Tennessee Titans receivers Corey Davis and AJ Brown celebrate

By The Stats: The Titans’ Receivers, A Key To Their Success

  • AFC South
  • AJ Brown
  • analytics
  • Anthony Firkser
  • Corey Davis
  • Jonnu Smith
  • Statistics
  • stats
  • Tennessee
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Titans
By Yossi Khebzou January 9, 2021 0 Comment
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The Tennessee Titans had one of the best offenses in the 2020 regular season. Their receiving corps, led by the explosive duo of AJ Brown and Corey Davis, were a massive part of their offensive success. In this edition of By The Stats, I’ll present three measures to illustrate how Tennessee’s receivers contributed to creating an offensive juggernaut in Nashville, how the offense works, and how efficient they were.

Stat. No. 1: DYAR and DVOA

If two stats can help indicate a pass-catcher’s value to a specific offense, they are DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). DYAR evaluates the production on plays where a receiver catches the ball, compares it to replacement-level WRs, then adjusts it for competition and situation. Meanwhile, DVOA indicates that value over a per-play basis. Football Outsiders has two Titans in the top 15 of DYAR, despite both missing two games: AJ Brown is sixth with 331 yards, and Corey Davis is thirteenth with 260 yards. When it comes to DVOA, both Brown (eight with 24.9%) and Davis (ninth with 22.4%) are in the top 10.

It’s important to note that the Titans are the only team with two WRs in the top 10 for DVOA. The graph below shows that Brown and Davis (the red dots) are in the upper-right quadrant’s high end. Both had a high total value and value-per-play. Undoubtedly, their elite production over the average WR helped the Titans’ passing offense become one of the most efficient in the league.


Stat No. 2: YAC Above Expectation

YACAE (Yards After Catch Above Expectation) is a new yet useful stat to understand how good a particular pass-catcher is with the ball in his hands. NFL’s Next Gen Stats track data such as how open a WR is, his speed, and how many defenders are close. Then, it calculates an expected YAC number. The difference between the expectation and the actual YAC makes up the measure. To get it on a per-play-basis, it’s divided by the number of receptions. YACAE is helpful because it shows how better or worse a player was relative to his expectation.

For the second straight year, AJ Brown leads the category among players with at least fifty receptions. His YACAE ended at 2.6 this season after posting a crazy number of 4.7 last year. Jonnu Smith (1.4), Anthony Firkser (0.6), and Corey Davis (0.6) also had above-average numbers in 2020. This stat matters for the Titans because it’s telling of how their offense works. Their receivers are expected to pick up yards after the catch. The fact that their four main pass-catchers have an above-average YAC above expectation means that they’ve accomplished that goal.

Stat No. 3: Yards Per Target

Among conventional stats, Y/T (Yards Per Target) is one of the best stats to measure pass-catchers’ efficiency. While Y/R (Yards Per Reception) is more widely used, it doesn’t consider plays like contested catches or drops. Y/T inherently does. Granted, Y/T also punishes the catchers for poor QB play, but there’s no perfect stat when it comes to receivers. According to Pro Football Reference, Corey Davis (10.7 Y/T) and AJ Brown (10.1) were seventh and ninth, respectively, in the category. The Titans were the only team who had two players with double-digit Y/T in the NFL. Their leading receiving duo made the most out of their opportunities. Again, this stat shows how the Titans’ passing-scheme revolves around efficiency, which they execute almost flawlessly.

Scheme and Execution

The Titans pass-catchers were extremely efficient during the 2020 regular season, which has to do with scheme and execution. Arthur Smith put the Titans’ receivers and TEs in the right positions to make big plays. As it’s demonstrated with DYAR, DVOA, and YAC over expectation, they made the most out of their opportunities. The main Titans’ receiving corps performed better than their average peers in all three metrics.

Note: This is the third of a three-part series analyzing the Titans’ offense By The Stats. To read the first part regarding Derrick Henryclick here. To read the second, regarding Ryan Tannehill, click here.

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Titans fan. Mathematician and Mechathronical Engineer in progress. A host of Batalla de Titanes and Los Tiempos de Canton. Writing for Enlace Judío, El Informal, and The Brawl Network.


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