PHOENIX — What sold Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin on Kenny Stills?
His stats and his hands.
Before pulling the trigger on a trade that sent linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for the wide receiver, the Dolphins conducted a study to see how reliable his hands were during the 2013 season.
“One of the things we liked about him — and I don’t know if I’m exactly right — but he was targeted about 84 times and I think he had 63 receptions,” Philbin said. “He was second, I believe, in the league in terms of if you throw him the ball he’s going to catch it. We like the fact that when the quarterback is throwing him the ball a lot of times they were completed passes.”
Stills was actually targeted 85 times, but he did catch 63 of those passes for 931 yards with three touchdowns. And according to Pro Football Focus, among players with 50 or more targets, Stills ranked third in the NFL in catch percentage. Saints receiver Brandon Cooks topped their list.
Speaking on Monday. New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis said he expects Stills to remain effective in Miami, but he liked the value the Saints received in the trade.
“I think again just being able to acquire more assets,” he said. “Listen, he’s a good player and will do a great job for Miami. But I look at it that we were able to take a fifth-round pick and turn it into a third-round pick and the opportunity to have another player come in with that.”
The other thing Philbin said he liked about Stills was his production on third down. Last year on third down, Stills caught 21 passes for 361 yards with two touchdowns.
“We thought he was productive on third down, he had good statistical conversions on third down,” Philbin said. “He fits what we do.”
The Miami coach wasn’t as expansive on Ellerbe.
“He played hard in 2013 for us, had a lot of production, got hurt in the first game,” he said. “We made the decision as an organization collectively. We wish him well in New Orleans.”