Packing the Stats: James Jones vs. Donald Driver

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Here’s a post that is sure to spark some heated debate. We’ve had quite a few comments lately about the infamous James Jones and his comparison to the esteemed Donald Driver. Most of this has stemmed from two points of contention: (1) the Green Bay Packers’ decision to keep Driver despite his declining performance, and (2) the reputation of Jones in regard to dropped passes.

So, as I am wont to do, I took some time to research each of these player’s performances in 2011. I discovered some interesting things along the way, but let me first present to you some of the raw statistics (thanks to PFF):

 

J. Jones D. Driver
Snaps 514 521
Pass 376 419
Run Block 179 144
PFF Rating -2.2 -4.4
Penalties 1 0
Targets 54 54
Receptions 38 37
Catch % 70.4 68.5
Yards 635 445
Yds. / Rec. 16.7 12
YAC 292 142
YAC / Rec. 7.7 3.8
Longest 70 35
TD 7 6
INT 2 0
Drops 6 8
Missed Tackles 6 1
Fumbles 1 0

 

As you can see, Jones and Driver are very comparable as Packers receivers, with just about the same number of snaps and targets each. They do fill slightly different roles, though, as Jones provides more support in run blocking than Driver. Jones is also more of a deep threat, being targeted 11 times on passes of 20 yards or more, compared to Driver’s 3 targets in that range. That said, they both saw about 30 targets each in the 0-9 yard range, with most of their targets coming over the middle.

Now, it’s quite obvious that Jones was an overall more productive player. He caught just one more pass than Driver in the same number of targets, yet he put up almost 200 yards more. And while the deep balls do make a difference, Jones was able to rack up 150 yards more than Driver after the catch and recorded more missed/broken tackles.

The two marks against Jones are that he had one fumble and two interceptions on passes thrown at him (though only one of those was on a dropped pass, as we’ll see later).

At this point, it’s hard to argue that Driver is a better option than Jones at wide receiver for 2012. But one thing that people keep pointing to is Jones’ frequency of dropped passes. While the Super Bowl season was a big factor in that reputation, it doesn’t really hold true for 2011, at least when compared to Driver.

Both receivers had the most dropped passes among the group in 2011, but Driver actually had two more drops than Jones. Now, the common response to this is that Driver made his catches when they counted, and he showed up in big moments. But is that the truth, or is it a memory bias that mistakes what actually happened?

While going through every game and every catch by each player is not really a productive use of my time, I was able to go back and look at each player’s dropped passes. By comparing their drops, I figured it could indirectly suggest how meaningful the rest of their catches were. So I went through some of the game film to see when their drops occurred – the time, down-and-distance, route type, score at that point, and how the drive ended. Here’s what I found:

 

JAMES JONES
Week (Opp.) Time Down Route Score Drive End
Wk. 3 (Bears) Q2 2:28 1-20-OPP 25 Post 14-7 FG
Wk. 4 (Broncos) Q4 12:21 2-10-GB 37 Dig (INT) 42-17 INT
Wk. 5 (Falcons) Q3 2:03 2-10-GB 32 Comeback 15-14 TD
Wk. 11 (Buccaneers) Q1 10:40 2-16-GB 6 Fade 0-0 TD
Wk. 15 (Chiefs) Q2 0:15 3-2-GB 35 Slant 0-6 PUNT
Wk. 17 (Lions) Q3 10:25 3-2-GB 26 Post 24-19 PUNT

 

DONALD DRIVER
Week (Opp.) Time Down Route Score Drive End
Wk. 3 (Bears) Q1 0:43 1-10-GB 40 Dump Off 7-0 TD
Wk. 5 (Falcons) Q3 5:38 3-5-OPP 39 Post 6-14 FG
Wk. 6 (Rams) Q1 7:21 2-17-OPP 23 Dig 0-0 FG
Wk. 10 (Vikings) Q4 15:00 2-12-OPP 38 Dig 31-7 TD
Wk. 14 (Raiders) Q1 5:42 1-10-OPP 29 Fade 7-0 TD
Wk. 15 (Chiefs) Q2 13:02 3-10-OPP 49 Post 0-6 PUNT
Q2 2:47 2-10-GB 3 Fade 0-6 PUNT
Wk. 17 (Lions) Q1 6:41 2-G-OPP 7 Post 0-9 FG

 

It can be hard to really quantify what constitutes a “game-changing” drop, but we can simplify it somewhat by isolating the third down drops, since it results in a failure to convert. Each player had two drops in third down situations, so on that level they are equal. However, both of Driver’s drops were at points when the Packers were trailing in the game, whereas only one of Jones’ third down drops came at such a point.

It might also be worth pointing out that Driver had two drops during the Chiefs game in Week 15, which as we all know was the Packers’ only regular season loss. Jones only had one that game, though it did come on a quick no-huddle play at the end of the half while still in their own territory.

So while we can’t conclusively say (without hours of research) that Driver showed up in bigger situations than Jones, we can say that Jones didn’t really drop that many passes in crucial moments of a game. Coupled with the productivity we saw from our original stats, I’d conclude that it’s a weak argument all around to say that he is a worse player than Donald Driver at this point in time.

With all of the football down time this month, I’ll see if I can do a little bit of film study to compare them further. For now, though, this should provide a solid jumping off point for the discussion of these two players going into 2012.

Feel free to share your thoughts below on the information presented and any critiques you might have of my analysis.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • steve cheez

    The “infamous” James Jones and the “esteemed” Donald Driver. Classic!

    • Chad Toporski

      ;-)

  • Tarynfor12

    Great job Chad and thank you for putting in the time with the film review.
    The problem is too many simply need a whipping boy on the offense and JJ has been named to the position.

    I’ve been saying in a few posts that JJ isn’t as bad and DD wasn’t as viable as heralded.There is no taking away a couple plays DD gave us but this over zealous blind love that many have and use to defend him being on the roster is based on your ‘memory bias’ theory IMO.

    JJ is a victim of this blind love for DD (his no respect talk) but JJs value is unmistakable and a reason why he hasn’t been shipped off so cheaply as many expect/want/hope from TT.

    The DD fans want him on the field at all cost even if it means the trading of JJ which is a huge mistake and one I hope TT doesn’t make.

    Keeping DD one year too long will cost us JJs better years if traded now.
    The benefit of JJ cannot be easily discarded for the ‘hype hope’ of the Gurley and Borel additions which may also be discarded due to the ‘memory bias’ and adds to the WR talent loss.

    I loved DD and would love him more if he just said goodbye.

    Jennings,Nelson,Jones,Cobb,and if either Gurley or Borel can’t beat a 38 year old DD…why are we even talking about them replacing JJ in any discussions.
    OK,have at me!

    • Chad Toporski

      Can’t disagree at all!

  • James david Marsh

    If DD wants to keep playing, he should seek employment on another team. He no longer brings enought to the table to keep playing for Green Bay. Aaron Rogers wanted Jones last season. I am sure that AR, MM, and TT will make the right choices at WR for the coming season.

    • Chad Toporski

      I wouldn’t say that DD no longer brings enough to the table, but it’s clear that he’s slipping down the totem pole. How much farther he can go before becoming a liability is the big question.

  • Oppy

    JJ’s # of targets were the same as DD’s, and they both had approximately the same # of snaps as each other, this is true.

    But don’t overlook what you have illustrated: James Jones matched Driver’s targets, and out produced him in yardage, yet JJ had 43 LESS snaps where he was running routes- that’s more than 10% fewer opportunities to run routes and get open for a pass than DD had.

    That also works against JJ, however, when you consider the INTs and the Fumble..

    • Chad Toporski

      An excellent point. If you had to label these players, I’d say JJ leans more towards the “risk/reward” while DD leans more towards “consistent.”

  • aaronqb

    DD was a great receiver, but brings nothing to GB at this point. He will be, at best, the #5 WR option (#6 if you include Finley). This position should be manned by a rookie or up-and-comer and someone who can contribute on special teams. Driver is neither.

    The only reason DD is on the roster is for a farewell tour. I think he’s put TT in a bad position by continuing to play and make it known he wants to be a Packer. GB is no place for him right now, especially since they are SB contenders.

  • PackersRS

    Best segment of the site, and possibly in all Packers-related sites, if not overall. Brilliant, Chad.

  • toolkien

    Something else to consider, is that JJ has more up and down capability. Think of that play in the ATL divisional playoff game in 2010 when Rodgers threw a risky pass to Jones, but threw it extra high, and then when it was over gave Jones that look (only to you, buddy, and way up top). Rodgers does not make that throw to Driver. Each receiver has their own special qualities that compliment each other and can provide a viable target in different ways. Jones also runs very good routes. In other words, Jones is a top shelf #3 receiver. He’d be a good to very good #2 for most teams, but perhaps isn’t a #1 anywhere. Maybe. He felt the market last year and there were no takers. Might have been the “QB making the receiver” mentality which I don’t think is precisely true. Jones didn’t do himself any favors with those high profile drops at the end of 2010. I like Driver a lot, but if someone put a gun to my head, I’d have to take Jones.