On a team perceived to have many glaring weaknesses, the general consensus was that the Dolphins’ WRs, specifically its starting receivers, were its greatest weakness. It was not uncommon to hear people claim it was the worst set of WRs in the NFL. There was widespread incredulity at the Dolphins’ trading of Brandon Marshall and then even greater incredulity over the fact that the Dolphins did not chase any big name WRs in free agency and did not draft any WRs in the early rounds of the draft. Much was made of Philbin’s comment on Hard Knocks that the team had a bunch of 3s, 4s and 5s, but no 1s or 2s at WR. But according to numerous accounts, Philbin was the one that wanted Marshall traded and he made comments to the effect that its not necessary to have the proverbial No. 1 receiver. He further commented that his offense doesn’t speak in terms of a No. 1 and a No. 2. In GB, they had a bunch of productive receivers, but none who were elite talents. None who were 1st round picks and none who have extraordinary size or speed. It is human nature to see what you think you will see and many people have continued to complain about the Dolphin WRs. The lament is that Bess and Hartline are nice 3s and 4s but shouldn’t be starters. I expected to see Bess and Hartline do well and that is what I have seen. The counterargument has been that while their reception and yardage numbers are good, that’s only because the team has no other receiving threats. That someone is going to score 20 ppg on the Washington Wizards, but that doesn’t make him good. Putting aside the fact that the Wizards’ leading scorer is averaging just 12.8 ppg, my response was that if a guy on any team scores 20 points with high efficiency, e.g., shoots 50%+ from the field, he’s a good player regardless of the fact that he plays for the Wizards. So I decided to look at the efficiency numbers for the Dolphins’ starting WRs and how they compare to the efficiency numbers for the top receiving corps in the league. I looked at the Dolphins vs. 13 other teams’ starting WRs and chose all of the receiving corps that I think anyone might argue are among the league’s best. Among that group, are the handful of teams that have one of the ultra-elite WRs (CJohnson, AJohnson, AJGreen, Fitzgerald, BMarshall), the teams with the ultra-elite QBs (NE, GB, NO, Denver), and the teams with the great tandems (Giants, Falcons, Cowboys, Steelers). In terms of efficiency, I looked at %Targeted, Completion%, Yards per Attempt/Target and Yards Per Catch/Reception. % of Team’s Pass Attempts Thrown to Starting WRs Dolphins - 47.5 Bears - 47.5 Patriots - 46.0 Giants - 44.4 Cardinals - 43.7 Broncos - 42.7 Falcons - 42.6 Bengals - 41.3 Texans - 39.7 Cowboys - 38.1 Steelers - 35.6 Saints - 35.4 Lions - 34.9 Packers - 33.7 The Dolphins threw to its starting WRs a higher percentage of the time than any of these other teams, with the exception of the Bears, which tied them. I included this stat for two reasons. First, targets gives some indication of how often a receiver is open, albeit imprecisely. Second, it helps put the other stats into some context. In a real sense, a high target % indicates that it is predictable that the team will be throwing to the WRs, thus making it hard to be efficient when they do. According to some, the true No. 1 receiver is the guy who can still produce even when the defense knows the ball is coming to him. Philbin indicated that he likes to spread the ball around for that very reason. As indicated, Hartline and Bess have functioned in an environment in which the defenses knew, or should have known, that one of them would be getting the ball on almost 50% of the Dolphins’ pass attempts. So how efficient were the Dolphins’ starting receivers under those conditions? Completion % Packers - 67.4 Bears - 66.0 Texans - 65.8 Broncos - 65.7 Dolphins - 65.5 Falcons - 65.5 Patriots - 65.5 Bengals - 65.1 Cowboys - 64.0 Saints - 63.7 Steelers - 61.8 Lions - 60.6 Giants - 59.0 Cardinals - 57.9 Only 4 teams’ starting WRs caught a higher percentage of the passes thrown to them than the Dolphins’ tandem and the Texans and Broncos WRs caught such a negligibly higher percentage as to be of no significance. Even the Bears and Packers weren’t much higher, but as indicated below, those teams’ starting WRs did it with lower Yards Per Target and Yards Per Catch numbers. Yards Per Target Falcons - 10.3 Broncos - 9.72 Texans - 9.66 Lions - 9.37 Saints - 9.27 Bengals - 9.13 Dolphins - 9.06 Cowboys - 9.03 Packers - 8.86 Bears - 8.04 Patriots - 7.67 Giants - 7.5 Steelers - 7.45 Cardinals - 6.66 The Dolphins’ starting WRs as a tandem are right in the middle of the pack among the best WR tandems in the league and better than the Pats, Giants, Packers, Cowboys, etc. Considering that Bess and Hartline did that with a rookie QB throwing to them and a dearth of other options, and considering the Pats, Packers, Saints and Broncos WRs did it with established future HOF and Super Bowl winning QBs is pretty impressive IMO. Yards Per Catch Falcons - 15.7 Lions - 15.4 Broncos - 14.8 Texans - 14.7 Saints - 14.6 Cowboys - 14.1 Bengals - 14.0 Dolphins - 13.8 Packers - 13.1 Giants - 12.7 Bears - `12.2 Steelers - 12.1 Patriots - 11.7 Cardinals - 11.5 Again, the Dolphins are in the middle of the pack among the best in the league. As much as people have complained that Hartline and Bess can’t get deep and have no YAC skills, their yards per catch compares pretty favorable to most of the top receiving corps in the NFL. I expect most of the responses to this thread to point out that Hartline and Bess have only 2 TDs between them. That they can’t catch TDs. That although neither is perceived as a deep threat, they can’t be effective in the close quarters of the red zone. I don’t think there is any truth to that. The truth is that TD reception numbers depend a lot on a number of factors that have nothing to do with the WR and WR TD numbers can vary widely from season to season. Calvin Johnson had 16 last year but has only 4 this year. Brandon Marshall has been a 10 TD some years and a 3 TD guy others. Andre Johnson has very bit of size, speed, strength and jumping ability you could ever ask for in a WR, but he has just 3 TDs this year. The truth is that the Dolphins haven’t thrown a whole lot of passes in the red zone and when they have, Tannehill has not thrown well in that area. It’s not uncommon for rookies to struggle in the red zone. Not all do, but most do. If the thinking is that the Dolphins need to replace Bess or Hartline with a jumbo, physical receiver who will excel in the red zone, I think the likely result is something like Marshall’s 3 TD season his first year in Miami, unless Tannehill gets better (which he should, but if he does, Bess and Hartline’s TD numbers will go up anyhow).