September 29, 2010

Crunching Numbers: Santana Moss Catching On

If you all remember, I wrote a column at the beginning of the year, in which I predicted Santana Moss would have a year similar to his breakout 2005 campaign. So far so good through three games as Moss is on pace for career highs in receptions and receiving yards.

Moss has 22 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown. If he continues at his current clip, Moss will end up with 117 receptions, 1,546 receiving yards, and five touchdowns on the season. Those numbers would eclipse his 2005 totals of 84 catches for 1,483 yards.

What's more interesting is that Moss has accumulated this season's numbers by becoming more of a possession receiver. We have seen many of the vertical attempts from Donovan McNabb go to Joey Galloway while Moss has made a living over the middle and underneath thus far.

Need more proof that Moss has become a solid possession receiver? 15 of his 22 receptions have moved the chains and he has been targeted 30 times (seventh best in the NFL). That's a far cry from the days when he wouldn't see a ball come his way for quarters at a time.

However despite his drop off in yards per catch (he's at 13.2 YPC, which is below his career average of 14.8 YPC) this doesn't mean Moss has lost his explosiveness. He is making the most of his new role over the middle; just take a peek at his yards after the catch. Moss ranks seventh in the NFL with 124 YAC, and watching him you can tell he enjoys catching the ball in space.

Consistency has always been the knock on Moss. He tends to play well one week and then disappear the next. It's only been three games, but he is tied for fifth with 96.7 receiving yards per game and he has caught 73 percent of the passes thrown his way.

In 2009, Moss caught 58 percent of the passes intended for him. In 2008, he caught 57 percent and in 2007, 53 percent.

The reason behind this new-found efficiency is two-fold. Primarily, the Redskins are using Moss as more than simply a downfield threat. Kyle Shanahan is making sure his most talented receiver gets involved in the passing game every week He is running routes that put him in a position to catch more passes and it's paying off.

Secondarily, McNabb is a more capable quarterback than anyone Moss has ever had while with the Redskins. McNabb knows who his playmakers are and he makes sure to get them the ball early and often. Obviously, Moss is the only threat in an ineffective receiving corps and McNabb knows it.

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