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The Oakland Raiders as a team, and Amari Cooper in particular, are having a disappointing season. Somehow, though, Michael Crabtree is having a career resurgence. What does it tell us when one wide receiver excels while his teammate struggles?

10 Aug 2017

DVOA by Routes: Quarterbacks

by Scott Kacsmar

In Part I of our look at data on 12 of the most common pass routes in the NFL, we focused on the production of individual receivers. Today, we are looking at 2016's quarterbacks, which increases the sample size a bit, though only so much -- we are still dealing with one year of data and chopping it into bits. Joe Flacco threw 108 curl routes last year, the only player to break 100 throws on any one type of route. (That is another stat to show that the 2016 Ravens, featuring Flacco's pursuit of smashing the failed completions record, were not a fun passing offense to watch.)

Each table below includes the 34 qualified quarterbacks from last year with at least 200 passes. We are going to focus on the same 12 routes from Part I, ignoring the running back-heavy throws such as flats, running back screens, and swing passes. I pulled the data on those and found that the completion rates were all very high as expected, but there was no correlation between the DVOA or DYAR on these plays. For example, Ryan Tannehill had a league-high 95 DYAR when throwing to the flat, but -19 DYAR on screens, and 18 DYAR on six swing passes. Eli Manning had a league-high 36 RB screens for 51 DYAR, but had -38 DYAR on 39 flat passes. Carson Palmer had shockingly bad numbers on RB screens (-34 DYAR and -108.6% DVOA), but that was just nine plays, including six screens to David Johnson. Finally, Flacco also led the league with 22 swing passes, so that is not a very common play for any offense.

It must be noted that because of how we had our data, the following numbers represent receiving DYAR and DVOA, not passing DYAR and DVOA. That means that sacks obviously aren't included, but also that interceptions are not penalized any more than other incomplete passes. The number of passes includes defensive pass interference penalties. Each table is sorted by descending DYAR.

Route data is courtesy of our friends at Sports Info Solutions and was first introduced in Football Outsiders Almanac 2017 (available here).

Curl

The curl route was the league's most common throw last year, with 2,615 attempts according to SIS.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Kirk Cousins WAS 200 1 19.4% 1 91 699 82.4% 5.6 4.0
Russell Wilson SEA 184 2 19.2% 2 87 764 83.9% 7.1 3.1
Drew Brees NO 141 3 7.3% 10 98 627 78.6% 5.7 2.7
Dak Prescott DAL 135 4 12.4% 4 78 583 77.6% 8.2 2.0
Trevor Siemian DEN 127 5 8.3% 8 83 652 73.5% 7.8 2.4
Matthew Stafford DET 121 6 16.4% 3 57 443 78.2% 6.2 4.3
Sam Bradford MIN 118 7 6.3% 11 91 634 81.3% 5.2 3.4
Marcus Mariota TEN 109 8 10.3% 6 68 540 74.6% 7.6 3.1
Philip Rivers SD 103 9 8.3% 9 80 540 68.4% 7.3 2.7
Andy Dalton CIN 99 10 4.0% 12 85 582 78.6% 6.4 2.6
Blake Bortles JAC 90 11 2.2% 15 92 599 67.4% 7.1 3.1
Aaron Rodgers GB 87 12 8.5% 7 56 384 80.4% 6.7 2.6
Jameis Winston TB 85 13 3.8% 13 81 618 74.1% 8.4 1.5
Tom Brady NE 78 14 10.3% 5 50 396 64.0% 6.3 5.6
Carson Palmer ARI 64 15 0.1% 16 79 568 67.5% 9.0 3.0
Tyrod Taylor BUF 64 16 -0.4% 17 82 536 73.2% 6.6 2.2
Andrew Luck IND 60 17 2.5% 14 64 402 69.8% 6.5 2.1
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Cam Newton CAR 43 18 -1.6% 19 63 443 71.4% 7.5 2.1
Colin Kaepernick SF 41 19 -0.6% 18 55 364 70.9% 6.9 2.5
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 36 20 -2.4% 20 61 378 68.9% 6.3 2.2
Brock Osweiler HOU 27 21 -7.0% 22 83 547 68.3% 5.8 3.9
Joe Flacco BAL 15 22 -8.5% 25 108 688 73.8% 6.1 2.8
Matt Barkley CHI 15 23 -6.3% 21 32 229 61.3% 9.4 2.3
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 10 24 -7.4% 23 26 169 65.4% 8.7 2.2
Cody Kessler CLE 10 25 -8.2% 24 40 259 72.5% 6.5 2.7
Derek Carr OAK 9 26 -10.9% 26 65 408 71.9% 5.6 3.5
Alex Smith KC 2 27 -11.4% 27 86 491 66.3% 5.9 2.8
Ryan Tannehill MIA 1 28 -11.8% 29 46 294 65.2% 6.8 2.8
Matt Ryan ATL 0 29 -12.4% 30 54 328 66.7% 7.6 2.6
Carson Wentz PHI -9 30 -11.7% 28 93 561 66.3% 6.5 2.1
Brian Hoyer CHI -21 31 -19.1% 31 38 289 76.3% 7.4 4.0
Jared Goff LARM -35 32 -28.4% 32 33 187 60.6% 6.3 3.6
Case Keenum LARM -88 33 -34.5% 34 53 272 60.4% 5.9 3.0
Eli Manning NYG -137 34 -31.3% 33 95 461 66.0% 6.3 1.7
NFL Curls - 1,831 - -1.8% - 2,615 17,523 71.6% 6.7 2.8

If you read Part I, you may have expected Drew Brees to do well here given that rookie Michael Thomas led all wide receivers with 121 DYAR on curls, catching 26-of-28 passes. Brees was third in DYAR, but Thomas accounted for 121 of his 141 DYAR on curls. Brees also threw 28 curls combined to Coby Fleener and Brandin Cooks, but those plays lost 32 DYAR, with Cooks having -26 DYAR on 16 curls. Brees threw his curls to almost identical lengths to his three primary wideouts: Thomas (5.9), Cooks (5.8), and Willie Snead (5.8). The difference was in the YAC those receivers produced: Thomas (3.8) and Snead (3.5) were much better than Cooks (0.3).

Kirk Cousins was the most proficient quarterback on curl routes last year with the most DYAR and highest DVOA. Only Russell Wilson (83.9 percent) had a higher completion percentage on curls. The Rams' duo of Jared Goff (60.6 percent) and Case Keenum (60.4 percent) had the lowest completion percentages on curls last year. Matt Barkley (61.3 percent) was close to that, but he also threw the deepest curls in the league at 9.4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (league average: 6.7). Cousins' average curl was 5.6 yards, longer than only -- you guessed it -- Sam Bradford at 5.2 yards. There was only a very minor correlation (-0.20) between average pass depth and completion percentage here.

Tom Brady actually had one of the lowest completion rates (64.0 percent) on curls, but his completions gained the highest YAC (5.6) on average. Matthew Stafford (4.3), Cousins (4.0), and Brian Hoyer (4.0) were the only other quarterbacks above 4.0 YAC on curls.

Rookie Dak Prescott excelled on curls, ranking fourth in both DYAR and DVOA. He also threw some of the deepest curls (8.2), but had the third-least YAC (2.0) on these plays. The only players with less YAC were Eli Manning (1.7) and Jameis Winston (1.5).

We mentioned Manning's struggles with curls in Part I. He had four receivers with at least 10 curl targets last year and they each had lower than -10.0% DVOA. Like Brees, Manning's curls to his wideouts were all at a very similar depth: Odell Beckham Jr. (7.2), Victor Cruz (7.4), and Sterling Shepard (7.5). But none of those players broke even 2.0 YAC when they did catch the ball. In the end, Manning's -137 DYAR was easily the worst in the league, which might make one question why he had 95 such throws (third in the league) last year.

Out

The out, or quick out, had 2,075 attempts last season.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Dak Prescott DAL 242 1 33.5% 1 74 651 78.4% 8.2 3.4
Matt Ryan ATL 193 2 31.2% 2 57 498 78.9% 7.7 3.2
Carson Palmer ARI 114 3 5.3% 11 91 654 63.7% 10.0 1.7
Matthew Stafford DET 97 4 8.6% 7 66 484 68.8% 7.1 3.7
Alex Smith KC 87 5 16.0% 5 42 292 76.2% 8.4 0.9
Aaron Rodgers GB 82 6 4.6% 14 72 524 72.2% 7.6 2.6
Andrew Luck IND 79 7 9.4% 6 49 360 72.9% 7.8 2.3
Andy Dalton CIN 76 8 4.7% 13 69 433 64.7% 7.9 2.2
Cam Newton CAR 69 9 3.0% 16 69 504 60.9% 10.0 2.2
Philip Rivers SD 67 10 6.9% 8 52 390 58.8% 9.8 3.5
Tyrod Taylor BUF 62 11 6.7% 9 50 382 62.0% 8.5 3.6
Tom Brady NE 58 12 5.3% 10 44 279 75.0% 6.4 2.0
Matt Barkley CHI 55 13 16.3% 4 29 222 75.9% 7.2 2.0
Brian Hoyer CHI 54 14 24.1% 3 23 187 82.6% 7.0 2.5
Jameis Winston TB 51 15 -1.0% 18 64 426 55.6% 10.2 1.5
Drew Brees NO 47 16 -5.1% 21 78 480 72.7% 6.8 2.4
Ryan Tannehill MIA 45 17 3.4% 15 41 258 75.0% 7.0 2.1
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Kirk Cousins WAS 42 18 -4.6% 20 98 623 67.3% 7.0 2.8
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 42 19 4.8% 12 34 248 70.6% 8.3 1.5
Derek Carr OAK 41 20 -2.7% 19 57 330 61.8% 7.4 2.2
Joe Flacco BAL 32 21 -0.5% 17 44 270 72.7% 6.5 2.3
Sam Bradford MIN 15 22 -8.5% 22 48 321 57.4% 8.6 3.1
Blake Bortles JAC 5 23 -10.6% 23 63 374 64.5% 8.0 2.3
Cody Kessler CLE -4 24 -16.4% 25 14 84 53.8% 6.6 5.3
Russell Wilson SEA -9 25 -14.6% 24 50 284 64.0% 6.6 2.7
Case Keenum LARM -32 26 -20.2% 27 58 324 59.6% 5.9 3.9
Marcus Mariota TEN -34 27 -20.6% 28 52 281 52.9% 9.3 2.1
Colin Kaepernick SF -39 28 -35.6% 33 26 149 46.2% 10.9 2.5
Brock Osweiler HOU -39 29 -17.6% 26 90 533 66.3% 6.7 2.4
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ -50 30 -33.1% 32 34 146 48.5% 7.8 1.1
Trevor Siemian DEN -53 31 -22.3% 29 63 335 54.8% 7.4 2.8
Jared Goff LARM -53 32 -42.5% 34 28 137 46.4% 7.5 3.7
Carson Wentz PHI -56 33 -23.5% 30 62 344 62.9% 7.9 1.9
Eli Manning NYG -74 34 -26.8% 31 62 274 59.7% 5.7 2.4
NFL Outs - 1,213 - -3.4% - 2,075 13,365 64.9% 7.8 2.5

Two routes in and again we see a Rams quarterback (Goff) last in DVOA and Manning last in DYAR. Goff and Keenum were collectively worse on out routes than Manning, but the latter played the whole season again, hence a league-low -74 DYAR. Manning even threw the shortest quick outs in the league at 5.7 yards. The curl and out are the two most common throws in the game, so it will be interesting to see if Manning's struggles continue here in 2017. He has a very talented receiving corps, especially with the additions of Brandon Marshall and rookie tight end Evan Engram. Manning threw 20 of his 62 outs to tight end Will Tye last year, so maybe a more athletic player in Engram could lead to better success this year.

Colin Kaepernick completed a league-low 46.2 percent of his outs with no drops charted. He also threw the deepest out routes in the league at 10.9 yards. San Francisco's new quarterback Brian Hoyer (82.6 percent) was the only quarterback to complete more than 80 percent of his out routes. Matt Ryan ranked second at 78.9 percent in Kyle Shanahan's offense, which is going to try to operate in San Francisco without anywhere near the same personnel that Atlanta had.

Cleveland rookie Cody Kessler had 5.3 YAC, but he only had 14 out routes last season, the fewest in the table. Cousins had the most out routes with 98. Keenum (3.9) and Goff (3.7) actually had the next best YAC on out routes, but again, completing the passes were difficult enough for them. Alex Smith brought up the rear with just 0.9 YAC on his out routes, but still ranked fifth in DYAR and DVOA.

Prescott was the most efficient on out routes with the highest DVOA and most DYAR. Cole Beasley's league-high 119 DYAR helped a lot, but Prescott still had 123 DYAR to other receivers. The five other receivers he targeted at least three times all had at least 18 DYAR, led by Jason Witten's 48 DYAR on 26 targets. This is largely a Beasley or Witten play for Dallas, but Prescott was very effective regardless.

Dig

The dig route is a little deeper than the curl or out, but generally produces better offense (9.2% DVOA). Only six of our 34 passers had negative DYAR on dig routes, but you may be surprised to see who ranked last.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Kirk Cousins WAS 160 1 49.4% 2 37 452 75.7% 11.6 4.3
Aaron Rodgers GB 143 2 27.9% 6 49 488 61.2% 11.1 5.0
Matt Ryan ATL 143 3 23.0% 9 54 529 71.7% 10.2 3.2
Matthew Stafford DET 125 4 23.4% 8 50 447 66.0% 8.9 4.3
Derek Carr OAK 117 5 26.6% 7 40 434 60.5% 10.7 5.5
Carson Wentz PHI 113 6 30.0% 4 39 372 69.2% 11.2 2.9
Andrew Luck IND 107 7 18.5% 13 53 539 58.5% 13.5 4.3
Drew Brees NO 102 8 22.8% 10 38 355 65.8% 11.1 4.0
Alex Smith KC 88 9 42.4% 3 23 222 77.3% 10.5 1.6
Eli Manning NYG 86 10 8.5% 16 55 440 64.8% 9.2 2.5
Joe Flacco BAL 86 11 19.7% 12 35 304 68.6% 9.2 4.0
Matt Barkley CHI 83 12 28.8% 5 26 289 73.1% 10.8 3.5
Ryan Tannehill MIA 81 13 22.8% 11 31 299 74.2% 10.5 2.4
Carson Palmer ARI 72 14 5.1% 18 57 486 53.6% 11.0 4.7
Andy Dalton CIN 60 15 8.7% 15 41 308 61.0% 9.9 2.0
Colin Kaepernick SF 60 16 16.5% 14 31 290 60.0% 10.8 5.8
Trevor Siemian DEN 53 17 1.8% 23 55 463 67.3% 9.6 2.9
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Brock Osweiler HOU 49 18 4.4% 19 43 323 61.9% 9.7 2.4
Jameis Winston TB 47 19 -1.9% 25 62 476 50.8% 11.4 3.3
Philip Rivers SD 43 20 4.2% 20 42 348 65.9% 10.8 1.9
Cody Kessler CLE 36 21 54.3% 1 8 76 75.0% 13.9 0.7
Blake Bortles JAC 26 22 -4.1% 27 43 306 51.2% 8.8 5.0
Russell Wilson SEA 23 23 0.1% 24 29 228 51.7% 11.7 2.5
Tyrod Taylor BUF 21 24 2.0% 22 22 170 63.6% 10.0 1.9
Case Keenum LARM 21 25 5.7% 17 14 122 57.1% 11.2 3.8
Jared Goff LARM 18 26 3.1% 21 15 92 60.0% 6.7 3.4
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 16 27 -4.0% 26 30 207 56.7% 9.6 3.8
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 15 28 -7.4% 28 38 315 56.8% 10.8 3.4
Brian Hoyer CHI -1 29 -13.5% 32 13 99 46.2% 11.6 2.7
Dak Prescott DAL -3 30 -12.9% 31 28 205 53.6% 11.9 1.7
Sam Bradford MIN -3 31 -12.2% 29 24 166 66.7% 10.3 1.6
Marcus Mariota TEN -4 32 -12.2% 30 30 176 44.8% 11.4 2.3
Cam Newton CAR -19 33 -17.5% 33 36 229 42.9% 10.5 2.3
Tom Brady NE -26 34 -21.9% 34 36 249 58.3% 8.0 3.7
NFL Digs - 2,048 - 9.2% - 1,348 11,429 61.1% 10.5 3.4

Brady finished last in DYAR and DVOA. In four fewer games, he had only one fewer dig route than Cousins (37), who finished No. 1 in DYAR and second in DVOA. We mentioned in Part I that Brandin Cooks could help New England in this department. He had 52 DYAR on 10 dig routes compared to -27 DYAR on 25 dig routes to Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan combined. Brady threw 19 of his dig routes to Edelman last year, but Cooks would seem like a more logical choice of target. Brady's average dig was thrown 8.0 yards; only Goff (6.7) was shorter. Andrew Luck (13.5) and Kessler (13.9) were the only quarterbacks to average more than 12.0 yards on their dig routes, though again with Kessler, we're only talking about eight plays.

Cam Newton ranked next to last in DVOA and DYAR. He would seem to have the right skill set for dig routes, but accuracy is a factor. Newton only completed 42.9 percent of his digs (including two drops), the lowest in the NFL. Newton fared adequately when targeting Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin, but was 2-of-13 on dig routes to other Panthers. Ted Ginn Jr. (-18 DYAR) went to New Orleans, which seems like a bad tradeoff for Brees after losing Cooks.

Alex Smith completed a league-best 77.3 percent of his dig routes, though he only threw them 23 times. He was 7-for-7 with a defensive pass interference penalty on eight dig routes to the now departed Jeremy Maclin (50 DYAR).

Jameis Winston (62) and Carson Palmer (57) led all quarterbacks in dig routes. They were also two of the three quarterbacks (Luck the other) to be knocked down at least 120 times last year. Sometimes that's the price you pay for better offense.

Cousins, the No. 1 passer in two of our first three routes, lost 86 DYAR on dig routes with the departures of DeSean Jackson (30 DYAR) and Pierre Garcon (56 DYAR). He still has Jordan Reed (47 DYAR) and was generally productive with everyone he targeted on digs last year.

Slant

Why don't we see slants more often in the NFL? There were 1,259 attempts last year, but that's still less than half of the number of curls (2,615). Both throws had an average distance of 6.7 yards, but the slant produces 5.0 YAC on average compared to 2.8 YAC for the curl. Imagine that, a receiver turning his back to the defense does less with the ball in his hands than someone who is running with forward momentum.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Matt Ryan ATL 270 1 55.0% 2 54 621 83.0% 6.8 7.3
Joe Flacco BAL 202 2 40.2% 3 51 601 76.0% 7.3 8.3
Eli Manning NYG 188 3 35.8% 5 47 470 73.3% 7.1 6.9
Aaron Rodgers GB 172 4 55.3% 1 32 302 78.1% 6.5 5.5
Drew Brees NO 164 5 25.7% 10 54 489 72.2% 5.1 6.8
Philip Rivers SD 110 6 21.9% 11 42 330 75.6% 6.5 3.9
Alex Smith KC 109 7 32.5% 6 36 318 72.2% 6.2 6.0
Tom Brady NE 102 8 26.6% 8 34 331 72.7% 6.7 6.5
Kirk Cousins WAS 92 9 37.9% 4 23 222 82.6% 7.7 3.5
Matthew Stafford DET 90 10 8.1% 19 55 379 72.0% 6.1 3.8
Carson Wentz PHI 83 11 8.6% 17 52 324 72.0% 5.8 2.9
Dak Prescott DAL 81 12 26.4% 9 28 279 75.0% 7.5 5.0
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 78 13 15.1% 13 36 258 74.3% 5.4 4.5
Carson Palmer ARI 69 14 4.4% 21 54 378 75.9% 5.3 3.9
Marcus Mariota TEN 64 15 21.2% 12 24 201 73.9% 6.1 5.2
Andy Dalton CIN 63 16 8.8% 16 38 357 65.7% 6.1 8.0
Ryan Tannehill MIA 62 17 29.6% 7 19 161 78.9% 7.4 3.7
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Derek Carr OAK 54 18 -0.5% 24 60 347 55.0% 6.7 4.5
Case Keenum LARM 43 19 12.2% 15 21 177 66.7% 7.5 5.2
Trevor Siemian DEN 35 20 6.5% 20 25 180 69.6% 6.2 3.9
Andrew Luck IND 34 21 -3.6% 27 46 303 56.5% 6.7 5.0
Tyrod Taylor BUF 29 22 8.5% 18 18 122 66.7% 7.4 2.5
Cody Kessler CLE 27 23 12.9% 14 14 134 50.0% 9.6 8.9
Brock Osweiler HOU 24 24 0.1% 23 24 155 60.9% 6.5 4.7
Jameis Winston TB 19 25 -2.1% 25 25 167 66.7% 6.7 2.4
Colin Kaepernick SF 19 26 -2.9% 26 25 192 54.2% 9.2 4.9
Sam Bradford MIN 9 27 -7.9% 28 28 203 65.4% 6.2 5.7
Brian Hoyer CHI 9 28 1.3% 22 8 57 75.0% 5.9 4.7
Russell Wilson SEA 5 29 -10.0% 29 35 244 62.9% 6.0 5.0
Blake Bortles JAC 2 30 -11.4% 30 34 179 55.9% 6.8 2.2
Matt Barkley CHI -10 31 -29.4% 33 9 36 44.4% 7.9 1.0
Cam Newton CAR -12 32 -14.4% 31 54 339 53.8% 7.9 3.8
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ -20 33 -18.4% 32 43 246 53.5% 7.1 4.3
Jared Goff LARM -87 34 -65.9% 34 21 73 42.9% 6.2 2.8
NFL Slants - 2,297 - 11.3% - 1,259 9,849 67.4% 6.7 5.0

You know the slant is a helpful play when Flacco and Manning rank in the top five in DYAR and DVOA. Ryan completed a league-best 83.0 percent of his slants for a league-high 270 DYAR. Having Julio Jones helped (54.3% DVOA and 114 DYAR on 23 slants), but Ryan was still very efficient in DVOA on slants to Aldrick Robinson (106.6% DVOA), Mohamed Sanu (68.8%), and Justin Hardy (54.6%) as well. His 116 DYAR on 17 slants to those players alone would have ranked sixth in the league.

However, Ryan did not rank first in DVOA. That was Aaron Rodgers, but he only threw 32 slants to Ryan's 54 (Derek Carr led the NFL with 60 slants). How does an offense with a passer like Rodgers wind up with so many broken plays (foreshadowing!) and so few slants? If you are looking for criticism of Mike McCarthy's offense, this would be one piece of evidence.

We could not tell you if Brees threw the "quickest" slants, but he certainly threw the shortest at 5.1 yards, and there likely is strong correlation between air yards and snap-to-release time on these slants. Kessler (9.6) and Kaepernick (9.2) had the deepest slants. Kessler had 8.9 YAC on his 14 slants, best in the league. Matt Barkley also threw one of the deeper slants in the league (7.9), but had the lowest YAC (1.0).

Then there is the case of Goff. It was only 21 slants, but his -87 DYAR was by far the worst in the league. His 42.9 completion rate was also the worst. Even with giving him credit on two drops, his 52.3 percent would still be well below the league average of 67.4 percent. Like with all Goff talk this offseason, we want to stress that he was only a rookie and it was only seven starts with an offensively challenged franchise, but man, he sure did not leave any breadcrumbs to lead to optimism.

Drag

The drag route produces the most YAC (5.9) on average among the five most common routes in the NFL, beating out the curl (2.8), out (2.5), dig (3.4), and slant (5.0).

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Philip Rivers SD 121 1 13.5% 5 64 548 75.0% 3.3 8.4
Dak Prescott DAL 69 2 14.9% 4 38 290 71.1% 8.1 2.9
Jameis Winston TB 66 3 15.9% 2 28 203 66.7% 6.9 5.2
Marcus Mariota TEN 62 4 38.5% 1 19 143 78.9% 4.6 4.9
Tom Brady NE 58 5 15.2% 3 30 219 73.3% 3.4 6.7
Sam Bradford MIN 52 6 -0.5% 16 58 411 87.9% 3.0 5.2
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 42 7 3.0% 11 39 243 71.8% 5.2 5.1
Alex Smith KC 42 8 11.4% 7 32 260 71.9% 3.6 7.3
Case Keenum LARM 35 9 11.6% 6 19 162 73.7% 6.3 5.0
Matt Ryan ATL 34 10 5.0% 9 29 202 62.1% 7.6 5.6
Drew Brees NO 33 11 -4.0% 17 61 378 73.8% 4.2 4.4
Tyrod Taylor BUF 31 12 7.2% 8 23 199 82.6% 5.1 4.8
Aaron Rodgers GB 25 13 0.6% 13 24 180 58.3% 8.0 7.2
Blake Bortles JAC 23 14 -6.2% 19 60 456 70.7% 4.1 6.7
Ryan Tannehill MIA 23 15 4.0% 10 24 226 83.3% 3.1 8.8
Russell Wilson SEA 21 16 -0.2% 14 29 220 72.4% 3.5 7.2
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 20 17 1.4% 12 19 134 68.4% 5.6 5.5
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Kirk Cousins WAS 18 18 -4.8% 18 40 278 72.5% 5.1 5.8
Joe Flacco BAL 15 19 -8.7% 22 66 509 77.3% 4.0 6.2
Cody Kessler CLE 9 20 -0.3% 15 12 83 83.3% 3.6 3.7
Colin Kaepernick SF 9 21 -8.0% 21 43 294 67.4% 5.0 6.5
Derek Carr OAK 8 22 -7.5% 20 36 243 69.4% 6.0 5.0
Brian Hoyer CHI 2 23 -8.7% 23 16 121 87.5% 4.1 4.8
Carson Palmer ARI 1 24 -11.7% 24 22 133 72.7% 4.8 3.4
Matthew Stafford DET -5 25 -13.2% 25 38 230 71.1% 4.6 4.7
Jared Goff LARM -5 26 -14.6% 27 15 110 73.3% 5.7 3.7
Cam Newton CAR -6 27 -14.9% 28 21 143 52.4% 2.5 10.2
Andrew Luck IND -7 28 -13.8% 26 40 262 60.0% 4.2 6.8
Eli Manning NYG -8 29 -15.1% 29 39 219 66.7% 3.6 5.6
Matt Barkley CHI -11 30 -24.7% 33 12 86 58.3% 6.3 5.7
Andy Dalton CIN -13 31 -19.0% 31 28 193 78.6% 3.4 5.7
Carson Wentz PHI -16 32 -17.0% 30 40 291 65.0% 4.7 5.8
Trevor Siemian DEN -17 33 -19.9% 32 26 169 61.5% 5.8 5.3
Brock Osweiler HOU -64 34 -37.5% 34 32 152 56.3% 5.5 4.0
NFL Drags - 593 - -4.8% - 1,243 8,760 70.4% 4.6 5.9

After we called Tyrell Williams "The Drag King" with 29 drag routes for 103 DYAR to lead the league, you may have guessed that Philip Rivers would be on top here. Only Flacco (66) threw more drag routes than Rivers (64), though Baltimore's plays were not nearly as successful. Rivers-to-Williams drove the success, but the Chargers did not fare well on drag routes to Antonio Gates and Dontrelle Inman. Those players combined for -41 DYAR on 15 drag routes.

Prescott (8.1) and Rodgers (8.0) threw the deepest drag routes, while Newton (2.5) and Bradford (3.0) had the shallowest. Bradford completed the highest rate (87.9 percent) of drag routes with Stefon Diggs as a big factor, but Newton had the league's lowest completion rate at 52.4 percent. We'll see if rookie running back Christian McCaffrey becomes a factor here for Newton this season. Newton actually had a league-high 10.2 YAC on his drag routes, but the problem was that low completion rate on throws the rest of the league hit more than 70 percent of the time. Prescott had the lowest YAC (2.9), but was still second in DYAR.

Brock Osweiler was dead last in DVOA and DYAR. His completion percentage (56.3 percent) was next to last. Houston did not have a designated "drag receiver" last year, but all five players Osweiler threw at least four drags to had negative DYAR.

The drag was a favorite route of DeSean Jackson in 2013 with the Eagles and Chip Kelly. He only had five such plays last year, but gained 23 DYAR. Cousins had -5 DYAR on his 35 other drag routes. While everyone will expect the deep ball to come from Winston to Jackson in Tampa Bay, this is an area where Jackson could also help the Buccaneers. Winston ranked third in DYAR and second in DVOA on drag routes last year. Mike Evans had 60 of the 66 DYAR, but has real help now.

Go/Fly

We are now moving into routes that had fewer than 1,000 attempts last season. There were 934 of these go/fly routes last season, but this is probably one of the more interesting tables to look over for the quarterbacks. Fire off the Sex Cannons.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Russell Wilson SEA 182 1 55.2% 5 37 614 43.8% 29.5 4.1
Drew Brees NO 149 2 59.8% 4 27 453 50.0% 26.7 8.8
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 145 3 41.2% 8 32 503 41.4% 32.3 6.7
Dak Prescott DAL 136 4 113.0% 2 15 297 50.0% 30.4 6.7
Andrew Luck IND 131 5 126.3% 1 13 313 54.5% 29.2 11.3
Derek Carr OAK 129 6 43.6% 7 30 409 44.4% 24.7 2.4
Philip Rivers SD 125 7 65.7% 3 21 394 42.9% 30.7 10.6
Kirk Cousins WAS 105 8 39.8% 9 26 425 27.3% 35.7 8.5
Ryan Tannehill MIA 95 9 53.5% 6 18 287 41.2% 31.9 11.3
Sam Bradford MIN 89 10 38.1% 10 24 349 43.5% 27.5 7.2
Matthew Stafford DET 81 11 16.0% 16 37 519 30.6% 29.5 11.0
Alex Smith KC 79 12 38.0% 11 21 284 42.9% 30.1 3.7
Joe Flacco BAL 74 13 16.6% 15 33 406 32.3% 30.9 5.0
Cam Newton CAR 72 14 32.8% 13 20 256 31.6% 35.5 1.0
Case Keenum LARM 52 15 28.4% 14 16 244 40.0% 30.4 8.5
Carson Wentz PHI 51 16 33.6% 12 15 206 28.6% 36.8 5.0
Andy Dalton CIN 45 17 13.3% 17 23 287 28.6% 31.1 5.3
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Carson Palmer ARI 32 18 5.0% 18 25 265 21.7% 32.1 10.4
Aaron Rodgers GB 29 19 -2.1% 20 40 373 28.2% 27.4 7.6
Tyrod Taylor BUF 18 20 -5.1% 22 31 350 18.5% 32.2 15.0
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 17 21 -7.9% 24 46 419 27.9% 25.8 6.3
Tom Brady NE 11 22 -3.1% 21 25 268 28.0% 31.2 7.9
Matt Ryan ATL 11 23 -1.2% 19 12 146 27.3% 35.3 1.7
Matt Barkley CHI 7 24 -6.0% 23 14 144 30.8% 30.5 2.8
Marcus Mariota TEN -4 25 -18.1% 27 11 88 27.3% 29.7 2.7
Trevor Siemian DEN -4 26 -14.2% 25 38 334 22.9% 30.0 6.3
Jared Goff LARM -5 27 -24.7% 30 6 66 16.7% 27.8 27.0
Cody Kessler CLE -7 28 -24.8% 31 8 64 14.3% 30.8 0.0
Eli Manning NYG -8 29 -16.6% 26 26 252 25.0% 28.3 5.2
Brian Hoyer CHI -9 30 -23.0% 29 11 89 27.3% 27.5 2.0
Jameis Winston TB -15 31 -18.2% 28 36 230 18.2% 31.7 2.5
Colin Kaepernick SF -38 32 -67.8% 34 8 35 12.5% 24.3 13.0
Brock Osweiler HOU -80 33 -39.5% 33 38 243 13.9% 30.2 4.8
Blake Bortles JAC -88 34 -38.5% 32 42 256 13.5% 26.0 4.8
NFL Go/Fly - 1,681 - 11.3% - 934 10,996 29.9% 30.2 6.3

Ryan Fitzpatrick wins the "gunslinger" award with a league-high 46 go routes. He did not fail miserably with his shots, but 24th in DVOA is not very good either. Fitzpatrick completed 2-of-14 go routes to Robby Anderson, who will have to do much more for the Jets this season without Quincy Enunwa. It was Enunwa who led the team with 63 DYAR on go routes from Fitzpatrick.

Goff only threw six go routes, putting him last in yet another column. However, we actually found a column where Goff ranks first, even if it could be viewed as a backhanded compliment. Goff's 27.0 YAC on go routes was by far the best in the league (next closest: Tyrod Taylor at 15.0). Of course, this is what happens when we are literally talking about a single play, as Goff went 1-of-6 on his go routes (all to Kenny Britt). Goff completed a 39-yard bomb to Britt on fourth-and-11 that turned into a 66-yard gain with 27 YAC. I should mention that this play came at the two-minute warning with the Rams trailing 26-3 in New England.

Prescott only attempted 15 go routes all season, but 12 of them went to Dez Bryant, who led the league with 140 DYAR. Brice Butler, who NBC's Cris Collinsworth called a "star" in this year's Hall of Fame game, had the other three attempts, but only had 9 DYAR.

Russell Wilson led all passers with 182 DYAR and 614 yards on go routes, built on the strength of Tyler Lockett (106 DYAR) and Doug Baldwin (64 DYAR). Andrew Luck had the highest DVOA (126.3%) and was the only quarterback to complete more than half (54.5 percent) of his go routes. Surprisingly, he had just 13 attempts in 15 games. T.Y. Hilton (76 DYAR) and Phillip Dorsett (56 DYAR) provided most of the damage there.

Unexpectedly, Carson Wentz threw the deepest go routes at 36.8 yards, but only had 15 such throws in a season where he attempted 607 passes. Kaepernick threw the shortest go routes (24.3 yards), but had the lowest completion rate (12.5 percent), albeit he only threw eight such plays. Blake Bortles threw 42 go routes, second to only Fitzpatrick, but completed just 13.5 percent of them (two drops) to rank last in DYAR (-88).

Wide Receiver Screen

In terms of skill-based throws, wide receiver screens would have to be at the bottom of the list. Quarterbacks completed 89.3 percent of them last year, and that's not even accounting for drops. The -24.9% DVOA produced on these plays is suboptimal, but that's not going to stop teams from trying them out every week. It's an easy completion, and once in a blue moon, they break for big gains. Let's see which quarterbacks benefitted from a few more blue moons than their peers.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Matt Ryan ATL 42 1 8.1% 3 31 218 87.1% -3.2 11.4
Alex Smith KC 35 2 -0.2% 5 47 379 91.5% -1.7 10.5
Dak Prescott DAL 34 3 14.2% 2 17 134 94.1% -2.9 11.3
Trevor Siemian DEN 31 4 20.7% 1 15 154 93.3% 0.0 11.0
Jameis Winston TB 22 5 -3.8% 7 35 263 85.7% -0.3 9.0
Derek Carr OAK 21 6 -2.6% 6 29 193 89.7% -1.4 9.0
Brock Osweiler HOU 15 7 7.2% 4 12 108 83.3% -2.5 13.7
Carson Palmer ARI 14 8 -5.8% 8 33 233 90.9% -0.9 8.8
Andy Dalton CIN 13 9 -8.5% 9 45 273 91.1% -1.6 8.2
Blake Bortles JAC 1 10 -12.3% 10 22 102 90.9% -1.5 6.9
Cody Kessler CLE -2 11 -22.1% 13 5 19 100.0% -2.2 6.0
Marcus Mariota TEN -7 12 -21.4% 12 8 35 100.0% -2.9 7.3
Andrew Luck IND -7 13 -109.1% 34 1 0 100.0% 0.0 0.0
Eli Manning NYG -9 14 -24.9% 16 11 63 90.9% -1.3 7.6
Aaron Rodgers GB -10 15 -16.9% 11 29 169 96.6% -0.7 6.2
Tyrod Taylor BUF -11 16 -49.2% 26 5 19 100.0% -2.8 6.6
Brian Hoyer CHI -12 17 -23.6% 15 15 109 86.7% -1.3 9.6
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Matt Barkley CHI -20 18 -81.6% 31 4 2 75.0% -1.3 2.0
Philip Rivers SD -21 19 -25.8% 18 19 80 78.9% -0.6 6.1
Drew Brees NO -24 20 -32.7% 20 17 86 94.1% -3.0 8.4
Kirk Cousins WAS -28 21 -36.8% 22 18 147 83.3% -1.3 11.5
Matthew Stafford DET -28 22 -22.1% 14 41 246 87.8% -1.4 8.2
Russell Wilson SEA -28 23 -25.4% 17 31 210 96.8% -3.0 10.1
Jared Goff LARM -29 24 -61.5% 29 9 66 88.9% -2.3 10.5
Cam Newton CAR -33 25 -38.2% 23 20 85 90.0% -1.4 5.9
Colin Kaepernick SF -42 26 -83.0% 32 9 18 77.8% -2.8 5.7
Ben Roethlisberger PIT -43 27 -28.5% 19 37 177 91.9% -1.6 6.6
Case Keenum LARM -44 28 -49.1% 25 16 68 87.5% -2.7 7.4
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ -45 29 -71.9% 30 11 45 90.9% 0.3 4.0
Carson Wentz PHI -61 30 -36.0% 21 35 148 88.6% -2.2 7.0
Tom Brady NE -64 31 -51.6% 27 24 104 91.7% -2.8 7.6
Sam Bradford MIN -76 32 -41.0% 24 35 176 88.6% -2.1 7.9
Joe Flacco BAL -78 33 -93.8% 33 13 18 84.6% -1.6 3.6
Ryan Tannehill MIA -109 34 -56.8% 28 34 112 85.3% -1.3 5.1
NFL WR Screens - -709 - -24.9% - 797 4,567 89.3% -1.7 8.1

I had to double check our numbers, but yes, Andrew Luck threw just one wide receiver screen in 2016, and it must have happened by accident in Week 1. The play gained no yards, and the bubble popped on screens for the 2016 Colts. They attempted five tight end screens on the season, but just one to a wideout is a staggeringly low total for a pass-heavy offense in today's NFL.

Not surprisingly, Alex Smith led the NFL with 47 wide receiver screens, but as we mentioned in Part I, the lack of success to Tyreek Hill (-58 DYAR) was surprising, and possibly troubling for 2017 if he is to be relied on more in such a predictable manner. The good news was that tight end Travis Kelce (49 DYAR) and running back Spencer Ware (31 DYAR) stepped up on these screens to show their versatility. Only four wide receiver screens gained at least 45 yards last season. Kelce (80 yards vs. Denver) and Ware (46 yards vs. Saints) had two of those four plays. In the end, Smith finished with 35 DYAR, second only to Ryan, who had good success throwing to Taylor Gabriel (31 DYAR) on these plays. Julio Jones only had one screen for -9 DYAR, but there are far better ways to utilize his talent. Ryan actually threw the shortest screens in the league, 3.2 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Barkley had the lowest completion percentage on wide receiver screens, but even he was 3-of-4.

The bottom five quarterbacks in DYAR (Tannehill, Flacco, Bradford, Brady, and Wentz) all have reputations for and/or play in a system that prefers screens and dink-and-dunk passing. All of their completed screens produced a below-average amount of YAC. Osweiler's 12 wide receiver screens had the most YAC (13.7), which is an aberration in the grand scheme of Houston's YAC-lacking passing game. Osweiler was one of only four quarterbacks with a positive DVOA on wide receiver screens, and Trevor Siemian (20.7%) had the highest DVOA. That fact alone should tell you that success on these plays is less about the quarterback, and more about the matchup, timing, blocking, and receiver's skill.

Post

The post route is another longer throw in the game (average: 21.6 yards). No route produced more DYAR (2,470) in the NFL last year.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Kirk Cousins WAS 199 1 77.7% 3 29 524 58.6% 24.0 9.6
Matt Ryan ATL 183 2 54.3% 8 34 573 56.3% 24.2 5.1
Marcus Mariota TEN 150 3 54.2% 9 31 411 50.0% 20.7 5.2
Tom Brady NE 144 4 131.8% 2 13 249 92.3% 16.6 3.9
Jameis Winston TB 143 5 45.5% 12 35 388 58.8% 17.9 2.4
Blake Bortles JAC 139 6 44.6% 13 32 432 54.8% 17.7 7.4
Andrew Luck IND 137 7 35.5% 17 39 493 48.6% 22.8 1.8
Cam Newton CAR 129 8 38.7% 16 34 413 47.1% 20.9 5.1
Andy Dalton CIN 120 9 62.8% 6 20 291 63.2% 20.7 3.3
Drew Brees NO 119 10 40.4% 14 29 387 55.2% 21.0 4.9
Aaron Rodgers GB 117 11 64.5% 5 20 401 50.0% 27.4 7.0
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 94 12 31.1% 18 29 354 48.1% 18.5 5.2
Carson Palmer ARI 88 13 16.7% 21 39 356 50.0% 20.5 1.9
Sam Bradford MIN 81 14 52.4% 11 18 226 52.9% 19.4 3.3
Derek Carr OAK 80 15 58.8% 7 15 199 57.1% 19.3 2.8
Russell Wilson SEA 63 16 52.5% 10 13 185 50.0% 25.2 3.0
Tyrod Taylor BUF 59 17 132.0% 1 6 116 80.0% 19.5 3.5
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Case Keenum LARM 56 18 69.9% 4 10 122 55.6% 21.9 6.2
Joe Flacco BAL 53 19 14.1% 22 29 263 44.8% 23.0 1.8
Trevor Siemian DEN 50 20 40.3% 15 12 151 50.0% 19.7 6.2
Dak Prescott DAL 39 21 21.6% 19 15 195 60.0% 17.9 6.3
Philip Rivers SD 38 22 16.9% 20 21 179 38.1% 23.8 5.4
Eli Manning NYG 25 23 8.2% 23 16 122 40.0% 22.7 4.5
Carson Wentz PHI 18 24 2.3% 26 20 182 36.8% 23.9 2.9
Matt Barkley CHI 12 25 3.0% 25 12 98 41.7% 16.7 3.4
Brian Hoyer CHI 10 26 7.3% 24 8 75 42.9% 19.6 3.0
Matthew Stafford DET 10 27 -0.6% 27 15 123 46.7% 20.9 4.6
Alex Smith KC -4 28 -14.2% 28 19 143 36.8% 16.2 3.3
Brock Osweiler HOU -7 29 -14.3% 29 21 151 38.1% 22.8 4.1
Ryan Tannehill MIA -15 30 -37.9% 31 8 42 25.0% 22.8 5.0
Ben Roethlisberger PIT -17 31 -19.2% 30 29 227 25.0% 24.4 3.3
Jared Goff LARM -17 32 -63.7% 33 4 16 0.0% 28.8 -
Colin Kaepernick SF -19 33 -40.6% 32 9 64 22.2% 24.9 5.0
Cody Kessler CLE -19 34 -100.5% 34 2 0 0.0% 14.5 -
NFL Posts - 2,470 - 32.6% - 746 8,905 48.9% 21.6 4.4

The post was one of the signature plays for Ryan and Jones last year in Atlanta, so it is not surprising to see Ryan do well here (second in DVOA). Cousins has now led a third route in DYAR, but as we mentioned in Part I, Jackson and Garcon racked up 155 DYAR on post routes and helped contribute to Cousins having the highest YAC (9.6). He'll have to adjust without those receivers in Washington this year. Brady may have struggled with dig routes, but he enjoyed the post routes, producing the second-highest DVOA and completing 12-of-13 passes to a variety of targets.

Brady (16.6), Smith (16.2), and Kessler (14.5) threw the shortest post routes, though Kessler had just two plays, completing neither to Terrelle Pryor. Goff actually threw the deepest post routes (28.8), but was only able to draw a pass interference flag on four throws with one drop.

As we mentioned earlier, Palmer, Winston, and Luck were the three most hit quarterbacks last season. They also were the only three quarterbacks with at least 35 post routes. We'll need to see a few seasons of data to know if throwing digs and posts lead to the quarterback getting hit more. It makes sense in theory, but even then we're still talking about a small chunk of the quarterback's passes over the season.

Ben Roethlisberger (25.0 percent) was the only quarterback to complete fewer than 35.0 percent of his post routes with at least 10 attempts. He had 10 passes defensed (tied for the most on post routes with Ryan), two dropped, and was 0-for-6 on throws to Ladarius Green and Markus Wheaton. Neither player is still with the Steelers. Martavis Bryant should also be an upgrade over Sammie Coates, who had as many drops (one) as catches on his six post routes.

Comeback

Comebacks have the lowest average YAC (1.3) of any route type with at least 50 attempts, but when the play is well timed and the pass is accurate, it is nearly impossible to defend. There were 582 comeback targets last year.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Aaron Rodgers GB 78 1 22.7% 5 29 219 78.6% 8.6 2.4
Trevor Siemian DEN 52 2 31.2% 3 15 130 64.3% 11.3 1.0
Philip Rivers SD 48 3 31.7% 2 15 185 73.3% 10.9 5.1
Derek Carr OAK 44 4 21.6% 6 17 133 68.8% 9.9 2.2
Brock Osweiler HOU 38 5 10.0% 10 22 171 72.7% 10.0 1.3
Carson Palmer ARI 32 6 11.0% 9 17 140 62.5% 11.9 0.2
Marcus Mariota TEN 31 7 3.1% 13 26 169 64.0% 9.7 1.7
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 29 8 60.6% 1 6 73 66.7% 13.3 3.3
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 28 9 13.6% 8 14 111 64.3% 11.1 0.9
Alex Smith KC 24 10 25.2% 4 8 70 75.0% 11.3 0.3
Brian Hoyer CHI 21 11 20.2% 7 9 76 77.8% 9.1 2.7
Russell Wilson SEA 21 12 5.5% 11 15 123 73.3% 9.1 1.2
Jameis Winston TB 19 13 2.5% 14 16 114 56.3% 11.9 1.3
Cody Kessler CLE 12 14 -1.0% 15 13 96 84.6% 8.8 0.0
Matthew Stafford DET 12 15 3.4% 12 10 73 60.0% 11.2 1.5
Tyrod Taylor BUF 10 16 -8.3% 17 29 180 58.6% 11.4 0.0
Kirk Cousins WAS 7 17 -9.5% 19 27 161 57.7% 9.3 0.9
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Ryan Tannehill MIA 6 18 -8.9% 18 21 132 61.9% 9.0 2.0
Carson Wentz PHI 6 19 -8.2% 16 19 121 73.7% 7.9 1.1
Matt Barkley CHI -3 20 -13.9% 20 18 117 55.6% 11.7 0.7
Sam Bradford MIN -3 21 -15.3% 22 14 89 64.3% 10.4 0.7
Case Keenum LARM -4 22 -14.8% 21 9 61 50.0% 9.7 1.0
Matt Ryan ATL -8 23 -20.4% 24 13 87 41.7% 13.4 2.4
Cam Newton CAR -10 24 -24.5% 27 10 61 40.0% 12.7 3.0
Eli Manning NYG -10 25 -18.8% 23 20 131 55.0% 10.3 2.8
Tom Brady NE -16 26 -105.9% 34 2 0 0.0% 7.0 -
Drew Brees NO -17 27 -22.6% 25 19 117 68.4% 8.2 0.9
Andy Dalton CIN -17 28 -23.9% 26 20 110 45.0% 11.4 0.2
Jared Goff LARM -18 29 -35.7% 29 10 45 50.0% 10.3 0.2
Colin Kaepernick SF -22 30 -105.1% 33 3 0 0.0% 14.0 -
Andrew Luck IND -23 31 -33.2% 28 15 58 40.0% 8.5 0.0
Dak Prescott DAL -26 32 -49.7% 32 10 46 50.0% 6.7 1.6
Joe Flacco BAL -36 33 -42.4% 30 15 68 46.7% 11.9 0.6
Blake Bortles JAC -53 34 -47.9% 31 19 73 33.3% 11.2 2.3
NFL Comebacks - 215 - -7.4% - 582 3835 59.1% 10.3 1.3

At the very least, this data provides some interesting notes on playing styles. Rodgers and Taylor led the NFL with 29 comeback routes each, while Brady (two), Kaepernick (three), Roethlisberger (six), and Smith (eight) combined for 19 such throws. Neither Kaepernick nor Brady completed a single comeback pass, so they finish at the bottom in DVOA. Roethlisberger hit all three of his comebacks to Antonio Brown to score the highest DVOA, but again, he only had six attempts total.

It takes a small sample size stat like this one to rank Rodgers and Trevor Siemian together at the top, but here we are with a hat tip to Jordy Nelson and Demaryius Thomas on the receiving end.

Bortles struggled the most out of anyone with at least 10 attempts on comebacks. He completed 33.3 percent of his comebacks for the least DYAR (-53).

Broken Play

These are not broken plays like aborted snaps, but plays where the quarterback scrambles and the receivers break their original routes. This is backyard/sandlot football in number format. We know Green Bay led the league in these plays last year, but was Rodgers the best at fixing a broken play?

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Matthew Stafford DET 91 1 29.5% 1 34 268 57.6% 9.7 3.5
Tom Brady NE 50 2 28.4% 2 16 186 50.0% 18.4 6.8
Andrew Luck IND 44 3 16.2% 6 21 153 71.4% 9.4 2.0
Andy Dalton CIN 31 4 24.1% 3 12 93 66.7% 11.3 2.4
Cody Kessler CLE 30 5 19.5% 4 12 127 50.0% 14.2 5.3
Blake Bortles JAC 29 6 16.4% 5 14 98 50.0% 8.2 5.1
Tyrod Taylor BUF 26 7 0.5% 11 31 252 41.9% 13.4 5.8
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 23 8 2.9% 10 21 175 38.1% 16.0 7.1
Eli Manning NYG 22 9 12.0% 7 11 98 45.5% 17.2 6.8
Matt Ryan ATL 13 10 -2.7% 12 17 130 47.1% 11.9 6.4
Drew Brees NO 10 11 3.3% 9 8 30 50.0% 4.3 2.8
Sam Bradford MIN 10 12 8.3% 8 8 70 75.0% 4.8 6.8
Jameis Winston TB -2 13 -12.5% 13 30 198 53.3% 10.9 1.9
Carson Palmer ARI -3 14 -16.3% 14 8 53 50.0% 9.4 4.5
Brian Hoyer CHI -3 15 -23.5% 16 4 4 25.0% 7.5 1.0
Jared Goff LARM -9 16 -34.4% 18 6 24 33.3% 9.7 2.0
Derek Carr OAK -16 17 -32.6% 17 12 56 41.7% 10.3 3.6
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Alex Smith KC -17 18 -34.7% 19 12 66 33.3% 13.1 6.0
Case Keenum LARM -18 19 -102.3% 34 3 0 0.0% 8.3 -
Matt Barkley CHI -20 20 -76.8% 30 4 7 25.0% 17.3 2.0
Aaron Rodgers GB -22 21 -18.5% 15 52 223 39.2% 11.8 1.3
Colin Kaepernick SF -30 22 -40.2% 20 15 60 40.0% 9.6 1.3
Ryan Tannehill MIA -33 23 -42.7% 22 13 83 23.1% 15.9 5.0
Trevor Siemian DEN -37 24 -60.9% 25 12 24 25.0% 9.8 1.0
Marcus Mariota TEN -38 25 -41.9% 21 18 69 27.8% 10.0 2.6
Kirk Cousins WAS -38 26 -85.3% 31 7 7 28.6% 8.1 0.5
Carson Wentz PHI -46 27 -47.3% 23 20 145 35.0% 11.9 13.7
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ -50 28 -87.8% 32 9 42 33.3% 9.6 4.7
Philip Rivers SD -52 29 -72.6% 27 11 25 9.1% 6.3 5.0
Brock Osweiler HOU -53 30 -92.2% 33 8 6 25.0% 7.0 0.5
Dak Prescott DAL -59 31 -62.8% 26 15 36 33.3% 7.5 2.0
Cam Newton CAR -69 32 -73.1% 28 15 31 13.3% 12.6 1.5
Joe Flacco BAL -69 33 -76.2% 29 16 24 25.0% 11.4 0.5
Russell Wilson SEA -96 34 -57.9% 24 29 124 34.5% 10.2 4.4
NFL Broken Plays - -467 - -23.5% - 567 3,190 41.1% 11.1 3.8

Matthew Stafford was actually the Mad Scramblin' King of the NFC North last year, with the highest DVOA and most DYAR on broken plays. His 34 plays were second to only Rodgers' 52, but Stafford found a way to make more plays. Rodgers only completed 39.2 percent of his passes on broken plays, so it really was not a sound offensive strategy for the Packers to improvise last season. When the Packers started 4-6, Rodgers had 31 broken plays with -33 DYAR and -27.6% DVOA. During the 6-0 finish, Rodgers had 21 broken plays with 11 DYAR and -6.7% DVOA. (Note that this is only for passes, and we are not considering Rodgers' rushing or sacks since this is a study about pass routes.) So the improv routine did improve down that six-game stretch too, but it still wasn't something the Packers should have been relying on so much. The highlight-worthy throws to someone like Geronimo Allison were memorable, but everyone forgets the 15 times where Rodgers ended up just throwing the ball away after scrambling.

Besides Rodgers and Stafford, the other quarterbacks with more than 20 broken plays were quite predictably Taylor (31), Winston (30), Wilson (29), Luck (21), and Roethlisberger (21). Luck managed to complete an impressive 71.4 percent of his broken plays. Wilson was dead last in DYAR (-96), but I have little doubt that his leg injuries last season limited how often he did this and his effectiveness. I bet we'll see much stronger numbers from him in this department next year, even if broken plays can be highly unpredictable in outcome.

Brady wins the award for "F*ck it, I'm throwing deep" when improvising. His 18.4 air yards per throw was the highest on this table, and he ranked second in DVOA and DYAR thanks largely to this touchdown to Malcolm Mitchell that we covered in Part I. Brees actually threw the shortest passes (4.3) on broken plays. Bradford (4.8) was the only other passer under 6.0 yards.

Fade

With 478 fades, we run into our first route where not every quarterback had at least one attempt last year. Kaepernick did not throw a fade route last season, so we have removed him from this table. He is still welcome to join our other tables though.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Drew Brees NO 113 1 45.3% 3 22 240 57.1% 14.0 4.8
Matt Ryan ATL 76 2 54.5% 2 16 167 43.8% 16.3 7.9
Andrew Luck IND 52 3 59.5% 1 9 128 66.7% 20.2 0.3
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 51 4 16.6% 6 22 222 50.0% 17.0 1.3
Aaron Rodgers GB 38 5 11.2% 8 19 167 47.4% 15.3 3.1
Russell Wilson SEA 33 6 19.7% 5 14 132 46.2% 17.1 1.7
Brock Osweiler HOU 17 7 12.6% 7 8 57 50.0% 11.9 1.0
Derek Carr OAK 17 8 -4.6% 10 25 169 31.6% 13.1 2.8
Tom Brady NE 15 9 9.3% 9 12 104 45.5% 12.3 3.6
Matt Barkley CHI 14 10 30.5% 4 4 29 50.0% 17.0 0.0
Eli Manning NYG 10 11 -5.9% 11 19 133 33.3% 18.7 4.2
Jameis Winston TB 5 12 -6.7% 13 16 111 33.3% 18.8 2.8
Sam Bradford MIN 3 13 -9.9% 16 11 89 36.4% 18.6 1.5
Jared Goff LARM 2 14 -6.7% 14 5 45 40.0% 18.4 2.0
Marcus Mariota TEN 2 15 -8.8% 15 10 73 28.6% 14.2 5.5
Ryan Tannehill MIA 1 16 -6.3% 12 3 25 33.3% 18.7 6.0
Cody Kessler CLE -5 17 -19.4% 18 10 63 33.3% 16.9 1.7
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Philip Rivers SD -6 18 -26.3% 20 6 29 33.3% 16.8 1.0
Matthew Stafford DET -6 19 -15.9% 17 25 199 32.0% 15.1 8.4
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ -10 20 -27.2% 22 9 23 33.3% 10.4 0.0
Trevor Siemian DEN -10 21 -41.8% 25 4 2 25.0% 10.5 0.0
Alex Smith KC -15 22 -46.3% 27 6 13 16.7% 19.7 0.0
Carson Palmer ARI -15 23 -25.3% 19 15 97 26.7% 17.8 2.8
Case Keenum LARM -21 24 -55.0% 30 6 4 16.7% 17.8 0.0
Carson Wentz PHI -23 25 -28.5% 23 18 83 29.4% 15.4 0.8
Dak Prescott DAL -25 26 -31.9% 24 16 72 25.0% 15.3 0.8
Brian Hoyer CHI -26 27 -96.3% 32 4 0 0.0% 21.5 -
Andy Dalton CIN -31 28 -42.2% 26 13 73 16.7% 15.5 0.0
Blake Bortles JAC -34 29 -26.9% 21 28 170 35.7% 14.9 2.0
Joe Flacco BAL -35 30 -52.7% 29 11 30 18.2% 19.3 1.5
Tyrod Taylor BUF -45 31 -106.2% 33 6 0 0.0% 19.7 -
Kirk Cousins WAS -54 32 -48.0% 28 18 67 17.6% 11.7 0.7
Cam Newton CAR -74 33 -67.7% 31 17 21 11.8% 22.9 0.0
NFL Fades - -8 - -12.3% - 478 3,203 33.0% 16.2 3.2

This study is somehow making me lose what little respect for Bortles I had going in. We're talking about 70 throws out of more than 600 for his season, but he had the second-most go routes (42) and the most fade routes (28), which speaks to an oversimplified quarterbacking style of "chuck it deep or just chuck it up." He at least completed a higher fade rate (35.7 percent) than the league average (33.0 percent) last year, but still ranked 29th in DYAR. Carr and Stafford also had 25 fades each with below-average completion rates, so this might be a preferred route for the "arm talent" quarterbacks. Roethlisberger and Brees were the only other quarterbacks with more than 20 fades (22 each), but those future Hall of Famers completed at least half of their attempts, and Brees had the most DYAR (113) by a wide margin.

Newton would seemingly be in an ideal offense for fades with tree trunks at receiver in Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin, and Devin Funchess, but you still have to be accurate. Newton was last in DYAR (-74) since he completed only 2-of-17 fades with one drop. Perhaps another part of the problem is that Newton tries to go too deep on his fades. His average fade traveled a league-high 22.9 yards. At that point, you might as well try a traditional go route or a post.

Seam

Finally, we look at the effective seam route. Kaepernick returns to the table, but Goff is removed after not throwing any seam routes. Perhaps 2017 is when Goff discovers where the sun rises and where the seam is.

Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Tom Brady NE 207 1 163.4% 2 17 422 75.0% 22.8 12.3
Russell Wilson SEA 140 2 85.6% 8 23 347 68.2% 17.7 5.3
Kirk Cousins WAS 138 3 148.7% 4 12 279 83.3% 21.3 6.0
Andy Dalton CIN 137 4 79.3% 10 23 358 59.1% 17.3 8.3
Marcus Mariota TEN 125 5 90.0% 7 17 281 62.5% 24.1 3.9
Matt Ryan ATL 118 6 108.1% 5 16 264 66.7% 18.0 8.1
Cam Newton CAR 118 7 56.1% 14 25 347 52.0% 19.3 8.5
Drew Brees NO 105 8 58.4% 13 24 393 58.3% 21.6 7.9
Derek Carr OAK 84 9 66.3% 12 16 232 68.8% 16.3 3.6
Philip Rivers SD 81 10 73.7% 11 13 149 60.0% 18.8 2.0
Joe Flacco BAL 68 11 43.1% 16 18 247 47.1% 19.2 9.8
Sam Bradford MIN 55 12 93.2% 6 8 151 71.4% 22.3 8.6
Eli Manning NYG 44 13 18.1% 21 22 191 45.5% 18.6 4.2
Andrew Luck IND 43 14 85.5% 9 7 84 57.1% 24.1 2.3
Tyrod Taylor BUF 38 15 54.5% 15 9 120 33.3% 25.3 2.0
Cody Kessler CLE 37 16 200.7% 1 3 87 66.7% 20.7 24.5
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 36 17 21.0% 20 13 153 50.0% 18.1 2.7
Player Team DYAR Rk DVOA Rk Passes Yards C% PYD YAC
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 32 18 14.6% 22 20 177 45.0% 16.6 5.3
Matthew Stafford DET 23 19 42.2% 17 9 76 55.6% 15.6 5.2
Colin Kaepernick SF 21 20 40.6% 18 6 77 50.0% 18.5 6.7
Ryan Tannehill MIA 12 21 158.2% 3 1 22 100.0% 13.0 9.0
Dak Prescott DAL 11 22 7.4% 23 7 63 42.9% 14.1 3.7
Brian Hoyer CHI 6 23 24.3% 19 2 25 50.0% 28.5 0.0
Jameis Winston TB 4 24 -4.2% 24 23 180 39.1% 18.5 3.4
Carson Palmer ARI 0 25 -10.0% 25 9 58 37.5% 18.0 5.3
Aaron Rodgers GB -6 26 -25.3% 27 4 13 25.0% 17.3 2.0
Matt Barkley CHI -7 27 -26.9% 30 5 38 25.0% 23.0 9.0
Brock Osweiler HOU -13 28 -26.5% 28 9 40 22.2% 17.7 2.0
Trevor Siemian DEN -13 29 -20.6% 26 12 101 33.3% 16.8 9.3
Case Keenum LARM -13 30 -48.1% 32 4 25 25.0% 22.8 8.0
Carson Wentz PHI -16 31 -26.6% 29 12 89 41.7% 16.3 4.2
Blake Bortles JAC -16 32 -30.0% 31 12 58 27.3% 21.3 1.0
Alex Smith KC -36 33 -51.6% 33 12 55 25.0% 20.4 1.3
NFL Seams - 1,665 - 44.0% - 452 5,620 50.9% 19.2 6.0

Brady on seam routes was very difficult for defenses last season. He only threw 17 of them, but still had 207 DYAR and 163.4% DVOA. Rob Gronkowski had 93 DYAR there, but Brady also had at least 18 DYAR to every receiver he targeted down the seam except for Edelman (-1). Wilson was also effective with Jimmy Graham in Seattle, as this is often a route exploited by a good tight end.

Alex Smith ranked last in DYAR, as Kelce (8 DYAR) was the only target with positive DYAR among the six players Smith targeted in the seam.

Among our qualified group of 34 quarterbacks, Tannehill threw the second-fewest fades (three) and second-fewest seam routes (one). Unfortunately, it appears he won't throw any passes in 2017 after another knee injury.

The NFC South loved the seam route. Newton (25), Brees (24), and Winston (23, tied with Wilson and Andy Dalton) led the league in seam routes, while Ryan also had 16 of them with good efficiency numbers. Among 16-game starters, Rodgers had the fewest seam routes (four) in the league. How about more slants and seams than broken plays this year, Green Bay?

Summary

Finally, here is a table that shows the average rank for DYAR and DVOA among these 12 routes for our 34 quarterbacks. As you might expect, Ryan is on top and Goff is last.

2016 Pass Routes: Average Rank in DYAR and DVOA
Player Team DYAR Rk Rk DVOA Rk Rk
Matt Ryan ATL 9.3 1 10.4 1
Drew Brees NO 10.2 2 13.0 4
Aaron Rodgers GB 11.3 3 11.0 2
Philip Rivers SD 12.8 4 12.8 3
Kirk Cousins WAS 12.9 5 13.4 6
Derek Carr OAK 13.0 6 13.4 6
Andrew Luck IND 13.0 6 15.2 14
Matthew Stafford DET 13.6 8 13.8 8
Tom Brady NE 14.0 9 13.1 5
Carson Palmer ARI 14.8 10 17.0 21
Marcus Mariota TEN 14.8 11 15.1 13
Jameis Winston TB 14.8 11 16.2 17
Andy Dalton CIN 14.9 13 15.3 15
Alex Smith KC 15.1 14 14.6 10
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 15.4 15 14.8 12
Dak Prescott DAL 15.7 16 14.8 11
Russell Wilson SEA 15.8 17 14.4 9
Player Team DYAR Rk Rk DVOA Rk Rk
Tyrod Taylor BUF 17.3 18 16.6 19
Sam Bradford MIN 17.3 18 16.9 20
Trevor Siemian DEN 19.3 20 19.3 22
Eli Manning NYG 19.5 21 20.1 23
Cody Kessler CLE 19.8 22 16.3 18
Ryan Tannehill MIA 20.1 23 16.0 16
Joe Flacco BAL 20.6 24 21.1 24
Blake Bortles JAC 20.9 25 21.4 26
Matt Barkley CHI 21.1 26 21.6 27
Cam Newton CAR 21.8 27 23.3 31
Brock Osweiler HOU 22.1 28 22.3 30
Case Keenum LARM 22.3 29 21.6 27
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 22.3 29 23.4 32
Brian Hoyer CHI 22.8 31 21.1 25
Carson Wentz PHI 23.7 32 21.6 27
Colin Kaepernick SF 24.8 33 25.5 33
Jared Goff LARM 26.5 34 27.4 34

(Ed. Note: One other thing I noticed here while editing. When we're looking only at receiving numbers on the top routes, we can clearly see the quarterbacks whose DVOA is heavily dependent on the ability to avoid sacks and interceptions. Tom Brady and Dak Prescott, for example, are lower on this list. Meanwhile, the gunslingers such as Philip Rivers end up higher here than they do in passing DVOA/DYAR. -- Aaron Schatz)

In our third and final part next week, we'll look at defenses against these routes, as well as the frequency of interceptions and touchdown passes by route.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 10 Aug 2017

30 comments, Last at 14 Aug 2017, 1:31pm by ramirez

Comments

1
by Sixknots :: Thu, 08/10/2017 - 6:12pm

No SF QBs for fade?

2
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 08/10/2017 - 6:24pm

"Kaepernick did not throw a fade route last season, so we have removed him from this table."

I looked up Gabbert. 3-of-5, 68 yards on fades.

3
by lokiwi :: Thu, 08/10/2017 - 6:27pm

I'm curious what value you are hoping to get out of breaking this down by routes. Is the hope that there will be consistency by QB from year to year so we can assess which QBs are best at which routes? Or are you not hoping to get predictive value out of it and just looking to break down the previous year?

7
by Scott Kacsmar :: Thu, 08/10/2017 - 8:48pm

I'd like to be able to build a good statistical profile of a quarterback's playing style.

8
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 08/10/2017 - 9:36pm

Assuming there is consistency in these numbers -- and my educated guess is that there will be a lot of it -- it will be interesting to see:

* Each QB's strengths and weaknesses, and where they improve or decline from one year to the next
* Each offensive coach's game plan, and how passers and receivers alike fit into those schemes
* Each reciever's strengths and weaknesses, and how some players might perfectly fit holes on rosters.

I mean, there is tons of stuff we can do with this beyond complete/incomplete and deep/short.

4
by skibrett15 :: Thu, 08/10/2017 - 6:46pm

I did a quick calculation and made an adjustment for the PYD statistic which accounts for the width of the field and the length each throw.

I put the throws into 3 categories: Throws to targets outside the numbers, on the numbers, and between hash and numbers. This was a rough categorization with room for improvement.

Routes which are Outside the numbers: Go, Out, Fade. These have horizontal yards of 23.1 (halfway between numbers and sideline)

Routes which are on the numbers: Comeback, Curl, Screen. Curls have some room for debate, esp with the y stick concept very prevalent and falling inside the numbers, but sideline curls are common as well. These have horizontal yards of 19.6.

Routes which are between hash and numbers: slant, dig, seam, post. These have horizontal yards of 11.4

Using pythagorean theorem, we can calculate the average length of the throw. Then I calculated the upside of each route by adding YAC to PYD, and the % upside by dividing by length of throw.

Screens, curls, outs, comebacks, fades, drags all have DVOA below zero, and % upside increases from 32% to 85% in that order.

Slants, Digs, Go, Post, Seam all have positive DVOA, and increase from 89% to 113% in that order. %upside tracks to DVOA at R-squared of 0.704.

My thinking is the rest of the DVOA differences are accounted for by situational football, completion percentage, success rate. I.e. Drags on 3rd and 18 for 11 yards are common, but completed slants on 3rd and 5 are much more important. Drags were the closest to appearing like good offense with a high C% and good % upside.

Last interesting tidbit- the Go route is the ONLY route which doesn't attack the middle of the field and has a positive DVOA/high percent upside. This is good evidence for the value of deep receivers pulling safeties away from middle of the field defense, and equally good evidence for outside CBs being more valuable than inside CBs if they can remove the Go route threat.

Ultimately, I think we really need to see the impact of INTs (easier) and sacks (much harder) to really start to evaluate these routes as good/bad concepts.

5
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 08/10/2017 - 7:57pm

What's the difference between a dig and a drag route? Wikipedia says they're the same

6
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 08/10/2017 - 8:22pm

They are similar in that they both break towards the middle of the field. Digs (I liked it when they were called Ins) are deeper and are based on a pass being thrown at the time the receiver makes his cut, hitting him in the middle of the field. Drags are shallow routes that typically involve a receiver running all the way across the field from one side to the other, and are usually caught outside the tackles.

This page diagrams Washington using a dig and a drag on the same play (though the ball actually goes to another receiver):

http://insidethepylon.com/football-101/glossary-football-101/2016/03/17/...

10
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 10:35am

similr enough btu dig basical;l;y more of a quick hitter htingg. drag is draaaaaaaaaggggggggged out. receiver basically runs past the linemen before gettgin the pass

9
by andrew :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 9:38am

Once we get the defenses rankings by route... the hope is we can use that to predict which defenses are ideally suited to defend against certain quarterbacks, and which ones will be exploited...

The only caveat is how many of the routes are dictated by the defenses.... either with at the line audibles or just general gameplanning....

11
by skibrett15 :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 10:58am

Very interested in how these change in the RZ, and in short yardage.

Just how much upside is there really to running that 4th and 1 go route vs a "safer" slant/out/curl?

12
by ramirez :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 11:24am

The bottom five quarterbacks in DYAR (Tannehill, Flacco, Bradford, Brady, and Wentz) all have reputations for and/or play in a system that prefers screens and dink-and-dunk passing."

The problem with this statement is that Brady's air yards per attempt figure of 4.17 is significantly ahead of the other guys on that list, so it isn't really an accurate take on how the Patriots-and maybe Miami, too-actually ran their offense.

14
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 3:10pm

That's the wrong stat to use. That's just taking a QB's passing yards, subtracting YAC, and dividing by attempts. That's not actually air yards, which is a stat where every QB will be above 6.0. All of the QBs I mentioned were at least a half yard below the league average. Flacco is the only one above average for his career, but he's changed recently.

15
by ramirez :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 4:03pm

You missed the point of my post. I didn't say anything about performance relative to league average. I'm saying that compared to the other guys you listed, Brady did better by air yards per attempt.

The fact that those players struggled by DYAR on screens does not "prove" that they employ a dink-and-dunk style. Look at the air yards figures I've provided, or better yet, watch the film of Brady's completions in 2016. The Patriots were not exclusively relying on screens and short passing. If he has a lower air yards figure than some other guys, it's because Brady's only reliable deep threat, Hogan, had a minimal impact on the offense for several games.

If you study air yards and YAC rates, and how they change over time, you'll see that the results are closely tied to the deep threat ability of the receiving corps, and play calling. The claim that players like Brady, Tannehill, and Flacco avoid throwing downfield because of a lack of ability is a myth, easily refuted by a careful examination of the evidence.

16
by skibrett15 :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 8:08pm
17
by ramirez :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 8:41pm

Yes, I read that article when it was published. I don't know why you linked to it, because it has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. The chart included in that piece, it we assume that a higher rate of air yards makes a QB better, suggests that between 2006 and 2015, Eli, Cutler, and Flacco were better players than Brees, Brady, Matt Ryan, and Tony Romo. Surely you do't believe that?

18
by skibrett15 :: Sat, 08/12/2017 - 12:41pm

actually it kind of says the opposite. That despite having high air yards, there's a group of QBs who are basically spray and pray down the field passers.

You seem to be offended that NE is at times categorized as a dink/dunk YAC offense. The stat I linked to shows that relative to the rest of the league, Brady and those other QBs have fewer air yards, which is indicative of more of a dink/dunk offense. This is corroborated by their personnel - edelman and amendola - specializing in the short areas of the field.

The only point being made here in the article is that despite all that, the effectiveness of the WR screen play is highly suspect in these offenses. Brady and the pats offense may well be using these plays to set up the shots you are mentioning down the field and in the seam to the TEs/Hogan. Those are the effective individual plays, but perhaps they are more effective because they are set up by the shorter, less effective stuff.

19
by ramirez :: Sat, 08/12/2017 - 1:31pm

OK, so to get back to my original point, the claim that the Patriots ran a dink and dunk offense in 2016 is false. You should do what I have already done, and watch every completion made by Brady in 2016. Because after you've done that, you will see that dink and dunk is not a fair characterization of the Patriots' passing game in 2016.

The reason I brought up air yards is because in 2016, Brady outperformed the other guys on the list by air yards per attempt, and again, that's because he wasn't running a "dink and dunk" offense in 2016. Once we accept that the Patriots were not running that type of attack, then the comment on DYAR on screen passes fails. Kacsmar is trying to argue that the weak DYAR numbers on WR screens is because of the type of attack those QBs are running, but at least in Brady's case, that's wrong. The DYAR figures cannot be caused by running a dink and dunk offense, if New England is not running a dink and dunk offense. I mean, do you really think the Patriots were dinking and dunking it against Pittsburgh in the AFC championship, for example?

Go back and read my first post again. It's not that I'm "offended", I just think Kacsmar's take on the Patriots offense, in this case, is demonstrably wrong.

20
by Scott Kacsmar :: Sat, 08/12/2017 - 2:57pm

We know what your ulterior motive is here. Saying the Patriots have a reputation for small ball should be one of the least controversial things anyone could write about that offense. All I said was that despite that reputation, their WR screens were just not effective in 2016. I'm not saying anything else about this.

21
by ramirez :: Sat, 08/12/2017 - 4:31pm

You're wrong. The Patriots did not employ a small ball strategy in 2016, and if you study the issue, you will see that this is true.

What you're saying is that we have a list of "dink and dunk" guys who struggled to find success on WR screens in 2016. But Brady wasn't employing that style, so your point, at least in his case, goes out the window, and therefore doesn't tell us anything useful.

If you want to just stubbornly insist that New England employed "dink and dunk" last year, when the numbers show that they didn't, then there's nowhere else to take this. If and when you're ready to have a more sophisticated discussion about this stuff, I'm all ears.

25
by ramirez :: Sun, 08/13/2017 - 12:52pm

Just to clarify some of what's being discussed here for anyone reading it: The crucial distinction that Kacsmar is missing is that in this instance, there's potentially a world of difference between two statements. It's one thing to say "here's a team that runs a dink and dunk offense, that struggled on WR screens, therefore we know X about the passing game."

It's a very different statement to say "here's a team with a reputation for dink and dunk, but which didn't actually employ that style in 2016, and they struggled on WR screens, therefore we know X about the passing game." It's a fine distinction, but potentially a very important one, and it's weird to me that Kacsmar doesn't recognize that distinction.

I agree with Kacsmar in this particular instance, that WR screens are easy throws, and the results on those particular throws are more about the receivers. But the wider point that he and I already understand, but a reader may not, is that Kacsmar has long argued in the past that all throws which gain YAC, and not just WR screens, are easy for a QB, and therefore a QB with a high YAC rate should be rated lower than someone with a higher rate of air yards. But the point is, not all throws that gain YAC work like WR screens, and a high YAC rate is a poor basis upon which to downgrade a quarterback. And if he's not trying to include the data in the WR screens chart as part of an anti-YAC and anti-short passing argument, then I don't understand why he drew attention to the low ranking of guys like Brady, Flacco, and Wentz.

Once you understand that background to this discussion, it should be clear why I take issue with Kacsmar not acknowledging the fact that the Patriots did not run a dink and dunk offense in 2016. To provide some numbers to back up what I am saying, there were 30 QBs with at least 2000 passing yards in 2016. By air yards per pass attempt, Brady ranked 11th among those 30s quarterbacks. Tannehill was 19th, Bradford was 26th, Flacco 27th, and Wentz 30th.

27
by Travis :: Mon, 08/14/2017 - 9:33am

To provide some numbers to back up what I am saying, there were 30 QBs with at least 2000 passing yards in 2016. By air yards per pass attempt, Brady ranked 11th among those 30s quarterbacks. Tannehill was 19th, Bradford was 26th, Flacco 27th, and Wentz 30th.

Just wondering - here do these numbers come from? The NFL's official statistics have Brady tied for 22nd, Tannehill tied for 19th, Bradford 30th, Flacco 27th, and Wentz 26th.

28
by ramirez :: Mon, 08/14/2017 - 12:03pm

The numbers I provided are air yards per pass attempt, which is (passing yards- YAC), divided by attempts. You can get the numbers at sporting charts. It shows that Brady did a lot more than just throw a bunch of short passes last year.

29
by Travis :: Mon, 08/14/2017 - 1:20pm

(Passing yards - YAC) divided by attempts isn't air yards per attempt because it leaves out all of the air yardage on incompletions. It's going to skew in favor of the guys with 70% completion percentages and against those with 50%.

30
by ramirez :: Mon, 08/14/2017 - 1:31pm

The point is, whichever definition of air yards you use, it's clear the Patriots did not run a "dink and dunk" offense last year. When I point this out to Kacsmar, he says that those teams merely have the "reputation" for dink and dunk. But the problem with that is, you can't draw any firm conclusions from a study unless you control the inputs.

You can't learn anything about short passing teams by studying a sample that includes teams that did not rely on short passing, but merely have the "reputation" for doing so. What does it even mean to study teams based on their reputation, and ignore the actual style they used last season? If you want to draw any firm conclusions about short passing QBs, you have to make sure that all the players in your sample are actually running a short passing offense. It's the fact that Kacsmar hasn't done this, and merely based the sample on the "reputations" of the players involved, that makes his analysis fundamentally flawed. That was why I took issue with him including Brady in the sample to begin with.

13
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 08/11/2017 - 12:04pm

Why not include interceptions? (I know you can't include sacks because you dont' know which receiver/route the QB intended to throw too). It seems like figuring out which routes a QB throws more/fewer interceptions on would be helpful and interesting.

22
by Roosevelt :: Sat, 08/12/2017 - 5:18pm

I've clicked on all the links, but can't find the route definitions anywhere. The reason I ask is that I've always thought the go/fade the same (outside release by outside receiver, run vertically, ball over outside shoulder), and the seam/post to me are just the classic post and the skinny post.

Can someone point me at them?

23
by Vincent Verhei :: Sat, 08/12/2017 - 9:05pm

Here's a look at the basic route tree:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2016841-nfl-101-breaking-down-the-bas...

As to your specific questions, the go/fly is about speed and getting behind the defense for a big play. The fade is more of a jump ball -- the receiver doesn't even have to be "open" if the quarterback puts the ball in the right spot and the receiver goes up and gets it. You can run a fade at the goal line. You can't run a go.

A post route is when a receiver breaks toward the goal post. A seam route is harder to define. It's asking a receiver to find the seams in zone coverage, whatever the defense does. That can mean deep or shallow routes, and it can mean a sharp cut or a more gradual angle. It's hard to diagram, because a seam route against Cover-2 is different from a seam route against Cover-3 or a seam route against quarters.

24
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 08/13/2017 - 10:42am

Are we going to persist in considering Cousins a replacement level QB, despite mounting evidence to the contrary?

26
by dank067 :: Sun, 08/13/2017 - 10:42pm

I've seen enough film breakdowns of Cousins appearing to not see open receivers and mis-read coverages that I understand the skepticism. And despite his generally good stats, one factor that invites some scrutiny from me is the middling-to-low TD%, especially compared to his company on the DYAR/NY/A leaderboards. (They have been basically average in rushing TDs the past two years.) He's also played with WRs and an OL that are pretty well-regarded.

That said, since every QB plays in his own offense with his own teammates, it's hard for me to conclude that some theoretical, objectively average quarterback would be as productive as Cousins in the Redskins offense. (I don't see anyone argue that he's replacement level.) I think this year should be revealing since they've lost their top two receivers, Jackson in particular given the way defenses have to account for the deep threat.