The Buffalo Bills are set to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight for Thursday Night Football. Both teams started the season 3-1 and have since sputtered. For the Buccaneers, solid defensive efforts have been the standard this year with inconsistent results on offense leading to their current 3-3 record. With the Buffalo Bills’ defense beat up, there’s the potential to allow Tampa Bay to show off their best selves on offense. At the heart of that is quarterback Baker Mayfield. A familiar face in a new place.
NOTE: Mayfield was listed as “questionable” for the game with a knee injury, but reports suggest it’s a pain-management issue and my expectation is that he’ll suit up and play.
I’m a huge fan of the stat side of things when it comes to quarterbacks since so much of the game is shaped around their performance. Both individual and team metrics often shed some light on how things are going for a signal caller.
- Baker Mayfield is completing 65.2% of his passes, which is tied for 18th in the NFL
- Mayfield’s 3.9% touchdown rate puts him 14th in the league
- With 6.7 yards per attempt, Mayfield is 23rd best
- Mayfield averages 2.75 seconds from snap to throw, which is 16th in the NFL
- The average intended air yards for Mayfield is 8.4 yards, ninth highest
- His completed air yards averages 5.3 yards, 23rd in the league
So far the stats paint a picture of a quarterback hanging around the average cluster of the NFL. Above, I cautioned about the Bucs and their best selves on offense being a problem for Buffalo, but so far that doesn’t seem all that worrisome. To be fair, there’s not a single stat to be afraid of. There are two that might make you think, however.
- With four interceptions this year, Mayfield’s 2.0% interception rate is 12th-best in the league (average). Mayfield has also fumbled twice
- With a rate of 3.8%, the Buccaneers allow sacks at one of the lowest frequencies in the NFL (third lowest)
There may be one more piece of the puzzle to mull over before we give a stat-based profile for Mayfield. That’s his Week 6 pass distribution chart from NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
This chart represents a bit of an exception for Mayfield with the Buccaneers. Look at the pass attempts over 20 yards. The word “attempt” was deliberate as Mayfield was dreadful with them in this game. So what’s the exception? That he’s normally really good at them? No. The exception is that he attempted them. The ten attempts of 20+ yards matches his output for the entire five other games combined. Let’s do a few GIFs and wrap our stat-based profile up in concert with our eye-test one.
Play 1 — Offensive line and pocket
When I see an average-time-to-throw stat combined with a very low sack rate it leads me to conclude that the quarterback in question is playing behind a solid offensive line. A quick search on the Google revealed I was not the only person with this opinion. And the eye test only further corroborated this story. I saw plenty of good pockets for Mayfield to work from. The delivery of this ball from Mayfield was spot on and the Bucs converted the first down.
Play 2 — Script and poise
It’s always important to know if a quarterback can understand and trust the play design and work within it. It’s especially important when the quarterback is new to the team. I’m not going to pretend I know for sure whether or not the Buccaneers scripted this quick pressure or if Mayfield and company didn’t account for it. Regardless, Mayfield knew where his outlet was on 3rd & Long and showed incredible poise waiting for the play to develop to give this play the best chance of success.
Play 3 — Throwaway
I like Baker Mayfield way more than many fans and analysts seem to, but even I understand the man is imperfect. This play is a rollercoaster of Mayfield as the pressure for sure wasn’t scripted by Tampa Bay. Mayfield confirmed another hunch that arises from the whole “average time to throw but low sack percentage” combo. You might suspect that the quarterback with that pairing of stats can navigate around pressure and Mayfield can.
At the end of the play, Mayfield went into “fight another down” mode and seemed to throw the ball away after a quick pump fake. On 4th & 5, an interception ten yards down the field isn’t a bad outcome. Give your guy a shot at the play.
I could show other Mayfield mistakes, but after the last few weeks, I’m not making any assumptions Buffalo can capitalize. Instead, here’s the ceiling the Bills could be staring at. With a clean pocket, a good play design, and Mike Evans to work with — Baker Mayfield is capable of some downright dangerous play.
The stats, charts, and eye test all tell me the same thing about Baker Mayfield in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform. Mayfield’s floor is a game manager and that’s where most of our summary will focus. Before that though, I’d like to reiterate that Play 4 serves as our cautionary tale that even game managers can heat up for stretches. Baker Mayfield is no exception there.
Should Buffalo be worried? I know I’m a bit nervous here. Buffalo’s defense is depleted at every level already this season. Mayfield can work within the script and is smart/experienced enough to look for weaknesses to exploit. His supporting cast is strong enough to help him out. The Bucs have had an up-and-down season thus far, let’s hope we see the “down” against Buffalo.