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Not all QBs excel at drawing 5-yard freebies

Some of my favorite articles examine a tiny part of the game we often take for granted.

NFC West blogger Mike Sando wrote one of those Friday with a post about quarterbacks who are best at drawing opponents offside.

Based on a question from one of Sando's readers, ESPN Stats & Information researcher Hank Gargiulo charted opponents' offside, encroachment or neutral-zone penalties against every starting quarterback to determine which signal-callers have been most effective at getting defenses to commit a 5-yard flinch.

The penalties were credited to the quarterback who started the game because combing through every NFL play through 13 weeks probably would fry Gargiulo's cerebellum. So the data shown below doesn't take into account quarterbacks who came off the bench, but it's not often a quarterback leaves a game and the backup induces the defense to jump.

The numbers, therefore, will provide an accurate reflection.

But just to be sure, I checked on the AFC East's one significant relief performance. Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne replaced Chad Pennington in Week 10, but the Tennessee Titans didn't commit an offside, encroachment or neutral-zone infraction that afternoon.

What do we learn when looking at the chart?

I'm most surprised at St. Louis Rams rookie Sam Bradford. Getting a defense to jump is a weapon usually reserved for a wily veteran's arsenal, but Rams opponents have done so a league-high 27 times against Bradford.

Savvy stars Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers are distant seconds with 19 penalties each.

New England Patriots icon Tom Brady leads the AFC East but is way down the league list with eight, which ties him for 17th. Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is next with five in 12 games.

Henne and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez didn't make the cut on Sando's article, but I have their numbers: Opponents have responded with three such penalties against Henne and two against Sanchez.

As often as Henne and Sanchez seem to be overwhelmed by the decisions they must make not only at the line of scrimmage, but also in the pocket, you can argue it's too much to ask at this stage of their careers to develop an effective hard count.

But when you see Bradford doing it, you have to wonder why everybody doesn't.