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Well, it didn’t take long for fans to call for QB Nathan Peterman to start. Fuel was added to the fire the moment presumed starter Tyrod Taylor entered the concussion protocol. Peterman galloped onto the field versus a good defense and played on par with his college career. That is to say, he played pretty average.
He finished the Ravens game 11/23 for 93 yards and recorded zero touchdowns, but let’s keep it in perspective. It was to be expected, as the Ravens are setting up to be one of the most dominant defenses in football.
Overall, Peterman finished a very productive preseason going 43/79 for 453 yards and 1 TD. However, his 54.4 completion percentage is ranked 23rd out of 31 quarterbacks (50% of the snaps). You didn’t feel like he played that poorly, right? He’s touted as an accurate QB, and his throws CAN be, but his arm strength and inconsistency are still apparent.
You hear me ask “are the coaches maximizing a player’s strengths and minimizing his weaknesses?” and at the University of Pitt, offensive coordinator Matt Canada did just that. That meant a lot of play action, passes on the move, half field reads, boundary throws, and a myriad of in-breaking pass concepts. All were paired with a tremendous amount of eye candy, such as shifts, motions, and jet sweep action aimed at making Peterman’s job easier.
Below is Peterman’s passing map from his last season at Pitt, courtesy of Krossover.
So far, the Bills’ staff has handled him in the very same way, minus a lot of eye candy due to it being the preseason. Peterman has shown tremendous poise and has made some throws that just aren’t in Taylor’s arsenal.
Play design has a lot to do with it. The plays the offense ran this preseason suit Peterman’s strengths better than Taylor’s, but does that mean he is a better fit for the actual offense?
Boundary throw in rhythm.
Playing to Peterman’s strengths was more evident last game versus the Lions.
To minimize Peterman’s lack of arm strength, they primarily called throws into the boundary. On 13 drop backs he went 9/11 for 81 yards (2 carries). I quickly charted his passes and a trend showed up. Six of his nine completions were near-hash throws. For example, take a look at this near hash throw to Philly Brown on the comeback route.
Watch this throw to Reilly later in the first quarter; the ball is on the right hash. Peterman glances left and quickly throws an in breaking route to Reilly.
Of those six completions on near-hash throws, only one was a left hash left side throw. It was a completion to Reilly.
Of the nine completions, two were spotted in the middle of the field. The first one was from a three tight end set, from which Peterman quickly threw the flat route to Logan Thomas. It was an easy throw from a condensed set, and not one that needs an enormous amount of arm strength. It just needs accuracy for YAC.
The other was the swing pass to Banyard, where Peterman identified the cover 4 defense quickly. The pass barely misses the outstretched hands of the defender, and Banyard gets chunk yardage.
The final three completions were as follows: Dennison dialed up two roll out passes, one of which Peterman rolled left and pulled it down, and the other he rolled right and completed to Philly Brown for six yards.
Now we have come to the areas that get interesting. The final of his nine completions was the only pass that he completed from the far hash. This type of throw tests his arm strength. For far hash throws to the field, Peterman has to quickly decipher if that target is not only open, but also if he can actually get enough zip on it AND be accurate with it.
Taken from our pre-draft breakdown here.
On the previous throw he wants it away from the hash defender to the outside shoulder of the receiver, and he misses badly. A throw that needs some velocity all while he is trying to ‘aim small’ to be overly accurate.
On the following play the ball was spotted on the left hash, and the Bills are in a trips formation. They run a Y stick concept to O’Leary. If you look closely, you can see him check the throw to Shorts in the far flats. I am not saying he can’t make these throws, but the window to make those decisions is small, and he really has to prepare for those kinds of throws enough to get the ball in there where he wants it.
Peterman decides to throw it to the nearest receiver, Nick O’Leary, just outside the hash. This was a safer and much more suitable pass for his skill-set.
The other far hash throw attempted was when the ball was placed on the left hash and Peterman attacked rookie corner Teez Tabor. Peterman hits the top of his drop and gets rid of it. The route is a 14 yard comeback route to the outside receiver Philly Brown who is located right on the numbers, and it is deflected by Tabor. This is a route that not only needs to be anticipated, but also one that needs some velocity on it.
The second of his incompletions was a near hash throw to O’Leary in the red zone. The ball placement was off, as the pass was thrown behind the tight tend. Minimizing incompletions on near hash throws is something that the staff will have to work on throughout Peterman’s career, as it will be his bread and butter.
Nathan had a total of five passes batted down this preseason, which led the NFL for QBs that took 25% of the snaps. Four of those passes were attempts to the wide side of the field, but not necessarily passes that needed velocity on the throw. In fact, three of the five were swings or check downs to running backs. This can happen to offenses that stress timing and rhythm, as the pass rushers will just get their hands up if they can’t get to the signal caller.
According to stats provided by Billy Moy, a PFF Analyst, Peterman had a total of 65 pass attempts on which the ball was considered “spotted on the left or right hash” (minus sacks, hits as thrown, batted passes and scrambles).
Only 12 passes were attempted outside the numbers opposite the hash on which the play started. On plays where the ball was spotted on the left hash, Peterman attempted nine outside the right numbers, of which he only completed ONE. Of the eight incompletions, two were pass deflections.
On plays that were spotted on the right hash and Peterman threw outside the numbers to the left, he was 2/3.
In all, he was 3/12 on passes to the wide side of the field. That means 59 of Peterman’s 65 passes were thrown into the boundary or middle when spotted on a hash.
As you can see, the staff and Peterman himself have tried to minimize the attempts that challenge his arm strength. They haven’t called many passes to the wide side of the field outside the numbers, and they really have continued the trend of Peterman being a ‘right hand dominant’ passer.
I can’t help but think of Peterman being similar to Alex Smith….
But there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to this rookie. He is very similar to Taylor in that he makes smart decisions. He doesn’t play with an aggressive mindset that will lead to turnovers. Rather, he only makes throws that he believes in, and that is perfectly ok. One difference between Tyrod and Peterman is that Taylor would rather pull it down and run in those scenarios. Peterman will pull the trigger, but he will put it in an area that his receiver will catch it or no one will. Sometimes that is nowhere near the area that he had planned.
For as bad as his completion percentage has been, there were several beautiful passes that were called back due to penalties, and his receivers have dropped seven (!!) passes. Seven drops ties him for the fourth highest drop rate in the preseason.
This play did not count due to a flag.
If you subtract batted passes, drops, hits as thrown, spikes, and throwaways, then Peterman has an adjusted completion percentage (accuracy %) of 72.5%, which is 13th overall, according to Pro Football Focus.
I think the game situations he has experienced have tremendous value. Some of the most important that I’ve seen have been the two minute drill scenarios in which his poise shined through, coming in cold off the bench in the Ravens game, and the numerous times this preseason where he has drawn defenders offsides.
All in all, the staff appears to know their rookie QB fairly well. They have called a lot of high percentage passing concepts to areas of the field that will maximize his consistency, at the same time minimizing some of his weaknesses. But I still stand by the decision to start Taylor if he is healthy. I believe that he has the arm and leg talent to really get the most out of Rico’s offense. But don’t count Peterman out; if the Bills start off slow and are unable to move the ball consistently, then a change could be made. Until then, Peterman has exhibited the skills necessary for the backup role.