There are a lot of NFL stats and lists that come out around this time every year.
It makes sense because it’s the slowest time of the NFL calendar as coaches, players, and support staffs around the league take their vacations and relax before they all have to report to training camp in about a month.
So, there’s a lot of stuff that’s put out there in this regard, but in the case of stats, there aren’t normally a lot of new stats that are released. It’s a lot of re-packaged stuff that we’ve seen before.
It’s not like games are being played with new numbers to include and so most of the stats are stuff that’s already been put out there before.
But in a recent article over at Pro Football Focus titled, “Top NFL receivers by WR Rating against press and off-man coverage,” there’s definitely something that stood out about the Kansas City Chiefs that hasn’t been discussed yet.
There’s a simple thought that guys like Tyreek Hill, and now Sammy Watkins, won’t see a lot of press coverage simply because of their speed and the threat of them running past a cornerback who is up in their face. They both have the kind of game-breaking ability that press coverage just invites to have shots taken down the field.
Now, it’s easy to simplify that and talk about having help over the top with safeties and all of that, but the coverage stat PFF recently released was eye-popping.
In terms of rating, the Chiefs now boast the league’s top two receivers against OFF-MAN COVERAGE from last year.
Here’s what they wrote about both Watkins and Hill, who rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the league, respectively, against off-man coverage from last season.
1. Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs (w/ Los Angeles in 2017), 139.7 WR Rating
The fourth-year receiver saw slightly more off-man coverage (53.3 percent) than press-man coverage (46.7 percent) in 2017. Watkins was especially effective against off-man coverage, as he caught 20-of-39 targets for 329 receiving yards and four touchdowns, giving him a league-best WR rating of 139.7. What’s more impressive, is that 61.3 percent of those targets ended with either a first down or a touchdown, also the league’s best mark. Watkins was one of just two receivers to see at least 30 targets against off-man coverage without dropping a single pass.
2. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs, 136.3 WR Rating
As one of the league’s premier deep threats, Hill seldom sees press coverage. Last season, he faced off coverage on 65.0 percent of his routes, finishing the season with 61 catches on 78 targets and racking up a league-leading 924 receiving yards against off-man coverage.
So, teams will have to try and figure out if it’s generally better to give these two guys a free release off the line of scrimmage in off-man, where they’ve obviously seen a lot of success, or try and get up in their faces and press and hope the cornerbacks don’t miss on a jam or get off-balance for any reason.
The answer will undoubtedly be a mix of both and fit with whatever the defense likes to do within their own scheme anyways. Teams do what they do.
But these numbers do stand out, and it’ll be something to watch next season.
Watkins has already spoken about his affinity for this Chiefs’ offense and how much he’s moving around and lining up in different places, which would allow Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid to be creative in how he puts Watkins in situations to be successful.
“I’m moving around,” Watkins explained. “It’s just a great feeling because I’m not just sitting at the X receiver spot on the backside looking at two-man or a double. I’m really playing against a slot (cornerback) and getting an advantage on the linebackers, getting an advantage on the safety, and those are the things that I didn’t have access to (in the past), and now I do.
“It’s fun for me because I’ve never been able to learn slot routes and stuff like that—not because I couldn’t, but I just didn’t have an offense that was available to move me around to different places,” he added. “It’s been fun and I can actually visualize the offense and where it’s going, and it’s going to be something else.”
To press or not to press, that is the question.