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Redskins Breakout Candidate: Pierre Garcon

Will Pierre Garcon have a breakout season in 2013? According to several key stats he will.


Pierre Garcon was hampered by a foot injury for nearly the entire 2012 season. When he was on the field, injured or not, the Redskins were a completely different team. The team amassed an impressive 9-1 record with him and a paltry 1-5 mark without him. Garcon made the most of the limited action he saw by posting some pretty fine numbers himself. It makes you wonder what could've been if he was healthy and what could be going forward. With the help of a few key stats we can gain a better understanding of Pierre Garcon's potential for the upcoming 2013 season.

Shanahan Receivers:

Let's first take a look at how # 1 receivers typically fare in the Shanahan offense. These players are almost always the X receiver (Garcon's role), because that is the featured position in the Shanahan passing offense. Looking back at all of Mike Shanahan's teams between 1995 and 2011 in conjunction with Kyle's Houston teams during his two year stint as OC there we can see that their top wideouts averaged the following numbers.

Averages for Shanahan # 1 Receivers
Yards Receptions Yards/ Reception TDs
1,177 86 13.87 7

These are not quite world-beating stats, but they would represent the highest totals for a Washington wide receiver since Santana Moss' inaugural and record breaking 2005 campaign with the Redskins. Not all of the receivers in these Shanahan offenses were athletic freaks like Brandon Marshall or Andre Johnson either. If Jabar Gaffney can put up nearly 1,000 yards with Rex Grossman at the helm and Javon Walker can put up nearly 1,100 with Jake "the Snake" Plummer running the show then surely Pierre Garcon can put up similiar numbers with RG3 under center.

Wide Receiver Breakout & Career Years:

Another way to determine whether or not Garcon will have a breakout year is to examine how some of his more successful and current peers have performed and at what stage in their careers did they "breakout". Many argue that receivers experience the biggest jump in production around their 3rd year, but I wanted to test this for myself so I looked at the career statistics of nearly 20 wideouts in attempt to prove this theory. I only used receivers that had been in the top 10 of receiving yards over the past 5 years and that have at least 6 years of experience, because Garcon is going into his 6thyear. The theory basically held true as this group saw the biggest jump in production at an average of 3.18 years into their careers.

So you are probably saying "what does this have to do with receiver Pierre Garcon? He isn't going into this 3rd year." I would argue that the stars were never really aligned for him to have that breakout type of year. He barely played as a rookie (only 48 snaps), in years 2-4 he was clearly still the #2 option behind Reggie Wayne, in year 4 he was stuck with QB Curtis Painter and in the aforementioned year 5 he was injured.

So receivers typically breakout pretty early in their careers, but more importantly at what point do they have the most success in their careers? Looking at the same group of receivers I found that they actually had their best years at an average age of 27 and nearly 6 years into their careers. Wouldn't you know it, Pierre Garcon turns 27 this August and he is going into his 6th year.

Sample Receiver Breakout & Career Years

Years In Age
Average Breakout Year Occurred 3.61 24.78
Average Best year Occurred 5.84 27

2012 Stats Extrapolation:

The best predictor of the future is the past so the simplest and most obvious way to determine how Pierre Garcon will do next year is to extrapolate his 2012 averages over a full 16 game slate.

Yards Receptions TDs
Season Averages (from all games played) 63.3 4.4 0.4
16 Game Extrapolation 1,012.8 70.4 6.4

Those are some pretty decent numbers, but I'm not sure that they really do Garcon justice because he just wasn't himself in several of the games that he played in. After taking out several of the weeks that he was most bothered by the injury in the extrapolation looks like this.

Season Averages (from weeks 1 & 12-17)
16 Game Extrapolation

OK, so now we're getting into some top 10 level production. Just for the sake of argument let's see how the stats would extrapolate from just the games that both he and RG3 started relatively healthy in.

Season Averages (from weeks 1 & 12-14)
16 Game Extrapolation

Granted the sample size is small, but even with that in mind those are some pretty eye-popping numbers. Admittedly they are probably a little unrealistic, but surprisingly there is another stat that says he could do even better. Pierre Garcon ranked second only to Andre Johnson in the Yard per Route Run metric last year. This is quite possibly my favorite receiver metric because it really displays how well a receiver produces relative to how many times he has the opportunity to actually run a route and get open. Over the last 3 years the Redskins most utilized receiver has run an average of 527 routes per year. If we multiply that number by Garcons 2.94 yards per route then we come up with 1,550 yards.

Bottom Line:

I'm not trying to insinuate that Garcon will shatter NFL receiving records next year. I'm not even saying that he'll top 1,500 and 10 TDs, but if he's healthy does he have the ability and the potential to get close? Yes, I think he does. The problem is that this all depends on him staying healthy for an entire season, which is unfortunately somewhat of a tenuous proposition. However, if Garcon can stay on the field then it is scary to think of the damage that he and Robert Griffin could do together over the course of an entire season.

How does everyone think Garcon will do this year? Will he stay healthy? And if he does what will his stat line look like?