Sunday Mailbag 10/16

This week's mailbag addresses Chad Spann, Taylor Price, Tim Tebow, and his receivers. Photo by Ian Britton.

Lucious528: Hey Matt, heard Spann got signed by TB? Any news?

Matt: Spann tweeted me to say he was visiting Tampa yesterday and his Twitter account has entries about traveling to three cities. However, I was off yesterday (wedding anniversary) and haven’t heard back from him. He could have been visiting three NFL teams or making a stop in a second city to transfer planes to Tampa. Spann told me during our conversation (the first installment will be posted tomorrow) that five teams had contacted him and told him to be ready in case he and/or the Colts decide to part company after his injury settlement, which I think runs through Week 8. Spann has been rehabbing five days a week since suffering a grade three hamstring tear in the final preseason game against the Bengals.

Jacobo Moses: What are your thoughts on Taylor Price’s dynasty outlook the next 1 to 3 yrs?

Matt: Price had the athletic talent to become an NFL receiver when he left Ohio. Although you’re probably seeking a more specific answer about Price, I think the best way to address this question is to focus on young wide receivers transitioning to the NFL because most drafted receivers have similar hills to climb. Routes and catching the ball in tight coverage are two skills that receivers commonly need to work on early in their careers. Price demonstrated good hands at Ohio and I also liked his quick reaction time to get his hands in front of high-velocity passes. However, this is something I saw in drills and performances in drills don’t always translate to the field when the prospect of contact looms. We’ve at least seen the Patriots show comfort with using young players on defense and I would argue that the use of Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and the two Patriots tight ends reveals the same tendency on offense. With that in mind, the fact the Patriots took a chance on Chad Ochocinco and released Brandon Tate are actions that say loudly that they lacked the confidence in Taylor Price to be their starter heading into the season. If you’re going to take the business analyst approach to Price’s outlook then you’re going to say that his outlook to become a starter decreases if it doesn’t happen by 2013. However, I’m leery of that approach. You’ll simply have to wait and see what the beat writers are saying about him as he’s written about in the future.

Several Tweets this week asking about the impact of Tim Tebow on receivers Brandon Lloyd, Eric Decker, and the returning Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas.

Matt: If you harken back to Tim Tebow’s days at the University of Florida you’ll remember that Tebow threw the football to Riley Cooper, David Nelson, and Aaron Hernandez. All three of these pass catchers are big receivers. I don’t think this was a coincidence. Bigger bodies generally have a broader reach and more ability to absorb contact and still make a play in tight coverage. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are obviously big receivers and I think both offer the same assets to Tebow as his fellow alums Cooper, Nelson, and Hernandez once did at Florida. However, the biggest receiver might be Brandon Lloyd if you think along more figurative terms. His leaping ability, concentration, and fluid athleticism in the air gives him a broad catch radius to make plays on passes that aren’t generally considered accurate. In this sense Lloyd might be the largest receiver on this roster. It’s no coincidence that Eddie Royal and Lloyd are getting shopped around the league (although there are other – more significant – reasons that these two receivers might be on their way out: salary, age, and in Royal’s case, overall performance).

Lloyd remains the primary receiver in this offense with Tebow under center and I believe he and Decker will do a good job of working their way open when Tebow makes his made scrambles behind the line. However, I’m not counting on Tebow throwing 40 times a week and if he does, most of his completions will be in the range of 5-15 yards. We’re talking about screen passes, crossing routes, slants, short outs and comeback routes. We’ll see the occasional seam route and streak, but I believe Tebow will do this off play action and designed rolls to isolate one side of the field. This means Lloyd and Decker will see a decline in targets most weeks. If Thomas returns to the field and doesn’t look like a physical approximation of what he once was prior to his Achilles’ injury, then he’ll likely earn 3-5 targets per game in the short passing game as well as the occasional fade route and this will further shrink Decker and Lloyd’s targets.

Still, Lloyd will remain the primary red zone threat and Decker is good at working open over the middle when Tebow is in trouble.

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