A silver lining in Jared Goff not throwing downfield well in 2021

Credit: Detroit Free Press-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Detroit Free Press-USA TODAY Sports /

Jared Goff was not good throwing downfield last season, but there was a silver lining that Pro Football Focus unearthed.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario, but the bottom line is Jared Goff did not throw downfield much or particularly well last season. Things got better late, as the Lions’ offense was better and Goff had a familiar target in Josh Reynolds, but that just meant Goff’s yards per attempt and adjusted yards per attempt by traditional measure over his final five starts were closer to respectable.

Pro Football Focus defines a deep pass as a pass that travels 20 or more yards downfield. To rank the NFL’s best deep passers–they used eight metrics on said qualifying throws.

-Passing yards
-Completion percentage
-Yards per attempt
-Passer rating
-Turnover-worthy play percentage
-Accuracy-plus percentage
-Accuracy percentage
-PFF grade

The top of the 1-32 ranking probably isn’t surprising-Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, Kirk Cousins, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford are in the top-10.

The bottom of the rankings aren’t surprising either.

PFF finds silver lining in Jared Goff struggling as downfield passer in 2021

Goff comes in at No. 30, above only Taylor Heinicke and Sam Darnold. His 60.8 grade on 20-plus yard passes was second-worst among the 32, and his 8.1 yards per attempt came in last with only one other player (Trevor Lawrence, 8.8) within a yard of him.

But writer Bryant Horn cited a silver lining to Goff’s lack of deep ball proficiency.

"Goff’s 60.8 passing grade was second-to-last, and he only averaged 8.1 yards per attempt. Still, there was a bright spot — he only had a turnover-worthy play rate of 6.67%, eighth among starters."

If a quarterback can’t or won’t throw downfield, or simply doesn’t have the targets capable of getting open downfield, then he better not put the ball in risky spots. Goff finished with the second-lowest interception rate of his career last year (1.6 percent, eight interceptions on 494 attempts).

The reins should be loosened on the Lions’ passing game this year, with pieces in place that seem to complement each other nicely. It’ll be up to Goff to show he’s up to the task, and show he can take some downfield risks when they’re available while not throwing interceptions in bunches.

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