Stats & Info: Jimmy Clausen

Can Weis Fix Brantley's Woes?

August, 16, 2011
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Kim Klement/US Presswire
John Brantley looks to improve his game under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

New Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is considered a guru for quarterbacks. Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Jimmy Clausen and Brady Quinn all excelled while playing in an offense designed by Weis.

Weis’ newest task is to turn around the career of Florida quarterback John Brantley. Brantley was the 2006 Gatorade Player of the Year and the 25th-ranked recruit in the 2007 ESPNU 150. He spent his first three seasons in Gainesville as Tim Tebow’s backup, until he finally got his chance to start in 2010. The results were not what Brantley and Gators fans had in mind.

In 13 games, Brantley threw just nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, and Florida finished 8-5, its worst record under Urban Meyer. Worst of all, Brantley struggled in the Gators' biggest games, finishing with one touchdown and five interceptions against Florida’s four ranked opponents.

With Brantley now playing in Weis’ quarterback-friendly system, many are wondering if his game will progress similar to that of Quinn in 2005. In his first season with Weis, Quinn threw 15 more touchdowns and three fewer interceptions than in the previous season. His passing efficiency rose by nearly 33 points.

If Brantley is going to make a similar leap, he will need to improve in two key areas. First, he needs to get better on early downs, especially first down.

First down is the best time for quarterbacks to throw: the average passing efficiency for an FBS quarterback is 9.1 points higher on first down than any other down.

Defenses typically play their base personnel and coverage, so quarterbacks tend to have a good idea what is coming. Yet, first down is where Brantley has his lowest passer efficiency.

Last season, he ranked 113th in the nation in first-down passing (minimum 50 attempts) with just two touchdowns and three interceptions. The good news is Brantley should get plenty of chances to turn it around. During the Weis era (2005 to 2009), the Notre Dame Fighting Irish threw the ball 47.9 percent of the time on first down, ninth most in FBS over that stretch.

The other area where Brantley needs to improve is with his touch on the deep ball.

Last season, Brantley completed just five of his 24 throws of 20 yards or more with only two completions against SEC opponents.

Brantley has a tendency to overthrow his target with 41.7 percent of his deep passes going long. Weis’ offense should again provide opportunities for Brantley to showcase improvement. In 2009, Jimmy Clausen averaged four throws of 20 or more yards per game, including 11 against the Michigan Wolverines.

If Brantley can resolve his first-down woes and struggles with the deep ball, he just might be the latest collegiate pupil of Charlie Weis to cash in at the NFL draft.

Numbers work against Clausen, upset bid

December, 23, 2010
12/23/10
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Carolina Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen is coming off the best game in his brief career, but asking him to win two games in a row will be a herculean challenge.

Clausen completed 13 of 19 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown Sunday in a 19-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals. But the Pittsburgh Steelers defense poses a much more formidable challenge on Thursday night.

Based on video review by our Stats and Information group, the Steelers have more sacks from pass rushes of five-or-more defenders than any team in the NFL (22). The secondary blitz has been particularly useful against Pittsburgh's three previous NFC South opponents. In those contests, the Steelers have blitzed from the secondary against a quarterback dropping back to throw 15 times. Opponents are 4-for-13 against that blitz with an interception, two sacks, and only one first down.

This feeds directly into one of Clausen's areas of weakness. He's completed 45.8 percent of passes against defensive back pass pressure, fourth-worst among the 37 quarterbacks to make at least 20 throws against it and his 14 sacks in such situations are the most in the NFL.

What can Carolina do to keep this game competitive?

The Panthers will need to run the ball effectively. They've averaged 4.5 yards per carry against teams that play the 3-4 that the Steelers do. The problem is that the Steelers 3-4 defense leads the NFL, allowing only 2.6 yards per rush.

And if there's any thought that the Panthers might be able to throw the Steelers off with play-action passing, that's a longshot. Carolina hasn't been successful with that all season, ranking last in the NFL in play-action completion percentage, yards-per-pass attempt, dropbacks per sack, and passer rating.

This will be the sixth time in 12 games that Clausen has faced a top-10 rated defense this season, as he's seen the Saints twice, and the Bears, Browns and Falcons once each. In the previous five games, the Panthers have averaged 11.2 points and Clausen's passer rating has been below 70 four times. Those are numbers that would make you believe that a Carolina win would be among the biggest upsets of the NFL season.

Brady, McNabb under Center of Attention

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
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Our weekly look at quarterbacks who are under the center of attention:

TOM BRADY
Brady will look to use play action to help confuse the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, which will try to pressure him from all sides. Play action has been one of Brady's strong points this season. He has six touchdown passes and zero interceptions on attempts out of play action. That's as many touchdowns as he threw all of last season in 55 fewer attempts.

DONOVAN McNABB
Donovan McNabb
McNabb
For the second time this season, McNabb will face his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, on Monday Night Football. In Week 4, McNabb completed just 8-of-19 passes for 125 yards with a touchdown and an interception, which was good for a 60.2 passer rating. Among qualifying quarterbacks this season (14 pass attempts per team game played), the NFL average passer rating is 85.9. McNabb has finished with a rating lower than the league average in seven games this season. That's tied for the most in the department with the Arizona Cardinals' Derek Anderson. Last year, McNabb had a total of six games with a rating that low or worse.

JAY CUTLER
Cutler was only sacked once in Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills in Toronto. In two games this season in which Cutler was sacked only once, he has five touchdown passes and no interceptions. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cutler has been sacked at least once in each of his last 14 games played. The only quarterback with a longer active streak is former Chicago Bears quarterback Kyle Orton with 15.

MARK SANCHEZ
Last week, Sanchez helped the New York Jets to a comeback victory over the Detroit Lions with a strong fourth quarter and overtime. He completed 10-of-18 passes for 144 yards from the fourth quarter on, his most pass attempts and yards he's ever thrown for in the fourth quarter and overtime. In fact, with 74 attempts in that situation, he's one shy of his total from all last season. The accuracy was a surprise because this season, Sanchez's 45.9 completion percentage in the fourth quarter and overtime is only better than Jimmy Clausen among quarterbacks with at least 40 attempts.

Under Center of Attention: Matt Ryan

September, 23, 2010
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As we get ready for another wild week in the NFL, which QBs are under center … of attention?

Matt Ryan had a passer rating of 117.3 in the Atlanta Falcons rout of the Arizona Cardinals in Week Two. Since coming into the league in 2008, Ryan has 10 games with a passer rating of 100.0 or better, and he's 10-0 in those games. Over that same time, Ryan is one of 14 QBs who have enjoyed at least 10 games with a rating that high, but not many of them have a perfect record.

The QBs with the most such games are Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers with 19 each. They are a combined 43-14 in those games.

• It turns out that Michael Vick WILL start Sunday for the Philadelphia Eagles against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

VickFrom the Elias Sports Bureau: Among quarterbacks with at least 50 starts since 2001 (Vick's rookie year), only David Carr has been sacked more frequently than Vick. He's been sacked once every 10.2 pass attempts, while Carr has been sacked once every 9.5 pass attempts. Vick has been sacked eight times so far this season, which ties him with Matt Moore of the Carolina Panthers for the most in the NFL.

• Vick replaces Kevin Kolb as the Eagles starter while Moore gets benched in favor of rookie Jimmy Clausen. Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable announced on Wednesday that Bruce Gradkowski will start over Jason Campbell this week against the Arizona Cardinals, and Jake Delhomme still hasn't practiced. If Seneca Wallace starts again for the Cleveland Browns, it would be the first time since 1998 that seven teams started one QB in the season opener and a different QB in the third game of the season.

• Joe Flacco tied a team record on Sunday when he threw four interceptions in the Baltimore Ravens loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It was the third time in his career that he threw at least three interceptions in a game. He's been able to bounce back immediately after each of those horrific performances:

October 19, 2008: Flacco passes for 232 yards with a TD and no interceptions in the Ravens 27-13 road win over the Miami Dolphins.
December 13, 2009: Flacco throws for 230 yards with a TD and no interceptions in a 48-3 home blowout of the Detroit Lions.

• Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start for the Buffalo Bills, went to school at Harvard. He's one of two players from Harvard who have thrown a pass in the NFL. The other? The immortal Pat McInally, who threw four passes in his 10 seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals punter.

• The Dolphins are 2-0 and haven't needed to rely on Chad Henne to help them win games. In the third and fourth quarters thus far, Henne has thrown for just 98 yards, the fewest of any QB with at least 20 attempts. Maybe it's a continuation of last year, when Henne ranked 21st out of 34 qualifying QBs in 2nd half passer rating at 69.5.

• Shaun Hill gets the start when the Lions visit the Minnesota Vikings, but don't expect much from Hill on the long ball. He's just 1-for-9 on passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield this season. Don't laugh Matt Cassel, you're 0-for-6 in that situation.

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