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InFocus: Breakdown Of Vick's Throws

Posted Oct 26, 2012

InFocus

Quarterbacks have a lot of responsibility.

Once the play is called in, a read on the defense is made and adjustments/audibles are generally needed. From there, it’s a drop back, run or handoff. Next, it’s a rollout, sneak, draw, kneel or a straight dropback. From there, it could be a throw, sack or scramble. The throw could be to a back, in-line tight end or wideout. The pass attempt could be deflected or disrupted by a hit. It could also be caught, dropped, thrown away, spiked or intercepted.

You catch my drift.

Here, I’m going to map out a game in the life of Michael Vick, circa 2012. We’ll see how often the aforementioned play results come up and how they compare to the 2011 version of Vick, as well as, league average from the last two years.

The Play Call
Year Snaps Drop Back Designed Run Handoff
2012 428 64% 3% 33%
2011 798 62% 2.5% 35%
NFL Avg. ('11-'12) 47,542 60% 2.4% 38%

Our first chart is where the fun begins. Before the ball is snapped, Vick knows if he’ll be dropping back into the pocket for a throw, handing the ball off to a back or rushing the ball on his own.

At 3-3 and with all three victories coming in close games, the Eagles haven’t played much with a comfortable lead this season. That has led to even more passing than we saw in 2011. Not that it’s a surprise, but we also see that the Eagles are throwing at a rate only four percentage points higher than the league average.

Designed runs – in this example – include sneaks, kneels, and, of course, running plays actually designed for Vick. We see a rise in these designed carries for Vick this season, but it’s really not drastic. In fact, he’s been asked to kneel six times already this season, which is just one fewer than he did in all of 2011.

The Drop Back
Year Drop Backs Pass Attempt Scramble Sack
2012 273 85% 9% 6.2%
2011 500 85% 10% 5.0%
NFL Avg. ('11-'12) 28,376 90% 4% 6.4%

Next, we’re branching off from our drop back column from above to see what happens when a pass play is called.

We see quite a bit of consistency here from Vick over the last two seasons. He’s attempted a throw on 85 percent of his drop backs, scrambled on near 10 percent and been sacked between five and six percent of the time. In 2012, sacks are up and scrambles are down. One could argue that, with age, Vick is having more trouble escaping pressure and turning it into positive yardage.

Compared to league average, we see that Vick gets sacked at a rate below a majority of the league. That is a testament to his athleticism (even if it’s not as good as 10 years ago, he’s still one of the league’s best in this department) and head coach Andy Reid’s strides in keeping him protected with a strong offensive line (2011) and/or extra blocking help (2012). Vick, of course, scrambles a lot more often than most quarterbacks and that shows up here to the tune of about four or five percentage points above league average.

The Pass Attempt
Year Pass Attempts Aimed Throw Batted Ball Hit During Throw Throw Away Spike
2012 231 88% 2.6% 2.2% 6.5% 0.4%
2011 423 91% 3.3% 1.4% 3.3% 1.2%
NFL Avg. ('11-'12) 25,581 93% 1.9% 1.0% 3.3% 0.5%

Here we see what happens when Vick actually decides to throw the football.

The goal here is obviously to achieve an aimed throw, which gives pass catchers the best opportunity to make plays. Vick did not do a great job of this in 2011 and has been even worse in 2012. Note that the NFL “aimed throw” rate sits at 93 percent over the last two seasons. Vick was at 91 percent in 2011 and is down to 88 percent in 2012.

Of course, Vick isn’t 100 percent to blame here. The alternatives to an aimed throw are:

• Batted ball – Trajectory of the throw can be to blame, but each offensive lineman’s ability to keep his “man” contained, as well.
• Throw disrupted by a hit on the quarterback – Vick spending too much time in the pocket is an issue here, but so is the beat-up offensive line allowing pressure.
• Throw Away – Usually a product of the team’s pass-catchers not getting open.
• Spike – Strictly a product of game situation.

Batted balls are down about a percentage point from 2011, but are still well above league average. Vick also gets hit quite a bit while throwing the ball, which is a concern for his health and the offense’s ability to produce yardage. Vick was right at league average in terms of throwing the ball away last season, but has done it a lot more often in 2012.

Throwaways aren’t always a bad thing, but his interception rate is up slightly, so the “lesser of two evils” concept does not apply here. Finally, Vick has only been asked to spike the ball once this season, a relatively insignificant 0.4 percent of his throws.

The Aimed Throw
Year Aimed Throws Complete Off Target* Dropped Intercepted
2012 204 67% 25% 4.9% 3.9%
2011 384 66% 23% 7.6% 3.6%

NFL Avg.
('11-'12)

23,867 65% 25% 6.6% 3.1%
*Does not include interceptions.

Next, we’ll analyze the aimed throws.

There are four possible results here - completed pass, off-target throw, dropped ball or interception.

Vick has completed right around two-thirds of his aimed throws over the last two seasons, which is slightly above league average. Note that, although he’s struggled with turnovers in 2012, he’s actually completing passes at a rate better than what we saw in 2011.

Off-target throws aren’t necessarily bad throws. Balls tipped away or interfered with by defenders fit the ball, as well as, the obvious passes than the receiver can’t get his hands on. We do not include interceptions here, as we have a separate column for those. Vick’s off-target throws are up slightly from last year, but match up well with league average.

Another possibility is a dropped ball. Vick has benefited from fewer dropped passes this season. At 4.9 percent, Eagles’ pass-catchers are doing a nice job compared to league average.

Finally, we have interceptions. Vick has been above league average in interception rate each of the last two seasons and, as mentioned earlier, has been a bit worse in 2012 than he was one year ago.

The Target Distribution
Year Aimed Throws Back Wide Slot In-Line
2012 204 18% 44% 21% 18%
2011 384 15% 39% 30% 16%
NFL Avg.
('11-'12)
23,867 19% 42% 26% 13%

Our final chart is a bit different than our others and basically just another way to split up aimed throws. Here we are actually analyzing where Vick’s throws are going in terms of where his targets are lined up pre-snap.

Vick has thrown to players lined up in the backfield more often this year, but is still slightly below league average. A few weeks back, when examining LeSean McCoy’s 2012 production, we did notice that he was seeing a higher volume of Vick’s targets. This chart simply reinforces that fact.

Slot man Jason Avant has seen only 10 percent of Vick’s targets this season, which compares to 16 percent in 2011 and 15 percent in 2010. Not coincidentally, Vick’s throws to players lined up in the slot is way down in 2012. Notice that Vick’s usage of the slot man was four percentage points above league average in 2011, but is now five points below in 2012. That’s a drastic change.  Those throws have gone to the backs, receivers out wide (usually DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin) and in-line tight ends (Brent Celek/Clay Harbor).

That’s a wrap for this week. Check out InFocus throughout the season for the most comprehensive Eagles analysis on the web.

Mike Clay, @MikeClayNFL on Twitter, is the Director and Managing Editor at Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He also works as an NFL Writer for NBC's Rotoworld.com.

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