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Inside the Numbers: Patterson was nearly perfect with a clean pocket

Protecting the quarterback can pay big dividends

Michigan v Notre Dame Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

No position unit was scrutinized more heavily than Michigan’s offensive line after losing to Notre Dame to start the season.

For about half of Shea Patterson’s pass attempts, the o-line did a solid job of protecting their quarterback and giving him throwing lanes and a clean pocket. Half isn’t good enough, but if they improve that percentage, Michigan’s offense could wind up being dangerous.

In all, Patterson was 20-30 on the day for 227 yards while also throwing an interception.

But the focus of this article will be about his attempts when there was a clean pocket.

My definition of a clean pocket/no pressure:

For the statistics I will present shortly, I have to define the criteria. If Patterson was able to throw without hands in his face, a defender bearing down on him, if he was able to step up and out of the pocket cleanly and throw the football with no one around him, I define this as having a clean pocket and no (immediate) pressure.

Now that we’ve defined the criteria for my film evaluation, here’s the statistical breakdown from it:

First Quarter

  • 8 yards - Nico Collins
  • 4 yards - Donovan Peoples-Jones
  • 8 yards - Zach Gentry
  • 7 yards - Oliver Martin
  • 3 yards - Zach Gentry

5-5 for 30 yards

Second Quarter

  • 6 yards - Nico Collins
  • 8 yards- Sean McKeon
  • Incomplete to Zach Gentry on 3rd & Goal (Gentry dropped the pass)

2-3 for 14 yards

Third Quarter

  • 52 yards- Nico Collins
  • Incomplete to Zach Gentry
  • 5 yards- Peoples-Jones

2-3 for 57 yards

Fourth Quarter

  • 24 yards- Chris Evans
  • 21 yards- Oliver Martin
  • Incomplete to Zach Gentry (Gentry dropped the pass)

2-3 for 45 yards

TOTAL: 11-14 for 146 yards

The statistics are quite cut and dry, no other plays should have been added to my final total, nor should any have been subtracted.

Pro Football Focus and I are on the same page when it comes to evaluating Patterson’s performance. PFF gave Patterson a 81.3 clean pocket grade, which Steve Palazzolo deemed very good, stating that the clean pocket grade is the most stable one in their database.

I’ll continue to track this statistic throughout the season, but when viewing these numbers, 11-14 for 146 yards, it’s evident that Shea Patterson can get things done if he’s given the proper time to throw the rock. His numbers should be even better, Zach Gentry dropped a touchdown pass in the 2nd quarter and dropped another clean pocket throw on the last drive of the game. Patterson could have easily went 13-14 when he had a clean pocket to operate from.

Some have said that the offense didn’t take enough deep shots during the game. While there may be some truth to that and a couple more chances deep would have been nice, it isn’t all that realistic. Patterson is not a conservative quarterback and Michigan would love to start chucking it deep, but in order for that to happen Patterson has to have more time to let routes develop down the field. The offensive line will decide whether an aerial assault of sorts occurs in 2018.

Do we need more of a sample size to claim Patterson is an above average quarterback? Surely. But the preliminary evidence against a good Notre Dame defense would indicate if this kid is protected, he can make just about any damn throw on the field. The case in point would be his 52 yard bomb to Nico Collins. That route took time to develop, it took all the linemen and two tight ends all doing their jobs in order for Patterson and Collins to be in sync and both make great plays.

While we’re still in “let’s wait and see mode” about every facet of this Michigan offense, I’ve seen enough to say there’s a lot of potential, but that hinges on how often the unit protects Shea Patterson.

The Notre Dame game was a bitter loss players and fans won’t forget anytime soon but the fact remains Patterson was nearly perfect with a clean pocket.