Dual Threats

Rick Drummond has a look at the how the league's current crop of 'dual threat' quarterbacks have fared and if they're really earning that tag.

| 4 years ago

Dual Threats

Dual-Threats2As Terrelle Pryor rounded right end on the Raiders’ opening play against the Steelers in Week 8, he found 93 yards of open space in front of him and a place in the record books waiting at the far goal line.

Beyond the exhilaration a play of that distance brings, the fact that it was a quarterback with ball in hand put an exclamation point on the statement ‘dual threat’ QBs have recently made.

Pryor’s passing exploits on the day, however, left something to be desired and re-sparked the questions: is ‘dual threat’ an apt term? Are the others in that class qualified to carry the tag? Or is this group of ‘legs’ QBs simply one-trick in the opposite direction from their pocket-based brothers?


To begin, a look deeper into the QB rushing numbers to paint a better picture of the nature of this half of the dual threat’s repertoire.

Trending Up

Looking at the Top 50 rushers (by yards) in each season since 2008 and counting the QBs that have landed among that group, the recent growth is plain to see as QBs have taken on a steadily increasing share of the Top 50’s attempts and yards gained. This season we find seven ranking in the league’s Top 50 rushers as we near the mid-way point (with an eighth, Andrew Luck, just beyond the cutoff).

  QBs in Top50 QB% of Top50 Att QB% of Top50 Yds
2013* 7 7.74% 11.26%
2012 4 4.38% 6.00%
2011 3 3.54% 4.72%
2010 2 1.73% 2.47%
2009 0 0.00% 0.00%
2008 0 0.00% 0.00%

*through Week 8

Setting aside the 198 kneel-downs and 34 QB sneaks logged thus far in 2013, there have been 617 other QB runs. Of those, 38% have come by design rather than by scramble – a significant number, especially considering less than a quarter (24%) were on called plays as recently as 2010.

This speaks as much to the mindset of coaches and general managers as it does to the current talent at the position as the traditional stance of protecting the QB at all costs eases. High-dollar signal-callers have been exposed by design more frequently as team decision-makers see fit to make use of the tools at their disposal and assume the attached risks.

Ground Work        

There are 19 QBs with double-digit rushing attempts on the books this season (again, when kneels and sneaks are removed), and nine with 20 or more. The seven Top 50 rushers alluded to above plus Luck and Geno Smith make up that bunch and they’re many of the same that we found atop last week’s list when looking at the four-second drop-back.

  Design Att. Design Yds Scramble Att. Scramble Yds
Terrelle Pryor 29 237 19 153
Russell Wilson 19 94 29 254
Colin Kaepernick 20 76 22 222
Alex D. Smith 9 41 32 224
Cam Newton 27 120 14 116
Robert Griffin III 25 122 16 107
Michael Vick 16 136 17 163
Geno Smith 10 44 16 129
Andrew Luck 1 6 21 182

As for results past the yardage gained, a quartet of QBs have turned runs into touchdowns three times (Kaepernick, Newton, Luck, and Christian Ponder) and Newton leads the way converting third downs on the ground (13) with Kaepernick and Alex Smith next in line (nine each). There have been 57 runs of 15+ yards and seven of those belong to Kaepernick.

Now, armed with the identity of this season’s most productive with their legs, I turn your attention to our grades and the other half of the ‘dual threat’ picture; the passing game.

‘Single’ Threats?

The first table I shared showed 16 quarterback-seasons that ranked among the Top 50 rushing-wise in a given year. Being passers by occupation in what is widely accepted as a passing league and doing that impressive work on the ground, they’d rightly be the first group considered when lining up candidates for dual-threat badges.  PFF passing grades from those seasons give credence to a particular subset’s claim, but have shown far more of them to be lacking, especially in 2013.

Of the four 2012 quarterbacks who qualified as top rushers, two, Wilson and Griffin, earned PFF passing grades in the Top 10 (+27.9 and +26.3, respectively) and a third, Kaepernick, did as well if his performance in the playoffs is counted. This trio was, without question, worthy of the ‘dual threat’ tag and their success set alight league-wide visions of dangerous two-way options on every staff.

This year’s representatives among the top rushers (listed below per their rushing yardage totals), however, have not found form as passers. Only Wilson and Newton make their way into the top half of the rankings, while the others can’t rise past No. 25.

  PFF Passing Grade Rank PFF Rushing Grade Rank
Terrelle Pryor -9.6 34 7.4 1
Russell Wilson 3.2 12 6.1 4
Michael Vick -4.3 25 4.8 5
Colin Kaepernick -6.7 29 2.3 8
Alex Smith -8.5 31 3.3 6
Robert Griffin III -8.6 32 1.2 11
Cam Newton 2.7 14 6.4 2

The other two from that 2012 set have dealt with circumstances — the injury for Griffin and a depleted stock of weapons for Kaepernick — that have played a role in their limited passing production, but the bottom line is neither have been true threats through the air this year.

It’s also worth mentioning the case of Andrew Luck here. As I said, he just missed inclusion in the Top 50 rushers and he is currently carrying a passing grade of +8.1, ranking him ninth. The second table presented above showed how he has come of his rushing yards — nearly all by way of scramble – so, productive as he has been, he’s not exactly fitting in with the designed-play crowd. Not a knock on him, of course, but a distinction to be made in this conversation.

Maybe Just ‘Mobile’

Should we expect more of these QBs to lean toward the one-dimensional 2011-Tebow end of the spectrum and less toward Wilson’s do-it-all 2012? Perhaps it’s just the term ‘dual threat’ that is the problem – placing undue expectations on a group. Maybe ‘creative’, ‘athletic’, or ‘mobile’ is good enough as, though some have proven themselves as passers in past seasons and all have flashed moments this year, none are capturing the imagination with consistent two-way play in 2013.


Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick

  • Tom Kislingbury

    I wonder what sort of offense you could build with 2 dual threats. Say you sign Tebow and Pat White for league minimum and put them both in the backfield. Who will run? Who will catch? Who will block? Doesn’t matter if they get injured more than any other player would – you can always sign more of this type of guy and you don’t rely on any one player to carry your team. Interesting…

    • Silver-Silvera

      There are a few college teams (and I’m sure some high schools too) that run a 2QB system like that. One guy is righthanded, the other lefthanded.

    • [email protected]

      I know what you’re saying. Ive been wondering for 20 years why nobody ran the option in the NFL. People always said that your QB would get hurt, but there were talented option QB’s not even in the NFL, you could get 3 for nothing.

    • SFGoldRush21

      Wow, thats a great idea.


    It is no secret TP needs developing. We know this.