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Blitzing Drew Lock into oblivion

How Drew Lock has fared when blitzed and what, if anything, might Par Shurmur do to help the young quarterback moving forward.

Miami Dolphins v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

So there are 13 NFL quarterbacks who were drafted over the last three seasons and that have thrown 100 or more passes this season. Profootballreference.com shows how well any QB fares when blitzed (it’s in their splits decently far down the page). Drew Lock has fared very poorly against the blitz this year. He has a passer rating of 41.5 and has thrown 1 TD and 6 interceptions. He is also only completing 47.5% of his throws when he is blitzed (defined as when the defense sends five or more players to rush the passer). How does this compare to his “peers” - those 12 guys who were drafted in 2018, 2019 and 2020? See below.

Quarterback Cmp Att Inc Cmp% Yds TD 1D Int Rate Sk Yds Y/A AY/A
Kyler Murray 67 99 32 67.7 773 7 49 2 106.2 8 -35 7.8 8.31
Justin Herbert 73 121 48 60.3 934 9 51 1 105.9 7 -52 7.7 8.83
Baker Mayfield 63 96 33 65.6 805 5 42 1 104.7 10 -51 8.4 8.96
Josh Allen 101 158 57 63.9 1109 10 62 2 100.4 7 -39 7 7.72
Tua Tagovailoa 26 46 20 56.5 233 4 15 0 99.3 4 -23 5.1 6.8
Dwayne Haskins 23 35 12 65.7 341 0 19 0 97.4 5 -46 9.7 9.74
Gardner Minshew 37 58 21 63.8 415 3 25 1 95.1 7 -36 7.2 7.41
Joe Burrow 79 126 47 62.7 860 6 57 3 88.7 12 -83 6.8 6.71
Daniel Jones 87 138 51 63.0 983 4 49 3 84.9 19 -103 7.1 6.72
Lamar Jackson 45 79 34 57.0 434 4 27 2 78.8 5 -41 5.5 5.37
Sam Darnold 50 80 30 62.5 526 1 26 2 75.3 16 -107 6.6 5.7
Jake Luton 21 42 21 50.0 194 0 11 1 53.1 2 -16 4.6 3.55
Drew Lock 38 80 42 47.5 516 1 21 6 41.5 5 -44 6.5 3.33

Right now Drew Lock is the worst of the young QBs when he is blitzed. Even Jake Luton has fared better than he has. Lock is actually the worst QB in the league vs the blitz - at least among qualifying QBs.

Now if we look at how Drew Lock has fared vs a “normal rush” (four or fewer pass rushers), we find that he is not the worst of the young QBs. See below.

Quarterback Cmp Att Inc Cmp% Yds TD 1D Int Rate Sk Yds Y/A AY/A
Josh Allen 166 230 64 72.2 1919 12 82 6 103.5 15 -87 8.3 8.21
Tua Tagovailoa 34 51 17 66.7 369 2 18 0 100.9 6 -40 7.2 8.02
Lamar Jackson 130 197 67 66.0 1514 11 73 4 99.2 19 -97 7.7 7.89
Justin Herbert 196 281 85 69.8 2081 14 95 6 98.8 15 -87 7.4 7.44
Gardner Minshew 139 209 70 66.5 1440 10 70 4 94.2 15 -90 6.9 6.99
Kyler Murray 197 288 91 68.4 2041 12 101 7 92.4 10 -53 7.1 6.83
Joe Burrow 185 277 92 66.8 1828 7 93 2 90.7 20 -148 6.6 6.78
Baker Mayfield 117 198 81 59.1 1303 12 71 6 86.3 7 -39 6.6 6.43
Drew Lock 111 188 77 59.0 1251 6 61 5 78.6 6 -35 6.7 6.1
Daniel Jones 141 223 82 63.2 1352 4 74 6 74.8 12 -76 6.1 5.21
Dwayne Haskins 66 111 45 59.5 598 4 31 3 74.8 8 -55 5.4 4.89
Sam Darnold 78 138 60 56.5 716 2 29 6 57.5 6 -41 5.2 3.52
Jake Luton 39 68 29 57.4 430 2 20 5 55.4 5 -36 6.3 3.6

Passing when not blitzed, Drew Lock has done better than Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins, both of whom were taken before him in the 2019 draft. His passer rating of 78.6 vs a normal rush is not good, but it’s also not terri-bad like his passer rating when blitzed.

So was Drew Lock this bad when blitzed in 2019? No, he wasn’t. His passer rating when blitzed in 2019 was 73.4 and he threw one TD and one INT. Interestingly enough, his completion percentage of 46.7 was actually worse in 2019.

So what can be done from a play-calling standpoint (assuming it has not ALREADY been done).

First off, staying out of obvious passing situations really helps. In other words, if we can end up in 3rd and 4 instead of 3rd and 10, Lock should be able to beat blitzes much more easily. Why? Because quick throws beat blitzes and quick throws generally mean shorter routes. Here’s the catch: throwing a quick slant to beat a blitz on 3rd and 10 only gets you a first down if the defender(s) miss tackles. Most defensive coordinators are happy to give up a five yard completion on 3rd and 10.

Secondly, Lock needs to be able to recognize when and where blitzes are coming so that he can identify his “hot routes”. These are routes that are specifically designed to beat blitzes by providing quick throws. Those quick throws are usually to spots where blitzing defenders just vacated.

Some times there are dump offs to the TE over the middle. Some times these are quick slants to the slot receiver. Some times these are dump-offs to running backs who chip and then go out for a pass. Screen passes (which we hardly ever use) can also be very effective against aggressive blitzing teams.

Part of the problem with blitzes this year is blitz recognition from the center. In general the center is the one who is going to change protections against a blitz if the quarterback does not. Our rookie center, Lloyd Cushenberry III, may not have been given the power to change protections (I can’t remember him calling or pointing prior to a play). This is something the I remember Connor McGovern doing last season. Any time year offense is in a situation where you CAN’T audible to a better play, your chances of success go down.

Here’s an example from the Raiders game. It’s 3rd and 1 and the Raiders are showing a strong-side blitz. The weak-side is a light and we are almost certain to gain the needed one yard if we audible to a run behind Garett Bolles and Dalton Risner.

Remember this is after we had gained 9 yards on two consecutive runs from Melvin Gordon starting on our own 2. I don’t know if Lock had the authority/ability to audible here, but I sure know that Peyton Manning would have in a heartbeat.

Additionally, on this play-action pass, Lock has to know where he hot reed(s) is (are). Jeremy Cox looks to be the hot read here and as you can see from the wide shot, he is uncovered once he comes out of the backfield. Lock even appears to look his way before deciding not to throw the ball (possibly because Cox was not looking for the ball yet). Of course Cox is uncovered since we have not allowed either of our fullbacks to touch the ball this season. Our fullbacks will probably remain uncovered until we actually throw a pass their direction.

That being said, a throw to Cox here probably gains at least 10 yards. What do you think Broncos Country?


Poll

Does Drew Lock improve against the Blitz over the last five games of 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Yes - dramatically
    (30 votes)
  • 41%
    Yes - some
    (165 votes)
  • 40%
    No - he continues to suck like he has
    (159 votes)
  • 9%
    No - he surprisingly gets worse
    (39 votes)
393 votes total Vote Now