We have entered the quietest stage of the NFL offseason, right before training camps start later this month. While there are still some moves that teams could make that would affect the current state of the league, this is a perfect time to dig into the complex PFF database and see how active players stack up to former players in certain categories.
It is probably not a surprise that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes ranks among the top quarterbacks in almost every passing category. However, when looking at performance against the blitz, the different playing styles of the top quarterbacks are noteworthy. Also, don’t act shocked now, but Mahomes might be on his way to becoming the best quarterback against the blitz, as well.
Forty-five quarterbacks have been blitzed at least 800 times since PFF started collecting data in 2006 and, unsurprisingly, Mahomes ranks in the top five among them in PFF passing grade against the blitz. In fact, his 91.4 grade against the blitz ranks fourth, behind only Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and just one spot ahead of Peyton Manning. However, Mahomes’ playing style is visibly different from that of the other quarterbacks on this list, especially compared to the top two and Manning, as he likes to extend the play and look for a big gain.
That speaks to Mahomes’ maturity as a quarterback, that he is able to adjust the most when facing the blitz. And while his original approach is different from the other all-time greats mentioned here, the way he attacks the blitz is actually very similar — but more successful.
On plays with no blitz, Mahomes averages a league-leading 2.99 seconds to throw, which is significantly longer than it took Tom Brady (2.52 seconds) or Peyton Manning (2.56 seconds) to get rid of the ball when they were not blitzed. However, Mahomes’ average time to throw against the blitz drops all the way to 2.49 seconds, which is quicker than that of Aaron Rodgers and only 0.21 seconds slower than that of Manning, who had the quickest average time to throw against the blitz from this quintet.
Furthermore, Mahomes’ highest average time to throw against the blitz came in his first full season back in 2018. He was able to further improve in this area after his first MVP campaign and has been getting rid of the ball quicker against the blitz since then.
While the Chiefs quarterback’s quick release versus the blitz is similar to the other four quarterbacks at the top of this list, there are quite a few differences. The average depth of target increases for three of the four players when blitzed, and it decreases by just 0.1 yards for Brady. Mahomes' average depth of target goes from 9.1 yards when not blitzed to 8.1 yards when blitzed. So while against no blitz he has the second-highest average depth of target behind Manning, he has the lowest average depth of target against the blitz.
However, throwing shorter passes does not necessarily lead to fewer successful plays for the offense. Mahomes averages 7.6 yards per attempt against no blitz, which is middle of the pack among the five quarterbacks and just 0.3 yards per attempt better than that of the fifth quarterback. On plays when he is blitzed, the former Texas Tech Raider averages 8.6 yards per attempt, with none of the other quarterbacks averaging more than 7.7 yards per attempt. Consequently, it is probably not a surprise that Mahomes has, by far, the highest passer rating against the blitz (111.7) among these quarterbacks.
Based on this data and the evolution of Mahomes’ game, the Kansas City quarterback visibly adjusts his game when he sees a blitz and is much more similar to some of the other great quarterbacks of recent times who are famous for their pre-snap reads and getting rid of the ball quickly in such situations. However, one could also determine that even though it is not what he is most well known for, Mahomes might already be better at this style of play than some of the other elite quarterbacks who were famously good against the blitz.