Welcome to my latest series, where I look at what may or may not be a trend and tell you to keep a close eye on it. I probably didn't need to explain that.
The trend we'll kick this whole series off with has to do with yards per catch. In 2011, the Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez saw nice increases to their yards per catch, which had been trending downward. Each picked up about a yard over 2010, in fact. Considering that the two vacuumed up 180 of Matt Ryan's 347 complete passes, this is relevant.
As I see it, there's a few possibilities for last year's increase in YPC:
- The Falcons are transitioning toward a deeper passing game, or at least running more routes that don't end with Roddy White being planted, fertilized and watered by opposing defenders five yards out;
- Julio Jones is the rare talent that stretches the field for everyone else;
- It's a statistical blip which will not be repeated in 2012.
Some combination of the three is probably closest to the truth, but I'm going to point to #1. The Falcons finally started to open up the throttle a little bit in 2011—however reluctantly that might have been—and Ryan's overall yards per attempt was up from 6.5 to 7.4. It helped to add Julio Jones as a game-breaking deep threat when he was healthy—the dude averaged 17.8 yards per catch, after all—but I do think there's a philosophical change here.
The only serious question mark is whether Tony Gonzalez will remain freakishly unaffected by the ravages of time come September or not. I'm not betting against him.
Do you think the trend will continue in 2012, stay about the same as last year or actually drop?