NFL Quick Count: Tough To Stuff

Who are toughest running backs to stuff for a loss? Which receivers are the NFL's top targets? Which rookie linebacker is proving he should have been a first-pick? Special teams aces, offenses struggling with three-downs-and-out situations and much more in Ed Thompson's NFL Quick Count.

  • Out of the running backs who have already amassed 100 carries or more this season, the five that are proving to be the toughest to stuff for a loss are the Dolphins' Ronnie Brown (6.4 percent), the Rams' Steven Jackson (7.0 percent), the Bengals' Cedric Benson (7.3 percent), the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew (7.4 percent) and the Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (7.6 percent).
  • Heading into Week 8, the leagues top targeted pass catchers are Houston's Andre Johnson (70), New England's Randy Moss (67), Cincinnati's Chad Ochocinco (64), the New York Giants' Steve Smith (64), Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald (63) and New England's Wes Welker (62). Out of those six receivers, Welker and Smith have made the most of their opportunities catching 46 and 45 balls respectively. But Johnson has the lowest number of catches among the six with 38 despite having the most chances.
  • NFL talent evaluators really underestimated former Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis when they allowed him to slip out of the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft to the Rams at number 35 overall. The 6-foot-2, 247-pound middle linebacker is currently tied for tenth in the league in solo tackles with 40 after his first seven games in the NFL. He's also assisted with nine more tackles, made two interceptions and recovered a fumble.
  • The Buffalo Bills have a pair of special teams aces battling for the league lead in total tackles. Third-year safety John Wendling has 14 special teams tackles, including a league-best 10 solo efforts. Fellow safety George Wilson is tied for second with 11 stops along with Patriots linebacker Pierre Woods. The only other players with double-digit special teams tackles are Redskins linebacker H.B. Blades, Vikings linebacker Kenny Onatolu and Chargers linebacker Brandon Siler who have 10 each.

  • Can QB Alex Smith reduce the 49ers' three-downs-and-out possessions?
    AP Photo

  • Three-downs-and-out offensive series are frustrating for offenses and wears down defenses who barely have time to catch their breath before returning to the field. Yet five clubs' offenses have left the field after just three plays on 30 percent or more of their possessions. The 49ers have the league-worst mark of 40.3 percent while the Raiders (36.5), Buccaneers (35.4), Vikings (32.1) and the Chiefs (30.6) round out the group. Honestly, it's hard to believe that an offense that features Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson would be among that group. The teams at the other end of the spectrum are the Cowboys (13.2 percent), the Packers (16.2), the Colts (16.4), the Panthers (16.7) and the Patriots (16.7).
  • Six quarterbacks are getting plenty of help in their passing yardage statistics thanks to the yards their receivers and running backs are tacking on after the catch. The Cowboys' Tony Romo has a wide margin over all other NFL quarterbacks with 7.6 yards per reception being added to his throwing distance. The Raiders' JaMarcus Russell is getting plenty of help as well at 7.0 yards per reception. The others are the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (6.8), the Chargers' Philip Rivers (6.8), Lions rookie Matthew Stafford (6.6) and the Broncos' Kyle Orton (6.5).  So which starters are getting the least amount of help? The Chiefs' Matt Cassel (4.9), the Cardinals' Kurt Warner (5.0) and Jets rookie Mark Sanchez (5.0).
  • Just three running backs are converting 30 percent or more of their rushing attempts into first downs for their team. Leading the NFL in that category is the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw (31.3 percent) who has moved the chains on 25 of his 80 carries. The Cowboys' Marion Barber is on his heels at 30.6 percent, and the Dolphins' Ricky Williams is at 30 percent.
  • Wondering which kickers are sending kickoff returners back to the sidelines without a return most frequently?  The Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski and the Cowboys' David Buehler have each booted 13 touchbacks so far. But the kickers who have the best percentage of kickoffs resulting in touchbacks are Seattle's Olindo Mare (40.7 percent), Arizona's Neil Rackers (39.3), Carolina's Rhys Lloyd (38.1), Dallas' Buehler (37.1) and Atlanta's Michael Koenen (35.7). Gostkowski is sixth at 30.2 percent.
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    A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.

    Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2009 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such licensed materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.

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