Pro Football Focus ran an interesting piece the other day highlighting what I think has been on a lot of Broncos fans’ minds lately. The question they asked: “Is Trevor Siemian still the answer for Denver at QB.”
Naturally, this caught our attention. You can check out the whole article linked here, but here are a few excerpts that caught my eye.
Here’s a look at Siemian’s game by game grades. He has only had three games graded at or above the NFL average, while the majority of his games are well below average.
His current overall grade from Pro Football Focus is a 44.1 which is good for 30th in the NFL. Behind him is Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Brock Osweiler (ironically, two of those players used to play for Denver, and two were also an option for Denver this off season). So Trevor’s season hasn’t been so hot according to PFF.
A couple side notes that stuck out to me. We have had four games this year with over 100 yards rushing. Two of those games (week 1 and 7) were Trevor’s highest graded games. Correlation perhaps?
With the running game not being what Denver had hoped, however—losing C.J. Anderson to injury was a huge blow—Siemian has been required to shoulder the load more than expected.
The area where Siemian has shown to be most comfortable this year is getting the ball out with quick timing and rhythm passes in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field, specifically outside the numbers. The running game presence earlier in the season was able to dictate coverage for him, often drawing single-high one-on-one opportunities on the outside, allowing Siemian to be decisive with his pre-snap reads and use his powerful arm to drive the ball outside of the numbers to two of the better one-on-one route runners, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. When Siemian is confident with what he sees, he is accurate and can make nearly any throw in the book.
However, while a strong running game may correlate with good QB play, it does not guarantee it, as week 2 and 10 we also broke 100 yards rushing and Siemian posted well below average grades; mostly due to turnovers.
Speaking of turnovers, one of the main reasons for going with Trevor Siemian over Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch, was that he was the safest option in terms of taking care of the ball.
However, over the last three games this hasn’t been the case as he has turned the ball over four times. Pro Football Focus had some interesting insight into his recent struggles.
Recent weeks have seen many problems we expected from Siemian begin to surface. Lacking the consistency needed on a down-to-down, drive-by-drive basis, teams have been able to disrupt the rhythm of his half-field, pre-snap reads with post-snap movement and disguise from safeties, often confusing him with coverage. The lack of a running game has forced Siemian to face a few more 2-high looks than Denver would like. This has forced him to do the two things he has been least comfortable with this season: hold onto the ball longer and work in the middle of the field between the numbers.
This is similar to the things I mentioned in my film breakdown of the Raiders game. I will disagree with PFF on the 2-high safety looks. Teams are actually running less safeties over the top and squeezing them down into the box to squat on our short passing game. The Raiders game specifically saw them occasionally with zero safeties over the top, all looking short. But I digress.
Siemian has not been able to consistently decipher coverage in the middle of the field dating back to college, and the even the 2016 preseason. His passer rating between the numbers averages out to be 18 points lower than the NFL average for quarterbacks, with five of his seven interceptions coming in that area of the field, as well as a handful of dropped, turnover-worthy throws that could have spiked those numbers. For the season, Siemian is well below average on all in-breaking route variations (ex.: slant, in, crossing routes, post), with a combined average passer rating 25.8 points lower than the league average on such throws.
This is a very interesting graph to me, in particular the statistics over the middle vs. outside the numbers. This could be partly the issues we’re seeing with the play calling on offense if Siemian is not comfortable, or limited throwing over the middle of the field.
Now it wasn’t all bad
The go-ball is something Siemian has connected with fairly consistently, posting a 116.4 rating on such routes, nearly 16 points higher than the league average. He constantly gives his guys the chance to make a play, as these opportunities have proven to be the difference in a few games (Cincinnati), and something that will need to come up big for him down the stretch. Siemian has also shown the ability to make some athletic, tough plays at times that have been big for the offense. The touchdown pass below in the Oakland game was a big-time play, and shows what he is capable of at times.
This rating on a long ball is pretty incredible. As PFF mentions above, Siemian has all the physical tools to be successful, the biggest issue, is seeing the field and making the right decisions.
While his indecisiveness at times can lead Siemian to experience some accuracy issues, the majority of the quarterback’s bad plays are decision-based, not accuracy-based. Recent weeks have seen him throw the ball into coverage quite often, and has made Kubiak’s job of calling plays even more difficult. The Denver offensive line has had its struggles, specifically at right tackle, with Siemian under pressure at a rate 3 percent higher than the league average. But let’s be honest—the vast majority of quarterbacks in this day and age face consistent pressure, and at times, Siemian has created his own pressure by failing to feel the rush or step up in the pocket.
The good news is that these issues are coachable and correctable. The only question is, will they be corrected, and if so, how long will it take.
As the saying goes; no time like the present.