Fairly often I see a fan say something like ‘Think of how much better his completion percentage would be without his receivers dropping passes.’ to which my response would be something like ‘Every QB suffers through drops and it all factors into the percentage that’s expected from a QB’. But sometimes you have to recognize that maybe the QB in question did have to put up with more drops than others.
Eli Manning by far had drops last season with 43. The next most was a tie between Derek Carr and Philip Rivers with 35.
No quarterback had to deal with more dropped passes than Eli Manning in 2017! pic.twitter.com/In8zUiBxcL— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 27, 2018
That many drops might lead a team to make some changes at the wide receiver position. The Raiders top four receivers last year were Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, and tight end Jared Cook.
Between them, they make up 26 of the team’s 35 drops — Coop 10, Crabtree 6, Cook 6, Roberts 4. Other drop totals include four from Johnny Holton and three from DeAndre Washington, two from Marshawn Lynch, one from Cordarrelle Patterson, and one from Jalen Richard.
That top four will change this season. Coop is still the top receiver obviously, so his second most drops last season still looms. Though you would hope/figure his 2018 would look more like his second half of 2017 than his first. He was dealing with an knee injury and has a tendency to drop a lot of passes when that happens. In this case he dropped 7 passes in the first four games and three the final 12.
Crabtree is gone and Roberts pushed down the depth chart and has been rumored to be on the trade block. Their spots have been filled by the acquisitions of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. Nelson (2) and Bryant (4) combined for six drops last season compared to Crabtree and Roberts’s ten.
Four less drops would bring Carr’s drop total down to 31. Not a huge decrease and still in the top five. So, while the new additions should help lower the drop totals, the real decrease has to come from other factors. Obviously Amari Cooper needs to do a better job holding onto the ball, but it’s probably even bigger than that.
Gruden thinks it is. He is not the biggest fan of outside analytics guys unilaterally deciding what is an isn’t a drop because they don’t entirely know what went into each play and where the fault may actually lie.
“There’s a lot of people that look at Pro Football Focus and they think that Pro Football Focus knows that’s a drop. Maybe that wasn’t a drop. Maybe that’s some guy’s opinion at Pro Football Focus,” Gruden said. “I just want to say that I think that’s a great product, we use it. Sometimes the quarterback throws the ball in there early. Maybe he didn’t take the proper drop. Sometimes the receiver might lack concentration. There’s a lot of reasons. You have to catch the football. We have to catch the ball better. We have to improve. Our receivers have to rise up, play better than they’ve ever played. We’ve made changes there in this core and they have to obviously take the torch and run with it.”
Gruden makes a couple great points here. First is that we don’t always know what really happened. Derek Carr had plenty of his own issues he was dealing with last season. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence his drop totals were up in a year in which he himself was playing poorly as well.
Carr’s receivers dropping passes is no excuse. I’m sure he would genuinely say that same thing.
Gruden’s other point is that all we can really say is Carr needs his receivers to make the catches they should make and step up to fill in the gaps when perhaps he isn’t at his best. Share the load. Jordy Nelson is great at that. And Martavis Bryant has similar numbers to Seth Roberts only on catches with a much higher degree of difficulty. So, there are reasons to believe Carr’s drop totals will ‘drop’ more to the average this season.