There is a certain buzz that comes when discussing anything to do with Justin Fields. And after his five-snap debut included a touchdown, we can’t get enough Fields chatter around here.
But before the Bears turn the keys over to the rookie on a full-time basis, we need to deal with Andy Dalton. So long as Dalton is the starter, we should still dissect his game with care and precision. And upon a deeper review of Dalton’s efforts on Sunday Night Football, they weren’t as bad as one might otherwise think.
Pro Football Reference is a treasure trove for stats and data. But when it comes to Andy Dalton’s Week 1 results, it is the advanced analytics that are eye-opening to me.
For example, Dalton’s 10.5% Bad Throw rate piques my interest. That number represents the seventh-lowest percentage among Week 1 starters. To put it in perspective, Aaron Rodgers (33.3%), Ben Roethlisberger (28.1%), Matt Ryan (26.5%), and Trevor Lawrence (24.0%) had the four highest Bad%. Each player threw at least twice as many “bad balls” as Dalton. PFR describes Bad% as a percentage of poor throws per pass attempt excluding spikes and throwaways. So being where Dalton is after Week 1 is good company.
Elsewhere in the world of advanced analytics, Dalton’s 76.3 percent of throws deemed to be “on target” ranked 13th among starters. That number sits firmly I the middle of the pack, but it’s better than being in the bottom half or lower tier. From a volume perspective, Dalton’s 29 “On Target” throws was the 10th most from Week 1. That’s neat. As is the fact that he had more on-target throws than Patrick Mahomes (28), Carson Wentz (28), and Sam Darnold (26). Just saying. It’s an observation of facts is all.
Some brief takeaways here, as Dalton was:
⇒ Accurate with his throws
⇒ Voluminous with throws that were “on target”
⇒ Good at limiting his poor throws
These are the things Dalton should be doing as QB1. Don’t force something that isn’t there. Place ball in spots where your receivers can catch them. Properly manage a game when asked to do so based on the game-plan and opponent.
Unfortunately, the Bears needed more than mere competence at the position in Week 1. It wasn’t wholly his owning, but Dalton’s 165 Intended Air Yards were the fifth lowest among last week’s starters. That’s what happens when your week finishes in this way:
The Bears were the only team in Week 1 to not attempt a single pass even 15 yards downfield (PFF)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 15, 2021
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) September 13, 2021
Because so many of these throws are short throws, there shouldn’t be any reason for Dalton not to complete as many as he did. And, of course, so many short throws should make it easier to have fewer bad balls. Then again, we know better not to take “easy” throws and completions for granted around here. Not after the last four years.
I’m curious to see how all (or any) of this changes if tweaks to the game-plan follow. After all, there weren’t a ton of schemed routes against a defense that Cris Collinsworth pointed out played more two high-safety looks than anyone last season. Even still … you want to see more. Maybe things will line up for more down-field shots to be taken this week against a Bengals defense that might show more one high safety looks. If so, then I’ll be curious to see what all these numbers look like at this time next week.