessen’s reception percentage ranks tied for second with Antonio Gates and trails only Jason Witten. Together, Dreessen and Tamme have 93 more receptions, 1,055 more yards and 12 more touchdowns than all Broncos tight ends over the past two seasons.

WR Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots
Over the last two seasons, tight end Rob Gronkowski and 5-foot 9-inch wide receiver Wes Welker have been the Patriots’ top two targets on throws that traveled more than 20 yards in the air.
Not only does Lloyd have the most receptions (27) on such throws the past two seasons, he has almost single-handedly out-produced the entire Patriots receiving corps (see chart).

WR Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers
Royal will bring a new dimension to the Chargers' offense. Over the last four seasons he has 158 receptions within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, twice as many as the top Chargers wide receiver over that time (Vincent Jackson, 74). In 2009, Jackson had 28 such receptions, the most in a season by a Chargers wide receiver since 2008. Royal has averaged nearly 40 such receptions per season, with a single-season high of 69 in 2008.

FB Lawrence Vickers, Dallas Cowboys
The Houston Texans picked up 5.2 yards per rush last season when Vickers was the fullback, compared to 3.0 yards per rush with James Casey at fullback. Only Ryan D'Imperio of the Vikings (5.8) and former Cowboys fullback Tony Fiammetta (5.6) had more yards per rush behind them last season.

RB Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
The Bears picked up 28 rushing first downs when needing 3 yards or less last season, the second-fewest in the NFL. Bush picked up 34 first downs in such situations last season, second-most in the NFL.

RB Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers
Tolbert may have been acquired to give Cam Newton a rest. Last season, Newton had 39 rushes inside the red zone, three times as many as the next highest quarterback. Tolbert is one of nine runners with 20 or more rushing touchdowns in the red zone over the last three seasons.

OL Adam Snyder, Arizona Cardinals
Adam Snyder

Snyder took on full-time duty at right guard for the 49ers in Week 3 last season, replacing Chilo Rachal. Snyder’s impact on the line turned out to be a big one. With Snyder in the lineup, the 49ers averaged 4.6 yards per rush and allowed a sack about 8 percent of the time. With Richal in the lineup, the 49ers averaged 3.2 yards per play and allowed a sack almost 13 percent of the time.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt LudtkeDepite only two career starts, Matt Flynn is likely going to be some team's starting QB in 2012.
After having the best season of his career, Alex Smith is expected to re-sign with the San Francisco 49ers.

One question about the former No. 1 overall pick is whether Smith can replicate what he did in 2011 on an annual basis. The question facing Matt Flynn, another quarterback about to hit the open market, is can he perform at a high level from week-to-week.

Aaron Rodgers' backup the last four seasons, Flynn has made only two starts. However, he threw for 731 yards in those two starts -- only Cam Newton threw for more yards in his first two starts in NFL history.

From 2008-10, Flynn completed less than half of his passes outside the field numbers (17-36). In 2011, Flynn was 14-of-19 on throws outside the numbers.

There are several big-name receivers in this year’s free agent class. Reggie Wayne is one of them, and while he’s been linked to whatever team Peyton Manning signs with, he will be a valuable addition wherever he goes.

Not only does Wayne lead the NFL in receptions, yards and touchdowns since 2003, but he’s started 145 consecutive regular-season games, the third-longest active streak by an offensive player.

Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson are big targets who are reliable and can stretch the field.

Since his rookie season in 2006, Colston ranks among the NFL’s top 10 in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. He’s also had at least 1,000 yards receiving in five of his six seasons. (Randy Moss is the only player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first six seasons.)

Jackson became one of the best deep threats in seven seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Since 2008, Jackson’s 18.0 yards per reception is third in the NFL (minimum 100 receptions), and his 37 receptions on throws longer than 20 yards downfield ranks fourth in the NFL.

Vincent Jackson
Colston caught nearly 77 percent of his targets last season, the best percentage among any wide receiver in the league (minimum 50 targets).

Jackson’s teammate with the Chargers, Mike Tolbert, is one of a handful of running backs who might be looking elsewhere in order to find more playing time.

Sharing time with Ryan Mathews, Tolbert has 19 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons, including a league-high 10 one-yard scores. And in 2011, no player had more rushing touchdowns up the middle than Tolbert’s six (Newton and Ray Rice also had six).

If Colston goes elsewhere, he might not even be the Saints biggest loss this offseason. Free agent Carl Nicks played every offensive snap last season, including playoffs, all at left guard. The Saints averaged 6.6 yards per rush to the left last season, second-best in the NFL.