WFNY Stats & Info: Greg Little’s early-season struggles

Through two disappointing games, your Cleveland Browns have been among the most pass-happy teams in a pass-happy 2013 NFL.

Overall, the Browns have attempted 90 passes — 86 Brandon Weeden, four Jason Campbell — which ranks seventh-most in football. One of the biggest benefactors of those targets has been third-year receiver Greg Little, ye’ of the yet another recent traffic violation.

Little himself ranks tied for 10th in the NFL with 22 targets, per FFToday.com. Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Julio Jones and surprising names like Julian Edelman and Brian Hartline dominate the top of the list.

Yet despite those 22 targets, Little has caught just 8 passes. That’s a 36.4% rate, placing him in some historical rankings. Here are the 10 worst rates among NFL wide receivers (min. 100 targets) over the last five full seasons:

10. Vincent Jackson, 2012, Tampa Bay, 49.0% (72/147)
9. Justin Blackmon, 2012, Jacksonville, 48.5% (64/132)
8. Donnie Avery, 2012, Indianapolis, 48.4% (60/124)
7. Santonio Holmes, 2008, Pittsburgh, 48.2% (55/114)
6. Jerome Simpson, 2011, Cincinnati, 47.6% (50/105)
5. Brandon Lloyd, 2011, Denver, 46.7% (70/150)
4. Larry Fitzgerald, 2012, Arizona, 45.5% (71/156)
3. Denarius Moore, 2012, Oakland, 44.7% (51/114)
2. Torrey Smith, 2012, Baltimore, 44.5% (49/110)
1. Braylon Edwards, 2008, Cleveland, 39.9% (55/138)

Little’s catch percentage is even worse than Braylon Edwards territory. Obviously, the Browns’ awful 53.3% completion percentage anyway is a factor (thus, 58.8% to non-Greg Little targets). The average completion percentage in the NFL this season is 62.2%.

Only receivers with sub-50% rates thus far in 2013 (min. 15 targets): New England’s Kenbrell Thompkins 28.6% (6/21), Little, Pittsburgh’s Jerricho Cotchery 43.8% (7/16) and Jacksonville’s Cecil Shorts 44.0% (11/25).

There’s some hope for regression here in that hardly any receivers ever have catch rates sub-40% for a full season. But we’ll see if Weeden, Campbell or maybe even Brian Hoyer can make life any easier for Little starting in Week 3.

[Related: Cleveland Browns Game Two: Winners and Losers]

  • Harv 21

    Maybe it would help if Weeden broke the huddle in a flat 5 foot-wide helmet that says “jugs machine.”

    Will be curious to see if last year’s scenario repeats: as soon as Gordon played and was productive Little started hanging on to the ball. If this happens again I’ll suspect the main prob is Little’s head, not his hands.

  • WFNYJacob

    Yup, you’re math crosses out. Greg Little has been a well below-average pass-catcher without Josh Gordon being an impact player (weeks 5-onward last season).

    All of the 2011 season:
    Greg Little — 120 targets, 61 catches (50.8%), 709 yards (11.6 per)

    Games 1-4 in 2012:
    Greg Little — 25 targets, 11 catches (44.0%), 151 yards (13.7 per)
    Josh Gordon — 13 targets, 7 catches (53.8%), 93 yards (13.3 per)

    Games 5-16 in 2012:
    Greg Little — 67 targets, 42 catches (62.3%), 496 yards (11.8 per)
    Josh Gordon — 82 targets, 43 catches (52.4%), 712 yards (16.6 per)

    Games 1-2 in 2013:
    Greg Little — 22 targets, 8 catches (36.4%), 59 yards (7.4 per)

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Wow, that’s fantastic broken down. Seems like it’s his head – whether he can’t handle the coverage of #1s and he loses concentration on the ball because he’s focused on getting loose, or the coverages are more directed toward him and he is afraid of hits or whatever.

  • mgbode

    perhaps his skill cannot handle the CB1 or extra safety help. it is also harder to catch the ball when you are more closely covered.

    definitely a great breakdown.

  • WFNYJacob

    Yeah, agree with your point mgbode. I don’t think the stats above show that it’s necessarily just his head bugging him.

    Kudos to Harv for the suggestion, which led to the research. Y’all know I’m always interested in any random stat-related theories that I can explore.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Well I’m thinking of the drops in that they usually don’t seem to be issues of a guy draped on him, but I hear you. Either way, fascinating.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Brandon Weeden with/without Gordon the same way? :)

  • WFNYJacob

    Well, depends what you want to refer to as correlation or causation? I’d assume it’s somewhere in between. Gordon’s success can’t be separated entirely from Weeden’s improved play. And vice versa. And with regards to Greg Little too.

    Some other notes: Obviously, run-pass correlation-causation is also a factor. So don’t jump to conclusions about Weeden needing to throw less for the Browns offense to be successful. Struggling teams obviously need to throw more when they’re behind. So he’ll be more efficient when already playing well.

    Games 1-4 in 2012:
    41.9 att/gm, 5.97 yd/at, 1.8% td%, 4.2% int%

    Games 5-15 in 2012:
    31.8 att/gm, 6.82 yd/at, 3.1% td%, 2.9% int%

    Games 1-2 in 2013:
    43.0 att/gm, 6.00 yd/at, 1.2% td%, 3.5% int%

  • Harv 21

    Thanks, nice to know I’m seeing what I’m seeing. I assumed it was the weight of expectations he’s feeling, but mgbode’s point may be more accurate – with Benjamin still not able to get separation off his breaks the safety is right there on Little with the #1 corner, and Little isn’t a #1 talent or competitor to beat that.

    Matter of fact, his biggest drop Sunday was when he clearly caught sight of the safety ahead of him, and chose to alligator-arm and duck. And Weeden had threaded the needle so well that it still wasn’t picked off.

  • MrCleaveland

    I can’t remember ever seeing a greater disparity between a player’s ego and his performance.

    As the saying goes, he’s a legend in his own mind.

    Hey, we’ll always have his punting the ball into the stands after scoring an exhibition TD.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Only the Cleveland Browns could find a guy worse then Braylon Edwards. Little is really Edwards 2.0 but this shouldn’t be surprising since Weeden is Anderson 2.0 as well.

    So much for learning from history.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    It’s still interesting. The offense simply seems to play better when Gordon is in the game. It’s not just Gordon, it’s everyone, and it’s why I think it’s too early to throw out Weeden. Give a guy a line and a WR who can get separation, and it changes the whole dynamic.

    Any chance I can trouble you for the same split for Trent? I wonder if Gordon being in there opens things up more.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Also should say: You should write a post on this. :) The impact of Gordon’s return (if Weeden is QB at least) should not be underestimated.

  • CB Everett

    …the first segment in a three part mini series on Little. Next up, part two, “Mid-season calamties” following by the finale, “Late-season abominations.”

  • MrCleaveland

    I think the only reason Little still has a job is that Banner is convinced Gordon will screw up again and get suspended again.

  • RGB

    He’s not alone.

  • Harv 21

    And Gordon’s next is a full year suspension, probably finishing his career here. Which means next year we’d need both a franchise QB and a #1 receiver. Fun. Good thing we stole the Steelers’ third and fourth rounders for flexibility.

    I’m gonna go lie down now.

  • nj0

    “When she said it, she realized that she had given the same reply
    that Colonel Aureliano Buendía had given in his death cell, and once
    again she shuddered with the evidence that time was not passing, as she
    had just admitted, but that it was turning in a circle.”

  • jpftribe

    Great stats and all, but no one in the NFL has a better first down dance inside their own 40.

  • saggy

    I remember that play – and I distinctly remember Rich Gannon making the wrong comment on it, too. He chastised Weeden for trying to thread the needle. He may even have accused him of not doing it on that play, when Brandon, in fact, was successful at threading the needle.

    the drop was Little’s fault.