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