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Kansas tight ends scoring touchdowns and getting ignored outside the red zone

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Contrary to the beliefs of so many in the Moneyball camp, numbers don’t define value. But they do trigger deeper looks at issues and influence decisions in all sports.

A study of Kansas University football statistics by my friend Gimpy the Stick revealed a paradoxical set of numbers involving the team’s two tight ends, Jimmay Mundine and Mike Ragone. They have combined for just eight of the team’s 97 receptions, yet have three of the four TD catches.

Running backs: 26 catches, one touchdown. Special teams player: One catch, no touchdowns. Wide receivers: 62 receptions, no touchdowns.

If the tight ends get open when the field shrinks, it stands to reason they do the same when the defense has to spread out to cover a much longer field.

What to make of such odd figures?

Does Charlie Weis’ offense all but ignore the tight end outside the red zone? That doesn’t make sense when viewed in the context of his career.

As Gimpy points out, the year Weis served the Kansas City chiefs as offensive coordinator, Tony Moeaki ranked second on the team with 47 catches, averaged 11.8 yards per catch and made it to the end zone three times. The Chiefs’ three tight ends combined for 60 catches and five TDs. Patriots tight ends also were targeted frequently with Weis as OC. In the final three years of the Brady-Weis working relationship (2002-04), Brady threw 27 of his 79 touchdown passes to tight ends. Pro-style offenses typically use the tight end more than college spreads.

OK, so what we have here are tight ends who can get open, a head coach/offensive coordinator who knows how to utilize them and eight receptions in six games. That paradox must be a function of Dayne Crist not getting far enough in his reads to identify the tight end. The closer to the end zone an offense draws, the more a tight end gets his number called as a first-or-second option. The longer the field, the deeper down the line of progressions the tight end usually becomes and Crist doesn’t get far enough to check the tight end very often.

Weis said he will use both Michael Cummings and Crist at QB against Oklahoma, but the smart guess has Cummings playing first and more often. He energized the team against Oklahoma State and deserves a chance to build on that. Plus, he might get the ball to the tight ends.

Cummings threw 10 passes and completed half, not enough evidence to draw conclusions. Still, it is mildly interesting to consider 40 percent of his completions and his only touchdown pass were to Mundine, an under-utilized receiving talent. Just 7 percent of Crist’s completions, but 67 percent of his touchdown passes have been to tight ends.

Mundine explained his 21-yard TD from Cummings: “They were running a man coverage and I made the first guy miss and then they rammed into each other. I didn’t plan to make them run into each other, but that left me open, I caught the ball and ran in.”

It wasn’t supposed to work that way, but it did, and when Mundine sprung open, Cummings hit him. Kale Pick was all alone on a play that wasn’t supposed to work that way against Northern Illinois. Remember what happened?

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