Plaxico Burress Not The Redzone Threat He Is Made Out To Be
Every since Plaxico Burress was released from prison earlier this month, all most people want to talk about is how Burress can be a great redzone addition to their respective team, Steelers fans included. Maybe even quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is enamored with him. Most people tend to do this because of the size of Burress, but in reality, Burress does not live up to the redzone hype he gets. On the flip side, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward does not get the redzone respect he deserves after all of his years in league and the stats back it up.
I pulled the set of numbers from 2002-2008 to back this argument up as 2008 was the last season that Burress played. I ranked the receivers regular season redzone receiving numbers below and listed only those that have targeted 80 or more times during those years.
From 2002-2008 Ward was targeted 142 times in the redzone during the regular season and caught 81 passes for 43 touchdowns. That equates to a 57% completion percentage and a touchdown catch 30% of the time he was targeted. He also registered a touchdown 53% of the time he caught a pass in the redzone.
Burress on the other hand was targeted 104 times during that same time frame and caught 44 of them for a 42% completion rate. He scored a touchdown only 26% of the time targeted in the redzone. He did however score 61% of the time he did catch a ball, but that percentage can be misleading if you are not catching balls thrown your way. The 42% completion percentage was the second lowest of the players used in this study that qualified as only Chris Chambers was lower with a 41% rate. In fact if you look at the numbers, Burress is just a taller version of Chambers when it comes to the redzone.
Randy Moss surely has had one hell of a career, but his overall redzone numbers are not that impressive when you break them down. He does have 43 redzone touchdowns, but also has been targeted 27 more times than Ward was. Ward has the same amount of redzone touchdowns that Moss has during that span.
Quarterback play and accuracy surely can make a big difference in these stats, but from 2004-2008 both Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have shared very similar regular season, redzone passing statistics. Roethlisberger compiled a 54% completion rate during that span, while Manning had a 51% rate. Both threw 71 touchdown passes during those 4 years and Manning threw just 3 more interceptions than Roethlisberger.
If you are wondering about the numbers for Ward since 2008, he has been targeted 31 times in the redzone over the last two seasons and caught 14 of them with 9 going for touchdowns. That equates to a 45% completion rate and is down from 57% rate shown above, but still 3% better than the Burress rate also cited above.
Burress, who will be 34 years old by the time the season starts, may very well still show he still has it as a vertical type receiver, but the odds are certainly against him. What made him so dangerous was the ability to make the big play as evidenced by his career 15.5 yards per catch. He never has been known as a great route runner and as I have shown, not all that fantastic in the redzone. The Steelers have their vertical, big play receivers already in Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown and their possession guys in Emmanuel Sanders and Ward. If Burress has lost his vertical play ability like many think he has being out of the game for two years, he certainly would be of no use to many teams in the NFL, let alone the Steelers. Especially considering the type money that agent Drew Rosenhaus will be attempting to get him. If Burress wants to play for a one year veteran league minimum, I am all for the Steelers kicking his tires, but if not, I stand by my opinion the Steelers should pass on him.
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