clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Less ‘hero ball,’ more intermediate passes key to Lock’s improvement

George Chahrouri of Pro Football Focus joined Ryan and Ben to talk about how Lock can most easily improve his practically-worst-in-the-league completion percentage.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

George Chahrouri of Pro Football Focus joined Broncos Country Tonight earlier this week to talk about a recent PFF article by Sam Monson that wasn’t too high on Lock’s potential to get it together this season but didn’t rule it out, either.

Admittedly, PFF hasn’t been all that kind to Lock - or the Broncos (as Ryan Edwards loves to joke with Chahrouri) - and Monson’s article points out that by PFF metrics, Lock had an adjusted completion rate of 68.7% in 2020, which ranked 40th out of 42 quarterbacks.

But a lot of fans like to point to Josh Allen’s adjusted completion rates his first two years - Allen was one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the league featuring a 64.7% adjusted completion rate as a rookie (dead last), and 71.7% his second year (30th out of 38). But Allen jumped to the fifth-ranked QB this past season with a 79.1% adjusted completion rate.

Monson notes that this kind of jump in performance is virtually unprecedented, and Chahrouri made an interesting point about a somewhat related stat.

Lock’s “big-time throw” rate was 6.4%, which may seem low but was seventh highest among all quarterbacks. And his average depth of target was 10.1 yards, the only QB whose average was over 10.

What these two statistics highlight is that a big reason Lock’s completion rate was low is likely due to the number of “big plays” with deep throws he is trying to make rather than shorter and intermediate passes to keep the drive alive - a common error among young quarterbacks.

“Josh Allen in his first two seasons was the lowest rated quarterback from a clean pocket. He was legit 32 out of 32,” Chahrouri said.

But like Lock - and a lot of young quarterbacks - Allen’s average depth of target was a lot higher his first two years. Last year in his third season, Allen stopped playing “hero ball” as Chahrouri called it and instead threw a lot more short and intermediate passes - and his accuracy improved.

So that will be the key for Lock, says Chahrouri - taking fewer shots downfield.

“You don’t have to chuck it down field every time to get 20 nice throws on tape,” he added. “What you have to do is sustain drives long enough so you can take those chances when they’re there. Doing so means hitting highly completable passes and doing them when you need to. For some reason that’s harder for young quarterbacks.”

This all makes total sense to me, and I love the reference to “hero ball” because I think that’s exactly what Lock would do that was so frustrating. “Hero ball” works in college. It rarely works in the NFL; defenses are too fast and too aggressive for young gunslingers to win a majority of those gunfights.

So the next question is - what best helps Lock NOT revert to playing hero ball so quickly? To me, a big part of this falls on Shurmur’s shoulders to design a majority of plays around the short/intermediate pass range.