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It’s Not Always Better To Give Than To Receive

touchdown passes

What do Dwayne Bowe, Rob Gronkowski, Cooper Kupp, and Dez Bryant all have in common? They all caught the most touchdown passes in a single season once upon a time. Davante Adams led the league in touchdown receptions for the second time in three seasons in 2022. So, you would imagine he’ll do it again this season too, right? Wrong.

Despite Adams’ 14 touchdowns in 2022, Josh McDaniels decided he needs a new quarterback in Vegas. You might think that would raise a red flag or two about Derek Carr, but the Saints still paid him $150 million. Next year, it’ll be the players of New Orleans bringing him to tears. McDaniels picked Jimmy Garoppolo to replace Carr. But, after his second surgery in two off-seasons, nobody knows if he will be healthy for the start of the season. 

Who Will Catch the Most Touchdown Passes in 2023?

A.J Brown 

Brown caught 11 scoring passes in 2022 and the Eagles only threw 24 touchdown passes all season. That’s partly because they only threw the ball 43% of the time in the opposition’s red zone. Also, it’s because Jalen Hurts is impossible to stop at the goal line. Presumably, they’ll come up with a different approach this year with Brian Johnson taking over from Shane Steichen.  

Johnson was previously the quarterback coach in Philly, so he knows which plays fit Jalen Hurts almost as well as Hurts. Most of the off-season departures from Philadelphia were defensive players, but Isaac Seumalo started all 17 games in 2022 at right guard.  

In 90 games for the Eagles, Seumalo only allowed seven sacks. Without him, Hurts might have to get rid of the ball quicker. That’ll suit Brown who was second in the league for yards after the catch, behind Justin Jefferson. Brown’s yards after the catch per reception was 1.3 yards better though because he caught 40 fewer passes. 

Tyreek Hill 

Only Hill’s lack of self-control can stop him from dominating the league in 2023. He caught 15 touchdowns in 2020 and that would have led the league last season. Granted in 2020, Hill was catching passes from a certain Patrick Mahomes and playing for a team who were only outscored by Rodgers’ Packers and Brady’s Buccaneers. Hill played all 17 regular season games in 2022 but Tua Tagovailoa only featured in 13. Hill saw 30% of the Dolphins’ total targets but the backup quarterbacks combined to complete just 59% of their passes. 

Not much changed in Miami during the offseason. Mike Gesicki has left but he didn’t really feature in Mike McDaniel’s plans anyway. The Dolphins bolstered their offensive line and Tagovailoa looks like he’s bulked up considerably since the end of 2022. A more durable and better-protected Tagovailoa will be a problem for the entire AFC in 2023.  

Ja’Marr Chase 

He’s still only 23 and when he’s healthy, he’s virtually unstoppable. In 29 NFL starts, he’s caught 22 touchdown passes. Chase wasn’t as exceptional in his sophomore season as he was back in 2021, but he was still very good despite battling injuries. He only started 12 games, but he caught more passes than he did as a rookie. His catch rate and yards per game increased in 2022 but he caught four fewer touchdowns. 

The Bengals have added Irv Smith Jr. to their red zone threats this offseason but they have lost Samaje Perine to the Broncos. Perine caught four touchdown passes in 2022. With Orlando Brown Jr. solidifying the offensive line, the Bengals passing game should be even more dynamic than it has been for Chase’s first two seasons.  

Mark Andrews 

In 2022, Andrews started more games than he had in any previous season. But he didn’t see as many targets as he did in 2021. Lamar Jackson’s injury problems partly explain that anomaly. Andrews and Jackson only played 11 games together in 2022. When Jackson started, Andrews saw as many as 13 targets in a single game, after Jackson’s injury, that figure never rose above nine. 

With Greg Roman’s departure, the noises coming out of Baltimore point to a more pass-heavy offense this season. The Ravens offense was pretty balanced in 2022 though, throwing 46% of the time. The offseason additions of Zay Flowers, Laquon Treadwell, Nelson Agholor, and Odell Beckham, Jr. suggest they’ll be able to pass more, but the Ravens perennial issue has been keeping their stars on the field. Rashod Bateman and Beckham Jr. are their two best receivers but both are recovering from surgeries, so it looks like Andrews will be the most reliable, elite pass-catching option. 

Travis Kelce 

There’s been a bit of chopping and changing in KC during the offseason with Juju Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, and Orlando Brown Jr. leaving. Richie James, Sebastien Guttierrez, Donovan Smith, and Jawaan Taylor arrive in free agency (because you need three tackles to replace Orlando Brown Jr.). They also added Rashee Rice and Wanya Morris (make that four tackles) in the draft. That’s without mentioning the signings of three undrafted receivers and three more undrafted tackles (no, really) after the draft. 

The number of receivers they retain is going to have an influence on how new offensive coordinator Matt Nagy decides his offensive scheme. Nagy has a reputation for using overly complex schemes and calling plays to set up future plays rather than to gain yards, but with Andy Reid and Mahomes in the vicinity, he’ll have two people to keep on message. With all the speedy and shifty receivers at Mahomes’ disposal (whoever they keep), defenses will have to play soft zones or just sit deep to prevent the big plays and Kelce will thrive in the space afforded him. 

Main Image: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports


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