The Second Coming of John Carlson

50 yard line on an american football field

John Carlson lived up to, and in many ways, exceeded expectations that were set for him last season. Some of his early success can be attributed to the QB and WR injury situation that forced more throws in his direction, but most of the credit belongs to Carlson. Here’s a guy who is 6’5″ 250+ lbs, runs good routes, works hard and keeps his mouth shut. So what might Mr. Clean do as an encore?

Let’s take a look at some other quality tight ends to see how they progressed from their first to their second season. Below is a spreadsheet that shows games started, receptions, yards, and touchdowns from both the rookie and sophomore season for a few comparable players (and some all-time greats).

Link to Spreadsheet

At the bottom, I made some rough projections for what Carlson might do this year. Projection A was based purely on the number of games started. shows Carlson as only starting 9 games last season. That’s not what I recall, and Will Heller shows zero games started, so I’m not sure who the other TE was that started seven games. That said, if you assume Carlson starts every game this season (which appears reasonable given his durability last season), that’s a 78% jump in games started. Apply that 78% growth factor across his other numbers and you have Projection A: 98 receptions, 1,116 yards, 9 TDs. That seems pretty steep, and is suspect given the whole games started stat seems off to begin with.

Projection B simply averaged the growth/decline for each stat across the players I included (averaged the averages) and then applied those factors to Carlson’s stats. That gave us the Herculean Projection B: 116 rec, 1,229 yards, 18 TD. Sign me up for that season! I like Carlson, but I’m not sure which stat is the least likely in that scenario.

That brings us to Projection C, which simply took the average of Carlson’s rookie campaign and Projection A. The premise here is that his rookie year is a fair minimum. I don’t expect Carlson to be below any of his 2008 numbers. Projection A seems like a fair maximum. By taking the average of those two, we end up with Projection C: 76 rec, 872 yards, 7 TD. That seems well within the realm of possibility.

People assume many of Bobby Engram’s receptions will go to Housh. Not so fast. Hasselbeck talks about Carlson now in similar glowing terms to how he talked about Bobby. He also owns the middle of the field and as Hass said, “We didn’t run any plays for (Carlson) last season.” It seems safe to say Carlson will be an integral part of the offense this season and beyond. It should be fun to see how much he changes the game this year.