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What's Wrong With John Carlson, Part 1

In my head I heard "way down at the bottom of the DYAR rankings for tight ends ..." and then I clicked over to Football Outsiders and found way down at the very bottom of the DYAR rankings for tight ends is John Carlson. So I knew without looking and that's some kind of indictment, right? Passes targeting John Carlson have not been very valuable, all 37 of them. If I mosey on down to Advanced NFL Stats and look up Carlson under the more intuitive expected points added per pass stat, the true depths Carlson has sunk stands out even more. Carlson is worth -0.39 points per target, more than double the second to last place tight end, Jermain Gresham, and the worst EPA/P among tight ends since Reggie Kelly in 2008. Kelly was and is more of a blocking tight end.

So that's some suck. The only wide receiver equally as damaging per target as Carlson is Deion Branch. Interesting, huh?

Branch currently leads all Patriots receivers in EPA/P, surpassing Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Yeah, interesting.

Stats can give us some kind of start, but not much else. So, we know that passes targeting John Carlson have been a concentrated bag of suck, but that doesn't tell us whether Carlson has been the problem or something or someone else. Luckily, I have every game on DVD. Let's see what exactly comprises Carlson's -0.39 points per target.

San Francisco

Carlson is targeted six times and catches three passes. His season reception percentage is 46%, so this is a pretty typical game for him. He runs two patterns out from the tight end position, one from trips and three from split wide. Here are each of his targets.

1. From trips on the right, Carlson runs a corner route. Nate Clements jumps the route and picks the pass. Other than maybe not doing a great job swatting the pass away, Carlson shoulders no blame. This is the Seahawks first play from scrimmage of the season, in case you forgot.

2. From tight end, Carlson receives an outlet pass for four on second and eight.

3. Route confusion. This becomes a theme. He starts split wide left and streaks up field. Hasselbeck throws as if he is running a curl. The pass flies out of bounds incomplete. Dashon Goldson strikes Carlson and is flagged for unnecessary roughness.

4. Wide left, Carlson receives on a dig route and redirects for nine yards after the catch.

5. Hasselbeck throws a fade; Carlson runs an out. Incomplete.

6. Split wide right, Carlson runs a double move and receives for 19.


Carlson is targeted 10 times, and completes five passes for 48 yards.

1. He runs from left tight end up field and is wide open, but Hasselbeck tosses the ball towards the middle of the field and Carlson is breaking towards the left sideline. Incomplete.

2. Split wide right, Carlson runs a curl, receives and runs for three additional yards and the first.

3. Split wide right, Carlson doesn't create much separation from Brian Dawkins. Hasselbeck throws it over his head high and incomplete.

4. Carlson crosses from left tight behind the line towards the right flat and receives a short pass from Hasselbeck for six.

5. Runs from left tight end into a quick curl and receives in front of D.J. Williams for eight.

6. Runs from right tight end on a deep cross. Hasselbeck is hit as he throws and badly underthrows towards Carlson. He attempts to slow and catch it, but Dawkins breaks on the route and intercepts the pass.

7. Right tight end, Carlson runs what looks like an option hook, but the pass is wide right and Carlson falls attempting to dive and catch it.

8. Tight end right, crosses left behind the line and turns to receive, but the pass is very low and though he reaches out to scoop it, the pass falls incomplete. Dawkins smacks punishes him for his effort.

9. Tight end left, seam route, Carlson turns and receives in the soft spot of the zone for 22. Seattle is down 31-7 in the third quarter.

10. Carlson runs a speed out from split back right for four yards.

San Diego

1. From the left slot, Carlson runs an out and receives for four before being tackled by Shawne Merriman.

2. From right slot, Carlson runs a dig route. Carlson is between three defenders and the pass is high. He jumps but is not able to catch the pass.

3. Carlson motions into the left slot prior to the snap and then runs a skinny post. Hasselbeck pumps right and then turns and passes to a wide open Carlson for 37. Feels good to watch that clip again.

4. From the left slot, Carlson throws off Steve Gregory's press and runs an out and receives for nine.

5. Carlson aligns tight right, but standing. Carlson runs straight up field and receives on a curl for nine and the touchdown. Linebacker Brandon Siler never turns to defend the pass.

6. Carlson motions into the left slot and runs a corner route. Hasselbeck throws it over the back left corner of the end zone incomplete.

7. Carlson is aligned tight end right. Hasselbeck scrambles right and motions to run down field. Carlson breaks wide open behind two defenders but Hasselbeck sails it high and long, incomplete. Better pass is a touchdown. Better pass or a ten foot tall tight end is touchdown.

8. Tight left, Carlson runs a quick out, receives and is tackled where he catches. Two yards.

9. Tight right, Carlson runs a cross into the end zone and beats Brandon Siler, who falls down. Hasselbeck passes a bit behind him, to avoid Eric Weddle closing from the left, but Carlson can not turn and grab the pass for the score. It's not an easy catch, but a catch Carlson should make.