HomeFootball DirtJosh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa cast doubt

Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa cast doubt

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After 12 minutes of Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, Bailey Zappe and Josh Allen had combined to complete four passes. Technically. Exactly half those caught balls were Zappe interceptions in a stretch of absolute garbage football. That’s not ideal, but whatever. It’s Bailey Zappe. If he were expected to be good, someone would have claimed him when the Patriots released him prior to Week 1. Allen, on the other hand, is more concerning. In one quarter of play he’d dropped back 12 times. His Bills gained negative-10 net yards in that span. Neither one of his two completions actually made it beyond the line of scrimmage. via RBSDM.com Allen eventually regressed back to the mean, though his struggles with deep throws continued. His 169 passing yards — on a 50 percent completion rate — were enough to outlast Zappe en route to a 27-21 win that keeps the Bills’ AFC East title hopes alive. He and Zappe combined for zero passing touchdowns, four interceptions and a 100.6 stacked-up passer rating on the same day Lamar Jackson was roasting the Miami Dolphins for five touchdowns, zero turnovers and a perfect 158.3 rating. That leaves plenty of questions left to be answered. Not for the Patriots, who expected little from their backup quarterback and who benefitted from a loss (top two draft pick coming, maybe?). And since Zappe couldn’t be Sunday’s most disappointing quarterback because his baseline of play is nearly subterranean, does that mean Allen was? If not him, then who? Fortunately, we’ve got tools to better understand just how damaging each underwhelming performances was. Using the advanced stat expected points added (EPA) can gauge how much a quarterback brings to the table compared to a typical player. By comparing each passer’s Week 17 EPA against their 2023 adjusted average, we get a better picture of just how frustrating their days were. And we can find both of those thanks to The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin and his incredibly useful stats sites RBSDM.com and HabitatRing.com. So let’s take a look at who disappointed the most in the 17th Sunday of the 2023 season. Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 9.5 Week 17 EPA: 0.7 Difference: 8.8 points worse The good: Allen ran for 44 yards and a touchdown. He avoided the Patriots’ pressure en route to only one sack and four quarterback hits. He got the win. The bad: He also raised serious questions about his ability to make big throws downfield against upper floor defenses. That first career pick is a beauty, Alex Austin 👏 📺: #NEvsBUF on CBS pic.twitter.com/LBtyCOPrcb — New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 31, 2023 Allen completed just one of six throws that traveled more than 15 yards downfield, dropping his deep ball completion rate to 36 percent — the lowest of his career post-2020 breakout. Stefon Diggs’ average catch distance is down from 9.4 yards in 2022 to 7.4 this fall, which is a full yard lower than his worst season as a Bill (8.4 yards in 2020). The explosive passing plays that once made Buffalo so dangerous aren’t happening nearly as often. As a result, the team’s expected points added (EPA) per dropback has fallen from 0.204 to 0.166. That’s the difference between being the second-most efficient passing offense and the fourth, which doesn’t seem like a big deal. But in 2023 it’s manifested in upset losses and too-close-for-comfort wins after mediocre opponents. Factor in an injury-riddled defense that’s slipped from seventh in EPA/snap allowed to 14th and you’ve got the tenets of a team unable to break Buffalo’s Super Bowl drought. Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: -1.1 Week 17 EPA: -10.4 Difference: 9.3 points worse Howell was granted a reprieve after being replaced by Jacoby Brissett as the Commanders’ starter. The veteran’s injury gave way for the second-year quarterback to regain his role as the team’s starter and perhaps build some momentum for 2024. This is not what happened. BIG INT for Lil Mooney 🗜 @itslilmooney#SFvsWAS on FOXNFL+ // https://t.co/KTh0i4nCVJ pic.twitter.com/wQQZfVtKUO — San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 31, 2023 Howell briefly hung with the 49ers by capitalizing on oft-forgotten top wideout Terry McLaurin in the first half. Then he forgot about him again en route to a 17-point loss. The good news is this defeat left Washington in position for a top three draft pick next spring — a pick that can be used to select Howell’s replacement. Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 0.8 Week 17 EPA: -9.6 Difference: 10.4 points worse Levis came into Week 17 banged up and left it early banged up, playing fewer than two quarters before leaving with a foot injury. This makes his massive negative EPA even more impressive; he cost his team nearly 10 expected points on only seven dropbacks. SCOOP & SCORE FOR SHELDON RANKINS ‼️ pic.twitter.com/8wEbGIsA2C — Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) December 31, 2023 Levis attempted six passes and completed two before retreating to the sideline to heal up and watch a 26-3 stomping at the hands of the Houston Texans. There’s some cold solace in the fact Ryan Tannehill wasn’t good either — though his -0.12 EPA/play was still light years better than Levis’s -1.38. Still, Levis has played well enough in 2023 to earn a shot at the starting job in 2024. Without a top five draft pick and with holes to fill elsewhere, it’s difficult to see the Titans drafting someone to take his place. A veteran free agent to fill the role Tannehill will leave behind as he heads to the open market, however, makes a lot of sense. The rookie will have to be better than whomever that is — and way better than he was in seven dropbacks Sunday — to stake his claim as a starter in Nashville. Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: 8.0 Week 17 EPA: -3.5 Difference: 11.5 points worse How bad were things for the Dolphins in a 56-19 loss at Baltimore? Well, bad enough that their starting quarterback managed to get dinged up while sliding: Tua slides short of the line to gain on 4th down, which is the smart move down 23 in the 4th quarter, and still gets shaken up because the Dolphins can’t have nice things pic.twitter.com/95VFRU7b6V — Christian D’Andrea (@TrainIsland) December 31, 2023 Tagovailoa didn’t return after that, though that’s more a function of this game being well out of hand than anything else. It appeared as if the quarterback was telling teammates he was “good” on the sideline after getting checked by trainers. His play on the field, however, was decidedly not. Tagovailoa began his day with what was a Tyreek Hill end zone drop away from back-to-back scoring drives and touchdown passes. This was the zenith of his day. Despite an injury riddled secondary, the Ravens were able to pester him into bad decisions and held Miami to a meager six points after halftime. Tagovailoa’s 6.2 yards per attempt were the second-lowest of his season, a number made possible by a defense that held Tyreek Hill — he of the 72.6 percent catch rate and 117 yards per game — to six catches on 12 targets for a merely OK 76 yards. ANOTHER PICK FOR @GenoStone22‼️ Tune in on CBS! pic.twitter.com/nwZFLcbIIi — Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 31, 2023 None of this is doing much to convince the world at large the Dolphins are a viable Super Bowl contender. Miami remains stuck at exactly one win over a team with a record better than .500 — and that was against a Dallas Cowboys team incapable of beating anyone of note on the road. Tagovailoa is going to have to level up if he’s going to win his franchise’s first playoff game since Dave Wannstedt was head coach. Week 17’s performance suggests that might be asking too much. Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union 2023 expected points added (EPA) per game: -4.9 Week 17 EPA: -22.2 Difference: 17.3 points worse Young showcased the potential that made him the first overall pick last week, torching the Green Bay Packers’ beleagured defense in a losing effort. Then he came back for Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and his performance can be summed up with two reactions. First,…

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