Impact of Cutler and Haden on Jeffery and Marshall

Mike Clay digs deep to see how the return of Jay Cutler and coverage by Joe Haden will impact star wideouts Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

| 3 years ago
brandon-marshall

Impact of Cutler and Haden on Jeffery and Marshall


Alshon JefferyThe Bears have announced that Jay Cutler will be back under center this weekend.

Cutler has missed each of the team’s last four games and all but 74 snaps since Week 6. In his absence, Josh McCown has been sensational, ranking No. 5 among all quarterbacks in fantasy points during the week’s he started.

A byproduct of the absence of Cutler has been a full-blown coming out party for Alshon Jeffery. The sophomore wideout was producing at a fairly high level with Cutler, but it wasn’t until McCown took over that he really exploded. And that explosion has had a negative impact on the production of Brandon Marshall.

The evidence:

Cutler played 100 percent of the snaps during Weeks 1 through 6 and all but 10 snaps in Week 10. During those seven weeks, Marshall is third among all wide receivers in fantasy points (102.4). Jeffery is No. 10 (76.2).

McCown, meanwhile, played 100 percent of the snaps in Weeks 9 and 11 through 14. In those games, Marshall is No. 12 in fantasy points (53.1), while Jeffery is No. 3 (76.2).

See a pattern?

The two basically flip-flopped the ‘1A’ and ‘1B’ roles when McCown took over. Of course, both produced Top-12 numbers in each scenario, which suggests both are quality starts each and every week.

Brandon Marshall

Cutler

McCown

Alshon Jeffery

Cutler

McCown

Targets

69

59

Targets

62

56

Receptions

48

36

Receptions

36

39

Yards

607

483

Yards

545

648

TD

6

3

TD

2

4

YPR

12.6

13.4

YPR

15.1

16.6

C%

70%

61%

C%

58%

70%

aDOT

12.5

12.7

aDOT

14.8

11.2

The above charts show Marshall and Jeffery’s splits when Cutler and McCown are in the game.

Again, we see a mirror image in some of the statistical categories. Marshall has a 70 percent catch rate on throws from Cutler, but sits at 61 percent with McCown. Jeffery is the exact opposite, catching 58 percent of targets from Cutler, compared to 70 percent from McCown. We also see that Jeffery benefited from McCown in the touchdown department, while Marshall’s scores dropped off.

We don’t see a massive change in Yards-Per-Reception (YPR), but Average Depth of Target (aDOT) is certainly noteworthy. Marshall’s aDOT has remained consistent, which makes his dramatic drop in catch rate a bit odd, possibly justifying the theory that he and McCown simply aren’t gelling quite as well as he and Cutler.

Jeffery, meanwhile, saw a gigantic drop in aDOT when McCown took over, handling additional targets close to the line of scrimmage. This helps explain some of the increase in catch rate. Interestingly, Jeffery’s YPR is up with McCown despite the drop in aDOT. This can be explained by better post-catch production.

Although the primary fantasy football debate surrounds Jeffery vs. Marshall, I also wanted to quickly touch on Martellus Bennett.

Bennett is No. 6 in fantasy points (55.8) when Cutler is under center, compared to No. 21 (26.3) when McCown plays. That’s a drop in production worth noting, especially considering that Bennett has fallen out of the TE1 conversation over the last month.

Martellus Bennett

Cutler

McCown

Targets

46

28

Receptions

34

19

Yards

374

214

TD

3

2

YPR

11.0

11.3

C%

74%

68%

aDOT

8.6

8.4

Bennett’s role has remained fairly similar to pre-McCown, but the backup simply hasn’t looked his way as often. Bennett is averaging 6.8 targets-per-game with Cutler and 5.2/game with McCown.

While I’m on topic of the Bears wideouts, let’s take a quick look at this weekend’s matchup against the Browns and Joe Haden.  The assumption of the general consensus always seem to be that any standout cover corner will automatically shadow the opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver. That’s not always the case and simply assuming that when making lineup decisions will cost you.

The Bears vs. Browns game makes for a fine example.

Bears

LWR

RWR

Slot

Marshall

32%

26%

40%

Jeffery

29%

46%

25%

M Bennett

2%

2%

40%

E. Bennett

47%

28%

25%

Browns

RCB

LCB

Slot

Haden

38%

55%

4%

Skrine

19%

9%

56%

Owens (IR)

53%

35%

8%

McFadden

19%

20%

25%

This chart shows where the top receivers for Chicago and top cornerbacks for Cleveland have lined up this season. I bolded a few of the important numbers.

Note that Marshall works the slot on 40 percent of his snaps, which is a good chunk of his workload. Scrolling down that same column, we see that Joe Haden only heads to the slot four percent of the time. Haden has shadowed an NFL-high nine opposing wideouts this season, but he hasn’t gone to the slot to do it. Instead, his primary position is left corner, which is where Jeffery tends to line up.

So, what’s the verdict here? The way I see it, Haden is going to see plenty of both Jeffery and Marshall, but mostly the former.

Marshall’s primary defender will be struggling Buster Skrine. He’ll see him when he’s in the slot and on a handful of snaps when out wide. Marshall will see some of Haden when he’s out wide, especially when Jeffery is dabbling in the slot.

Jeffery loses the most as a result of the matchup against Cleveland, but I wouldn’t be too concerned. He’ll see Haden on a chuck of his snaps when wide to the right. But he’ll also work against Skrine in the slot, and figures to see some Leon McFadden when Haden is on Marshall on the opposite side of the field.

At the end of the day, we’re talking about a pair of superstar wide receiver talents who are seeing plenty of targets, especially near the end zone, in a high-scoring offense. Both are must-starts each week regardless of matchup. With Cutler back under center this week, bump Marshall ahead of Jeffery in your rankings, but still consider the latter a decent WR1 option.

Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL

  • Nick McGuire

    Love the info Mike! Great work as always.. Hence my hesitation in sitting Jeffery this week. I just don’t have it in me to bench Andre Johnson.

  • Jason Williams

    Whoever lines up across from Skrine is going to have a career day – that guy is garbage.

  • Robert

    Was planning on starting Alson over Dez (Megatron my WR1), but I’m not so sure now without McCown. Any advice here?

    • Mike Clay

      I’d still go Jeffery, but it’s very close.

      Good luck!

  • Joe Elstner

    Without AP, any ideas on who to start at flex? PPR: Montee Ball, Delanie Walker or Ogbonnaya?

    • Mike Clay

      Ogbonnaya will be solid this week.

  • BirdsFan

    Thanks as always Mike. Need to choose 3 of Alshon, Dez, D Jack and V Jack. Leaning towards the first 3 but I’m starting Romo too and that dez duo is killing me almost as much as Haden scares me.

  • EaglesFan420

    Alshon or Edelman. im lesaning towards edelman bc im starting brady w gronk out. and alshon will see joe haden! HELP ME PLEASE!!! pick 1

  • Juice and the Meatpuppets

    Been looking all week for a good article on Marshall and Haden, Mr. Clay cleared the fog finally. Starting Gordon, Marshall, and with fantasy god sprinkly dust – Dez Bryant (flex) and going for the bowl. Great article, thanks Mike!