Add this post to the “Pro Alex Smith” file. Pro Football Focus release a study today breaking down the performance of quarterbacks when facing unblocked pressure. Smith, as it would turn out, is one of the best at both avoiding the pressure and making positive plays.
Ben Stockwell of PFF has the words:
Surrendering 56 unblocked pressures the Kansas City Chiefs were among the league’s 10 worst offenses at giving up unblocked pressure but as a group, led by quarterback Alex Smith, they did the league’s best job at ensuring those pressures weren’t converted into hits and sacks. Of the 56 unblocked pressures the Chiefs surrendered last year only five were sacks and nine of them hits, a league best conversion rate of 25%.
There are a couple of things to consider here about PFF’s numbers. First, either the Chiefs offensive line from last season was not as good as we thought OR there was a lot of learning still going on about what everyone was supposed to be doing at any given time. Andy Reid‘s offense is a complicated one, and it was evident Reid’s play-calling in the first half of the season was limited to what his team could actually execute.
We talk a lot about roster upgrades, and the Chiefs certainly need to get better in certain areas, but a lot of the Chiefs progress is going to come from having already been in the system for a year. Remember, this is the first season since 2007 where the Chiefs will be returning the same head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator. This means something. Also consider the Chiefs – even with all of the turnover – are returning four guys from last season’s offensive line that started at least seven games. There’s at least some experience going into 2014.
The other thing is Smith’s ability to handle pressure. Consider this chart from PFF:
Smith isn’t a perfect quarterback by any means, but this chart is certainly encouraging. One can understand why Reid would love Smith’s ability to limit turnovers and to make smart decisions even under pressure. Turning his efficiency and good decision-making into more points would be a useful thing for the Chiefs. Full seasons from Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano would go a long way towards that.
There are bits and pieces of Smith’s game that make one think he can be a long-term solution for the Chiefs at quarterback. But until Kansas City actually tastes postseason success, doubt will be the predominate feeling around Smith.