At this time of year, I spend most of my time preparing and analyzing various stat charts. You organize the stats every which way, look at which names show up at the top and the bottom, and try to figure out why. And a Nick Foles number just went by that surprised me.
Foles, recall, got hot late last year. The Eagles were 6-7, and he stepped in and won four straight games, taking the team to within a few plays of an appearance in the NFC Championship game.
He outplayed Carson Wentz, and one of the talking points that was that he was better at connecting on downfield passes. With Foles at quarterback, Nelson Agholor and especially Alshon Jeffery started making big catches downfield. Foles seemed to be better than Wentz at putting up high balls and letting Jeffery use his height to make big catches.
I was surprised, therefore, when I looked at the numbers for 20-yard completions. It’s a stat that tends to show what quarterbacks are trying to do. The ones with lots of 20-yard completions are aggressively trying to push the ball downfield. They tend to make more big plays (and also throw more interceptions). The guys with fewer 20-yard completions tend to be more of the play-it-safe checkdown guys.
While Foles hit on a handful of long completions, ultimately he was the only quarterback in the league who produced gains of 20-plus yards on fewer than 10 percent of his completions.
The leader in this category was a well established gunslinger. Ryan Fitzgerald’s consistently pushed the ball downfield, putting up 20-yard gainers on almost a quarter of his pass completions. Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff were up there, along with a pair of youngsters – Nick Mullens, Josh Allen.
In addition to Foles, three others connected on 20-yard gainers on fewer than 11 percent of their passes: Josh Rosen, Ryan Tannehill and Dak Prescott. Of that group, Prescott is the guy that I remember seeing miss on a lot of potential long balls.
This is just one of many stats, of course. Just one piece of the puzzle. But Foles isn’t a quarterback I’m excited about. To me, he looks similar to Joe Flacco, Tannehill, Alex Smith and Case Keenum – one of those guys who’s one of the 40 best quarterbacks in the league, but a guy you would prefer not to be the starting quarterback for your favorite team.
|PERCENTAGE OF 20-YARD GAINS|