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One Big Idea: Use Jacoby Brissett on short yardage sneaks

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday’s game against the Eagles was a hard-fought battle against one of the best teams in the league. As is so often the case when playing top talent, there is very little margin for mistakes. And, while Washington managed to avoid costly turnovers, they did have multiple drives jeopardized as a result of either dropped balls or failed short yardage conversions. In the case of the latter, there was probably a better option on the table.

This is the second in a series of articles, each looking at “One Big Idea” to implement in order to improve Washington’s outcomes, on a weekly, or occasional basis, as the inspiration strikes.

Use All Your Weapons

In the third quarter, on 3rd and one, Washington tried a bit of trickery, motioning tight end - and former QB - Logan Thomas in behind the center for a direct snap and a sneak. That play worked, with Thomas gaining two yards and achieving the first down.

In the 4th quarter, again on 3rd and one, Washington would deploy the exact same play, with Thomas taking the direct snap again. This time, the trickery would absolutely flop, with Thomas failing to gain the first down. An illegal formation penalty by Dyami Brown - ironically - saved the Commanders, giving them a 3rd and six. Sam Howell then hit Curtis Samuel for 7 yards and a first down on the next play.

While Thomas’ failed second sneak wasn’t decisive in the outcome of this particular game, it does raise a question: Why isn’t Washington using its incredibly talented QB2 in these situations as a matter of course?

While Sam Howell should absolutely be given all 17 games to show the coaching staff and front office what he has, it makes a ton of sense to take advantage of Jacoby Brissett’s unique capabilities. Brissett is one of the best QB sneakers in the league - perhaps second only to Tom Brady when he was still active - and should actually be getting strong consideration as a third and short weapon for this team going forward.

I love what Logan Thomas can do, but let’s not overthink this.

Some will say, why not just forgo the QB sneak and instead give an inside hand-off to Brian Robinson (or Chris Rodriguez, or a FB)? Here’s why:

Despite being the most commonly run, the inside zone ranks as the second worst play call in terms of first down conversion rate at 68 percent, narrowly edging out the outside zone at 66 percent. By comparison, the QB sneak has a conversion rate of about 88 percent, 20 percentage points better than the inside zone, and 15 percentage points better than the closest play call to a running back.

On third or fourth and short, QB sneaks are, by far, the most effective way to ensure a first down.

Every study of quarterback sneaks that’s been conducted has proved they are significantly more successful than other short-yardage plays. ESPN research from 2017 showed that every NFL team had a higher conversion rate on quarterback sneaks than on other short-yardage plays. Pro Football Focus research from February showed that quarterback sneaks are 13 percent more successful than other types of runs from the opposing 1-yard line, and 20 percent more successful than other third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 plays. Football Outsiders research from 2016 showed that quarterback sneaks are more successful than every other type of play on third down and fourth down. Advanced Football Analytics research from 2011 showed that a QB sneak on third-and-2 is more likely to be successful than a running back carry on third-and-1. The Wall Street Journal reported in October that every quarterback in the league with at least 10 career sneak attempts has a success rate of 75 percent or better. A 2015 Yale research paper stated that QB sneak attempts are worth nearly twice as much as non-sneaks by a metric called estimated points added.

Universally, these studies give QB sneaks a success rate between 70 and 90 percent. Nothing else in football has a 70 to 90 percent success rate!

Enjoy this series of Jacoby Brissett quarterback sneaks and QB sneak accolades.

Poll

Do you think the team should regularly bring Jacoby Brissett in on short yardage sneaks?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Yes.
    (368 votes)
  • 19%
    No.
    (90 votes)
458 votes total Vote Now