Joe Burrow Grading - Week 11 Update

A quick preface again - I am grading Burrow's performance using a PFF-style system and going play-by-play. Grading is handed out on a -3 to +3 scale (usually) where a +0 is considered average, and only Burrow's specific play is graded. Meaning I don't care if the WR dropped a 40yd bomb for a TD if Burrow threw a strike - that's the only part I care about. Similarly if a safety drops an easy INT then I'm not letting Burrow off the hook like the box score does - he's getting downgraded no matter what the safety does on his end. Burrow and his throw/decision-making input into the play are graded.

Every play I label whether Burrow is "Active" or not (eliminates running plays and pre-snap penalties for the most part), and whether or not he was a "Playmaker" on the play. There are two factors that help determine whether or not Burrow was a Playmaker. The first is play design, meaning ZT called a play that required Burrow to go through progressions and read a defense before deciding the best option to throw to. If ZT dials up say a screen, or some other 1-read quick-hitter underneath that doesn't give Burrow any actual decision-making process, Burrow won't ever contribute anything to the success of those plays that your average QB couldn't also do, so we remove them. The second would be something that happens on the play beyond his control that prevents him from even having a chance to make a play. Think something like a bad snap by the center, getting sacked from behind 1.5 seconds after the snap because Jonah got whipped by Myles Garrett, or early pressure forcing an escape from the pocket and throwaway etc.

Again the real premise here is to whittle the full play-log down to plays where Burrow actually had to go through progressions, read a defense, and make a throw...and then we grade how well he did on a -3 to +3 scale where +0 would be what an "average" QB would do in that same situation.

Here's a link to my previous post from last week with much more detail on the prior games I've graded. At that point I think it was just the Ravens, Jets, and Browns games - I've since added the Lions game and half the Packers game.


This post will only focus on the Raiders game and any overarching trends I've noticed, excluding the Packers game since it's only halfway completed.

First step is going to be comparing my grading to PFF to see how close it is and where we differ.

[All of my scores are averages per play as a Playmaker.]


Several conclusions I can draw here. The first is, we both agree that his performance against the Raiders was his worst in the last 5 games. But we do seem to differ on his week 6-8 grading. I had his Ravens game as the best of the trio, with the Jets in 2nd, and the Lions as the worst. PFF has that flipped with the Lions game as the best and the Ravens as the worst. I will say that a score of roughly 300 seems to correlate to what PFF gives out a 75 for, which I'd call a "B". I do think he was closer to an B+ against the Ravens. Not enough sample size yet to correlate any other scores together although it is good to see the -0.030 I gave him against the Raiders correlating to a "below average" 55 from PFF. So it does seem to be working overall.

As an aside, there's always going to be some noise between our two grading scales because I'm including plays in his "Passing" grade that PFF wouldn't, like sacks that I think are Burrow's fault, or times he threw the ball away where he could've reasonable escaped the pocket and found a guy who was open, and I also include scrambling in the "Passing" grade as it occurs on passing plays and decision-making is involved.

Now I'll start going through his Week 11 grading in detail to see if we can find anything worthwhile.

Passing Depth

Going to ignore any pass attempt targeted behind the LOS, because those are basically just going to be 0s across the board.


It seems a grade of around ~0.100 should be roughly average. I thought his game against the Jets was the best as far as short passes went - PFF thought the Ravens game was better by a pretty big margin. We both thought his Browns game was the worst, and that his Raiders game was the closest to that.


Better averages here because QBs are "doing more" when they're targeting receivers downfield - these almost always involve going through reads and making accurate throws beyond the sticks. The one that really sticks out to me is the 57 PFF gave Burrow against the Lions. I had him with 7 attempts to PFF's 6 - one 18yd completion to Higgins was called back for a hold, but I don't fault Burrow for that and still gave him a +1 on the play. The main culprit here is the tipped-ball INT he had while targeting Chase in the 1st. I actually gave him a +1 on this throw, while PFF likely downgraded it. But to me this looks like an accurate throw he put away from the defender that Chase got both hands on but didn't reel it in and instead the tipped ball was picked off. I also gave him +1s on two incompletions to Higgins and Sample where I thought an accurate ball was placed and it was either dropped (Sample) or a great play was made by the DB to knock it down (Higgins).

The other that sticks out is the 74 against the Jets, whereas my 1.000 would likely be an A+. He only had 3 attempts this game, and one of them seems to be the culprit here. I went back and watched - on the last drive Burrow made a great throw to hit Boyd right at the sideline after evading pressure, which I gave a +2. I'm guessing PFF only gave a +1, and if I did the same his score here would only be a +.667.

The other's I think pretty much fall in line. Against the Browns he completed all 3 Medium attempts for 52yds, 50 of which were air yards. That +1.333 and 93 grade are definitely A+s. Both of us agree his Raiders performance was more in line with the Ravens game.


His week 6 tape should be used as the standard for elite performance on deep balls. 3/3 for 111yds and 91 of those were through the air while picking up two 1st downs and a TD. We both agree that his Jets game was nearly as good, despite going just 2/4. One of those was the 54yd ball to Chase while the other was a beautiful 23yd strike to Higgins. I did also give him a +1 on a 27yd target to Boyd which was a really difficult throw AND catch which Boyd wasn't able to come down with.

Meanwhile his week 11 performance was...less than stellar. He had 4 such attempts, one of which was negated by a DPI that I gave him a +0 on and that was the only one to earn positive yardage. I gave him a -2 for the ball he flung in Chase's direction just as pressure was arriving, and it was a good 5yds short at least and could've easily been picked off if anybody saw the ball coming. I also dinged him for a -1 in the 4th when he rolled out and went 40yds deep to Chase and not only underthrew it but lofted it so high that it allowed the safety time to come way over from his MOF role and make a play on the ball (even though Chase had beaten Hayward down the sideline for a TD).


I don't see much to garner when flipping through our various personnel packages. Other than just a general trend that we obviously through the ball more from 11 personnel than 12 - Burrow has a 64% Playmaker rate from 11 and just 37% from 12. Most teams will run the ball more from 12, but we don't want to get too predictable. One thing to note though is that when we do let Burrow pass out of 12, we tend to go further downfield. His average target distance from 12 personnel is over 12yds, while his average from 11 personnel is under 10yds. This can also be seen with his grading from 13 personnel. We've run it 12/16 times with 13 personnel, some of which feature Wilcox as TE3 and some with Prince on as a 6th lineman. 13 personnel obviously signals a run and that's fine, but ZT has cooked up some good passes from this formation. Of the 4 times Burrow has thrown from 13 personnel he's racked up two +2s and a +3. The +2s both went for TDs (one to Uzo against the Lions and one to Chase against the Jets), while the +3 wound up being the 55yd TD to Uzo against the Ravens.




Burrow had been money against Cover-1 from weeks 6-8, but really struggled against the Browns secondary. The Ravens used it heavily (19 Playmaker snaps) and it was a big reason they lost that week because despite all of Averett's jersey tugging Higgins still caught 7 balls for 62yds, while Chase was busy torching Humphrey. The Lions and Jets barely used it, because their corners suck, with just 14 combined Playmaker snaps and Burrow torched them when they did with 8 upgrades to just 1 negative on those 14 plays.

His week 11 score looks meh with that +0.000, but in reality that's because I dinged him heavily for the fumble on the first drive and the Raiders ran Cover-1 on just 5 Playmaker snaps so that -3 really killed his average. And that fumble was entirely his fault for not recognizing the rolled coverage and literally every one of his receivers were open at some point and then on top of it had poor ball security and fumbled. But he did make up for it with +1s on 3 of his other 4 plays, so IF he doesn't have that fumble this score would be more like a +0.750. The tl;dr here is he was throwing the ball great, just had that one killer mistake that negated all his good work.



Similar overall score here across the 5 games, but I'd say much more consistent with not as many uber highs and lows. The Lions ran this 9 times and he torched it with 5 upgrades to 1 negative. The Jets more heavily relied on zone given their issues at CB, and they found more success than most across the 14 Playmaker snaps they ran Cover-3 - Burrow only managed 6 upgrades to 4 negatives with 1 being the sack that ended the first goal-to-go drive.

Burrow had a lot more success when the Browns ran Cover-3, with 8 of his 13 throws being upgraded - seems to me they should've just stayed in Man instead? Like the Jets the Raiders have crappy corners so they run a lot of zone, and through these 5 weeks the Raiders had the most success against Joey B. On their 13 Playmaker snaps they allowed just 4 upgrades offset with 2 negatives, so a lot of +0s here where Burrow was checking down underneath.

2-Deep Zones


I mentioned in my previous post that teams seem to have more success when running 2-Deep stuff especially Cover-2. My guess was all the underneath defenders clogs up our quick-passing game which ZT is relying on to supplement the run and protect Burrow from pass rushers. But after seeing these numbers, compared with those for the single-high schemes above, I would think the gameplan for slowing down our offense should be lots of 2-Deep with rolling Cover-2/6 looks.

I could go into a lot of detail with each game, but they're all pretty much the same so I don't see the point. The general trend is, no matter the team and no matter how talented the CBs, 2-Deep stuff seems to limit playmaking opportunities for this offense. Look at this quick comparison by game:

Lions: 19 plays, 4 upgrades, 5 negatives, -0.105 score

Ravens: 6 plays, 3 upgrades, 1 negative, +0.167 score

Jets: 12 plays, 3 upgrades, 5 negatives, +0.083 score

Browns: 15 plays, 5 upgrades, 3 negatives, +0.200 score

Raiders: 14 plays, 2 upgrades, 5 negatives, -0.214 score

Puzzlingly the Browns were the worst in this category despite having the CBs to play good man coverage. The Jets had good success here and the Raiders heavily relied on this as well and it paid off. The Raiders didn't even disguise it most of the time with only 3 of those 14 being disguised single-high pre-snap looks. The sample size for the Ravens is small, but given how they were torched in both Man and Cover-3, it seems like they should've worked in a lot more 2-Deep stuff and maybe that would've reined Burrow in a bit. Their loss, our gain.

What I can say is that, after the Browns game I was really worried that Burrow was having issues with disguised coverages. I can't get the Pivot to quite play right so I'll post these manually - all of these are his scoring against disguised coverages with the listed coverage being the final look he saw post-snap:

Cover-1: 20 snaps, +0.300

Cover-3: 12 snaps, +0.500

Fire Zone: 11 snaps, +0.000

2-Deep: 12 snaps, -0.083

Fire Zone gave him issues against the Jets and Browns, and overall he performs worse when facing a disguised Fire Zone blitz than against disguised Cover-1 or 3. And I guess continuing the trend from above, Burrow is struggling overall against 2-Deep looks. And struggles even more so when it's disguised from a single-high look pre-snap. Teams don't make this rotation often as it's difficult to get a safety back to a deep half role from the box. The Lions were responsible for 6 of the 12 calls, they got 2 upgrades to 1 negative out of it. The Raiders called 3 of the remaining 6 and Burrow managed one +1 with no negatives. It seems when he's used to seeing it he does a little better, but in the two games where it was barely called he had issues. Catching him off guard? But the Ravens and Browns ran it a combined 3 times and yoinked two -2s which would qualify as turnover-worthy plays.

So at this point definitely something to pay attention to here. Burrow is not playing nearly as well when facing 2-Deep zones compared to Cover-3 or a Cover-1 man look.

Dropback Depth

I have noted before how we are using a lot of 1-3 step drops to protect Burrow from our sub-par OL situation. The idea is, when you know your OL is struggling you call fewer 5-7 step drops because they'll struggle even more in those situations. Instead you put them in situations where they're more likely to succeed, which are quick drops. Burrow has 131 plays as a Playmaker from 0-3 step drops compared to only 40 from a 5-7. I obviously have nowhere to get data on this for other QBs, but that seems like a larger than average ratio of short drops - 77%?

His overall average grade is better from 5-7 step drops (+0.275) than 0-3 step (+0.176), and this would make logical sense as usually deep pass attempts come off 7 step drops (or 5 step shotgun drops). So it's obvious with more big-play opportunities just from the varying play design between the two dropback types that his scoring would be better. The only point I'll make here is just how often we're limiting Burrow to those short dropbacks. When everyone wonders why our offense looks like it's stuck in cement early in games, this is the reason. Tough to do much when your QB is only dropping back 3 steps max before hitting some timing route underneath. This also harkens back to the issues mentioned with 2-Deep zones and Cover-2 in particular, clogging up the underneath stuff and messing with all the timing routes.

Blitzing & Pressure


So I've got even better data than PFF here, because they only distinguish between "Blitz or No Blitz" and "Pressure or No Pressure", while I can also give data on how many rushers the defense used. The distinction here is, a team can blitz but only send 4 guys, the blitz tag just means at least one of those rushers wasn't a regular front 4 DL. The chart I posted above is for when Burrow faces more than 4 rushers. For comparison I'll say Burrow's average against 3 or 4 rushers is only +0.157 and has only had 1 game go over +0.350 and none over +0.450. But, other than the Browns game, Burrow has absolutely massacred teams when they send rushers. And the thinking here is, Burrow is smart and quick enough to recognize when extra rushers are coming and get the ball where it needs to go.

I'm not sure what the Browns did differently, but look at these splits:

Browns 5-6 rushers: 4 plays, 2 upgrades, 2 negatives, -0.500 score

All 4 other teams: 34 plays, 18 upgrades, 8 negatives, +0.588 score

In total he seems to be averaging an upgrade about half the time when the defense sends extra rushers. The difference between the Browns and the rest was how often they forced negative plays. The Browns managed 2 in 4 tries (50%), while the 4 other teams fell short of a 25% success rate (8/34).

I will conserve space here (LOL) and just say that his splits against a Blitz mirror that of when defenses send extra rushers. In 133 tries without a blitz Burrow has a +0.150 average, compared to +0.444 on 45 blitzes and the Browns game is the only outlier. But it seems the # of rushers is more of a determining factor that just a straight blitz, as when teams blitz but still send just 4 his grading is still lower (+0.250) but when they blitz AND send 5-6 rushers he torches it at a +0.486 clip. Again other than the Browns game. May have to give that a deeper look at some point.

No Pressure




Hit while or after throwing


In what might be the most obvious DUH moment ever, Burrow is better as a passer when he isn't pressured and really bad when he gets hit in the act of throwing. This is true of almost every QB since the beginning of time, and even the ageless wonder Tommy Boy is guilty of it. But given the poor state of our OL and how drastically it affects Burrow, AND how it makes ZT uber-reliant on the quick-game timing stuff instead of really utilizing his arsenal of weapons downfield, it would seem prudent to really address the OL in the offseason. So we can see more of that first chart in action instead of the latter.


I can't figure out how to break this down any better so instead I'll just post the full game-by-game chart with snap counts for Burrow's top 4 receiving targets. Makes it more cluttered having the snaps/targets in there, but it helps see who he targeted and when along with the success rate.


I will note just from the Raiders game, when you hear people clamoring that Burrow is "forcing the ball to Chase", yea duh because that's his best option. Chase was his most successful target that week in terms of grading (remember I am not grading completions or yards or whatever, just Burrow's decision-making and throwing accuracy). Chase has had a couple down weeks since going off against the Ravens, and that can be seen in Burrow's grading when throwing to him. Higgins stepped up big in weeks 8-9, and against the Raiders he should've done more as he faced Facyson most of the game. Boyd's disappearing act against the Browns was very odd, but also remember that -3.000 is not a grade for Boyd it's for Burrow when targeting Boyd - that play was the ball he flung up to Boyd on 4th down. Uzo is a consistent weapon as well - the Jets used Maye on him a lot which helps explain the +0.000 that week, but Burrow is averaging nearly a +0.500 when targeting him the other 4 games.

Thanks to everyone who made it this far. Let me know what sticks out to you that maybe I didn't cover, or that you'd like more explanation on. I have the full play log so I can easily go look up which plays were upgraded or downgraded and provide my explanation for why.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan, which is as important as the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors.