Examining Pressure: QB Play

Steve Palazzolo shares even more data as he continues his examination of pressure. This time the focus is on the quarterback and how they perform when faced with various forms ...

| 4 years ago
rodgers pressure

Examining Pressure: QB Play


After diving into the effects of pressure as it comes from various positions and going further in-depth on the overrated left tackle position, it’s time to take a look at how individual quarterbacks are affected by different types of pressure. The first two pieces consist of a more general view of the NFL, and perhaps they’ve already helped influence at least one team’s NFL Draft strategy, but this breakdown is looking for trends in specific quarterback performance.

Are some quarterbacks more vulnerable from the inside? Off the edge? From a particular side? We’ve called upon our five years of extensive data (2008-2012) to answer some of these questions.

As you read and digest the numbers, please keep in mind that certain charts may be skewed by small sample sizes. For instance, much more pressure comes through the tackle positions than does from center so quarterback numbers when facing edge rush pressure may be more indicative of future performance than pressure that comes from center.

Enough of the caveats, let’s take a look.

When Facing No Pressure

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Who are the top quarterbacks in a clean pocket? As expected, the league’s best perform well when given time to throw:

QuarterbackDropbacksAttCompComp%YdsYds/AttTDINTPFF GradeQB Rating
Drew Brees25842567186072.5%217668.517756211.9111.7
Aaron Rodgers23462233158470.9%191448.615736181.8113.6
Matt Ryan21772110143367.9%161267.610944141.999.1
Philip Rivers20081978139970.7%172528.712047137.1107.7
Peyton Manning20452040145171.1%157777.712735137.0107.2
Tom Brady20212006140470.0%166118.312631123.0109.4
Ben Roethlisberger19131876124366.3%150918.08539107.097.3
Matt Schaub18281805129171.5%154208.58541101.3103.5
Eli Manning20562034134766.2%158847.811447100.098.9
Joe Flacco21532122137564.8%162337.6924295.094.2
Tony Romo17971773124270.1%145738.2983768.7104.4

Sorry Arizona fans, but this list of the worst with no pressure is dominated by current and former Cardinals:

QuarterbackDropbacksAttCompComp%YdsYds/AttTDINTPFF GradeQB Rating
Brady Quinn40038623260.1%24406.3810-10.274.6
Matt Leinart1211207663.3%6875.715-10.564.1
JaMarcus Russell44343024356.5%28466.61311-10.776.2
Daunte Culpepper19818710958.3%11406.136-12.568.0
Curtis Painter21921412257.0%13666.457-13.070.3
Brandon Weeden40339524662.3%27997.11210-14.383.1
Ryan Lindley1391387755.8%6104.407-14.845.9
Marc Bulger57656834059.9%35606.31515-18.775.9
Blaine Gabbert53051829056.0%29555.71413-19.171.1
Derek Anderson58457230553.3%35386.21519-23.167.2
John Skelton43442725058.5%28296.61217-25.271.3

When Facing Any Pressure

Now who are the best quarterbacks when pressured?

Rodgers is the best in the league when under heat and it’s not all that close. It’s certainly impressive to see a number of rookies on this list despite having the small sample of only one season under their belt. Notice the quick drop-offs into negative PFF grades – pressure has a major effect on the quarterback.

QuarterbackDrop-backsComp%Yds/AttTDINTSack%Knockdown%PFF GradeQB Rating
Aaron Rodgers97949.0%6.8311422.3%43.1%29.078.1
Russell Wilson21245.5%5.85318.9%37.7%10.967.2
Peyton Manning66554.6%6.6142510.5%34.3%10.265.3
Ryan Tannehill16350.8%7.13421.5%43.6%4.668.6
Robert Griffin III16854.6%7.65219.0%46.4%4.486.9
Cam Newton41246.5%6.8101017.2%36.7%4.366.3
Ben Roethlisberger93552.6%7.0302123.5%44.1%2.577.0
Shaun Hill28347.6%5.33520.5%44.5%1.158.7
Colin Kaepernick11748.1%6.40317.9%35.9%-1.352.4
Trent Edwards25252.2%5.95622.2%57.1%-1.565.6
Andrew Luck28939.4%6.17814.9%43.6%-1.656.0
Eli Manning96149.3%7.0293613.4%34.8%-2.265.7
Nick Foles10850.0%6.31118.5%46.3%-4.968.9
Tyler Thigpen14736.5%4.93522.4%35.4%-5.741.7
Jon Kitna13355.6%5.63227.1%39.1%-6.173.5

This list of the worst performing QBs when pressured is littered with former first round picks including three who went No. 1 overall in Russell (2007), Stafford (2009), and Bradford (2010). In addition to the youngsters, there’s a nice mix of veterans who found themselves at the tail end of their respective careers during the PFF era.

QuarterbackDrop-backsComp%Yds/AttTDINTSack%Knockdown%PFF GradeQB Rating
JaMarcus Russell25240.8%4.73823.8%44.4%-27.542.9
Brett Favre41547.5%5.8152221.0%50.6%-27.953.0
Sam Bradford55541.5%4.711918.6%43.8%-28.855.9
Matthew Stafford54142.0%5.8151716.5%42.3%-32.156.4
Donovan McNabb64444.3%5.5131218.6%40.2%-32.860.4
Matt Schaub80347.5%5.9221615.3%42.0%-34.067.1
Tony Romo84250.7%6.7262316.7%40.6%-36.870.7
Jake Delhomme27339.2%5.022019.4%47.3%-37.419.4
Kyle Orton55844.8%5.5121917.7%36.2%-39.953.2
Matt Hasselbeck53547.6%5.2102221.1%46.9%-42.349.0
Josh Freeman75346.8%5.2222513.4%34.1%-46.357.5
Joe Flacco97745.7%5.6302220.7%44.9%-53.564.7
Matt Cassel72741.0%5.0172521.5%46.6%-56.147.9
Ryan Fitzpatrick67241.5%4.6102719.5%46.6%-62.138.8
Mark Sanchez60237.7%4.9112120.8%43.5%-70.942.9

Now that we have a general background, let’s take a look at the best and worst quarterbacks when the pressure comes from a specific position.

 

Go to Page 2 for breakdowns of QB play when pressure comes from left tackle, right tackle, etc.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Fintasy

    Strange how Ryan Tannehill is better under pressure than without

    • Richard

      Tannehill was hampered by a poor cast of receivers last year. Not a Dolphins fan, but I caught several of their games. I think Tannehill does better against the blitz because that made it easier for his receivers to get open.

      When teams hung back and only rushed 4 guys, his receivers couldn’t get open, so his numbers suffered (even when not pressured) because he didn’t have any open targets to throw to. I don’t think he’ll be a ProBowler this year or anything, but I do expect he’ll make the jump into a top-15 QB based on stuff like this and the upgrades his team made to their receivers.

    • Richard

      Tannehill was hampered by a poor cast of receivers last year. Not a Dolphins fan, but I caught several of their games. I think Tannehill does better against the blitz because that made it easier for his receivers to get open.

      When teams hung back and only rushed 4 guys, his receivers couldn’t get open, so his numbers suffered (even when not pressured) because he didn’t have any open targets to throw to. I don’t think he’ll be a ProBowler this year or anything, but I do expect he’ll make the jump into a top-15 QB based on stuff like this and the upgrades his team made to their receivers.

      • lol

        when a team rushes 4 it’s pressure, when they rush 5 or more it’s a blitz.

  • jasoncongo

    I don’t understand how Romo has such a low PFF grade, with no pressure every stat (except total yards) is better than Ben R, yet his PFF rating is nearly 40 points lower?

    With pressure, he’s less than 1 point ahead of Jake D, who has 2 TDs and 20 INTs compared to Romo’s 26 TD to 23 INTs?!? Not to mention by his QB Rating (I know a flawed statistic) he would be top 5 under pressure.

    • Warren

      Not a particular fan of Romo but someone at PFF dislikes the man. Every category where Romo scores near the bottom are better than everyone else’s in the bad category and comparable to the ones that score highest. Isn’t even close in some of them.

      • Steve Palazzolo

        I can assure you we have no bias against Romo.

        • Gainedm

          Thanks for the assurance, but an explanation would have been better.

        • targethead

          I’d like to see some math. Maybe the PFF grades are accurate, but a cursory glance at the numbers makes the grades extremely hard to buy.

          • Steve Palazzolo

            We grade based on every single throw, and stats have nothing to do with our grading. We separate the QB’s involvement in things like yards after the catch, so a WR screen that results in an 80-yard TD vs. one that goes for -2 yards is likely graded in a similar manner. We look beyond the stats and each throw is graded with no bias toward any player.
            Not all interceptions are created equal. Some are the WR’s fault. Again, we account for everything.

          • Not Amused

            So again, you get to rank players, grade them against all logic and just claim you have a formula that makes your “numbers” work? You have Jake Delhomme with 2 tds, 20 ints, 39% completion percentage and a 19.4 QB rating ranked over guys with MUCH better numbers. No matter how many passes/drops/or whatever you’d like to suggest, there is no way in the world you can have numbers that pitiful and have a better or comparable rating to other NFL Qbs(Romo is only 1 point better, Flacco is a few points worse)

          • PFF_Pete

            Keep in mind that these grade are from the last 5 seasons, in which Delhomme started just 31 games. Since our grades are cumulative, limited snaps are presumably the only thing that saved him from being even lower on this list.

          • lol

            Don’t be ridiculous, if a QB like ROMO throws to Dez and Dez does all the work, they make adjustments so ROMO doesn’t get all the credit.

          • jasoncongo

            Yes, but how do you account for everything? For example, in the bears game last season Romo threw 5 picks. The first 3 I think the blame could have been placed on the WR (Dez didn’t read the hot route, Ogletree had a case of the dropsies, and I can’t recall the 3rd) and the last 2 were all on Romo for trying to do too much to come back from the early deficit. Are you saying an inaccurate pass which falls incomplete is the same grade as a pick 6? How are you assured that it was the QB (or WR) who was at fault in a particular int where they clearly weren’t on the same page?

  • GBPFan

    So basically, Rodgers has been lighting up the NFL in spite of being one of the most pressured QBs in the league?

    Give him an oline that can block and see what he can do without that constant pressure.

  • vwclaymore

    Another reason Geno needs to start and not Sanchez.

  • Matt

    So in the “Interior Rush Combined” category, Romo vs. Hasselbeck does not compute. Romo has 10% higher completion percentage, far better TD/INT ratio (8-5>1-8 Hasselbeck), and over twice the QB Rating, yet Hasselbeck gets a higher score. How anyone can conclude Hasselbeck 40.7 Comp % 1-8 Td/INT ratio and 30.4 QB Rating makes you better than Romo 50.3 Comp % 8-5 Td/INT ratio and 76.1 Qb rating is beyond me. Apparently the knockdown/Sack % being lower means your better even though your far worse in every category. Makes very little sense lol.

    • matt

      Sorry, this is about Jake Delhomme, not Hasselbeck, put the wrong name.

  • Kal

    Very good information, but shouldn’t there be a normalization of the pff grade to drop-backs to give a more accurate comparison of the quarterbacks?

  • Jeff

    So what you are telling me is that Sanchez sucks. Even with an All-Pro line for 2yrs he sucked, with a mediocre line in 2011 he was awful, and with an above average line in 2012 he was god-awful.