The Dorial Green-Beckham Breakout Is About to Happen
Growing up, we are all taught how to ride a bike.
First we start with training wheels, and as we improve, we get the training wheels taken off. Of course, losing the training wheels does not guarantee success all the time as bumps and bruises are bound to happen when riding on only two wheels.
At some point we put the bike down, but we do not forget how to ride it; when we pick it back up we can get back to where we were, even if we stumble a bit along the way.
Much of the same can be said for Dorial Green-Beckham, who did not play his final year of college football due to suspension. After a year off, his talent still warranted the wide receiver-needy Titans to select him with a second-round pick.
Needless to say, the transition for Green-Beckham has not gone seamlessly as he has had to work his way back into the game. Now, he is finally getting his opportunity to take the training wheels off and to show how good of a player he can become.
The signs are pointing up for his breakout to occur sooner rather than later.
Picking Up Football Again
Through Week 6, Green-Beckham played no more than 42% of the team's offensive snaps in any game. In that time, he caught 6 passes on 11 targets for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns. During that time, most of his success and usage came in the red zone due to his size because he stands 6'5" and weighs 237 pounds. His red zone opportunity accounted for 5 of his targets that he turned into 2 catches for 16 yards and 2 touchdowns.
While the opportunity was minimal, the results still showed positive signs for the future, as Green-Beckham already earned a red zone role. Based on our metrics in this time, Green-Beckham produced a 12.04 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP), or the points he added with his catches above expectation-level, with an unsustainable 1.09 Reception NEP per target due to his red zone role.
While this pace was bound to slow because Green-Beckham should be more than just a red zone threat, it gave hope to him developing once he took the training wheels off.
From Weeks 7 through 9, Green-Beckham played no less than 61% of the Titans' snaps. Inexplicably, Green-Beckham only saw 3 targets in Weeks 7 and 8, and he turned those into 1 catch for 12 yards. While this outcome paints the bleakest picture possible, Ken Whisenhunt was still the Titans' coach at the time, and Zach Mettenberger was starting at quarterback because Marcus Mariota was injured.
In Week 9, with Mariota back at quarterback and Mike Mularkey acting as the interim coach, Green-Beckham finally earned his opportunity to shine.
He played on 48 snaps (67.6%) for his highest percent of snaps played this year. Among receivers, he played the second most snaps (only Harry Douglas played more) as it looks like he is now earning more play time than Justin Hunter.
Against the Saints, Green-Beckham was the most targeted receiver and saw 10 targets that he turned into 5 catches for 77 yards. This improved his 12.92 Reception NEP all the way to a 19.08 Reception NEP. While this is just one game, Green-Beckham is showing that with an opportunity he has the potential to become a good receiver.
Additionally, while Green-Beckham has not caught a touchdown over the past five games, his Reception NEP per target has fallen from 1.09 to 0.80. Although this sounds bad, it shows a more sustainable pace with an increased role. Among 106 receivers with at least 20 targets on the year (Green-Beckham has 24), that mark ranks 20th.
While his catch rate (50.00%) is tied for 85th among that same group of receivers, each of his 12 receptions have actually led to NEP gains. Only three other receivers (Miles Austin, Terrance Williams, and Devin Funchess) have had all their catches actually lead to positive results.
Green-Beckham has not found the end zone since Week 3, but that should change with his size and increasing playtime. Unfortunately, this week may present problems for Green-Beckham as he goes up against the] Carolina Panthers and their phenomenal cornerback, Josh Norman. Norman is playing like the game's best corner, and the only way Green-Beckham will be successful this week is if gets to run some slot routes.
However, Green-Beckham's luck should quickly change after this week's matchup as he gets Jacksonville twice and Oakland once in the three weeks following Carolina. Both teams are in the bottom four in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP, giving Green-Beckham a huge opportunity to feast on weak defenses.
His season then finishes with the Jets, Patriots, Texans, and Colts. The Jacksonville Allens (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns) showed that it is possible for receivers to have success against the Jets, and if Green-Beckham is not lined up against Darrelle Revis his chances for success increase. While the Patriots are ninth in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP, they have allowed yards to receivers, including Eric Decker and T.Y. Hilton, showing there is potential for success.
Green-Beckham then ends his rookie year against the Texans and Colts. The Texans are only in the middle of the pack for Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP. If you have a league that plays in Week 17, Green-Beckham could be huge, as he should feast on the fifth worst team by Adjusted Defensive NEP, the Indianapolis Colts -- provided he can evade Vontae Davis' coverage.
While Green-Beckham is not producing a historic rookie year, the training wheels are now off, and we have the opportunity to see how good of a receiver he will become. Although there are some tough matchups standing in his way, Green-Beckham has soft matchups as well that should give him the opportunity to break out before the year ends.