49ers focusing on red zone offense


(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Fransisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers have been spending 35 percent to 40 percent of recent practices inside the 20-yard line.

“A little bit more than last year,” explained Harbaugh. “But, wouldn’t say a huge step up. It pretty was close to that.”

“I think that’s something that we know we’ve struggled with here – the red zone,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “And that’s something we’re constantly trying to improve.”

Last season, the 49ers ran 159 plays in the red zone, converting 50 first downs and scoring 33 touchdowns, the 12th and 9th best rates in the league, respectively.

To help improve on those marks the organization brought back wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who caught 105 passes for 1,510 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Niners from 2003 to 2005.

“He’s got the ability to burst at the top of his routes,” said Harbaugh. “Runs excellent routes. Acrobatic type of catches that he’s able to make. Really good hands. So far really good.”

But is Lloyd’s reputation as a red zone threat well deserved? Over his career he has been targeted 81 times in the red zone, catching 37 of them (45.7 percent) for 327 yards and 17 touchdowns – about what you would expect from an average receiver. Among receivers targeted at least 50 times in the red zone over the last three seasons Lloyd played (2010 to 2012)  only Tampa Bay buccaneer wideout Mike Williams had a lower catch rate (42.9 percent) than Lloyd  (43.1 percent).

From 2011 to 2013          
Player Targets Catches Catch% Yds TD
Wes Welker 64 49 76.6% 398 17
Marques Colston 58 41 70.7% 391 19
Rob Gronkowski 59 41 69.5% 344 29
Lance Moore 54 34 63.0% 268 16
Tony Gonzalez 58 34 58.6% 259 21
Jimmy Graham 54 31 57.4% 242 21
Calvin Johnson 57 28 49.1% 263 19
Roddy White 73 35 47.9% 271 17
Larry Fitzgerald 64 30 46.9% 188 11
Reggie Wayne 52 24 46.2% 203 12
Brandon Lloyd 50 23 46.0% 192 11
Steve Johnson 53 23 43.4% 218 15
Brandon Marshall 58 25 43.1% 209 15
Mike Williams 56 24 42.9% 189 16
Source: Pro-Football Reference

“A lot of exciting things going on,” said coach Harbaugh. “Team’s just striving to be better today than we were yesterday. See if we can’t be better tomorrow than we were today.”

I get striving to improve your team, just not sure adding a 32-year-old wide receiver who is average – at best – in the red zone accomplishes that.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.

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Neil Greenberg · May 29, 2014