BRONCOS

Jarrett Stidham must do better at avoiding sacks

Apr 1, 2024, 3:18 PM

For Sean Payton, scoring on offense — at least to a greater degree than in his first season as Broncos head coach — starts with avoiding sacks.

“No. 1, we can’t take as many sacks,” Payton said when asked about that very topic last week at the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

And while Payton went on to discuss the running game as a problem, sacks played a significant role in throwing the offense off-kilter and behind schedule. This happened despite the offensive line ranking eighth in pass-block win rate, according to the data compiled by ESPN Analytics.

Make no mistake, this is a massive reason why Russell Wilson is no longer with the Denver Broncos. Among 57 quarterbacks with at least 75 total plays — pass attempts, rushing attempts and times sacked combined — Wilson ranked 45h in sack rate, going down once every 10.9 pass plays.

Here’s the problem: Jarrett Stidham isn’t any better. And in fact, he may be worse than Wilson. In the two games he played, he suffered sacks slightly more often than Wilson — once every 10.4 pass plays.

JARRETT STIDHAM AND THE SACKS HE TOOK

Denver Sports/104.3 The Fan host Mark Schlereth — who also serves as a game analyst for FOX’s NFL coverage — praised Stidham’s work in this regard last week on the “Schlereth and Evans” morning show.

“He stayed within the confines of the pocket even under duress,” Schlereth said. “And when he did have to escape, he didn’t try to escape and out-run everybody off the edge and take big-time sacks. He tried to escape up the middle.

“And then either made a play, or scrambled, or, if he did take a sack, it was limited yardage — you know, minus-2 or -3 or whatever.”

But the data doesn’t back up that assertion.

While Stidham has a lower percentage of sacks for losses of 10 or more yards — just one sack for that amount among the 14 he has taken in the last two seasons — he has a higher percentage of sacks of at least 5 yards, with 11 of the 14 times he’s been sacked covering at least 5 yards. Some 78.6 percent of Stidham’s sacks the last two years covered that amount, compared with 60.0 percent for Wilson last season.

Thus, Stidham’s average loss per sack over the last two years is 6.64 yards. It was 6.57 yards last year — nearly a full yard per sack worse than Wilson’s figure of 5.7 yards.

The Broncos will add to the quarterback room — perhaps with a first-round pick later this month.

But if Jarrett Stidham wants to be the answer, he must start by taking fewer sacks and minimizing the damage when he does.

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