The (Non)Use of Santonio Holmes
I’ve still been working over some numbers for my corner valuations and to do so was spending some more time breaking down the WR snaps, targets, etc… as described on profootballfocus.com. In looking closer at the numbers I think I have a better understanding of where the frustration came last year for Santonio Holmes. Holmes considers himself a Grade A target and based on what the Jets are paying him so do the Jets. For all of Holmes’ faults that we saw last year he was certainly a workhorse. Holmes played in 1026 snaps, more than all but 3 other wide receivers in the NFL. But he clearly was not used anywhere near that of a number 1 WR.
Of Holmes’ 1026 snaps, 178 came in the slot and 848 came from the outside. Last season a slot receiver was targeted 18.7% of the time he lined up in the slot. Holmes was only targeted 15.7% of the time. The lowest of any Grade A receiver in the league. Lining up outside the average in the league was seeing a pass come your way 10.1% of the time. Holmes? A paltry 8.3%. The only name players looked at less were Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, Nate Washington, and Nate Burleson, all of whom are primarily slot guys not really focused on elsewhere. He ranked 78th out of 128 receivers to play at least 200 snaps.
In looking over the numbers it was a bad mix for Holmes. It was as if he was never even considered to be the main guy on the team. In looking at some of the star talent, when they were forced into the slot it was because a play was likely headed their way. Roddy White only played 88 snaps in the slot, but when he lined up there 35% of the time the ball went to him. Brandon Marshall was at 24%. Hakeem Nicks was just under 28%. Larry Fitzgerald was nearly 26%. You can understand the frustration in trying and feeling unappreciated compared to those you play with.
In hindsight it is really hard to explain. Holmes doesn’t have a great track record catching the football, but that is nothing new. The lack of use just seems to defy logic. Here are his targets as a percentage of slot snaps, wide snaps, and overall snaps for the last for seasons.
Those are huge decreases. He missed games in 2010 and didn’t play in nearly as many snaps, but you had to believe those are the numbers he thought were coming his way on a full 16 game schedule. A few snaps in the slot and a lot of looks when he lined up there and a ton of looks out wide. Instead he played a lot more snaps in the slot, never got looked at, and eventually gave up on the year. Can you have faith in your QB and more specifically the Offensive Coordinator when this is the decline in your looks?
From a team perspective Holmes ended up basically being the number 4 target on the team
Sanchez and the offense clearly fell in love with Jeremy Kerley whenever he was on the field. It was only 320 snaps, but he saw a lot of activity go his way whenever he was on the field. He was primarily a slot player, but even when he lined up wide he was being targeted as much as Holmes. Keller became a targeted staple of the offense. When he lined up in the slot he saw passes 23% of the time compared to just 17% the year before. Overall he was targeted on 12.2% of the snaps up from 10.7% in 2010. Burress saw more passes than Holmes at 10.1%, which was nearly identical to what Braylon Edwards saw in 2010 with the Jets.
I’m sure from Holmes’ perspective the lack of use was unexplainable which is why he bailed on the season. While there is no excuse for his actions late in the season when you look at the lack of opportunity there was clearly something wrong. Maybe Brian Schottenheimer didn’t want him here or felt that the game should be played by spreading the ball around. Still that wouldn’t really explain 2010. Maybe Holmes doesn’t get enough separation and Sanchez was spooked about turning the ball over. Maybe Burress, while targeted as often as Edwards, wasn’t as valuable as Edwards who did a better job spreading the defense thin and creating wide open areas for Holmes in 2010. No matter what something was wrong last year. If the Jets don’t figure out what that is they are going to have a very expensive, unproductive, and unhappy player on their sidelines. The team has to make every effort to get him involved in the offense close to his normal averages to keep things from falling apart this year and him being the catalyst for a major change at the QB position.
Having said that, I seriously question how much Holmes will be the target in this proposed ground and pound offense.
This new proposed team design under the tutelage of Sparano (and Guge) and head coach Ryan is reminiscent of the 1980s NY Giants who really did have a ground and pound offense and the #1 defense.
As I recall, Phil Simms's favorite target was TE Mark Bavaro; at least until Bill Parcells nicknamed him "Rambo," and opponents began keying on him. I'm not saying there were bounties put out on Bavaro, but he took so many beatings from opposing defenses that he eventually did have to sit out some games.
Anyway, the wide receivers were used sparingly in that offense. They could not hold onto any star wide outs because, like Holmes, they wanted a bigger piece of the action.
On this same note, I could only chuckle when I read a recent article proclaiming the Jets' interest in Drew Brees. I simply cannot see any QB of Brees' caliber being happy with handing the ball off to a running back for more than half the plays. What a mistake that would have been; especially after they spent all of this time, money, and energy to craft a ground and pound offense.
I'm glad that Sanchez and Holmes kissed and made up, but I foresee more hurt feelings in this ground and pound set. I still expect Kerley to be a favored target.
The one way I see Holmes happy with Sparano is in seeing the way Miami used Marshall and the way they used Moore. Marshall, who is better than Holmes, got a ton of looks from the QB and moreso than that Moore was throwing a good percentage of big reward passes which the WRs like because it gets them on TV highlights when they make the catch. Under Schotty to never be used and then when used for everything to be around 7-13 yards in the air I think drains the life out of players who see themselves as difference makers. That doesnt justify the attitude, but it is what it is and WRs are predominantly divas. You have to realize that as a coach when you spend the money on one.
I don't know what happened to the "Swerve" play (that broke open Jones, Greene and LT), but I don't see how they will be able to set that up without Schotty's attention to detail.
I feel that Holmes struggled with the lack of a true #2 WR and Schotty's complex schemes; I often saw him run the wrong route in key spots. Kerley's targets were because Holmes was drawing coverages, like Plax should have been doing for Holmes. Think how much better the offense looked with Kerley in there.
Hopefully Hill can get enough separation to take attention away from Holmes.
Last year with a major weakness from the RT, and Plax unable to stretch the field like Edwards did caused Sanchez to look far away from Holmes.