The Buffalo Bills will return to practice when training camp begins in about a month. The heavily revamped quarterback room will almost certainly be the focal point of fans and media. Three players will enter camp with hopes of leaving St. John Fisher with the coveted label of “starting quarterback.” Though early prognostications penciled AJ McCarron in as the starter, the Nathan Peterman buzz has been the loudest of late.
For this all-22 look, we’ll cut right to the chase. Nathan Peterman has shown some good things along with some bad things. His low volume of game tape (52 pass attempts) makes statistical evaluations exceedingly difficult, so we won’t even try. No one should be selling a definitive “Book of Peterman,” as his trajectory is unknown at this point. What follows are simply notes on the Ghost of Peterman past. Should he elect to undergo Ebenezer Scrooge-like self-evaluation and correction, the Ghost of Peterman future should be a much nicer picture. Because quarterbacks are special, we have a limited edition format for this dive.
Peterman vs. New Orleans Saints
Notes: The biggest debate from this game is whether the Saints were using a prevent defense. The answer seems to be “sorta.” They were playing pretty soft overall, but weren’t rolling out dollar defenses. To his credit, Peterman took full advantage, and this is easily his best game on the stat sheet as a result. Displaying accuracy and good judgment, Peterman looked the part of an NFL quarterback. It should be noted that by the time he took the field, there were zero expectations of a comeback. The Saints game gives us our best attempt at seeing what a calm and collected Peterman might be capable of doing.
The Play: This starts off with the distance from the line for some key defenders. Note that several start booking backwards at the snap. The pause shows the enormous cushions they gave the receivers. To his credit, Peterman likely identified the best possible outcome and delivered.
Peterman vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Notes: Peterman wasn’t always helped by the offensive line in this game (hit while throwing for one interception and nudged in another). However, there were enough clean pockets for Peterman to throw from to have some opportunities to shine. This should almost certainly be considered his floor. Bad luck resulted in five interceptions. Some good luck prevented it from being six or seven, though. Throws that were high or behind were all too common, and this game showed that “rattled Peterman” is an interception waiting to happen. His pocket navigation was inconsistent, with one interception occurring from a key mistake in this skill (see below). Body mechanics were similarly a problem. Peterman had many cards stacked against him in this one, and as a result, he ended up putting together a solid list of “don’ts” at the NFL quarterback position.
Play 1: The arrow on the first angle shows where Peterman should have moved after finishing his drop back. The oval on the second angle shows the gigantic pocket he would have had if he had done so. The pass is affected by the pressure, but the pressure wasn’t completely on the linemen. Calling slow-developing plays against this pass rush with a rookie QB wasn’t wise, either.
Play 2: Another slow developing play, angle one has arrows that show Peterman’s targets all heading deep. The second angle pauses at the two-second mark where you can see things have already gone badly for Peterman.
Peterman vs. New England Patriots
Notes: Peterman came in during the fourth quarter after starter Tyrod Taylor left with a knee injury. Peterman attempted to spark a woeful offense that couldn’t capitalize on what was Rick Dennison’s best game plan of the year. He showed much better judgment, but he also continued to have accuracy and ball placement issues. I hesitate to add stats, but he earned his regular season low score in completion percentage in this game. A major positive from the game was his willingness to attempt a variety of passes. Following the Chargers game, it would be hard to blame him for playing it safe. Peterman responded nicely, and he showed that his mental makeup might be his single biggest selling point.
The Plays: Both plays stop to show the adequate to massive pocket Peterman was given to work with. Inaccurate throws were enough to doom both plays. On the first, the overthrow costs a touchdown. On the second, the failure to recognize the tight double coverage forces Deonte Thompson to swat the ball to prevent a turnover.
Peterman vs. Indianapolis Colts
Notes: Peterman’s second start showed more promising signs than the first. General takeaways are difficult thanks to the extreme weather, but a couple of things stand out. Peterman’s accuracy was quite good despite the conditions. Hitting five passes in ten attempts, it can’t be overlooked that several of the incomplete passes hit Kelvin Benjamin in the hands. Peterman went to Benjamin for half of his passes, with the rest going to Charles Clay and Nick O’Leary. This suggests a good understanding of the conditions and a concerted effort to use the big guys rather than the speed guys. Benjamin was the early favorite target, but Peterman adapted to use O’Leary and Clay more as the game progressed.
The Play: This isn’t a gimme by any means, especially considering the weather. However, Kelvin Benjamin was signed to win these contested throws. Peterman delivers the ball well, and Benjamin cannot secure it even though it hit him in the hands.
Peterman vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Notes: There’s no reason to try to find a pattern in three pass attempts so we’ll just look at the interception which sealed the game for Jacksonville.
The Play: Two things are notable at the pause. Peterman is starting his throw already. This is a major positive, as his receiver has yet to turn back to him. Peterman is trusting the timing of the play and his receiver. Similarly, the ball would have been accurately placed. The problem is the second thing noted in the pause. Peterman assumes that the cushion is sufficient to deliver the ball. Jalen Ramsey sees the play the whole way and jumps the route.
With only 52 passes attempted by Nathan Peterman, it equates to about two games worth of tape, which doesn’t lend itself well to overarching analysis. The only thing we should count on is that most rookies make mistakes for similar reasons and will improve in their second year. Peterman didn’t exhibit any single fatal flaw that was visible play-in and play-out. While abundant, his smaller flaws came and went.
Skeptics will likely continue to cringe at the sheer number of things he needs to work on, which is a valid take. Petermaniacs can hang their hat (or ripped muscle shirt) on the fact that repetition should lead to improvements in all of his weak areas. This is also a valid take. More than anyone else in the position group, Peterman exemplifies Schrödinger’s QB.