White has shown that he can do more than just dump the ball off
The Mike White hype train may have taken a hit with the Jets’ 27-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
After all, we’ve seen the Wilson-White Wars continue without letup on Twitter, and we at Jet X have gotten numerous comments telling us that we’re prematurely writing Zach Wilson off.
However, a look at the numbers and the film should lead one to draw the opposite conclusion: Mike White played well against a Vikings defense that had a good plan in place to stop him. White delivered despite facing tight throwing windows and few truly open receivers. In a rare game that his offensive coordinator did not do an excellent job scheming players open, White let his arm do the talking.
I’ll leave the extensive film breakdown to the Fearsome Foursome of Blewett, Paiva, Sabo, and Nania, but let’s talk about some of the numbers and discuss how White played.
I normally do not like to use this Pro Football Focus stat because “big-time” is subjective. In a one-game sample size, though, I think it’s easier to evaluate whether the number given for “big-time throws” matches what we saw on the tape.
PFF credited White with three big-time throws in Week 13, tied for the second-most among quarterbacks, and a 5.1% big-time throw rate, tied for ninth. This tracks with what we saw on the screen.
The most impressive throw of the day was White’s dime to Corey Davis on 4th and 10 on the second-to-last drive of the game. On the previous play, White had been drilled in the ribs by Danielle Hunter and was slow to get up following the hit. However, he shook it off to deliver a throw in the only possible spot that it could be caught and not knocked away by the defender. In fact, because the defender dove and missed the ball, Davis gained many yards after the catch and could have conceivably scored.
Mike White gets squashed on third down and gets up slowly. Next play, he rips a fourth-and-10 completion to Corey Davis in a tight window.
Laken Tomlinson: “Incredible, really. The kid’s a tough kid.” 🎥@NextGenStats #Jets pic.twitter.com/QVEjorhdUE
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) December 5, 2022
White also made some strong tight-window throws to Garrett Wilson throughout this game, including the one on which Wilson turned upfield for 60 yards and came a pinky-toe away from scoring.
We know that throwing picks is one of the knocks on Mike White’s game. In fact, it’s one of the primary concerns Jets fans and analysts had when White took over for Wilson before the team faced Chicago.
Against the Bears, White had one throw that should have been picked off and another that was in a somewhat dangerous location. He was charged with one turnover-worthy play (3.3%) against a mostly porous Bears’ pass defense. Against Minnesota, though, I would argue that White kept his throws out of harm’s way despite the Vikings’ strong coverage.
The first interception he threw to Corey Davis was placed on the back shoulder to help Davis avoid the hit, and the defender undeniably got to Davis before the throw arrived, leading to the pick. Although White might have wanted to place the ball lower to avoid the popup into the air, that is not a turnover-worthy throw.
White’s second pick was undeniably turnover-worthy, but it was also a last-second desperation heave on a must-have 4th-down play. There will be those who argue that White should have thrown the ball to Elijah Moore, who was open, but Moore was the third receiver in the progression, and White felt the pressure that would barrage him before he had the chance to look to Moore.
Overall, PFF charged White with just one turnover-worthy play on 57 pass attempts, a 1.6% rate. He is at 2.2% in his two games played. The average among 35 qualified QBs (min. 150 dropbacks) is 3.27%. Obviously, a tougher test is coming up in the Bills’ pass defense, which picked off White four times last season. But in a small sample size, White has shown so far that he can keep the ball safe. Even if the picks come, as long as he makes reasonable decisions with the football, Jets fans can live with White’s aggressiveness.
By now, it’s a common theme: Mike White gets the ball out of his hands quickly. Still, some Jets fans lament the loss of athleticism and mobility that comes with White and argue that the team needs Wilson’s mobility with their shaky offensive line. I had the same hesitation.
However, against a strong Minnesota outside pass rush (the best tandem in the NFL, as Michael Nania and I detailed before the game), the Jets allowed a 22% pressure rate, permitting 13 pressures on 59 dropbacks. That 22% rate is the fifth-lowest among 28 quarterbacks with at least 20 dropbacks in Week 13 (not including Monday Night Football).
This may seem like White enjoyed better pass protection than Wilson has this season, as Wilson was pressured on 37.2% of his dropbacks, above the league average of 32.8%. That was certainly the case against the Bears when White was pressured on just 10% of his dropbacks. However, against the Vikings, White once again neutralized the pass rush with a quicker-than-average release time. Although not as lightning-quick as he was against the Bears, White averaged 2.52 seconds to throw, which was the ninth-fastest time among QBs in Week 13 and well quicker than the 2.73 season average for qualified passers.
In direct comparison, Wilson averaged 3.09 seconds to throw in his seven starts, the third-longest among those qualifiers. White’s 2.47 seconds to throw would rank the third-fastest. That accounts for a lot of the difference we see in their pressure rates. It’s actually Joe Flacco who was rushed the most frequently this season, as he faced a 37% pressure rate despite getting the ball out in 2.63 seconds. That was largely due to the poor play of George Fant at the beginning of the season.
Also, it’s not as if Wilson has evaded pressure more effectively than White. White’s pressure-to-sack ratio is currently 12.5% for the season and was at 7.7% in Week 13. Wilson, by contrast, was at 19.8%, which is pretty much league average (19.4%) but not adding anything special that you’d expect from an elusive quarterback. White completely lacks Wilson’s elusiveness, but he has that ability to feel pressure, slide or step up in the pocket, and find and hit his checkdowns in stride.
More than a game manager
Against Minnesota, Mike White had an 8.8 average depth of target, which is finally above the league average for QBs of 8.2 yards. A big part of that was definitely that the Jets were trailing and he had to move the ball in chunks. However, whatever the reason, it shows, like last week, that White can push the ball vertically.
(It’s interesting to note that White’s ADOT against the Colts last season was 10.1 yards, albeit on just 11 pass attempts.)
Again, how White plays against the Bills will give a more definitive picture since the Bills have a far better pass defense than the Bears or Vikings. However, it’s important to note that the Vikings did a good job in coverage against the Jets’ receivers, and White still beat them with impressive throws.
DVOA and DYAR
While many traditional metrics are ambivalent about White’s two-game sample size due to his low completion percentage and 0:2 TD:INT ratio against Minnesota, DVOA still likes White’s overall performance. White’s DVOA is currently 15.5%, which would rank eighth among quarterbacks if he qualified. Since DVOA adjusts for opponent, this is a more accurate way of gauging White’s performance in light of his weaker competition. White’s non-adjusted VOA (value over average) is 28.3%, which would come in fourth among all qualified quarterbacks.
One word of caution is that DVOA tends to like game managers. Jimmy Garoppolo is ranked third among qualified quarterbacks in DVOA, and Jared Goff ranks fourth. (Zach Wilson is 27th at -12.3%, one spot ahead of Russell Wilson.)
Furthermore, Mike White has already racked up 148 Defense-adjusted Yards over Replacement (DYAR), which measures a player’s yardage total compared to a replacement-level player, which is what White is supposed to be. In just two games and 85 pass attempts, White already ranks 22nd among qualified quarterbacks in DYAR despite a qualifying limit of 195 pass attempts, which is 2.3 times the number of attempts he has. DYAR is a compilation stat, unlike DVOA, which makes White’s rank that much more impressive.
It’s interesting to note that Zach Wilson has -15 DYAR, which is 27th among qualifiers. In other words, the replacement-level player, Mike White, has 163 more yards over replacement than a supposedly starting-level player when adjusting for the defenses that each one played.
Is Mike White “the” answer?
Robert Saleh continues to insist that Zach Wilson will play again this season. In response to a flurry of increasingly pointed questions from reporters, including whether Mike White can “ruin” that plan or if White can be the quarterback of the future, Saleh simply smiled and said, “One week at a time, guys.”
While the Mike White lovers want to coronate him the franchise quarterback the team has been searching for, I believe Saleh’s answer is apt in the longer term. White is a former fifth-round pick whose draft stock plummeted after a lackluster Combine performance which included a 2.30 Relative Athletic Score (out of 10.00). As he puts out more tape, the NFL will adjust to him; already, we saw the Vikings do an excellent job of taking away his easy targets and forcing him to throw into tighter windows.
However, for 2022, I believe Saleh is trying to keep the fire lit under White and encourage Wilson to keep on his toes. Barring a disastrous performance from White against the Bills (which is certainly possible, given what happened last year) or an injury, I do not expect to see Zach Wilson at the helm for the Jets again this season.
Many Zach Wilson lovers have stated that the Jets ruined him by bringing in a first-time play-caller in Mike LaFleur and now benching him for White. However, you’d think the same would hold for a journeyman QB. Furthermore, to those who point out that White has been in the league since 2018 and ask why Wilson does not get the same level of patience, remember that the Jets were not the team that drafted White. They will not hold that leash if White underperforms, since he has not earned it in his time in the league thus far. Wilson has earned a longer leash by virtue of his draft status and obvious talent, but that leash may not be with the Jets, whose timetable does not line up with his.
The best interest of the Jets’ franchise right now is to ride Mike White wherever he takes them.
Personally, I think Mike White is the long-term answer at QB for the Jets. He’s smart, pre and post-snap decisionmaking is excellent, enough arm, quick release, very accurate, great teammate. I’m not looking for anything more than that. He looks like Brady-lite, and that’s an amazing compliment.
I can see why you would say that, and he has definitely looked really good at QB. However, there must be a much larger sample size before he is anointed as the long-term starter. If analysts are skeptical about the breakouts of Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, and Geno Smith, then it follows that they’d be very skeptical about White.
I think this Bills game is a big test for White. Von Miller’s absence certainly makes it easier, but with Matt Milano and Jordan Poyer back, there’s a big challenge ahead, much bigger than what Zach Wilson faced. You could see in the previous game that the Bills really missed both of their defensive studs, as Michael Carter outran Milano’s replacement for two huge gains, and Wilson beat the safety in coverage a few times.
I think it’s wise to be measured in our reactions to White’s performances until we have a larger body of work to evaluate. Defenses are still testing him to figure out his strengths and weaknesses. We’ll see how he adjusts and if he can maintain this level of play.
That being said, he definitely has a huge opportunity in front of him. After the Bills, the remaining pass defenses that the Jets play are shoddy once more. If he can string together some more nice performances, he may play himself into a longer-term role.
Thanks Rivka for your great work on this site. That’s the beauty of being a fan, I don’t have to wait to evaluate Mike White hahaha. I can be wrong and nobody gives a hoot. Anyway, I’ve watched way, way, too much football over the past 40 years to be proud of, and one lesson I’ve learned – football is not rocket science. (I am a scientist lol). So, in all the years of watching Jets football and the litany of Jets qbs, I’ve only seen a handful of good ones. O’Brien, Esiason, Testeverde, Pennington, Fitzpatrick. Most of these qbs (exception Pennington) could only muster one really good year. And so, really, the one constant over 5 decades of Jets football is bad qb play. I would consider myself an expert at identifying really bad qbs lol. Honestly I’ve never been wrong at identifying a bad qb. Fans can bark at this statement, but Zach is never going to be a good enough qb for a consistent, winning, team. Even with this small sample, I can already see that White is legit. He has the processing power. That’s the asset that separates the really good ones. I can be wrong of course. After all I’m just a fan and it doesn’t matter what I think! Keep up the wonderful work JetsX
That’s fair — I suppose it’s we as analysts who must be temperate in our responses and not go too far either way, but fans can be as hyped up as they want. That is one of the many reasons I don’t have a Twitter account; I’d be out of a job if every knee-jerk reaction of mine hit the airwaves.
It’s certainly cool to have a scientist reading our site!
Football may not be rocket science, but predicting who will be a good QB seems to. Would you have thought that Carson Wentz was going to fall off so tremendously or that Lamar Jackson would become one of the top-ranked QBs in the NFL just by watching their style of play early in their careers?
I would agree that Zach has all the hallmarks of a bad QB, and he would be an extreme outlier if he ever turns it around. I’m not going to close the door on him, but mainly because of that aforementioned tempering of opinion rather than what I actually believe will happen.
Yes, White does look excellent with his processing, but I still think it’s too early to know if he can maintain it. He does sometimes pass up deeper-developing concepts rather quickly in favor of the checkdown, only for the deeper play to come open half a second later. I want to see him maintain this level of play against steeper competition, although the Vikings certainly did a great job in their gameplan and execution, bug White still beat them.
I’m very encouraged by what I saw from White so far, but I’m not discounting some of the bad we saw on tape last year. Trust me, I would love nothing more than to say, “White is the guy.” Everyone around the Jets has been starving for that for half a century. There’s just too much of the data analyst in me to believe in small sample sizes, no matter how positive they may look.
Great article and follow-up comments too.
I am totally behind Mike White being our QB for the remainder of the year (probably beyond).
Not comparing, but if White received a 2.30 Relative Athletic Score, what did Brady get or didn’t they do that metric back then? (No need to post that Combine photo, but you can…)
Thanks. It’s funny you mention that since I actually put Mike White’s RAS first compared to Kirk Cousins and then Tom Brady. I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me at the moment, but I believe Cousins was in the 3.30 range. Brady? 1.50. I’ll post the graphic a little later.
Apparently White’s Combine performance pushed his draft stock from the 3rd to 5th round. If that’s indeed the case, it makes the case for allowing him to start even more interesting. Was there something on tape that teams liked?
And… here’s the Brady one for you.
Thank you for the info….great stuff
First, a word about this site. I just found this site within the past year and like it. The articles are controversial, well researched. Anyone can have an opinion, but not everyone can support their opinion with more than “oh, yeah” or “you’re an idiot.” I’m surprise there aren’t more comments, but maybe that’s because the articles are written more by analysts who delve into the topic than by reporters who report what they saw and add a healthy dose of opinion.
Thank you for mentioning something which I hadn’t thought about since the game ended (there were other games to watch). I noticed during the game the Jets receivers were not getting much separation all afternoon and wondered why. In hindsight I suspect that while the NFL as a whole has not taken the Jets as seriously as it should, the Vikings did. They prepared an excellent game plan to take away the run game and the easy throws. Many of the short passes were stopped in their tracks. That doesn’t mean the two Mikes can’t adjust, I think they will.
I must say I was very proud of the way this team fought back. Two years ago the second half would have been a mailed in effort. Not anymore, this team doesn’t quit and almost won the game.
Yes, the Vikings appeared to be well prepared but as the writer said the OC did not do a good job of scheming players open. I had that same feeling just watching the game. There was hardly a single play that seemed to surprise or really even challenge the Vikings mentally. The OC had a bad game. Plus, he appears to still undervalue Elijah Moore, who was only the third option on the last play of the game, and was open. If I remember correctly, last year one of the Bills CBs said Moore was practically uncoverable. Why is he still so underused?
You’re right, the Vikings seemed to be ready for so many plays. I kept thinking “well, that didn’t work” over and over. I didn’t really blame Mike LeFleur for the lack of separation, I put the blame on the receivers.
I also agree about Elijah Moore being underutilized. The Jets made their point, now let’s move on and win at least 3 more games.
The biggest issue, in my opinion, is that the QB has little to no flexibility to change a play. I know many offenses aren’t audible-friendly, but LaFleur has said too often that he knew before the ball was snapped that the play wouldn’t work. If that’s the case, why not give a QB who appears to know how to read a defense, as White does, more options to change the play?
Regarding Moore, I’d make him the No. 2 in the progression more often. Run a high-low with Wilson and Moore. The only thing I’ll say is that Moore did not drag his toes when he should have, the second time this season he’s had trouble with that when it should have been easy. Still, Moore is a better route runner than Davis, Berrios, and Mims, and with Conklin’s struggles holding on to the ball, I’d feature Moore more often.
You make a great point about O’Connell and LaFleur coming out of the same system and knowing each other’s tendencies. Also a great point about doing the opposite if what you are trying is not working. The overthrown pass was a missed opportunity. If only they had practiced together more often maybe they could have hit that play in stride.
I mean, QBs overthrow passes all the time, but more practice time on deep balls would probably help. White seems to have a lot more touch on those throws than Zach despite a weaker arm.
As I said to Jim above, I believe LaFleur struggled because O’Connell comes from the same system and knows what he’s trying to do. That being said, if LaFleur wants to take it to the next level, he needs to find creativity within that. The defense is expecting outside zone? Hammer it down their throats with gap concepts. That’s exactly what Minnesota did to the Jets defense, and it worked. The defense is expecting short passes? Run 4 verts on double moves. The defense expects some misdirection? Fake it (not with orbit motion) and then throw or run behind it. That trap handoff that Breece took to the house against Green Bay likely would’ve been a good idea.
Thank you for your kind words about the site. We definitely strive to back up our opinions with numbers. Any fan is entitled to their opinion (the comment debates are interesting), but including the data gives a more solid basis for an argument. That being said, it is certainly possible to lie with statistics, so we try to be intellectually honest with the numbers we provide.
It did appear to me that the Vikings had LaFleur’s number on many concepts. He’s usually good at taking advantage of the other team’s aggressiveness in any particular direction, but he struggled with it in this game. An overlooked reason may be that Kevin O’Connell comes from the same system as LaFleur. It’s not coincidental that the receivers’ two worst games separation-wise were against former 49ers coaches (the other was Matt LaFleur in Green Bay).
That being said, it’s all the more impressive that White gained so many chunk plays. He would have had more if the receivers could catch the ball.
Regarding taking the Jets seriously, I don’t believe that’s been the main problem for other teams. It’s obvious that other teams have adjusted their defensive gameplans. For example, the Bills normally play 2 high safeties, but against the Jets, they played single high 82% of the time. Zach Wilson notoriously struggles against single high, and the Bills adjusted accordingly. LaFleur just outschemed them, anyway, and Wilson did his job. It helped that the offensive line did a good job in that game minus the one strip sack.
Besides the frustration of Mike White overthrowing Garrett Wilson on what could have conceivably been an 85-yard TD, I found it very interesting that it was on a double move. I’d like to see the Jets run more of those with Wilson, Davis, and Mims, all of whom have had big chunk plays on those routes this season. With defenses playing aggressively on short passes, it’s that much more likely that a double move will come open for a chunk play. With Wilson’s quickness, he’s always a threat to cook a defender of his own accord, anyway.
The complete refusal to quit is credit to both Saleh and Douglas. They brought in max-effort guys and inspired them to come together as a team. Mike White further gives the team juice, as he’s a terrific emotional leader. Regardless of what happens, the Jets are a fun team to watch because they’re never out of it.
Good piece. Of course, that’s probably related to the fact that I agree.
This is a great site. You “guys” should have more comments! Not that many fans who care about the data? 🙂
Is there a Preview button?
Preview for articles, you mean?
No, I was thinking for comments, just to see what they look like before posting.
Not at the moment, but I’ll follow up on the suggestion.
We get many more readers than commenters. It’s probably the extra effort that it takes to login and then comment. I think the podcasts get more comments on YouTube.
I appreciate the sentiment!