QBs in Focus: Against the Blitz

Steve Palazzolo's focus on 2014 QB play shifts to a look at how they all fared against the blitz.

| 1 year ago

QBs in Focus: Against the Blitz

QBs-in-focus-blitzWe had some fun last summer breaking down quarterback play from every angle, so we’ve decided to dig into the database again to review the 2014 season. One of the beauties of collecting data on every play of the season is the ability to then isolate each player’s strengths and weaknesses. This series will take a look at how quarterbacks performed in various situations, looking beyond just the overall grades that are posted on the site.

As always with PFF grades, it’s important to remember that we are isolating the quarterback’s role in the play from everyone else. We are evaluating the decision making and the throw, not necessarily the result. A great pass that gets dropped by a receiver receives the same credit it would have if the pass was caught, while an ill-advised pass into coverage that is dropped by a linebacker is downgraded as if it was intercepted. It’s important to remember this distinction when diving into the grades.

Here’s a look at how quarterbacks fared against the blitz in the 2014 season.

*Minimum 200 drop-backs to qualify
*Playoffs Included
*All grades are normalized so that the NFL average is 0.0 for each category.

Which QB was Blitzed most often?

QB blitz pct

-After posting the worst PFF grade against the blitz in 2013, it’s no surprise that teams caught on and blitzed Mike Glennon more than any other QB in the league.

-Russell Wilson and Cam Newton once again find themselves among the most-blitzed QBs.

-Many of the league’s best QBs pull up the bottom of the list, including Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees.

Best/Worst vs Blitz

QB grade vs blitz

-Want to know why Peyton Manning took a step back in 2014? Look no further than his work against the blitz that saw him rank third-worst in the league. Historically, teams have been afraid to blitz Manning, but we may see more of it in 2015.

-No QB performed better than Andrew Luck against the blitz, including a league-high 18 touchdowns against only three interceptions.

-Philip Rivers was right there with Luck from a grading standpoint and his 119.2 passer rating ranked second in the league.

Best/Worst vs No Blitz

QB grade no blitz

-No surprise to see many of the top-graded QBs at the top of this list, including Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees.

-Blake Bortles is at the bottom of both blitz lists, highlighting his rookie struggles.

-Both Eagles QBs, Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez, ranked in the bottom half of the league against a traditional rush.


Follow Steve on Twitter: @PFF_Steve


| Senior Analyst

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

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    seems like people should/will bring the house against my beloved broncos in 2015… :/

    • anon76returns

      Look at Manning’s #s vs the blitz in 2012 & 2013: +15 and +9. The question DCs will face is whether 2014 was a temporary blip in his abilities, or the beginning of downward trend. If it was just a blip and DCs bring the house, Peyton will eat them alive.
      I think a lot of Manning’s problems last year were caused by him lacking faith in the abilities of the OL, which is why bringing in Kubiak is such a perfect move at HC (just wish they could sweet-talk Gibbs into coming back, but I’m afraid the SB debacle left a very bad taste in his mouth). Kubiak has a great record of getting quality play out of his OL, and the reliance on the run game and play action should slow down any blitzes that are thrown at Manning.

      • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

        mr. gibbs is actually still on staff as a consultant. yea, balance should mitigate defenses into not blitzing as often whether or not peyton’s confidence comes back, who knows. i’m really not worried. i see us winning the AFC, then who knows what happens in the superbowl, lol

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  • ChiTownMack

    I always thought it was dumb to blitz Rodgers, but then he has “that” rating against a no blitz…

    ugh, just drop everyone in coverage.

    • Sam Doohan

      That’s what makes him so difficult to defend of course. He doesn’t have an obvious weakness, which is why no-one has really successfully defended against him in recent times.

      That’s why rookies often do quite so badly in the NFL, because they come in with something that even a bad D can pick on and they hammer on that over and over. It’s one of the biggest problems in the league going forward to be honest, because rookie QBs never get to really work on their craft nowadays and playing with flaws means losing confidence, taking hits and injuries and generally getting stomped down instead of getting better.

      Even a guy like Big Ben has only really now got into his stride as a reasonably reliable week to week guy, in past being more of a streaky Eli Manning type. Fortunately for the Steelers he had a strong supporting cast for his formative years so they could be successful even when he was having a crummy day. For new guys coming in though, especially playing on teams who are so lacking in talent as the Bucs and the Titans, unless those guys genuinely are generational talents, already able to be successful whatever is thrown at them they don’t really stand much of a chance.

  • Runner1967

    Ok I get the premise here, however,you cant simply grade a play based on decision/throw made if you dont consider many other factors, such as the protection a Qb received. Additionally no 2 plays have identical opportunites to make plays and given game situations some plays require more risk than others. If a QB is down 2 scores late and needs to make a play…how can that be graded the same as a QB that is up 2 scores late and doesnt need to make a play? I see a serious flaw in trying to evaluate plays based in isolation on one player. Qb A may have better receivers, QB B better protection, QB C is forcing things based on the game situation etc, etc. You cant judge a player in isolation in a team sport without factoring in the litany of other things outside of their control. For example: weather. Phillip Rivers playing 8 games in sunny San Diego is obviosuly going to get far more opportunites to throw the ball in ideal conditions than Aaron Rodgers is playing in Green Bay. Is that considered in grading? Big Ben throwing to Antonio Brown, Bell, Miller and Bryant has players with far greater potential to make a play than Joe Flacco throwing to Aiken, Marlon Brown, Torrie Smith and the venerable Steve Smith. Is that factored in? Look I dont believe Geno Smith is anywhere near Drew Brees, but Smith doesnt play in a Dome for 8 games and frankly has zero receiving threats. Do you think Drew Brees would have the same level of success in NY?

    • Neer Shah

      How would you quantify the effects of weather, playing in a dome, etc.? It’s not easy to incorporate them into the grading. I’d suggest using the grades PFF provides as you typically would, but then adjusting them in your mind for the external factors you mention.

    • Chris

      Well that is kind of the problem with analytics in football, and why it hasn’t really caught on in the NFL, like it has in Baseball.

    • Bill

      and you think bum ass Geno Smith have success with a defense rank last in the N.F.L. I think not.

    • DaystarNJO

      I really don’t think you understand how this grading system actually works.

  • JonLee

    (Bob Slydell voice): Mr. Bortles, what would you say you do here?

    • Wolverine

      We all know rookies struggle, but looking back it history, when they struggle THIS badly, it’s usually a bad sign for their career. The last QB I remember who had such a lousy rookie year and went on to be good was Troy Aikman in ’89, and that Cowboys team was way worse than the 2014 Jaguars.

  • Wolverine

    So Matt Stafford is better when blitzed or pressured than when he’s not? Is this a “paralysis by analysis” situation? If were a defense facing him, I’d just drop 7 into coverage every pass play.

  • Riffle,Rod&Fly

    I’m really surprised that Matt Ryan is in the green under either the blitz or pressure category. I must have caught some of his bad games last year.

  • David Stinnett

    It makes a difference how much difficulty the blitz presents depending the pass protection. While you can isolate based on the QB decisions made, all blitzes are not created equal. How much time is there to make that decision, etc. QB’s with poor pass protection have a substantial handicap here.

  • Jack122

    Statistical analysis don’t mean crap. Every team has the same goal every season. Win the championship. That title belongs to Tom Brady, so he is THE BEST.