EJ Manuel had the best game of his short career last Sunday against the New York Jets. He completed twenty of his 28 passes, including two deep touchdowns to speedy receivers TJ Graham and Marquise Goodwin. Eight of his thirteen throws to Graham and Goodwin were caught and accounted for 155 of his 245 passing yards.
The shortest of Graham’s four targets was ten yards past the line of scrimmage. His last three targets were 28, 38, and 35 yards down field, for an average depth of target of 27.75 yards. All of Graham’s targets were outside the numbers on the left side of the field.
Goodwin was the more dynamic receiver of the day. Six of the Olympian’s nine targets were less than ten yards down field, as the rookie filled the void left by Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods’ absence. Because the Jets had to honor Goodwin’s speed, the shorter comeback routes were open. Goodwin caught five of the six short passes his way. The sole incompletion was caused by a late, telegraphed throw that was almost an Antonio Cromartie pick-six. The throws to Graham and Goodwin are charted below.
Twelve of Manuel’s passes to the rest of the Bills were completed. Twelve of those throws were also ten or fewer yards past the line of scrimmage. While the short passes had an average gain of 8.2 yards per attempt, they only gained three first downs. Four of the passes not to Graham or Goodwin were to Manuel’s left, one was straight ahead, and nine were to his right.
Because so many passes to his right were short, Manuel completed 82% of his throws in that direction for 124 yards. He completed half of his passes to his left, but gained an average of 11.2 yards per pass. The average depth of throws to his right was 7.18 yards while the passes to his left were 17.3 yards past the line of scrimmage on average. All of Manuel’s passes in the win against the Jets are depicted below.
Through seven games, Manuel has completed 65% of his passes to his right and 54% to his right. But those percentages are due to different target depth. Manuel’s throws to his right (120 so far) have been about two yards shorter on average than the 95 throws to his left.
72% of Manuel’s passes this season have been ten or fewer yards past the line of scrimmage. He’s completed 68% of those passes for 830 yards. His deep passes (just 61 so far) have been completed 38% of the time. Buffalo’s next three games are in a dome and Florida, so the proportion of deep balls could continue to rise. Hopefully Graham and Goodwin’s success continues as well.