Exploring Lance Moore’s Production Out Of The Slot

The Pittsburgh Steelers would have obviously preferred to retain Jerricho Cotchery, who spent the last three seasons with the team, but yesterday’s signing of Lance Moore is by no means an automatic downgrade, barring the chemistry lost between Cotchery and Ben Roethlisberger.

Having worked with Drew Brees, a precision passer, for essentially his entire career, however, Moore knows a little something about chemistry as well, and he also knows a bit about the role he will be asked to play in Pittsburgh’s offense, which is the slot receiver.

Over the past five seasons, 37.2 percent of Moore’s routes were run out of the slot, including a career-high 51.8 percent in 2013.

From his 624 slot routes over that span, he caught 94 of 130 targets for a completion percentage of 72.3, totaling 1268 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging a more than respectable 2.03 yards per route run.

That latter figure, and many of these figures, are bogged down by an uncharacteristic 2013 season that saw Moore battle injuries and lose playing time as he was slowly phased out of the offense.

In 2013, he averaged just 1.37 yards per route out of the slot, which was just one season removed from a YPRR average of 2.46. From 2009 to 2012, he actually averaged close to 2.3 YPRR.

Also unsurprising, yet certainly noticeable, is the expected decline in his usage rate as he lost out to rookie Kenny Stills as a favored target for Brees as the season progressed. Moore was targeted more than three percent less often from the slot in 2013 than he was over the span of the last five seasons as a whole.

During that window, he was targeted on 20.8 passing snaps, a number that drops down to 17.3 in 2013. If we want to again isolate and remove 2013 out of the equation, then Moore was targeted on 22.2 percent of routes run out of the slot from 2009 to 2012.

During his three-year stay in Pittsburgh, Cotchery was never targeted greater than 16 percent of the time out of the slot, which is a combination of Brees’ greater willingness to find his slot receiver as well as Moore’s ability to make himself available.

Despite running 345 of his 440 routes out of the slot last season, Cotchery was still targeted just 15.4 percent of the time, and despite catching 33 of his 53 slot targets for 500 yards, that still equated to a YPRR of just 1.45, though six of his 10 touchdowns did come out of the slot.

It’s quite difficult to draw even comparisons between what the Steelers are losing in Cotchery and what they’re gaining in Moore when it comes to a slot receiver due to the differences in the offenses in which they played and the style of the quarterbacks throwing them the ball. The numbers can only give so much of the story.

But what the numbers do show is that Moore is and can be an effective and accomplished slot receiver, which could come at a perfect time in a sort of transitional period of the offense as Roethlisberger works to decrease his time to throw in an effort to save some wear and tear on his body.

If the numbers truly indicate what they seem to, and Moore shows that much of last season is attributable to injury and loss of playing time and favored target status, then the former New Orleans Saints receiver should prove to be a nice addition to this offense as long as he’s allowed to stay within his defined role.

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