|Mr. Consistency: TE Tim Wright setting new standard for reliability in Patriots passing game||11.26.14 at 10:26 am ET|
FOXBORO — Tim Wright is in some rarefied air.
In his first season with the Patriots, the tight end has proven himself to be an eminently reliable part of the passing game — he has 23 catches on 26 targets. Even with the understanding that one of the targets was a throwaway by quarterback Tom Brady (an uncatchable ball), that’s an 88 percent catch rate, the best on the New England roster when it comes to players who have been targeted by Brady at least 20 times.
If he continues at his current rate, he’ll set a new standard for the Patriots. Since 2006, no member of the Patriots who has been targeted at least 20 times has a reception rate of better than 80 percent.
Of course, none of this is particularly new for Wright — last season with the Buccaneers, he proved equally sure-handed, as he caught 71 percent of the passes (54 receptions on 76 targets) that were thrown his way. But his target numbers this year — combined with his six receiving touchdowns (second on the team to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski), have made him one of the surprise success stories when you’re talking about the 2014 Patriots offense.
Part of Wright’s success is rooted in the fact that most teams are solely focused on stopping Gronkowski, and have usually dedicated at least two defenders per play in hopes of trying to slow down the big fella. But it’s another thing altogether to take advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented to you, and Wright has done just that.
“Every time we throw to him it’s a touchdown — we’ll try to find him more down there,” Brady said after Wright’s two-touchdown performance against the Lions. “He does a great job in the coverage and finds the open spots.”
While the touchdown ratio is impressive — more than one-quarter of his catches have resulted in touchdowns — his work as a reliable target has really distinguished him from the rest of the field. Since 2006 — when targets were first tallied, on five different occasions, a New England pass catcher who was targeted at least 20 times caught 77 percent of the passes that were thrown in his direction. The latest high-level connection came in 2010 when running back Danny Woodhead caught 34 of the 44 passes that were thrown his way.
Prior to that, veteran running back Kevin Faulk did it three times: Faulk caught 58 of the 75 passes thrown his way in 2008, while both wide receiver Wes Welker (112-of-145) and Faulk (47-of-61) hit the 77 percent mark in 2007. And Faulk caught 43 of the 56 passes thrown his way in 2006 to reach the same plateau. (While Welker was targeted more than any other receiver between 2007 and 2012 and was consistently over 70 percent between 2007 and 2011, he never topped the 77 percent mark.)
According to Wright, the key to being a good target is simple.
|Danny Woodhead: ‘If people are shocked, they’re shocked’||01.05.14 at 6:01 pm ET|
CINCINNATI — So many times in New England, Danny Woodhead was the silent little engine that could.
On Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, Woodhead – as he did so often in Foxboro – let his feet and hands do the talking in a 27-10 Chargers win over the Bengals that put Woodhead into familiar territory.
For the fourth straight season, the former Patriot finds himself in the AFC divisional playoffs. He figures to be another big weapon for Philip Rivers and the Chargers when they take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos next Sunday.
Sunday, he set the tone early with a five-yard TD run right up the middle, putting San Diego up, 7-0, and sending a message that the team that came within a bad call on an overtime field goal by Kansas City last week had come to Cincinnati with every intention of winning. The 11-5 Bengals, champions of the AFC North, were favored by a touchdown on their home turf in the rematch of the iconic “Freezer Bowl” in the 1981 AFC championship.
“We practiced all week with the idea of coming in here to win,” Woodhead said. “We were underdogs. If people are shocked, they’re shocked. There’s nothing we can do about that. Our job was to go out there and execute.”
That’s exactly what Woodhead, Rivers and the Chargers did against a Bengals team that didn’t lose all season at home before Sunday. The Chargers committed no turnovers in 56 snaps. Woodhead carried the ball 15 times for 54 yards and gained another 14 on two catches.
The Patriots let him go after the 2012 season and he signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Chargers in March, a deal that included a $1 million signing bonus. The Chargers wanted a threat in the backfield that would be hard to account for in open space. He was that and more Sunday as he cut through big holes his offensive line established.
“I just try to take advantage of every opportunity I’m given. Our offensive line was great today and set the tempo early,” Woodhead said. “We ran and ran and we just build momentum.”
Woodhead was there so many times on Sunday like he was in New England. Every time Rivers needed a big play to put the game away in the second half, it was Woodhead’s number that was called. He carried the ball three times on San Diego’s opening drive of the third quarter, which ended in a touchdown that put the Chargers ahead for good.
Now, as was the case in New England with Tom Brady, Woodhead is into the second round with a playoff-proven quarterback. Rivers was spectacular only in his efficiency Sunday, throwing just 16 passes and completing 12 for 128 yards and a touchdown and a 118.8 quarterback rating.
“Philip is a great quarterback who has done it in the past in the playoffs,” Woodhead said. “Everybody knows he’s a great quarterback. We went about our business and just executed today.”
|Fantasy Football: Week 6 waiver wire||10.08.13 at 10:52 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 6 waiver wire. As always, these are strong pickup options in typical 10-team leagues. Obviously, they are even better options if they happen to be available in larger formats. The ownership rates have been obtained from Yahoo! and represents ownership rates in all its leagues. If you are looking for more obscure talent, you should head on over to Rotobahn.com, where we cater to those who play in larger leagues. I’ll be adding talent throughout the day as I continue to work through the Week 5 games. I’ll be back on Friday with my starts and sits column and the Fantasy Football Podcast with Jim Hackett. If you need any last-minute lineup help, feel free to join our Sunday morning chat here at WEEI. It’s all sponsored by our friends at Mohegan Sun.
Jay Cutler, Bears
He’s still unowned in 41 percent of leagues, and he should be owned in almost all leagues. The new offense has allowed Cutler to post fantasy-viable numbers even in defeat. With Alshon Jeffery starting to establish himself, the Bears are becoming very hard to defend on the outside.
Terrelle Pryor, Raiders
He’s playing well and he’s over his recent concussion. You can still add him in 71 percent of leagues, and I’d be adding him if I needed more upside at quarterback. Pryor is getting it done with his arm and with his feet.
Sam Bradford, Rams
He’s not perfect, but he can post very good numbers when the matchup is right. Bradford has the 10th-most points in fantasy football among quarterbacks. He makes a nice QB2 for sure, especially if he has a nice matchup when your QB1 has his bye week.
Joe Flacco, Ravens
You can get him in 40 percent of leagues, and he has a home start against Green Bay this week. That’s a decent fantasy play if your starter is on the bye or if you were starting Michael Vick.
Nick Foles, Eagles
If you own Vick and all else fails, you can turn to Foles and get decent play. Foles looked up to the task last week when he filled in for the injured Vick, and that’s expected to continue in Week 6. In fact, if Foles plays well enough, he could steal the gig.
|Fantasy Football: Week 5 waiver wire||10.01.13 at 11:11 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 5 waiver wire. A lot of last week’s hot names have been snatched up, so the inventory of targets is not what it was as we hit the second week of byes. Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Washington will be resting this week. As always, I will be doing my expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn.com. If you play in a league with 12 or more teams, we’ve got you covered. The players listed here represent the best available talent based on percentages derived from Yahoo’s database and should meet your needs if you play in leagues with 10 teams or less.
Jay Cutler, Bears
He played a poor game in Week 4, but he was still a fantasy asset. That’s the benefit of having improved weapons and protection, not to mention an improved scheme. Cutler should be owned everywhere, yet he is available in 42 percent of leagues.
Matt Schaub, Texans
He’s available in 45 percent of leagues and he’s a fantasy asset. He held up against Seattle better than most quarterbacks have and his schedule gets better from here on out. Schaub can help you if you lack a second option at quarterback.
Terrelle Pryor, Raiders
He’s available in 78 percent of leagues and he has a lot of weekly upside. I like him a lot as a matchup play due to his high-end athleticism and his penchant for picking up extra fantasy points with his feet. He should be over his concussion for Week 5.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
He’s a available in 78 percent of leagues. The coaching staff is letting him throw it a ton. He can help you if you need a QB. He’s a matchup play, so check his schedule against your QB1’s bye week.
|Danny Amendola pokes some fun at himself in new commercial||05.26.13 at 9:00 am ET|
|Chargers sign Danny Woodhead to two-year deal||03.15.13 at 2:18 pm ET|
Free agent running back Danny Woodhead signed a two-year deal with the Chargers on Friday, leaving the Patriots after almost three full seasons in New England. The undersized Woodhead, who carved out a tremendous niche for himself in the Patriots offense, had 250 carries for 1,199 yards and 92 catches for 982 yards in his time in New England.
Woodhead was an utterly reliable presence with the Patriots, missing just three games in two seasons, and was a dependable presence in the passing game. His target rate was astounding — this past season, he had 40 catches on 55 targets for a 73 percent rate, the best for any New England pass catcher who was targeted at least 10 times. In addition, he became the first running back since Kevin Faulk to finish a season with at least 40 catches and 40 carries — he was the second-leading rusher on the team, finishing with 301 yards on 76 carries, good for a 4.0 yards per carry average.
Going forward, expect the Patriots to rely more on youngster Shane Vereen as a presence out of the backfield in the passing game. Vereen displayed a multidimensional flair late in the season — he had seven carries and five catches in the playoff win over the Texans — and will likely be asked to take over many of the responsibilities that fell to Woodhead over the last few years.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|What’s next on Patriots’ list of priorities?||03.14.13 at 12:43 am ET|
Now that the Wes Welker situation has reached a conclusion, here’s a quick look at some of the other priorities the Patriots have to focus on in the coming days:
1. Resolve the situations involving their own high-priority free agents: Even though Welker (and Donald Thomas and Pat Chung) is out the door, New England still has some key free agents of their own to worry about, particularly cornerback Aqib Talib and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. There has been remarkably little buzz regarding both of them in the first day or two of free agency, but expect that to pick up in the next few days, particularly in Vollmer’s case as more tackles start to come off the board. In addition, there are other free agents like running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Kyle Arrington who have to have their own situations addressed sooner rather than later.
2. Make a decision on wide receiver Brandon Lloyd: He’s due a $3 million bonus if he’s on the roster on March 17. It’s not like this will play a huge role in the decision-making process, but the Patriots are extraordinarily thin at the wide receiver spot right now, even with Lloyd in the fold. At this moment, they have four receivers under contract for the 2013 season — Lloyd, Danny Amendola, Kamar Aiken and Matthew Slater. Even though they are deeper than most at tight end — remember, they have Jake Ballard joining a group that includes Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — that’s amazing.
3. Continue to work the free agent market: Whether it’s because they are doing a good job keeping it quiet or they just aren’t making much noise overall, other than the Amendola move, they have been remarkably quiet when it comes to kicking the tires on available free agents. It’s important to remember that New England has always played it close to the vest when it comes to operating in free agency, so this isn’t necessarily a surprise. But at this point, roughly 36 hours in, they’ve been one of the more quiet teams. (For what it’s worth, there are some intriguing names out there at some positions of need for the Patriots.)
4. Work the pro days: This period remains a key part of the collegiate scouting process, and with pro days continuing throughout the month of March, several members of New England’s scouting department will be on college campuses throughout the country. On several occasions, player personnel chief Nick Caserio has said that the pro day experience — particularly for players who aren’t invited to the combine — can play a colossal role in the overall evaluation of a potential prospect. In addition, private workouts will continue throughout March and into early April as the Patriots try and get a handle on who they should target in next month’s draft. (In that vein, check out DJ Bean’s story here on whether or not New England should try to go after a wide receiver in the draft in hopes of trying to help replace the production offered by departed free agent wide receiver Wes Welker.)