The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: James Washington will continue to see a higher volume of targets down the stretch.
Explanation: While Washington’s playing time has been relatively consistent when the wide receiver group has been healthy—35-55% of the snaps—his actual opportunities have not been. He has been targeted 11 times in the past two games, without really seeing more snaps. He has 17 targets in the seven games preceding that combined, including six targets starting in Detroit with Chase Claypool unavailable.
There doesn’t really seem to be a compelling reason that Washington’s targets would see an uptick down the stretch beyond the simple fact that they are coming around to the idea that he is one of their preferred targets. He goes have seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in those 11 targets, so he’s being productive with his chances as well.
Chase Claypool, meanwhile, has disappointed in multiple ways and at different times. He didn’t even catch a pass last week, for the first time in his career. This is a situation of the ‘hot hand’ playing, and Washington has offered more reliability. Ben Roethlisberger is comfortable with that.
Claypool may have blanked on receptions last week, but he has 18 catches for 320 yards combined in the four games preceding it, averaging 18 yards per catch, so he has been productive if we don’t reduce his story to just one game. He is the better matchup almost every week, as well.
Part of the reason Washington has gotten more targets is because Diontae Johnson has gotten fewer, especially last week. He probably can’t count on that to become a pattern. He usually sees 12-13 targets per game, but he has just 15 in the past two games combined. That won’t last.