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Which Quarterbacks Handle the Blitz Best?

Dec 16, 2010 – 3:00 PM
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JJ Cooper

JJ Cooper %BloggerTitle%

Jason CampbellTo blitz or play it safe? It's one of the questions that has no easy answer, even if fans always seem to prefer the blitz.

But what if I told you that it may not really matter that much?

It's not an answer I would have expected myself, but if you look at the numbers for the NFL this season, that's what jumps out. I've logged every sack in the NFL this season, and STATS Inc. has logged every pass this season -- the latter stats are available at SI.com and Fox Sports. They have broken out each quarterbacks stats against the blitz and against a "normal" (four-man or less) rush.

And by adding those stats up, here's what we've found: The following includes every quarterback with six or more attempts this season. The stats are through Week 13, although they include the Thursday night game for Week 14.

Comp. Att. Pct. Yds Avg,
Blitz 2,515 4,386 57.34 31,382 7.16
Non-Blitz 4,951 8,643 57.28 62,017 7.18
Int. Int. Pct Sack Sack Pct QB Rating
Blitz 115 2.62% 366 7.70% 84.49
Non-Blitz 228 2.64% 725 7.74% 85.1

Not a whole lot of difference, huh?

There's no real difference in yards per attempt, completion percentage, interception percentage, sack percentage or quarterback rating.

Now, that doesn't mean that individual quarterbacks all handle the blitz well or poorly, but in general, there's not a whole lot of quarterbacks whose stats are appreciably better or worse when defenses send the house.

Interestingly, a number of the quarterbacks whose stats are better against blitzes are young, inexperienced quarterbacks. Max Hall, Matt Stafford, Troy Smith and Matt Moore are all among the QBs who like to see blitzes. At the other end of the spectrum, some of the quarterbacks whose quarterback ratings take the biggest hit are some of the league's most experienced.

Brett Favre, who has to rank as one of the most experienced quarterbacks of all time, has the fifth-worst rating differential. Tom Brady, Matt Schaub and Jake Delhomme are also among those who see a 10-point of larger drop against the blitz.

Blitz Non-blitz
Sacks Sack Pct Rating Sacks Sack Pct Rating Difference
Matthew Stafford DET 2 6.45% 124.5 4 25 91.3 33.2
Seneca Wallace CLE 2 8.00% 117 6 17.67 88.5 28.5
Max Hall ARI 8 20.51% 59.7 14 6.57 35.7 24
Trent Edwards JAC 3 14.29% 63.6 2 13 40.3 23.3
Jon Kitna DAL 4 5.97% 112.1 14 17.14 89.5 22.6
Tony Romo DAL 3 3.85% 109.1 7 31.43 94.9 14.2
Troy Smith SF 3 6.82% 94.3 16 8.88 80.2 14.1
Matt Moore CAR 7 14.89% 68.9 13 12 55.6 13.3
Kerry Collins TEN 2 4.44% 91.4 6 30.67 78.7 12.7
Eli Manning NYG 6 4.96% 99.6 12 34.42 88.6 11
Mark Sanchez NYJ 5 3.42% 88.3 20 20.85 77.4 10.9
Matt Cassel KC 6 5.36% 108.9 17 21.82 98.4 10.5
Aaron Rodgers GB 8 5.67% 109.5 25 16.96 100.3 9.2
Drew Brees NO 9 6.12% 103.2 17 29.53 94.6 8.6
Chad Henne MIA 10 8.33% 84.1 17 22.59 77.5 6.6
Bruce Gradkowski OAK 7 10.14% 71.8 10 16.7 66.3 5.5
Sam Bradford STL 13 7.98% 86.5 24 19.42 81 5.5
Carson Palmer CIN 13 9.09% 85.1 23 21.22 80.1 5
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 10 9.80% 97.9 22 12.73 95.7 2.2
Colt McCoy CLE 9 16.67% 86.9 15 9.47 85.3 1.6
Matt Ryan ATL 5 2.89% 93.3 17 26.94 91.8 1.5
Joe Flacco BAL 13 8.44% 94.2 27 15.74 92.8 1.4
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF 9 6.29% 84 17 21.88 84.5 -0.5
Donovan McNabb WAS 12 7.59% 72.9 35 13.49 75.2 -2.3
Jay Cutler CHI 20 15.63% 89.4 41 8.76 92.8 -3.4
Philip Rivers SD 11 8.87% 98.6 29 15.31 102.5 -3.9
Matt Hasselback SEA 9 8.74% 71.6 27 15.11 76.9 -5.3
David Garrard JAC 14 15.38% 87.2 26 11.31 92.6 -5.4
Alex Smith SF 5 6.85% 69.3 13 19.62 75 -5.7
Josh Freeman TB 9 6.72% 80.3 19 20.21 86.4 -6.1
Michael Vick PHI 10 12.05% 99.6 23 12.65 105.7 -6.1
Peyton Manning IND 7 5.43% 83.7 14 41.64 91.2 -7.5
Shaun Hill DET 5 5.05% 71 14 26.07 78.6 -7.6
Kevin Kolb PHI 3 9.68% 77.4 10 16.3 85.3 -7.9
Tom Brady NE 9 6.57% 99.1 18 22.39 109.5 -10.4
Jimmy Clausen CAR 14 20.59% 44.2 19 11.53 55.3 -11.1
Jason Campbell OAK 17 22.37% 66.4 24 9.58 78.1 -11.7
Vince Young TEN 7 14.89% 86.3 13 13 98.6 -12.3
Brett Favre MIN 6 4.55% 57.1 21 17.71 69.6 -12.5
Jake Delhomme CLE 1 2.56% 53 5 26.8 65.6 -12.6
Matt Schaub HOU 14 9.86% 80.5 26 16.5 93.2 -12.7
Kyle Orton DEN 11 7.10% 77.2 33 14.85 93 -15.8
Derek Anderson ARI 10 8.40% 43.7 25 14.08 65.9 -22.2

Obviously, there's no way to definitively answer why this is, but I'll throw out a theory: Like a pitcher facing a young rookie, defensive coordinators like to blitz inexperienced quarterbacks, thinking that they will struggle to handle the pressure. So, you find quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Kerry Collins, Matt Hasselback, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers among the least blitzed. And young, inexperienced quarterbacks like Hall, Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman among the most blitzed. But for a young quarterback, if the blitz doesn't get you, it also creates openings in the secondary, and sometimes makes it a little easier for the quarterback to figure out what's going on in the secondary.

It also seems to indicate that a leaky offensive line will also lead to plenty of blitzes. Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and both Raiders quarterbacks are among the most blitzed.

Player Team Blitz Percentage
Kevin Kolb PHI 20.86%
Peyton Manning IND 23.33%
Seneca Wallace CLE 25.47%
Kerry Collins TEN 25.54%
Matt Hasselback SEA 27.45%
Shaun Hill DET 28.49%
Jon Kitna DAL 29.58%
Jake Delhomme CLE 29.85%
Philip Rivers SD 30.41%
Alex Smith SF 30.59%
Eli Manning NYG 30.75%
Drew Brees NO 31.08%
Drew Stanton DET 31.25%
Matt Cassel KC 31.81%
Vince Young TEN 31.95%
Michael Vick PHI 31.96%
Carson Palmer CIN 31.97%
Matthew Stafford DET 33.00%
Troy Smith SF 33.10%
Chad Henne MIA 33.85%
Kyle Orton DEN 33.88%
LEAGUE AVG 34.37%
Matt Moore CAR 34.62%
Aaron Rodgers GB 35.14%
David Garrard JAC 35.71%
Donovan McNabb WAS 36.02%
Mark Sanchez NYJ 36.21%
Tom Brady NE 36.23%
Matt Schaub HOU 36.36%
Derek Anderson ARI 36.65%
Tony Romo DAL 36.82%
Brett Favre MIN 37.10%
Josh Freeman TB 37.24%
Jimmy Clausen CAR 37.44%
Sam Bradford STL 37.77%
Matt Ryan ATL 38.86%
Joe Flacco BAL 39.29%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 40.00%
Jason Campbell OAK 40.43%
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF 40.86%
Jay Cutler CHI 41.23%
Colt McCoy CLE 44.37%
Bruce Gradkowski OAK 45.51%
Max Hall ARI 51.09%
Trent Edwards JAC 92.31%
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