As part of the release of the 2014 Football Outsiders Almanac, which can be purchased as a PDF or at Amazon, Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders recently answered several questions about the New York Giants. Some of those answers have already appeared here, and you can find them in our StoryStream.
Today, we turn our attention to Kacsmar's answer to a question about wide receiver Rueben Randle.
Ed: You were, justifiably, critical [in this year's FO Almanac] of Rueben Randle for his play in 2013. Do you believe he can become a top-flight receiver, a guy who can take some pressure off Victor Cruz, in a revamped passing game that doesn't rely on so many option routes?
Scott Kacsmar/FO: If Randle's third year isn't his best yet, then that will be very disappointing for the Giants. In his first two years, he's been the third or fourth wide receiver on the depth chart behind Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon. If you're Eli Manning and you have those receivers, are you throwing to them or to a young Randle? So his previous lack of production is understandable. This season, Nicks is gone, Hixon's been gone and we still don't know what this offense has at tight end. The Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr., who may end up taking over as the No. 2 behind Cruz, but whether Randle's second or third this year, he'll have to take a big step forward in this new offense.
I don't really think the Giants expect they have a top-flight guy here, because why else would they draft Beckham at 12 when there were other needs on the board? On most teams, Randle's likely a low-end No. 2, high-end No. 3 wideout. Can he still get close to 1,000 yards and more touchdowns this year? Absolutely. The problem last year was Manning threw five interceptions to Randle on plays that involved miscommunication or the defense was tight and made a play on the ball. We marked 12 of Randle's incomplete targets as "Defensed" implying he didn't get great separation or positioning for the ball. Cruz had 12 such incompletions, but he also had 42 more targets, so this was more prevalent with Randle. One could also argue Manning probably shouldn't have forced some of these passes into good coverage.
Otherwise, Randle made some big plays and did a solid job after the catch. Manning overthrew him 15 times too, and the quarterback's accuracy didn't help the 52 percent catch rate Randle had last year. Better quarterback play and a bigger role for Randle should produce a better season.