Josh Morgan signed with the Bears on Monday and he'll get some opportunities in Chicago. Receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will be getting attention, and rifle-armed Jay Cutler is prone to taking more chances than most quarterbacks. But Morgan will have to produce better than he did in Washington. He's going to the Bears as a low-cost pickup as opposed to when he came here as a $6-million-a-year target.
I said it before and will say it again, Morgan can’t blame his failings here on the coaching staff. He received opportunities, but did not produce. The coaches weren’t pleased with his inconsistent route running, among other things. And in the Atlanta game in particular his run blocking was poor. He was inactive for the season finale.
I did not expect a "Wow" season from Morgan this past year, but I did anticipate much better than what he delivered. He definitely looked more spry in training camp, thanks to having screws removed from his ankle following his 2011 surgery. I remember him in a preseason game catching the ball, coming down and quickly turning upfield between two defenders. He could not have done that the previous season.
But it didn’t happen for him. It’s not as if he couldn’t have won the job back, either, as Leonard Hankerson did not pull away that far (and then got hurt). However, Morgan could never get it back.
The most yards Morgan gained in a game with Washington? Sixty two. Worse: He had only four games with at least 50 yards in his two seasons. And his longest catch went for only 32 yards. He had one play over 20 yards this past season, and it went 21 yards. He just wasn’t a threat after he caught the ball.
If you’re going to try and get more downfield, Morgan is not the guy. He did average 4.81 yards after the catch in 2012, but the way the offense was -- and the gaps created by the fakes -- he needed to be above 5.0. Where he deserved credit his first season here: His willingness to catch passes over the middle in traffic. He also played hurt a lot of that season (his hands).
Of course, this got me to looking at what his initial replacement, Andre Roberts, did after the catch last season. Turns out it wasn’t very good: 2.52 yards according to ESPN Stats & Information. Some of that stems from how they are used or the quarterback. But it’s not as if Roberts was much better the previous year at only 3.52 yards. But he averaged 4.67 yards after the catch in 2011.
DeSean Jackson, meanwhile, averaged 5.91 yards after the catch last season -- it helps when you have a lot of bubble screens or smoke routes. And speed.
Pierre Garcon averaged 5.65 yards after the catch last season, also in part because of so many horizontal passes that led to eight- to 10-yard gains (but he also got those gains because of his ability to break tackles and fearless running, not to mention a quick first step). But he was even better in 2012 when he averaged 7.07 yards after the catch. Why? Because the zone read play-action fakes -- or even the stretch-zone fakes -- resulted in linebackers scrambling back and out of position, leading to gaps Garcon exploited over the middle.
Both Garcon and Jackson are good on shallow crosses, and I’d expect that to continue in 2014, with both being freed by teammates running the other way, causing chaos or, perhaps, a slight bump. So I’d expect both their yards after the catch to remain high. Roberts? We’ll see. I was surprised at how little he did after the catch, but when I watched him this past season, a lot of his catches came off comebacks or hitches.