Projecting Tampa Bay Buccaneers Target Distributions


A way of looking at how many times different players will be targeted in an offense is called target distribution (yes, I made that up), and it’s time to take a look at how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will spread out the football in the passing game. The Bucs are going to de-emphasize the tight end in their passing attack, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. With a revamped line, a top-flight receiver in Vincent Jackson, the addition of running back Doug Martin, and the departure of one of the highest-targeted TEs in the NFL in Kellen Winslow Jr., the Buccaneers offense is being shaken up under Greg Schiano and Mike Sullivan.

Last season, the Buccaneers passing game was dreadful due to subpar pass protection and a huge down year from Josh Freeman. The receivers weren’t any better either, as Winslow digressed from a huge 2010 season and Mike Williams’s regression was even more steep and impactful than Winslow’s. Preston Parker was the only receiver who took a step forward last season, as the expected breakout year from Arrelious Benn did not materialize in year two.

The Buccaneers attempted 588 passes between Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson last year, and LeGarrette Blount and Co. combined for a total of 346 rushes. That leads to a 63%-37% ratio of passing plays to rushing plays.

Under Schiano, expect that number to change in favor of rushing plays to something between 55% and 60% of passing plays. I want to bring up an interesting fact from last season, and that is that Buccaneers opponents ran the ball more (498 times) than they passed it (481 times). The pass-run splits are due to play-calling and the team being down more and having to pass more, but one should still expect a 60-40 pass-to-run ratio at the very least with Doug Martin in the fold.

Below is how the targets were spread among each player (4 WR, 2 TE).

Mike Williams: 124, 21.4%

Kellen Winslow Jr.: 121, 20.9%

Preston Parker: 64, 11%

Dezmon Briscoe: 51, 8.8%

Arrelious Benn: 51, 8.8%

Luke Stocker: 17, 2.9%

Notice how the Buccaneers utilized Briscoe and Benn equally, but it seems like they have confidence in Benn in the always-crucial third year. Parker was the No. 2 receiver by virtue of targets, but Freeman was clearly targeting Winslow and Williams the most. Targeting Williams in his down year that heavily did not help. He averaged just 6.2 yards per attempt in an awful year after a terrific rookie campaign, but he will bounce back in year three.

The reason being is that Williams might be too inconsistent to be a No. 1 wideout at this point, but the Buccaneers made the right move and didn’t waste time trying to find a solid No. 2 or 3 wideout. Instead, they went right after a big fish and inked Vincent Jackson to a huge deal.

V-Jax gives Freeman his first legitimate No. 1 receiver, as Jackson was one of the best WRs in the league a few years ago. He will likely receive 130 targets. Williams will get around 90, while Parker will be set to get 50 and Benn 50 (depending on how they feel about him. The other receivers will likely get 50 “vulture” targets.

If the Bucs target their WRs/TEs 450 times next season, that leaves 80 targets for the tight ends. Thus, the tight end will be limited by 58 targets. In those 80 targets, 20 will likely go to Luke Stocker, who will primarily be used as a blocker in this platoon. Meanwhile, Dallas Clark will probably get 60 targets, which would have placed him 26th among tight ends last season.

That could change if Clark takes targets from Jackson or the vulture targets, but I doubt he receives 80 targets and will probably get 60-75 targets  this season. Thus, the Buccaneers are limiting the tight end’s role in the passing game, and they seem content with doing that. It seems like a better policy with a revamped receiving corps due to the addition of a bona fide threat in Jackson.

Even so, the Bucs could give Clark more targets if he is impressive enough, as I doubt they wouldn’t give him more opportunities if he plays well enough. That may not happen with his age and injury history, and there are question marks surrounding him. If he gets 65 targets and catches 65% of them, then he finishes the year with 42 receptions and the Bucs will be content with that production.

Remember, these are only estimates of what will happen based on data from last season, but there is a new coaching staff, new players, and a new method. I tried to take that into account with the above projections, but they are rough. Even so, they give a good estimation of the break down of targets for the wideouts and tight ends involved in the Buccaneers passing game.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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