The SI.com Target and Snap Report began a few seasons ago, aiming to bring readers and fantasy football owners alike exactly what it said in the title. It was initially designed to strip out conventional stats and be a report on target and snap data, highlighting players that were getting a ton of opportunity, and those that weren’t, regardless of the numbers they posted. The column has strayed a bit from that over the last year or so, bringing in more and more advanced stats. We’ve always gone beyond the box score, but targets and snaps haven’t always been at the heart of this column, especially this season.
This week, we’re going back to our roots. Get ready for a Target and Snap Report that is heavy on both targets and snaps. To get things started, we’ll focus on a surprising development with the latter in D.C.
When the Redskins offense took the field for its first play in the team’s Week 7 game against the Eagles it was in 12 personnel, which includes a single back, two receivers and two tight ends. Those receivers were Jamison Crowder—no surprise—and Josh Doctson—big surprise. The personnel didn’t change on the next play, though this time Jordan Reed lined up in the slot, with Vernon Davis in a traditional three-point stance on one side of the line. The team’s third play from scrimmage featured three receivers for the first time on the night. The receiver who joined the fray? Ryan Grant.
One player should be conspicuous by his absence. Terrelle Pryor was on the sidelines for Washington’s first play from scrimmage for the first time this season. He was on the sidelines for the team’s entire first possession. Pryor, the splashy offseason acquisition who was supposed to be Kirk Cousins’s top receiver, played exactly one snap in the first half. He played about half of the team’s snaps in the second half, though many of those came with the Redskins chasing a two-score deficit.
Meanwhile, Doctson played 54 of Washington’s 64 snaps on the night, good for a season-high 84.4%. Doctson played 24 more snaps than Pryor, and was on the field more than every other skill player on the team, except for Crowder. If that’s not a strong enough message, the two most important decision-makers for Washington’s offense drove home the point after the game.
First, it was the quarterback. Cousins mentioned six skill players by name in response to a question about “outside receivers” in his post-game press conference. Two of those players were Reed and Davis. One was Chris Thompson. None were Pryor, who, unlike those other three, actually is an outside receiver.
Then, it was the head coach. Jay Gruden reminded everyone in his presser after the game that the Redskins drafted Doctson “to be the No. 1 guy.” That’s typically true of any receiver taken with the 22nd overall pick, which is where the Redskins snagged the TCU product in the 2016 draft. Doctson, finally with a clean bill of health for weeks in a row, is getting his chance.
Whether this is a motivational tactic for Pryor remains to be seen, but anyone who used a premium pick on him, which is to say anyone who drafted him back in the summer, has to be concerned that he won’t even get a chance to turn his season around.
With that, let’s get to the rest of the Week 7 Target and Snap Report. Remember, you can get all the target, snap, touches and red-zone data you need to get an edge on your league from our partners at 4for4.
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Green Bay’s backfield is changing hands
Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery have split the backfield duties in Green Bay for two weeks now, at least insofar as you could call their Week 7 breakdown a split. Two weeks ago, which was one week after Jones broke out while Montgomery nursed his broken ribs, the former played 65% of the snaps, while the latter was on the field for 30% of them. That followed a mostly predictable script, with Jones getting more carries and Montgomery handling the passing-down work. Jones, the thinking went, also played more snaps since Montgomery was still recovering from broken ribs, evidenced most notably by his flak jacket.
Last week was an entirely different story. Jones played 44 of the team’s 55 snaps in its 26-17 loss to the Saints. Montgomery played just seven snaps. Jones got 17 carries and five targets, turning all that opportunity into 138 total yards and a touchdown. Montgomery, meanwhile, got four carries and two targets. His touch-per-snap rate was nice and high, but that doesn’t much matter when you only play seven snaps. It matters even less when the guy who plays 44 snaps does so in particularly effective fashion. It’s safe to say that Jones has moved ahead of Montgomery on the Green Bay depth chart.
Remember, too, that last week was the Packers first game in their new reality. Aaron Rodgers will miss at least seven more games, if not the rest of the season. If Jones is the more effective runner, and Montgomery the more dangerous receiver, it would make sense that Jones would move into a leading role with Brett Hundley under center. The Packers must tailor their offense to their new quarterback, and a large part of that effort will be taking the ball out of his hands. That was never the case with Rodgers, and that always played to the favor of a running back who spent his entire college career, and began his NFL career, as a wide receiver. The Hundley-led offense is better served by Jones, who is the No. 21 running back in standard-scoring leagues, despite not playing at all the first three weeks.