This is sort of random, but in reflection of last year's disappointing ending...
Perhaps the biggest goat, not named Rey Maualuga, in last season's playoff loss to Houston was Gresham. Though targeted seven times, he only had two receptions and several dropped passes. Another target of ridicule was also Kyle Cook, who many claim allowed interior pressure on Dalton.
After carefully reviewing the game, I'm not buying it.
The following images recap six of the seven targeted plays for Gresham (the seventh being a simple uncontested flat route).
...for what should have been a simple pass, Dalton throws high and slightly behind Gresham. Though this pass was certainly catchable, Dalton should have been able to hit him in stride in the chest and deserves some blame.
...on this third down play, it's tough to tell who should have been targeted. Jones, who is not shown in the pic below, seemed to be covered on the left side. Leonard is open across the middle, but probably would have been stopped short of the first down marker. Green at the top of the screen looks open, though probably would have been picked off by the nearest defender who had turned towards the pass. Hawkins (on the left side of the picture) running a post into open territory probably would have been the best option. Instead, Dalton tries to force it into Gresham at the 50 yard line who is draped with a defender for a contested incomplete pass.
[Target #3 not shown - 3 yard reception on a flat route]
Target #4 - Incompletion
Later in the second quarter, Dalton again with no pressure in the pocket has Gresham running a post pattern (down the right seam) clear of any defenders undercutting his route...
...and once again, Dalton throws high and slightly behind forcing Gresham to turn around and leap for a poorly thrown ball resulting in an incompletion. I'll concede this is another pass Gresham should have caught, but Dalton made it unnecessarily difficult.
In summary, just based on these plays, I'd make the following conclusions:
- Pass protection was not Dalton's Achilles's heal. In every one of the aforementioned plays, Dalton had great protection, in part by Kyle Cook.
- Gresham did not drop any easy (in my opinion) passes and has perhaps been unfairly criticized as a scapegoat.
- Dalton seems to struggle at keeping the ball down to targets over the middle, which could be due to his shorter height, three-quarter delivery, and typical deep drop in the pocket. Essentially, Dalton has to throw the ball upward over the line with enough arc to avoid being batted down while dropping enough to be caught - which is tough to do with his limitations. Perhaps Eifert with his long 6'6" frame will make it a bit easier to throw over the middle, but not much versus Gresham at 6'5".