*Khaled's NFL Daily: May 23, 2013
This is becoming something of a regular thing. The easily distracted PFF leader has had something shiny dangled in front of him, so instead of a dose of the bitter Neil Hornsby, you get a far more palatable meal courtesy of my good self.
The big talking point yesterday was the Achilles injury of Michael Crabtree, but with Brian Urlacher retiring we also take a quick look back at a memorable career.
Thursday, May 23
An Insurmountable Loss
I’m not going to break down the play of Michael Crabtree. It’s a lot of work and it’s already been done quite brilliantly by Pete Damilatis right here. Instead, I’m going to ponder on the implications of the injury and his subsequent surgery.
For starters it is now rather unlikely that he’ll contribute much (if at all) during the regular season. Even if he does, who is to say he’ll be anywhere near the player he was before so soon in his recovery. To me it means while the 49ers can hope for a miracle, they need to start working on the basis than their star receiver won’t be any use to them in 2013.
While Anquan Boldin isn’t going to match his production, the trade for him does mitigate this loss somewhat. Like Crabtree, Boldin does a lot of his best work after the catch, forcing 11 missed tackles during the regular season (Crabtree had 13). Both are guys who tend to work in the shorter and intermediate areas, with Crabtree’s Average Depth of Target a paltry 7.6 yards (lowest in the league) compared to the 11.2 of Boldin.
Obviously a lot of that has to do with the quarterbacks they were playing with but it’s worth bearing in mind.
It’s a loss and a big one at that. Yet even in the arms race that is the NFC West it isn’t an insurmountable one for a team that’s emphasis is still running the ball down people’s throats. This is a team that really needs to have more targets go directed towards Vernon Davis who had just 56 last year. Indeed, 29 other tight ends, including names like Rob Housler, Anthony Fasano and Lance Kendricks, had more targets than Davis in 2012.
The End of an Era
We’re starting to see some severe consequences to the new collective bargaining agreement. Teams want to get cheaper, and the easiest way to do that is to get younger. Those expensive veterans are even more disposable now than ever before, especially if there are concerns about health or a steep decline in their play.
It’s hard to think that didn’t play a part in Brian Urlacher announcing his retirement yesterday. The Bears didn’t want to pay him and neither did anyone else, so Urlacher made a smart move (in my opinion) and called quits on a glittering career. Now it’s arguable that his best work pre-dates Pro Football Focus, but we’ve still got to see a tremendous player in action. His work in coverage (where he finished in the top six every year he played significantly) has been a true joy.
Kudos on an excellent career.
Dropping the Ball
Turning away from the news a little and here’s a little glimpse at something I’m working on and a chance to wow me with your knowledge.
PFF has been grading and collecting stats for five seasons now, and I’ve started a look back at some of our Signature Stats in great detail. Up first is our Drop Rate which measures which wide receivers dropped the lowest percentage of catchable passes.
So here’s my challenge… Looking at all players in that period (2008-2012) with a minimum of 200 catchable regular season balls, which three wide receivers have dropped the least? The first correct response (I need all three names) will win a year’s free PFF Premium membership. Only answers to @PFF_Khaled on Twitter will be considered.
Is that something Neil would do?
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled