When the Eagles released DeSean Jackson, they not only lost his 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine TDs, they also lost his yards after the catch ability. YAC is an important asset for receivers as individuals as well as the offense as a whole.
For the receiver, having good YAC ability leads to better stats, a prominant reputation as being amongst the best at their position and ultimately a better paycheck. For the offense as a whole, it leads to big plays, more production, more scores and more success.
It can also benefit the Quarterback by way of inflated passing statistics. A receiver with good running ability after catching short passes has a way of making QBs look good on the stat sheets.
With that said, there is a correlation between the top offenses (and QBs) and having receivers (WR/TE/RB) who are good after the catch. The top 10 passing offenses in 2013 contained a good chunk of the upper echelon QBs in the NFL (as one may simply assume).
According to SportingCharts.com, here is the percentage of each QB’s total passing yards that came from their receivers’ yards after making the catch (these are the QBs of ESPN’s top 10 passing offenses in 2013):
Peyton Manning: 49%
Drew Brees: 49.9%
Matthew Stafford: 51.4%
Phillip Rivers: 50.8%
Jay Cutler: 39.1%
Aaron Rodgers: 52.2%
Matt Ryan: 50.4%
Andy Dalton: 50.3%
Nick Foles: 51.3%
Tom Brady: 49.5%
As you can see, all of them except Cutler hovers right around the 50% mark. Furthermore, all of them except Brady has at least one receiver (WR/TE/RB) who ranks in the top 15 in the league at their position in YAC (most have two or three guys and most have one within the top 5 or 10).
Just to reiterate what these stats indicate, here is what they’re saying…
For example, Drew Brees threw for 5,162 yards last year. Of those yards, 2,576 (or 49.9%)came from receivers running with the ball after the catch.
QBs benefitting from YAC by their receivers is not an indictment of their QB skills. It obviously depends on what kind of scheme they run, but they also have to have the ability to place the ball and make quick decisions.
Quarterbacks that had lower percentages of their passing yards from YAC were in passing offenses that ranked in the bottom half of the league. Or in Tampa Bay’s case, Mike Glennon had the least and his passing offense was ranked 32nd!
Nick Foles had more than half of his 2,891 passing yards come from his receivers after the catch. He benefitted from the scheme, but also from the likes of Jackson (9th in WR YAC), Celek (8th in TE YAC) and McCoy (3rd in RB YAC).
Foles’ other top two WRs, Cooper and Avant, ranked 46th and 97th respectively (in WR YAC).
He’ll get Celek and McCoy back and will have Sproles and Ertz raring to go, but he will need someone from the WR corps to step up and replace Jackson’s YAC ability.
Will that be Jeremy Maclin? We’ve yet to see him in Chip Kelly’s offense, but to date in his career he has never been ranked higher than 31st (WR YAC) in this category (30th, 38th, 31st and 33rd from 2009 – 2012 respectively, per Pro Football Focus).
This is where we hope Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff will have an impact.
Matthews was one of the best in college football at yards after the catch (if not the best). According to this article from Rotoworld, Matthews made a living at catching short passes and turning them into nice gains.
45.83 percent of Matthews’ 112 receptions in 2013 came on screen passes. 76.04 percent of his receptions came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Yet, he still managed 1,477 yards receiving and averaged just over 13 yards per catch.
Matthews averaged 7.8 yards after the catch, which was more than Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham. There’s no doubt that this skill is one of the big things that attracted Kelly to him.
Though I couldn’t find any actual stats to display, Huff is another receiver that excels in getting yards after the catch. If there is one consistency amongst his scouting reports, it’s about his ability to create YAC.
This is particularly true when considering his time under Kelly while at Oregon (even though he had better overall receiving stats after Kelly left).
Overall, Foles is adept at throwing mid-to-long range passes, but he will need the support of his receivers by way of them making plays with their legs. Maclin will get first crack, but don’t be surprised if Matthews surpasses him in this category later in the season.
Ultimately, if his receivers can excel in the YAC category, it will surely enhance his stats as well as keep the offense operating at optimum efficiency. In what seems to be a “contract year”, Foles could use all the statistical help he can get.
The offense as a whole could surely use it as well.