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Could The Falcons' Reliance On Roddy White Hurt Them In The Playoffs?

Roddy White is good at football. We all know this. He finished the regular season with 115 receptions and 1,389 yards, both Falcons records. He's headed to his third straight Pro Bowl (though I hope he can decline the invitation since Super Bowl participants are exempt from participating) and since 2007 only four players have more catches than White.

How important is he to this team? We can get an idea of his value when we compare the percentage of completions he was responsible for in any given season. For example, in his rookie season he hauled in 29 passes. The team completed 247 so White was responsible for 11.7 percent. The following chart shows White's progress since his rookie season.

Year
Pct. Of Team's Comp.
2009
25.6%
2008
33.2%
2007
24.7%
2006
13.5%
2005
11.7%

 

This season, White led the league by pulling in 31.9 percent of his team's passes. He barely edged out Larry Fitzgerald who finished second with 31.6 percent. The most balanced passing attack (if you can call it that) belonged to the Tennessee Titans who were led by Chris Johnson's 44 receptions or 16.1 percent of the team's total. The full chart and further analysis, after the jump.

Player
Receptions
Team Completions
Percentage
Roddy White
115
361
31.9%
Larry Fitzgerald
90
285
31.6%
Steve Johnson
82
296
27.7%
Santana Moss
93
349
26.6%
Dwayne Bowe
72
274
26.3%
Wes Welker
86
331
26.0%
Brandon Marshall
86
335
25.7%
Jason Witten
94
379
24.8%
Reggie Wayne
111
450
24.7%
Danny Amendola
85
354
24.0%
Andre Johnson
86
365
23.6%
Hakeem Nicks
79
339
23.3%
Percy Harvin
71
305
23.3%
Brandon Lloyd
77
334
23.1%
Ben Watson
68
296
23.0%
Mike Thomas
66
291
22.7%
LeSean McCoy
78
348
22.4%
Greg Jennings
76
352
21.6%
Kellen Winslow Jr.
66
306
21.6%
Zach Miller
60
279
21.5%
Anquan Boldin
64
308
20.8%
Mike Wallace
60
298
20.1%
Calvin Johnson
77
383
20.1%
Mike Williams (Sea)
65
324
20.1%
Vernon Davis
56
282
19.9%
Terrell Owens
72
365
19.7%
Dustin Keller
55
288
19.1%
Marques Colston
84
450
18.7%
Matt Forte/Johnny Knox
51
276
18.5%
Steve Smith
46
256
18.0%
Darren Sproles
59
359
16.4%
Chris Johnson
44
273
16.1%

 

White's 2010 season was remarkable but because the team passed more than they have since 1995, his 2008 season is actually still more impressive. That year, the team only completed 265 passes but he caught 88 of them (33.2 percent). Over his career, White has caught 24.4 percent of the Falcons completions and since 2007 only Wes Welker has accounted for a higher percentage of his team's completions (29.5 to 28.7 percent).

This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because White is near unstoppable and Matt Ryan has been able to find him on a consistent basis especially when a big play is needed. It's bad because with the Falcons so dependent on White, a team with the mind to do so could focus their entire defense on him and limit his effectiveness. Now that doesn't happen very often and White did get 100 yards or a touchdown in 10 of the 16 games this season.

Looking at the playoff teams, eight of the 12 teams are in the bottom half of the chart meaning their leading receiving accounts for, at most, 22.6 percent of the team's completions. Only four teams were overly dependent on one player; the Falcons (White), Chiefs (Dwayne Bowe), Patriots (Welker) and Colts (Reggie Wayne). The Pats and Falcons are their conferences No. 1 seed so this could be misleading but it's worth noting. The Bears in the NFC and the Jets in the AFC have the most balanced passing attacks among playoff teams.

Since realignment in 2002, there have been eight Super Bowl champions. On average, the No. 1 receiver on those eight teams accounted for 22.7 percent of the total completions. Only once, in 2005, did a player account for more than 30 percent (Hines Ward). I'll concede this could all be arbitrary but if the Falcons win the Super Bowl, White will have accounted a higher percentage of his team's completions than any other champion in the last nine seasons.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.