NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Not all incomplete passes are the same.
Justin Hunter didn’t catch enough of the passes throw his direction last season, when the Tennessee Titans receiver caught 28 passes for 498 yards and three touchdowns. His 17.8 yards per catch was an excellent number for a deep-threat receiver.
But we saw a guy lacking confidence who wound up with the lowest reception percentage among all players who were targeted at least 50 times. Per ESPN Stats and Info, Hunter caught just 41.2 percent of the 68 balls targeted for him.
Why couldn’t he shine like other young receivers around the NFL, I wondered?
While he certainly was not assertive enough, new numbers shared by Football Outsiders show the struggles were hardly Hunter’s alone.
FO looked at “catchable rate,” which counts passes that fit into a number of categories: “batted at the line, quarterback hit in motion, overthrown, quarterback release slipped, thrown away, tipped by teammate or underthrown.”
They have Hunter with 67 targets and rated 27 of them as uncatchable. That 40.3 percent uncatchable rate was the highest in the NFL for players targeted at least 50 times.
So while Hunter can be more assertive and go get the ball better, a good share of the balls he didn't catch weren’t catchable.
That’s a reason to be hopeful as he returns from the ruptured spleen that ended his season after 12 games.
Kendall Wright was 12th on Football Outsiders' list with a 32.3 percent uncatchable rate.
Writes Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders: “If Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright are truly not excited by Marcus Mariota, perhaps they should reconsider -- they posted two of the highest 12 uncatchable rates in 2014. For wide receivers, the correlation between uncatchable rate and DVOA was -0.48, which makes plenty of sense. Hard to be an effective receiver when the quarterback just can't get you the ball. These are imperfect stats, because sometimes a pass might be overthrown because the receiver wasn't fast enough to get to a spot. That's why I like to look at teammates here to pick up on where the quarterback is the main issue, or where roles are well defined.”
That the guys who were supposed to be the Titans' two best wide receivers are in the top 12 on this list tells us the quarterbacks were certainly part of the issue last season, an issue they hope Mariota can help.