This is the first of a series of collaborations between film guru Andrew Link of Windy City Gridiron and stats guy Johnathan Wood of Da Bears Blog. We’re excited to be working together to bring fans of both sites great content by combining our approaches.
Last year, I looked at Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie season and found that, by the end of the year, he was statistically performing like a league average quarterback in every area except throwing touchdowns. So that was his challenge for 2018: throw more touchdowns without getting worse everywhere else.
Let’s see how he did. The table below shows Trubisky’s performance compared to NFL average in the four categories that go into passer rating.
Trubisky got much better at throwing touchdowns, as is common for young quarterbacks looking to improve from year 1 to year 2, and stayed at or above average at completing passes and picking up yards. His interceptions took a slight uptick from right around league average to be higher than you would like, and we’ll look at that more closely later in this series.
Add it all up and Trubisky produced like an average to above average quarterback in his sophomore campaign, a significant improvement from his rookie season, when he was (statistically speaking) one of the worst QBs in the NFL.
But there is certainly still room for improvement, and to illustrate where that improvement needs to come I used the Pro Football Reference Game Play Finder to break up pass attempts into short (less than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage) and deep (15 yards or more past the line of scrimmage).
The table below shows how Trubisky performed compared to the rest of the league in short passes:
That looks great! Trubisky was very efficient in the short game, especially at completing passes and avoiding interceptions. Those passes didn’t pick up a ton of yards, but that’s still an efficient way to help the offense stay ahead of the chains. As an addition, I’ll note that these numbers all looked even better if you only look at them from his breakout in week 4 on: 76% completion, 6.8 yards/attempt, 6.5% touchdowns, 0.4% interceptions, 113.9 rating.
Things weren’t as pretty when we look at the deep ball though, as you can see in the table below:
That’s not as good as we’d like to see. Trubisky was well below the league average in all four categories, and he even threw more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (7). Deep passes completely account for Trubisky’s uptick in interceptions as a sophomore, and improvement here would turn him from an average/above-average QB into one of the better passers in the league.
So to sum up…
…Trubisky was really good on short stuff, but struggled throwing the ball deep. This isn’t a surprise to anybody who watched the Bears this year, but it’s good to see the numbers backing up what we all observed. Stay tuned tomorrow, when Andrew Link of Windy City Gridiron will look to the film to see what went wrong to account for Trubisky’s deep struggles.