You may have heard that the Buffalo Bills season opener against the Baltimore Ravens went somewhat badly. While a lot has been written about starting quarterback Nathan Peterman, it takes more than one person playing poorly to lose by...[scans repressed memories]...oh dear God.
Please note; the following analysis came from an intent to review whether the receiving options were getting open, or if they were blanketed all game. This discussion will inherently touch upon the offensive line and of course the quarterback making it more of a team analysis. Because of the nature of this review, completed passes are pretty much ignored (one exception). The reason being that with a completed pass there is an assumption of “someone was open enough.”
Nathan Peterman has a couple of good options and he looks like he’ll pull the trigger. Unfortunately he doesn’t trust anyone enough and pulls the ball back down. There’s likely a little more time if he hangs back instead of stepping into the sack as well.
From what we see, this was intended to be a quick timing pass. The first read is open and Peterman fires it in that direction. Since we’re evaluating the team more globally, had there been more time to develop the play, the line has Peterman protected quite well. At least two other receiving targets came open. There’s quite a bit to like on this snap believe it or not.
The graphics tell most of the story for this play. Kelvin Benjamin is the intended target. While he’s “open” at the end of the play, his route was disrupted quite a bit leading to the incompletion. To defend Peterman, he needs to throw this and trust Benjamin gets to his spot. By the time Benjamin’s route gets blown up it’s too late to decide. We set out to review the ability of the receiving options to get open so let’s finish the play. Every other skill player is open at some point, which, again, means there’s more to like than a first glance suggests. (However, if you look closely one player probably wasn’t going to make the catch.)
Evaluating everyone, the protection holds up again. Three receiving options are in great position to make plays, with a fourth potentially open (Kelvin Benjamin). The pass is delivered to the receiver that’s most covered by the defense and the result is an incompletion.
Since we’re all about rubbing salt in our wounds let’s answer our question in truly heartbreaking fashion. Peterman scans the field and again has decent protection. Not liking what he sees, Peterman throws to his wide open safety valve Jeremy Kerley. Meanwhile, Robert Foster’s afterburners force questions of “what if?”
There are several potential receivers who come open during this play. For the graphic I’ve highlighted the two that are in the area Peterman honed in on. Benjamin has a little contact with the defender which slows him down. The throw isn’t even necessarily a bad option as Benjamin was acquired to win situations such as this one. To come back to the original focus, it’s easy to see that Jason Croom was open.
The graphic suggests utter failure on the part of Peterman but that shouldn’t be the main takeaway. The GIF is there to answer our question and, undeniably, receivers were open. Jeremy Kerley is a little animated about how open he was in fact. Unlike many of the plays above, the line rapidly breaks down. If the play was designed to have Peterman scan left to right he didn’t have time to progress through his reads to reach Kerley.
Against the Ravens, Peterman had 13 incompletions, six of which are highlighted here. I could have kept recording but at this point the original purpose of the analysis has already been answered. The skill positions actually didn’t do badly at all, with plenty of open targets.
To stress that the goal wasn’t to slam Nathan Peterman, here’s a Josh Allen play with similar results. At various times during the play, no less than three receivers are open. Allen has good protection with over three seconds to throw the ball. Allen missed opportunities as well.
One more. The defensive pass interference bails out Josh Allen. Like the Peterman toss above on Play 7, it’s hard to fully blame the quarterback here. Benjamin is supposed to go win these battles. Also like Peterman though, other options were present and the answer remains “yes.” Receivers were getting open.