QBs in Focus: Tendencies

Wrapping the league-wide look at QBs, Steve Palazzolo presents an exhaustive look at passer tendencies in various aspects.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Tendencies

qb-month-tendenciesThough we certainly miss football during the offseason, it’s always a good time to take a step back and analyze our plethora of data.

We’re often so busy grading and collecting data during the season that we’re unable to put a lot of the information to good use. With that said, we’ve decided to declare June as “QB Month” as we break down NFL quarterbacks every which way.


This piece will give a slightly different look at quarterbacks from the previous entries in the series as the focus is solely on quarterback and scheme tendencies. Which QBs like to throw the ball down the field? Who throws the highest percentages of screens? Which route is each quarterback’s favorite?

It’s all here. Let’s have a look. (click table images to enlarge)


Dropback Type

Standard, Rollouts, Scrambles

•  Russell Wilson had the highest percentage of designed rollouts, or bootlegs, at 14.5%. Christian Ponder ranked second at 11.0%.

•  Terrelle Pryor led the league with 16.6% of his attempts coming from a scramble. Tom Brady had the lowest percentage at 0.7%.


Shotgun vs. Under Center vs. Pistol

Shotgun, Under Center

•  75.1% of NFL drop-backs came out of the shotgun or pistol.

•  Shotgun stats include pistol for this exercise.

•  Carson Palmer had the highest percentage of his drop-backs come from under center at 42.4%

•  Robert Griffin III had the highest percentage of his drop-backs come out of the pistol at 27.9% with Case Keenum ranking second at 23.5%


Play Action

Play Action

•  Russell Wilson used play action a league-high 34.1% of his drop-backs. Ben Roethlisberger used it a league-low 11.6% of the time.

•  Colin Kaepernick used play action on 46.2% of his first down drop-backs to lead the league.


vs. Blitz, Pressure

Blitz, Pressure•  Getting rid of the ball is a major factor in avoiding pressure, so no surprise to see quarterbacks with low times to throw at the top of the “no pressure” list.

•  Geno Smith faced the blitz a league-high 42.9% of his dropbacks. Peyton Manning faced blitzes a league-low 23.6%, just below rookie E.J. Manuel who is a bit of a surprise entry as the quarterback facing the second fewest blitzes at only 24.0%.

•  Despite the high sack totals, Ryan Tannehill faced pressure 33.6% of the time, below the league average of 35.5%.

Vs. Third-Down Blitz

3rd Down Blitz

•  Conventional wisdom says to avoid blitzing Peyton Manning on third down and most of the league adheres as he faced the blitz only 26.8% of his third down drop-backs.

•  Manuel’s blitz percentages rises to 34.7% on third down, showing that he rarely faces the extra rushers on early downs.

•  Eight of the Top 10 quarterbacks facing the highest percentage of blitzes on third down were in their first or second year in the league.

Vs. Blitz, 4-Man Pressure

vs Blitz, 4-Man Pressure

•  This chart shows how often pressure got to the quarterback in blitz and non-blitz situations, first as a percentage of total drop-backs (first four charts), then as a percentage of total opportunities (last two charts).

•  Geno Smith faced pressure from a blitz on 22.1% of his drop-backs.

•  Terrelle Pryor faced pressure 57.9% of the time he was blitzed, a league high.

•  All four quarterbacks that faced the highest percentage of pressure from the blitz were essentially in their first year as starters (Pryor, Keenum, G. Smith, Glennon).

•  Blitzes pressured Peyton Manning only 26.9% of the time, a league low.


More breakdowns on Page 2: drop-backs, time to throw, and target locations…

| Senior Analyst

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

  • a57se

    Aren’t these tendencies more a function of the Offensive Scheme?

    • Steve Palazzolo

      Yes, it’s a function of both the QB’s style and offensive scheme. Mentions both in the intro.

  • Chris

    One of the best articles ever. I love the scheme stuff and route/location info.

  • Neer Shah

    Great work, Steve!! You’ve given us readers a gold mine of information.

  • Wyzel

    I would love to see how many of the rollouts ponder had that he was pressured or sacked, it was the most predictible thing every game, that no DE bit on the PA fake. Not sad to see a change at Qb and Musgrave gone.

  • letunisien

    watch world cup 2014 Bein Sports for free http://www.le-tunisien.net

  • LightsOut85

    One thing (from this) I noticed was not focused on in the other articles was inside/outside the numbers. I would love to see the numbers (grades, efficiency, etc) on throws outside the numbers from the pocket (perhaps broken down by distance?) – because those are considered some of the hardest throws.

    • Kevin

      Even break it down further based on what hash they’re on. Seems like making a throw across the field from the far hash is often considered one of the hardest throws as far as arm strength and being dangerous because of how far and long the ball travels across the field.

      There are definitely more technical throws that also require more timing like a back shoulder pass. I’d really be curious to see how QB’s stack up on back shoulder throws on what I believe to be the fade route a majority of the time(Not sure if its all the time.

      From what I remember from HS and watching the football my entire life, Fade route is the same as a go route with outside release. I also believe the back shoulder happens based on the CB’s coverage which I also believe would be man coverage with the CB basically on the WR’s hip with his back turned to the QB. When the WR knows this he should look back expecting the back shoulder throw.

      I really hope the guys at PFF get on here and correct me where I’m wrong or correct everything If I’m completely wrong. I’d love a further breakdown of the back shoulder throw.

      Just based on the timing needed for this pass, I guarantee many rookies or even 2-3 year QB’s are completing many of these passes compared to basically any other pass being made by a QB on Sundays. As a Packers fan, I’m lucky enough to see it every week and I thoroughly enjoy it every time. I mean I honestly don’t remember seeing it defended and only seen the Packers beat themselves with it. It’s usually a misread by the WR and usually happens to be someone not named Jordy Nelson. It was usually James Jones messing it up honestly.