Next Level: Yards after catch and more

The Next Level statistical packet produced each week by ESPN Stats & Information is a veritable treasure trove.

The packet and I spent some quality time together this morning.

Our big theme out of it shall be yards after the catch. AFC South teams are excellent in the category on both sides of the ball.

Among players with nine catches of more, the division boasts some guys who’ve done very well after the catch:

In overall YAC, the Jaguars are getting 50.1 percent of their yards in the passing game after the catch, the fifth-most in the league. The Colts are seventh (48.5), the Texans are eighth (48.3) and the Titans are ninth (48.0).

I’m a bit surprised here. YAC is usually a product of well-thrown balls that lead targets into open spaces and explosive players who are able to take advantage. But the Jaguars and Colts have inexperienced quarterbacks and the Jaguars and Titans lack explosive playmakers.

"Good YAC really tells me is that there is most likely very good quarterback play in terms of accuracy and hitting guys in stride....but I'm not sure how much that describes the quarterbacks in your division," said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. "Hasselbeck and Schaub qualify. Playing calling also has a ton to do with it. Bubble screens/slants/etc. are going to yield more YAC than out routes."

Three of the teams are also good at limiting yards after the catch, which also surprises me as I don’t think the Jaguars (tied for fourth with a 6.4 yard YAC average), the Texans (tied for sixth at 6.6) and the Titans (tied for 10th) rank as great tackling teams though they can be good at rallying to the ball.

The Colts and Patriots are the league’s worst teams at defending yards after the catch, allowing an average of 8.5.

Other Next Level nuggets of note:

  • Matt Hasselbeck is second in the league in the red zone, with a 122.5 passer rating and a ridiculous 96.3 QBR while Matt Schaub is 23rd, at 74.9 and 15.5.

  • Blaine Gabbert is averaging 8.9 yards per pass in the air. He’s throwing on third-and-long a lot. But Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis should make for quality targets on short throws and help drive that number down. Curtis Painter is at 8.4, Hasselbeck and are at Schaub 8.1.

  • Reggie Wayne (53), Mike Thomas (52) and Pierre Garcon (51) rank eighth, ninth, and tied for 10th in targets.

  • Jones-Drew has five carries inside the 3-yard line for negative-9 yards and no touchdowns. Delone Carter has three carries for 4 yards and two touchdowns. Painter has two carries for no yards.

  • Six of Jacksonville’s seven interceptions have come when it’s rushed four or fewer.

  • Eleven of Houston’s 19 sacks have come when it’s rushed four or fewer.

  • When the Colts rush five or more defenders, they are allowing quarterbacks to complete 62.8 percent of their passes, have no interceptions and one sack. When they rush four or fewer, they are allowing a league-worst 75.5 completion percentage with three interceptions and 10 sacks. They’ve rushed a defensive back once all season. (Jacksonville is tied for the second fewest rushes by a defensive back with 11.)

  • The Texans have used two tight ends on 323 plays, 65 more than the New England, which ranks second. The Titans have used two tight ends on 68 plays, the second fewest in the NFL.